By the time my husband and I decided to marry we’d already determined that he could cook better than I could, he cared more about food than I did, and he was happy to take on a permanent role, at least for the foreseeable future, as “chief nutrition officer” within the family we were planning to establish. So I literally found it funny (at least I hope I laughed) when his mother informed me that I would need to make his dinner after we were married because he would be very tired when he came home from work.
The reason this was so funny was that we worked together. We met at work, we had similar roles and the same level of responsibility at work, we’d earned sort of similar degrees (mechanical engineering and computer science), and we had similar plans for the future (i.e. we both wanted to have children, raise a family and pursue our careers). So it really did strike me as funny that she mentioned he’d be tired at the end of the day. I remember thinking, and knowing me I probably said, “I think we’ll both be tired at the end of the day!”
A few years later we were excited when I became pregnant. (And boy was I tired at the end of those days.) Lots of people asked me, “Are you going to work after the baby is born?” To be fair, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to work after the baby was born, but had heard so many stories, even from co-workers with children, about how hard it is to come back to work after having a baby because you just miss the baby so much, so I decided to keep my options open. After getting advice from an experienced mother and colleague, I told my employer that I would definitely be returning, but my husband and I agreed I would stay home if that felt like the better option. I loved my baby before she was born, so actually assumed nobody would find it harder to return to work after giving birth than me. The thing was, I did love my baby. A lot. Maybe more than any mother ever. But I also wanted to return to work, so I gave it a try. In order to ease my transition, my husband stayed home with our daughter for the first month after I returned to work. And I was OK. The baby seemed OK too. Even my husband was OK. So we tentatively decided to see if we could make it work. Two years ago, and two days after our little bundle of joy turned 26, I finally decided to let up at work, and I retired.
I share this story because it highlights the fact that we don’t encourage men and women in the same ways when it comes to careers. Nobody ever told my husband that he should take on more work at home because I’d be tired after working all day, and nobody ever asked him (like not even one person) if he planned to return to work after our baby was born.
To be clear, I’m not blaming anybody for anything. When things change and cultural norms shift, people have questions and sometimes they even ask them. That’s OK. It’s good. And it’s how we make progress.
But, when we criticize women for pursuing careers with the same intensity as men and question their devotion to their children and families when they make the same career choices as men, we send them messages. Make no mistake about it. And those messages causes some women (but not all) to ease up, step back, and sometimes even drop out. And when that happens, and we all know that it happens, women’s ability to compete in the workplace is diminished. Companies, or at least the people who work at them, start to wonder if any given woman is really in it for the long haul. And many of the very capable women who could help close the wage gap, drop out of the game completely. It’s hard to be paid the same as a man if you’re not even getting paid.
Anyone who is serious about wanting to close the wage gap, who thinks that their sons and daughters deserve the same pay when they deliver the same value, has got to help close the encouragement gap first. If you’re a woman who thinks that women deserve to be paid the same as men when they deliver the same value, start by staying in the game. If you’re an employer who wants to be able to say that you’re paying women the same as men when they deliver the same value, find ways to help your women employees understand that their contributions are valued and actually helping them become better parents. If you’re a man who isn’t afraid of competing with women when proving your value in the work place, find ways to mentor women who are interested.
Change is never easy. That’s why we admire the people who make it happen. Be one of those people; a changemaker. Let’s close the encouragement gap. That may go a long way toward closing the wage gap.
A movie review
We enjoyed the CNN documentary RGB enough to conclude that we wanted to see "On the Basis of Sex" too, the "inspired by a true story" movie about events that occurred duing Ruth Bader Ginsburg's education and early career. And we're glad that we did because it provided a different view into Judge Ginsburg's history. (One, we should note, that is somewhat fictionalized. You can check the facts vs. fiction online.)
Not long ago, I attended a class called "Understanding myself from a cultural perspective". One of the most memorable things the instructor told us is that an outsider can't become a member of a group unless he or she has an insider advocate. In addition to being a thought-provoking claim, it got me thinking about responsibility; specifically, what responsibility do I have to help others who are on the outside?
This movie, and other stories I've read about Judge Ginsburg, highlight the fact that after finishing two years of Harvard Law School and then graduating from Columbia Law School (where she tied for first in her class), RBG couldn't find an NYC law firm that was willing to hire her. That's hard to believe in 2019, but apparently it really happened.
Ruth and Marty both worked while raising their two children; Ruth started out as a college professor and Marty spent his career as a tax attorney. It's well known that Marty was the family cook long before many men assumed such roles. Their successes appear to be linked in many ways.
