Earlier this evening, I watched Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk on why we have too few women leaders in all walks of life and what we need to do to combat this. It’s a great talk, and there are some very pertinent points made about the specific set of obstacles that we as women face – or create for ourselves – in rising to the top of whatever we choose to do.
But the sentence that remains turning itself around and around in my mind a couple of hours later is not to do with the workplace at all. It’s this one: ‘I’ve become convinced that we’ve made more progress in the workforce than we have in the home.’ This was followed up with the fact that studies show that where a couple have a child and also both have jobs, the woman does twice the housework and three times the childcare. BIG DEAL I thought – we all know this already, it’s just the way the mop flops if you have the misfortune to to be born a female.
HANG ON A MINUTE. Did you hear that? That was me just ACCEPTING a problem and NOT TRYING TO CHANGE IT. That does NOT happen in any other area of my life. I am usually totally incapable of letting something lie if I think it’s wrong. I totally delight in thinking up solutions to all sorts of problems – sometimes I find myself with such an awesome solution that I am gutted there is not a problem to match it. Seriously.
But it’s not just me who seems to be in acceptance mode about this, is it? It’s all of us. We all collude to preserve the status quo. Whilst the slightest whiff of inequality of any kind would not be tolerated in my workplace, that same workplace is populated with women who, like me, accept that though they may work the same or longer hours as their partners, it is, and it will always be, them who do the majority of the caring, shopping, cooking, cleaning and organising. And more than any other thing, it’s the women that do thinking. By that, I mean the non-stop mental processing of the tickertape of mundane yet critical information that keeps most families functioning. (If you just read that sentence and don’t have a fecking clue what I’m on about, it’s because you’re a MAN).
I – and I suspect women in general – need to take some responsibility for creating this situation. I know that I am forever doing something because it is quicker to do it myself, or because that way it gets done how I like it, or very often because I want to avoid being a nag. And the flip side of that coin is probably that the Husband thinks that it’s not worth him interfering and he’s better off leaving well alone, and who can blame him – if I lived with a neurotic control freak like me I’d probably aim for the quiet life too.
But now, now that I am trying to re-enter into an an admittedly as-yet-undefined career, and also to grow into myself a bit as a person, I think this needs to change. I can’t apply myself properly to finding my feet again out there, unless I let go of some of the stuff indoors. I’m not sure how I am going to go about it, and even as I am writing this there is a little voice in my ear telling me to let sleeping dogs lie. After all, who needs ANOTHER
argument discussion about housework? But then there’s another voice, and I think it’s a bit louder at the moment, telling me that I do need to try and address this, and probably sooner rather than later – after all, our kids are young, and we have another 25 years of working life ahead of us before we can retire and make our kids wait on us hand and foot.
So how to go about it? The project manager in me is saying to start with an audit – of everything that needs to be done and who does it, and then take things from there. But this feels very, I don’t know, clinical. Or maybe I should go for positive reinforcement – lots of praise for jobs well done. Which seems patronising in the extreme (and he’ll only think I’m after something if I start being too nice.) Or I suppose I could take a tip from the three year old and just throw a massive wall shaking tantrum. No? Well in that case I’m all out of ideas…
Has anyone tackled this successfully – and reached a lasting solution?