Kids Don’t Damage Women’s Careers — Men Do
Stop blaming motherhood for a problem created by fathers
One of the most pernicious modern myths about motherhood is that having kids will damage your career. Women are told that we need to choose between our jobs or our children, or that we’ll spend our most productive work years “juggling” or performing a “balancing act.”
For those of us uninterested in circus tricks, a bit of perspective: It’s not actually motherhood or kids that derail women’s careers and personal ambitions — it’s men who refuse to do their fair share.
If fathers did the same kind of work at home that mothers have always done, women’s careers could flourish in ways we haven’t yet imagined. But to get there, we need to stop framing mothers’ workplace woes as an issue of “balance,” and start talking about how men’s domestic negligence makes it so hard for us to succeed.
Yes, we know American men are doing more than they have in past years: Fathers report spending about eight hours a week on child care, or three times as much as fathers in 1965. (Though keep in mind that the data is self-reported, and men tend to overestimate how much domestic work and child care they do.)
Men doing more, however, is not the same thing as men doing enough. Despite progress made, mothers are still spending almost twice the amount of time that men do, 14 hours a week, on child care. And not all parenting is tangible, quantifiable work — it’s the mental labor of having kids that’s often the most taxing. It’s easy to split, for example, who packs a school lunch or dresses a child in the morning. But someone also needs to keep track of those days when lunch needs to be bagged for a field trip, or when it’s time to buy new underwear or sneakers. How many dads do you know who could tell you their child’s correct shoe size?
This kind of invisible work almost always falls on women, and we rarely talk about the impact it has on our professional lives. Imagine if instead of our mind being filled with to-do lists about grocery shopping and dentist appointments, we had available head space for creative thinking around our work and passions. For mothers, the freedom to just think is a privilege.