I work full time. My wife works full time. It may not be ideal but it's what we have to do. Other people do the same, others both work part time, some have one working partner and one at home. Some don't work at all. And I don't really care what you and your family choose to do. If you want to stay at home that's fine. If you want to go to work that's fine too. I also appreciate that the decision to work or not to work is often made for you by circumstance rather than choice.
But what really frustrates me is the constant questioning and comments that my wife gets about going to work. "Oh, you work full time and have children..." "That must be hard." "Oh, that's a shame." "How do you cope with that?" And people ask me how I feel about her working too. Well she earns more money than me, doesn't work unsocial hours and has better holidays... seems pretty sensible for her to go work don't you think?!
People aren't being horrible. They aren't saying it to make her feel bad. And they are probably just interested or possibly worried. But why would you ask these questions? Is it any of your business? But the most frustrating thing is that people never, ever ask me the same questions. Why not? Why is it acceptable to question why a mum goes to work full time but not a dad? When people hear that I do a lot of the childcare during the week because I work long shifts and therefore get more days off then they say "Oh, that's great." And they mean it. They are both surprised and pleased. But if I said that I work five days a week and have a two hour commute meaning I'm out of the house for 12 hours each day that would also be acceptable to them. If anything they would admire the work I put in to earn money for my family. And they wouldn't say "Oh, and how do you cope with the children as well?" or "It must be hard to work knowing your children are at home."
I just don't get it. When the kids were babies then my wife stayed at home - she had just carried them for nine months and then given birth, it was important mother and baby bonding time and she had the breasts. She still does in fact it is just that they are less integral in the day to day live of the children these days. We would have loved to both be at home but that wasn't practical. Then after maternity leave she worked four days a week whilst I worked full time. No one asked me why I worked full time. No one batted an eyelid.
So why does it matter what sex you are when you decide whether to go to work or stay at home? Now the breastfeeding is out of the way I'm quite capable of doing the rest of the childcare. I occasionally dress them in each other's clothes or put their dresses on back to front. More often than not when Carolyn arrives home one of the children is not fully dressed because of a spillage, poo or playing in the mud incident. Sometimes I encourage the use of the sofa as a plank when playing pirates. Our styles differ at times but ultimately we are both perfectly capable of looking after the children and both perfectly capable of going to work. In fact I'm sure she is better at her job than I am at mine anyway. Saying that she is probably better with the kids too but she can't be everywhere. And we both have brilliant relationships with our children too. Working hasn't distanced us from the children or made them clingy to us either. They obviously love us as much as we love them but they are comfortable and confident when with others too.
My issue isn't with people's views on how we live our lives. I don't care what people think and I don't care what they choose to do themselves. And it certainly isn't about thinking we are doing it the right way. Far from it. Every family is different and I am a believer in doing whatever is best for your family not doing what society or anyone else tells you to do. It is simply that society appears to be behind somewhat. Women shouldn't be questioned for going to work and they shouldn't be questioned if they choose to stay at home either. There are plenty of men out there who work long hours and aren't lucky enough to have the flexibility I do - how are they coping? Would they rather be at home a bit more? Society is moving its views forward on some many things but I really hope this is on the agenda. Ask me why I go to work! Ask me how I cope when I'm at work and the children are being looked after at home or nursery! Or better still don't ask either of us and leave us to it...
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