Researching for another article, I happened to stumble across a stream of articles profiling successful women. One of the things that set these women apart, said many of the writers, was that they had acknowledged the need to get help with their personal responsibilities. In fact, several were quoted as explaining how they had spent close to 100% of their salaries on childcare earlier in their career, regarding it as an investment in their future career success. An investment that had, apparently, paid off in the longer term. But what hadn't paid off was their attitude. And I don't blame the women or, indeed, the writers. Society has a lot to answer for here. Of course, childcare is expensive. But in 2015, it is unacceptable that we continue to discuss childcare in these terms. Children are emphatically a family rather than a women's issue and here are 5 reasons why.
When was the last time you bought a loaf of bread with "your" money?
Mentally accounting for the money you spend on certain things as opposed to others is hard to resist. Our brains are hard-wired to compartmentalise our cash. We are more likely to spend our salary on essentials, whereas an unexpected windfall might be used for "fun". Rationally though, every penny into our accounts is identical whatever the source. If you wouldn't separate out how you pay for the shop: "tea from my account, jam from his"; then why would you separate out your spending on childcare. By mentally assigning a man's salary to "essentials" like rent, mortgage or bills and yours to childcare, you automatically make your employment appear optional or less valid in everyone's mind. And most importantly in your own. So start to think of childcare as a family issue. You both had the children, you both love them and childcare is just another expense for the JOINT family accounts.
Women's equality relies on us accepting equal responsibility for our kids.
In 2015, equality is our watchword. We want equal jobs, equal promotions and equal pay. We expect men to share the load at home - a modern man who doesn't change a nappy or do the odd night feed would be as much of a pariah amongst his friends as his partner's. So why don't we do the same with our kids? The importance of the woman in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding is undeniable. But so is the man's. Men bring different but crucial things to the parenting table. If we want true equality, viewing children as a wholly joint responsibility isn't a choice, it's the only option.
Research shows children need paternal input too.
Not only does it take two to make a baby, ideally it takes two to raise it too. Research shows that men and women do indeed parent in different ways, but that both are important in raising a balanced child. While women provide security, men are more likely to roughhouse, encouraging physical development and independence. If a father figure isn't available the role can of course be filled by a beloved grandfather, uncle or favourite teacher. But if there is a father figure in the home, encouraging the idea that children are fully shared is shown to significantly increase the active role he takes.
Making childcare a women's responsibility disempowers men who want to share the load.
So we know that having an active and present father figure benefits our children. And that fully co-parenting means we are less likely to mentally account for the money we spend on nursery. But what about the impact on the man? Increasingly both men and women have flexible or so-called 'boundaryless' careers. However the research says that even men who want to spend more time at home still tend to compartmentalise their thinking and struggle to get away from the "provider" mentality. If you delineate your roles, talking about childcare as your responsibility, you just reinforce this message. Ironically, taking sole responsibility for the kids, even if just financially, disempowers him at home, just as much as it disempowers you at work.
Sharing responsibilities equally is great for your relationship.
As if you needed more incentives, sharing responsibilities improves your connection which leads to harmony in your relationship. Thinking about childcare expenses as equally shared is an important part of this. When we feel isolated in our respective roles resentment can build and this drives us apart. Building a true team, on the other hand, improves feelings of togetherness. A stronger relationship has many benefits. So stop thinking about childcare as your responsibility, start talking about it as a joint household expense and watch your love life blossom. And we all know where that will lead.... a pay rise.