Working Mothers, Careers, and Double Standards

by TTMK on September 10, 2012 · 9 comments

Should people be treated equally in the workplace?

Yes, of course.  Regardless of gender, ethnic background, religion, or any other part of one’s “profile”, people should be given equal opportunity.  I would think most modern, educated people would agree with this.

Having said that, why do some people say that, yet really hold biases and double standards toward people for their career and employment choices?

Working Mothers

A person I know took on a fair amount of business travel for her job.  The thing is, she did this while also being the mother of young kids.  The father doesn’t do much business traveling for his job.  So, the kids have one parent that happens to travel periodically for work.  Not unusual in this day and age, right?

Well, I have heard some comments (paraphrased) about how she “doesn’t really care to be a mother”, is “selfish”, “cares more about money than being a mom”, and so on.  

Hmmm.  So, because somebody works, does that make her selfish just for that reason alone?  Sure, there could be plenty of other aspects of someone’s life that might conceivably paint a picture of misplaced priorities, but does being a working mom do that?

Here’s the thing: what if we switched roles here, and the mother worked but didn’t travel, and the father had to travel for his job. In other words, while assuming they have joint finances, he was the one who sacrificed time with his kids rather than the mother. Would that change how things are viewed?

I suspect that some people who would judge the woman negatively for being career-focused might have no issue with man doing the same thing. In other words, some people have double standards for working mothers.

Non-Breadwinner Fathers

These days, there are plenty of couples where the woman makes more money than the man.  If a man makes less money than his wife – or doesn’t work –  should he be negatively judged? Is he less of a man than another guy who is a sole provider for his family?

I’ve heard plenty of things in conversations with people where the concept of a man being financially provided for by his wife as a stay at home dad is seen as shameless behavior on the part of the guy (note – I’m not a stay at home Dad, but have no problem with it).  This has been stated by both men and women.  The men feeling like they would feel stupid if that was the case with them, and the women saying that it’s not something anyone would want. One woman mentioned (paraphrased) that “women need to feel taken care of”, and a guy making less or not working just “won’t be respected” if a woman is honest.

This also brings up a concept I’ve heard discussed once: if a woman stays home with kids, she’s a “stay-at-home-mom”. If a man stays at home with kids, he’s “unemployed”.

Bottom Line

Stereotypes suck.

There is one that I probably still hold onto: who pays for the first date.  I suppose that’s simply out of practicality and chances for a 2nd date for a guy 🙂

Other than that I would say this: If a woman wants to work 70 hours a week for her career, this doesn’t make her any more selfish than a guy doing this.  Even more basic than that, if a woman simply chooses to work and have a career, it doesn’t make her less of a mother than somebody who stays at home with kids.

Also, if a man makes less money than his wife or financially depends on her, it doesn’t make her more selfish than a woman doing this with her spouse.  Beyond that, if a man simply chooses to stay home or take the backseat to his wife’s career, it doesn’t make him less of a father than somebody who works long hours to bring home money. 

My Questions for You

Honestly, what do you think of my assertions above?

I’d like to get your opinion on the subject.  If you see it differently, I’d be curious as to why and would of course welcome alternate viewpoints!

Have you ever experienced or heard of any double standards like this?

Do you think that there are any situations where double standards are perfectly fair.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

MoneyAfterGrad September 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

I find those comments extremely enraging to hear. People are so judgmental. I think there is NO problem as long as there is someone taking care of the kids. Why is it that it has to be the woman that is not allowed to travel? Hopefully these stereotypes continue to change as men start to stay at home more.

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TTMK September 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

MoneyAfterGrad – I agree that there are many folks out there are that are unfairly judgmental.

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

Yep, there’s definitely double standards in the workplace — the only thing we can do about it is try not to use gender stereotypes ourselves, including “you must have balls for that” — it’s hard, but important.

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TTMK September 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Kathleen – yes, it’s good to do our best to avoid such stereotypes.

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Edward Antrobus September 11, 2012 at 6:58 am

Does traveling so much that you are never home while there are children (especially young children) make you a bad parent? In my mind yes. Is it sometimes necessary, yes it is. But don’t expect a parenting award for sacrificing actually raising your child to afford raising your child.

All that said, does it apply only to women? Of course not. A traveling father is just as bad as a parent as a traveling mother.

For the separate issue of whether or not a man can be as good of a primary caregiver to a child as a woman, I find that extremely sexist. The worst part is that you sometimes here it from people who are acting as stay-at-home-dad’s!

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TTMK September 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Edward –

whoa, not sure about that! Being a regular business traveler doesn’t make someone a bad parent, at least not in my book. Many jobs just require a fair amount of travel, and it’s just the way it is. Thankfully, I don’t have to travel much these days (or ever had to more that 10% of the time). However, in a 2-parent household where one parent is at home with kids, and the other has to work as the breadwinner, traveling might just be a part of it. I don’t see how that person who has to travel for his/her career is a bad parent because of that. One could also look at it as if that person is a great parent making sacrifices to provide.

As for the concept of men being inferior caregivers, I think that a truly dedicated guy would of course have the ability to be an excellent caregiver. Too many people stereotype and think men are simply inept with such tasks, which is such a generalization.

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Edward Antrobus September 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm

There can be perfectly good and compelling reasons for a parent to travel and not be at home. That was certainly the case with my father. But because he wasn’t home, we had very little of the father-son bonding experiences.

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Old fashioned? September 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

I think as long as at least ONE parent comes home each night to BE a parent and do what they obviously chose to do when they decided to become parents, then you have to do what you have to do to feed the family, pay the mortgage and put your kids thru school – none of it is cheap. Having said that, in Western Australia, there is a trend now where BOTH parents are leaving their kids for up to 4 weeks at a time to be brought up by paid nannies or whoever while both parents are away up north working in the mines – to become rich. They buy houses and rent them out at exorbitant prices and they are in it for the money. I’m sorry, but THAT, in my opinion, is poor parental choosing. Neither parent is home for weeks on end, being looked after by a stranger. Who thinks that is right?

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TTMK September 12, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Old fashioned – I agree that if the kids are taken care of, and people do what they have to do with work as well, it can be all good. Life isn’t inexpensive. By the same token, I also agree with you on the concept of both parents leaving town for work being less than ideal for kids. Especially if it’s preventable. Life needs to be structured with good choices, and kids at the top of the priority list, right?

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