Should Working Moms be Working Even More?

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Way down under, Lisa Pryor from the Sydney Morning Herald examines a "study comparing the demands on families with young children, including the gender division of work and care, in five countries, namely the US, Australia, Italy, France and Denmark." I found her article on the online news resource, She quotes two researchers, Lyn Craig and Killian Mullan, of the social policy research centre at the University of NSW as confirming "that in all the countries couples found themselves working harder once they had children. This is not surprising to just about anyone with, or without, children.

However, the explanation of why this is the case is very interesting. It "had little to do with stereotypes about men being lazy - they were working very long hours in paid work - and a lot to do with our obsession with mothers working part-time rather than full-time."

Ms. Pryor goes on to elaborate on the problem of the inherently unequal position of women scaling back their hours and careers in hopes of a more balanced life. As expected, these choices often exacerbate the problem. Men don't tend to share the childcare and home responsibilities when they are expected to be the primary breadwinners. Instead, they have justification to focus more on their careers knowing that their partners have given up the promise of more lucrative options.

So far, I found little to disagree with in this article. As we have been saying for years, the ESP goal of equal time investment in the main areas of breadwinning, childcare, home and self is a worthy endeavor. Intentionally skewing any one domain can wreak havoc on the overall balance attainable for a couple. This article does a good job of describing the problem.

Still, I was dumbfounded at the author's conclusion - that women may want to reconsider the option of part-time work in favor of full-time careers on par with their partners. Sure, for two parents who want full time work, ESP can be an invigorating lifestyle choice. But, why not consider the possibility of two part-time breadwinners working as a team to meet the family obligations as well as gifting each other with enough time to embrace all the joys as well. I'm not sure who is holding onto the sacrosanct man-as-breadwinner role more - women or men.

This seems like a classic case of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."