I am approaching the end of 100 days of Shared Parental Leave. Normally I am a helicopter pilot, but recently I have been a housekeeper and full time carer for my son (4) and my daughter (10 months).
Returning to work after Shared Parental Leave
I’m about to return to work and I’m sad.
I’m about to transition from 100 days of spending 12hrs a day exclusively with and thinking about my children to spending, at best, 3hrs a day in their presence.
We will shift from leisurely breakfasts followed by messy play to shoveling a cereal down them and dropping them at nursery the minute it opens in order to commute to work on time.
Goodbye mid-afternoon library or swimming trips. So long soft play sessions. Instead we will only have 6pm-8pm each evening, during which my wife and I need to feed, bathe and run the bedtime routine.
Forget duvet days and cuddling on the sofa in front of Kung Fu Panda. That’s 90mins out of my 3hr day. That would be 50% of my available daily parenting time dedicated to Po!
What if I could go back to work part-time? Or maybe reduce my hours a bit, take the hit in pay, but at least pick them up from nursery before 6pm?
What if I could just decide I don’t want to go back to work at all? My kids need me, right? They need my attention, my love. They need me to influence their experiences at this critical stage of development.
Well I guess I could but, even if my wife and I thought that one of us quitting work and staying home with the kids was the right solution, we’d be pretty tight financially and it would almost certainly have to be my wife who quits. Not because she is more “parental” than me, we both have equal drive to be with the kids. The truth is that I bring home more money and, as a family of four, we need every penny we can get.
The Gender Wage Gap
My wife, despite having twice as many degrees as me, both to a considerably higher standard, working as many hours as I do and working as hard as me, still makes £13,000 less.
I’m the man. I’m blessed with the advantageous side of the wage gap (in most cases). I’m the bread winner. It’s my role to go out and bring home the money for my family, leave her to be the primary parent, right?
But wouldn’t it be excellent to, at least, have the choice?
This is why the Gender Wage Gap is something we should ALL care about. Because I’m selfish and I have a desire to parent my kids too.
Equality benefits us all. It makes the most options available to the most people.
Eliminating the wage gap and increasing equality is not something that solely benefits women. It makes our relationships stronger, it gives us all more choice, it makes us all better parents.
But aren’t Gender Wage Gap statistics inflated?
I appreciate that we have Equal Pay enshrined in law in the UK already and that the Wage Gap statistics can be exaggerated by two factors:
A) Women (3 in 7) tend to work part-time more than men (1 in 7). Part-time not only pays less overall but less “per hour” as well.
B) There is still a perception of “womanly jobs” (lower paid) and “manly jobs” (higher paid).
With regards to women working part-time I’d dare say that this becomes cyclic. Based on only my own anecdotal evidence it seems more mothers than fathers reduce their hours after having kids and this leads to more female part time employees which skews to a lower average income. Is it usually the mother reducing her hours because she is on a lower salary to begin with?
According this BBC article, if we look solely at full-time employees then the gap shrinks. Shrinks, not disappears.
I don’t have an answer for combating Womanly versus Manly jobs except that it begins with us parents enabling our children to view professions and careers on their individual merit and not their stereotypes.
Shared Parental Balance
Good parenting is all about balance. Balancing what rule infractions to let slide and which to discipline. Balancing rigidity of routine against letting the child have fun.
Wage equality and Shared Parental Leave allows both mother and father to best balance their ambition in the work place with their ambition to be good parents.