The Gender Gap – What Working Dads are NOT talking about

One typical day at work, Kate asked Renee, “Hey, so what do you do with your kids for the three-week winter break this year?”  Renee responds, “well, I have to fly in my parents or last year my in-laws. And now we are considering hiring someone to help out like a nanny.” Francine chimes in, “what?!  I can’t afford a nanny and have no family that can help… what am I gonna do when little sweet pea starts kindergarten next year?”  Kate responds, “is there an after or before school program? Do you think the school your kids will go to has a winter break daycare option? Or, did you consider….”  Oh my, Francine thinks, how am I going to find time to visit schools, look into all of this, and the money to hire a nanny? I work 830am to 530pm and then have to rush to pick the kids up, then go home and with my wonderful husband, help feed them, bathe them, try to read to them, and enrich them, all the while trying to stay healthy and fit myself.  Francine works two jobs (outside the home), not to mention a mom of two, a wife of one, and yet still manages to balance it all… or does she?  And if you think that the only women having this conversation at work are Kate, Renee, and Francine- well think again!  And our women in this story all have terrific husbands who do more than their share.  Imagine, how it would be without that support and without the support of friends.

It’s a nationwide phenomena and has been since the 70s and 80s – moms working full-time or multiple jobs, whether single,  or married, moms are in the workplace and what you do not know about Kate, Renee, Francine and the other moms like them is that they secretly think, almost on a daily basis, “what the hell am I doing?  THIS IS SO STINKING HARD!”

Each day, thousands upon thousands of women who are in the same boat or even in worse situations than our working moms mentioned above deal with the same questions.  Is this worth it? Can I break that glass ceiling and still raise a family?  The answer is quite simple and may sound pessimistic but the the answer is MAYBE… and if YES, with a whole heck of a lot of guilt.   And yes, I am one of the moms mentioned above.  I am the mom who thought I could do it all but here I am, wondering daily if I made the right choices- the right decisions for my career and my family and each time feeling like I am failing at all of it – not doing any one thing right but trying my best to keep it together each day.  And you are probably thinking, “well, why do you choose to work then? why not just quit and stay at home?”  It’s just not that easy. Some choose to work because of financial reasons, some for personal and professional reasons, and whatever the case may be it is a choice that is true but that does not mean that the working mom is a victim or that she is a bad person. All this article is intended to address is the blatant gender gap that nonetheless still exists in the American workplace and may likely persist for sometime.

Now, let’s look at the husbands of Renee, Kate, and Francine – it is most likely the case that none of the husbands think about this.  Very few men if any at all, would have the same conversations at work or talk with each other about how they feel like a failure or ask themselves and their friends, “what am I doing here? I should be with my kid.”  Not to generalize for all dads out there, but I am sure very few men worry about the same things that the working moms do.  And very few dads at work feel guilt almost on a daily basis – that sheer plain guilt day in and day out because they chose to have it all or because they chose to shatter the glass ceiling over caring for their kids full-time.  But wait! There is no ceiling for men, for working dads …. it is just assumed even in present day society that they will pick their career and travelling for work in lieu of their kids because that is what is expected.  In other households, the mother will “choose” to give up her career maybe because the husband’s career paid more or traditionally paid more- after all, women are still not paid the same as men in most career fields for the same work!  Or, because women chose traditional fields like nursing, teaching, or administrative support, they simply earn less than their husbands who could be in IT, Engineering, Medicine, legal profession, or the military. So, the cost-benefit analysis does not favor the woman working in those fields to pay $20K+ in daycare costs per year.

But, these days, as women try to break the glass ceiling, they are assuming less traditional roles, and bringing home more of the bacon, some working even two jobs, and thus the question becomes, what price is she paying for continuing to work?  Well, we hope none and we hope the kids will be alright but nonetheless it is hard to ignore the “gender gap” which is alive and well, and yes, I am willing to take the heat on this article but, I am confident that men are not having the same conversation that our friends, Renee, Kate, and Francine were having in the workplace, sometimes weekly or daily.  I am willing to bet that men are not sitting around at work worrying whether they made the right choice- career over stay at home dad; and I am confident they are not feeling that unavoidable guilty day-in and day-out on not being home with the kids.    The Gender Gap, in this humble working mom’s opinion is still alive and well and while we may not shatter that glass ceiling completely, I think women have made a significant difference at home, through writing, volunteering, in the workplace and the business world.  In America, this is a great time to be a woman and who knows? Very soon we may even get to elect the first female President of the United States.

I need your opinion: Do you think the gender gap is alive and well in the workplace? Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace or just sheer guilt as our characters feel above?  I would love your feedback, whether stay at home, work at home, or working outside the home mom, married or single, I would love to hear your feedback and input. 

*Please note: the characters in the above story are based on real people the author works with but the names were changed to protect the working moms.

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5 thoughts on “The Gender Gap – What Working Dads are NOT talking about

  1. Interestingly, and hopefully hubby comments but today we had a parents’ day out where the school took the kids in for Saturday so the parents could shop, have a date day or anything… well, we felt guilter than heck and it was hubby who felt the worst. He said, sometimes he worries that they would be the last ones to be picked up and he never wants that. He always rushes or thinks about this on a daily basis… “I really want to get out of here because I do not want them to be the only kids left there so late.” It made me sad too. In fact, even as I was dropping them off, I felt guilty for choosing a date with hubby over them. But I guess balance is everything right? Ugh….

  2. I think it does still exist, but there’s an added twist. In our situation, I know that it kills my husband to be away from our daughter, especially when projects at work demand overtime. He rarely gets to go to the assemblies or class parties, and it eats him alive. I’ve told him again and again that she knows he “cares” about her, and I just hope she never sees his absences as proof of anything otherwise.

    He’s also told me about conversations he’s had with another dad in his office, one where his wife works outside the home. The way he tells it, they BOTH struggle with how to work out the pick-up and drop-off, and who-stays-home-when routine, and if it would be easier for one of them to stay home with the kids…and not necessarily the mother.

    I also have two close friends who are stay-at-home dads. Their wives have the higher paying jobs. I can only imagine the struggles they face. I mean, when my daughter was littler, I was part of a “MOMS” Club…it was “possible” for a dad to be included, but it was a whole admission process, whereas, if a mom wanted to join, all she had to do was sign the paperwork.

    I know that what you’re saying is true. The stigma is still there. I’ve heard people of an older generation talk down about “stay at home dads,” implying that there must be something wrong if the “man” can’t be the one to get “the” job. People of this same generation would probably roll their eyes at someone like my husband who voices a concern about not “being there” for school functions.

    As women, we’re told we can have it all, and that’s just not the case. Yes, we can “have it all,” but the definition of “all” morphs into something that wasn’t advertised.

    Great post, Ratna!

    1. Thanks JoAnn. My older
      Daughter is 4 and a half and I have struggled daily with the choices I made. We make sacrifices to spend time with them and yet it feels like it’s never enough and yes, different situations are all around me. Profession makes a
      Difference too and I think until men who are in charge “get it” the female who works for him will not get ahead.

      I’m lucky. I have flexible hours, amazing bosses and policies where I work and I still struggle. I can’t imagine for those who have bad bosses. Anyway thanks for the comment. I just know I am blessed but I pray things get better for those who are not so lucky.

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