Sometimes one hears recycled the kind of slogan that has become normative within political circles but which, on reflection, does not bear much critical reflection. One that has cropped up again over last few days is the suggestion that women have to make decisions about career and family from which men are immune. The first of which I am not seeking to deny, but the latter of which I can absolutely dispute. It is lazy cliché more than malicious slur, as if males throughout the land are but unreformed cavemen, each of them their own Wolf of Wall Street refusing to let minor matters like love and commitment inhibit their own sense of career progress and achievement.
Which is nonsense. Fathers love their kids too. And their wives. And they make sacrifices to be the kind of father and husband that they feel they ought to be. Fathers, too, are faced with difficult decisions about career and family, and will opt to postpone personal career ambitions for the sake of their loved ones. Sometimes this is leaving work; sometimes it is going part-time; sometimes it is foregoing a tilt at promotion; sometimes it is simply trying to keep a healthy balance between work and family life, such that one is de facto ruled out of the promotion field anyway.
And others try to juggle both. To ‘have it all.’ We work hard because we want to provide for our family and make them proud, and because we feel compelled by the same call to service, the same guilt, and the same determination to do well for the kids in our care. And then we come home and put in a shift there too. Before starting all over again and working late into the night ready for the grind to begin again in the morn.
We do this not because we want a medal, or special praise, or think it makes us any different from anybody else, but because it is both our duty and our calling – we love, too. Because we love, we care. Because we love, we make sacrifices. And it is in these sacrifices we feel we are really being a man.
If some make different choices then, male or female, that is their call.
But I know one thing: if ever the day arrives that I choose to leave teaching, it will be because the current workload and job demands turn me into the kind of individual that cannot also be the father and husband that my wife and children have every right to expect.
In other words, juggling a career and bringing up a family is not a challenge exclusive to women. It hits us men too. This is not to say that it does not affect women more acutely – one can quite believe it does – but there is no need to question the commitment of fathers in seeking to right that injustice. If women are discriminated against because they are women, then we should be exploring that with a view to eradicating it. But one needn’t make the case by talking down the sacrifices men make, too.
Because we are parents too. And that impacts upon us, too. And it means we often have difficult choices to make about our careers, too. But I reckon it might just be that little bit easier if we all stood together when declaring that any job which puts us in such a position in the first place, male or female, is the real problem.