How Do We Move Working Motherhood Conversations Forward?
If you’ve been here a while, you might know that my oldest child is transgender, and that it’s likely that during Pride month, I’d mention it. We check in with our kid regularly to make sure we have their permission to share about their journey, and I am in constant awe of their bravery and openness towards sharing their experiences with others, in order to make a positive difference in the world for people like them.
Though there are some days my brain gets confused about which pronouns to use, we remain steadfastly supportive, even as we wrestle with the challenges our child’s gender non-conformity presents in many aspects of our life – such as where we can live, who our friends are, the type of school they can go to, and even where we travel as a family.
Yet one area I wasn’t prepared for being challenged was my business. As a career coach for working moms, my conversations and content are gendered by nature. I understand, speak to and support women through their evolution as mothers and professionals, intune to the struggles of ambition, family demands, and the motherhood penalty that they face.
But as my own family came up against more obstacles regarding gender (sports, summer camps, changing rooms), I began to wonder if I was being narrow-minded in only focusing on working mothers, rather than working parents. Paternity leave made up 16% of the total parental leave in 2022, up from 7% just a decade ago (Chartr) and I hear regularly from clients about the involvement of their partners. At my house, my husband regularly picks up the childcare slack, allowing me to spend more time growing my business, and I also hear him struggle with topics like balance, how to manage his career with our family demands, and whether his career is still the best fit for him.
So the question I had to ask myself is: Are we starting to get to a world with more gender equity at home between mothers and fathers? Could we be learning from same sex couples who tend to divide up tasks more evenly and feel the division is more fair? Sadly, the evidence tells us we aren’t quite there yet.
Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that work from home has only served to increase women’s household responsibilities and their likelihood of being the default parent. And a Pew study provides statistics that men in ‘egalitarian’ marriages still have 3.5 hours more of leisure time than their wives, who are spending 2 hours more on caregiving and 2.5 hours more on housework. And the more I dig in with clients, the more I find that their partners are helping with physical tasks, but the mental, emotional, and social load often lands squarely with the mom.
That said, I remain hopeful that we can get a lot closer to gender equity at home, so we can create a world where there are no longer “mom” jobs and “dad” jobs, and that parents can find greater balance between their career and childcare and home tasks no matter their gender. Of course, getting there is easier said than done. But just as with the fight for LGBT+ equality, my family is personally vested in the outcome.
In our own journey towards a gender equitable home, we’ve tried lots of different methods and strategies that are suggested by experts – many of which I will admit have failed, leaving us back where we started. But through these failures, I’ve been able to learn what does work, and used that knowledge to develop my own approach to guiding couples through the creation of their own system, based on their unique situation and circumstances, to arrive at a custom arrangement that can work for their family. It allows for considerations like culture, goals and appreciation while creating a communication method that allows for review, alignment and adaptation to new factors, like job/career changes. (You can read more about this program, Home Work, here. I’m offering a discount right now!)
I’m not saying that equity at home will solve all of the issues in our gendered world, but just like the fight for LGBT+ equality, we have the opportunity to show our kids what is right. By bringing together the ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’ experiences into the ‘parent’ experience, I believe we can move our culture forward and create a stronger foundation for more fairness between genders.
Our kids learn from what they see and will build on the models they know. They are our future, and imagine what they could create if they are starting with equity.