Since I got back to work this week I decided to finally write –for once- one of the more serious posts. It is a topic I became aware of when I first got pregnant. And since then it has not stopped haunting me.
I am one of the exhausting (yes I have been called that) women who will not stop wanting to having it all. I am fully aware that this probably will never happen and that is completely fine with me. It’s just that I believe if I don’t at least try to have it all, I will probably not even get half of what I want.
Yes I want to have it all
Trying to have it all in the case of having children and working means that I am not willing to sacrifice my job because I got children. It means that I do not consider stepping down more than my husband, even if I earn a bit less than him. To me it means that I am not willing to move over the balance in my life to “children only”. I am not willing to move the balance over to not earning a significant share of our income. And it also means that I don’t want to be the default parent (though I silently suspect I still am of course). I want shared responsibility. After all there’s a reason why it needs two to make a child, no?
All of this put together it means that Twomimidad (TMD) and me came to the conclusion that we would both spend one day per working week at home with the kids. We would both bring them to the nursery on one day of the week and, for those of you who are keeping count, we are lucky and blessed to count on the support of my mother to look after the girls one day per week. With the ridiculously high cost of childcare in Switzerland (around 120 CHF per day per child) this is currently working out. (whether it will still do so when Mimi #1 turns 3 in January and we lose my employers’ generous nursery support is a different story I have yet to figure out)
Not all is well in Paradise
All hunky dory so far you might say and yes indeed, it would be if it was only TMD and me in this country. (and maybe a few selected peers I have discovered so far in my search of role models) Because as soon as I was pregnant I was constantly met with the question on “what are you going to do with the child” (when there was only Mimi #1)? And when I explained the setup, I was equally frequently met with an incredulous stare. And I believe quite a lot of the starers’ thoughts were going along the lines of “let’s wait and see”. And yes, I believe that children WILL change your outlook on life. And your life itself, drastically. But, for me, they do not change ME. They do not change my preferences and dislikes. And they did not take away my belief that I want to be able to care for myself, earn my own money and still like my job, from which I draw a part of my own self-worth. There, I said it. I know that being a mother will always be the most important part of me, but it will never be the only part.
The little big difference
Weird thing (or sadly, not weird at all in fact) is, that my husband never had to explain himself when he told people he was to become a father. First of all, of course, he could decide himself if he wanted to tell people about it or not, something a woman obviously cannot decide upon actively, since at some point it just becomes obvious (btw that was a kind way of saying that at some point you get fat).
The difference is biological in this case, I know. But why do only women then constantly have to explain what they will do after Birth-Day of the baby? Why are fathers not equally asked about their plans on how they expect their lives to change with a baby (and –eventually- a fully blown kid)? Shouldn’t they also get a chance to re-think on what matters in their lives? This was the subject of a, let’s call it “animated”, discussion between TMD and me. Even though we have found a setup which currently works well for us, it doesn’t stop bothering me as to why we still seem the odd ones out. Why the true 50:50 approach is still such a minority. And we came to the conclusion that a lot of it is economics. Women tend to earn less since they just earn less, which just really makes me very angry. In recent studies it was claimed that the earning gap is closing for women (yay!) but not -watch this- if they have children (article in the “Schweiz am Sonntag” which does not reflect my personal opinion but is an interesting read nevertheless).
Way to go…
The only advice I have is to trust your instincts. And then talk to your partner BEFORE you even talk about having children. Because you will have to let your employer know you want to stay in the game the same day you will announce your pregnancy. Because they want to know if they can still plan with you or if they need to move forward.
And the difference, as it is at the moment, is that it is up to the women to start that conversation, after having evaluated if it is financially feasible as a prerequisite. Because they are the ones who are confronted with the questions. They are the ones who need to sort it out and decide if and how they will go back to work. Men will not be confronted with those questions at work, or by their friends, that’s just the way it is. And it might be equally sad for men as it is for women. So I will make a point of it now to ask my male colleagues at work, when they’re announcing they are expecting a baby, if they will keep their job, and at what percentage. I mean, which father would want to miss moments like these?