Thankfully for Ruth, and all women really, her husband, Marty, remained convinced that she should continue to push the legal system until she found a crack; a way to practice law instead of just teaching others about it. It's an example of a person on the inside advocating for a person on the outside.
And it leaves us wondering, is there a person or people who are deserving of our advocacy?
Pointer to funny SNL video
Dads took center stage on SNL last week in their "Westminster Daddy Show" skit.
Pointer to a funny SNL video
Last night I went to bed way too late. I had no business watching YouTube after climbing under the covers, but I did. This SNL video called "Best Christmas Ever" was "recommended" so I watched it. And I liked it, a lot, for two reasons:
Pointer to an interesting HBR article about working parents
If you spend time wondering how your career and/or your spouse's career might affect your kids, you'll want to read this HBR article: How Our Careers Affect Our Children by Stewart D. Friedman.
Here are just a few of the interesting insights provided by studies outlined in this relatlvely short article:
A great idea from Dr. Alison Escalante: Sigh, See, and Start
If being a great parent only required us to read the right articles and follow the advice provided in them, more of us might consider ourselves great, or at least pretty good, parents. But most parents would probably agree that reading and following the advice provided doesn't alway produce the results we expect! No two kids are alike, and we've yet to find any advice that works for everyone who follows it.
Many corporate leaders tell their employees, "We're paying you to think, not just follow instructions." Jobs that only require people to follow precisely defined instructions rarely pay as much as jobs that require people to think in the midst of challenging situations. And most parents would probably agree that if parenting were a paid gig, it would definitely be one of those jobs that requires a lot of thinking during challenging situations!
Dr. Alison Escalante's recent TEDx Talk called Parenting the "Shouldstorm" is very entertaining and uplifting. She describes how we can get caught up trying to do all of the things others tell us we should be doing, and she recognizes that the advice isn't always helpful. Often, as parents, we've got to think through unique ways of dealing with our challenges. In the TEDx Talk Dr. Escalante outlines a great process for engaging your brain during tough situations, and it might just change the way you parent. We highly recommend it!
Pointer to an audio story from Carlos Kotkin on The Moth
While listening to Latino USA on NPR earlier today, we caught a funny and compelling story called a Ready or Not which originally aired on The Moth.
Parents will appreciate the way the story teller, Carlos Kotkin, weaves humor and touching moments as he tells the compelling story of expecting and meeting his new baby.
An election night image
They say that a picture is worth a thousands words. But sometimes a picture can be summed up in just two words; "Working Parent".
We couldn't help but smile when we saw this picture of four-year-old Catherine with her mother, Abigail Spanberger, on election night as Abigail gave her victory speech after winning the election to represent Virginia's 7th Congressional District.
Most working parents learn to balance work and parenting, and some, like Abigail, appear to integrate them on occassion.
Pointer to short video about the value of the roles we model
People work for many reasons. We often assume that people work to support their families which is often true. But how often do you stop to think about how your work, and the example it sets, benefits your children beyond putting food on the table and a roof over their heads?
Kathleen McGinn, a Harvard Business School professor, explains how our careers help our child in this short video (2:26 min).
Submitted by Eleanor Wiebe
Even though it was a little unusual back in the '60s and '70s, my husband and I both worked while we raised our two girls. We encouraged independence and self-reliance from a very early age and were happy to send them out into the world knowing they could make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions.
When the girls were in pre-school, I spent time with them each evening after dinner reading, talking about their day, making up songs about their activities, and rubbing their backs as they went to sleep. Their father read to them a lot too, and he made up games that included things like finding places on the large map we hung on a wall in our home.
We always gave our girls choices. We started small by letting them choose what to wear to school, and then later, as teens, they were given a clothing allowance which they could save or use to buy the fashion they wanted. We supplied the basics like underwear, socks, and shoes.
When they were in school, I often asked them if they would rather that I didn't work so I could be at home more, and their answer was always that same, "No, because you are more interesting when you work.”
My husband (their father) was a college professor, so he had more flexible hours and was usually around when they came home from school. That was a blessing.
As for rules, we drew an imaginary circle around them and they were free to do what they wanted within it. But when they stepped outside of that circle (e.g. staying out past curfew or not letting us know where they were), there were consequences. One daughter often thanks us for giving her a curfew. Maybe this is why she still goes to bed early!
We always ate our evening meal together so each of us could talk about our day or other topics of interest. These family times are what they tell us they remember the most.
Now, all of these years later, we can see that they, along with their husbands, do even better than we did as parents.