I love my wife. And I am proud of the fact that she is an independent lady, capable of taking care of her own. Well, did I only say of her own? I would be lying if I said that. The fact is, she is capable of taking care of the entire family. And she would say the same about me.
Together, we have a lovely son, and I love looking after him as I work from home. And I am happy that my wife did not have to take a career break after the pregnancy. I could make a few changes with my work and this way, her career was unaffected. And I believe that this is the best decision I may have taken in this century!
Women in workforce
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I attended a co-ed school. Counting the post-graduation, I would say that I received formal education for about 20 years of my life. Throughout the duration, be it school or the university, My female friends performed better than most of my guy friends. The class topper was always a girl, Dean's list was heavy with women achievers.
And yet, when I entered the workforce, I barely saw any women on the executive panel. Entering a major pharmaceutical company as a Management Trainee, there were barely 4 women colleagues in my batch of 29 young managers. And this is the reality of today. Somewhere down the road, women end up compromising their careers. There are many reasons. Some get married and relocate to places where they do not get enough opportunities. Others end up taking huge career breaks after they have kids. More often than not, it is the woman who ends up compromising. And in the process, they also end up losing their self-confidence.
I believe that when this happens, the company loses out on really sincere people who have fought all their lives just to break all the stereotypes. There are women engineers who can actually build a robot from scratch, but end up being out of the workforce just because daycare is expensive. In an effort to balance the work and family, a few end up working part-time, a huge sacrifice towards their career.
Is family a woman's responsibility?
I feel sad when this happens. Don't get me wrong. I am not judgemental about women who take a career break voluntarily. It saddens me when a woman who really wants to work hard has to return home early in order to pick up the kids from school. I can imagine then, the delays in career progression. Because in the mind of a male supervisor, once you lose the flexibility of working for longer hours, you automatically start appearing less committed.
I believe that marriage is a shared responsibility. It goes without saying that husbands should contribute equally towards the marriage. In Sweden, the father can share parental leave with the mother for up to 16 months! They are encouraged to take 3 months off to help the wife settle in. So, it is no surprise that they play an active role in childcare, as they do so in earning for the family.
Swedish dads end up spending a lot of quality time with their kids.
So, to answer the question, couples are managing to adopt a more equalised role when it comes to parenting.
Back to my case
I know my wife for a little more than half of my life. Sufficient to say, I know what she wants. I understand her passion, her need to excel at work. Even when she rejoined work after having our son, she used to spend an hour extra at work just to compensate for the pumping time. And this was despite all the sleepless nights of early parenthood. Tell me, would it not be cruel if I would ask her to work part time to take care of our child?
She is at a crucial point in her career. It means a lot to her. As a team, we have taken turns in getting a formal education. She supported me while I got my Masters, and I feel, it is only right that I support her back. This way, none of us is left behind. Her work is of the nature that a career break would mean a career suicide. And I would not want that to happen.
But I do not support her just because I have to. I do so because I know how much her work means to her. And it may be different for different mums. The beauty of motherhood is the way it is perceived by the mum! In our scenario, no doubt my wife wants to spend a lot of time with our son. However, she also needs to stay on top of her work. She has defined herself as a good doctor. And she is defining the role of a good mother in conjunction.
I believe that she is going to be a good role model if I ever end up having a daughter. My son is going to respect her because of her commitment to work. And at the same time, he is going to spend considerable time with me, as a work-from-home dad. I hope that this arrangement brings out some positive changes in the way he perceives the whole role of parenting.
How to support your wife's career
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Dads, it is not too hard to support your wife's career. It just takes a bit of adjustment at work. Marriage is like building a house. The wider the base, the taller you can build it. And, if both of you end up having solid careers, chances are that the base will be stronger and wider.
You need to do these 3 things.
- Share household duties. When you take a few things off her list, you automatically leave her more time to work, study, or just relax. This also strengthens her belief that she can rely on you for getting the chores done.
- Remind her of her strengths. The whole early parenting experience induces self-doubt in the minds of many mums. This hampers their confidence when they return to work after the maternity leave. Your wife is quite vulnerable at this juncture. What you need to do is constantly remind her of her strengths. This way, you can help her focus on her career better.
- Discuss her day. At the end of each day, take out time and ask her to describe how her day went. Ask her if she sees any opportunity she wants to explore. If she does, help her find out what skill sets she needs to develop in order to try for that role.
Do let us know what you think!
Also read, 4 ways to delicately prevent grandparents from spoiling your child