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Why men are having it all without doing it all

/ Feb 19, 2013 6:37AM / Print / ()

Why men are having it all without doing it all

In the 'have it all' discussion set off by Julie Bishop last week, many women expressed concern that this was a one-gender discussion.

A common sentiment expressed via twitter and social media forums was: "... why we aren't moving beyond the gender stereotyping implicit in the 'having it all' discourse".

It's a very good point. Why is the 'having it all' discussion limited to women? I have a theory which I will explore with you.

My hypothesis is that men haven't been part of the debate to date because it's been posed as a question: 'can' we have it all? My belief is that most men traditionally have had 'it all' without needing to do it all.

Think back to traditional families of the fifties. Most men had a career, family and relationship without having to devote time or energy to anything other than their brilliant career. In some relationships and families today not much has changed. Of course there are men who do their fair share around the home and are true co-parents to their children. But let's face it, it's still easier for the majority of men to travel for work or stay late at the office relatively guilt-free.

The having it all debate focuses squarely on women because the majority of us need to be involved in every part of our version of 'it all' if we are indeed to have it all.

I have a girlfriend who just couldn't make 'it all' work for her family. She quit her career because her husband travels so often for work. She told me it was tough for her to juggle after-school care as a virtual single parent many weeks of the year so she had no choice. It's a decision most often made by women to ensure minimum disruption to the lives of their children.

Most often, but not always. My husband, a journalist, is an involved father who works evenings so that I can work full-time. He switched from reporting to editing when our youngest child was born 15 years ago. The decision allowed him to be there for our boys during school holidays without the need for me to worry about arranging babysitting. It can be argued that his career decision has allowed him to have it all. But I would argue that it has allowed me to have it all - which I am entirely grateful for. He would still have it all if he hadn't altered his career.

There is one particular friend that I thought of when the 'men having it all' subject was posed. Her husband really did have it all. He had a successful career, the perfect relationship and three wonderful children. This lucky man dipped in and out of his home life as he jetted around the world for work and pleasure. He had no idea what was happening on a daily basis in the lives of his children. My friend was the parent who attended events at the school, drove the children to after-school events, prepared meals and tucked them in at night. She gave up her career more than a decade ago because doing 'it all' became too hard. But 'having it all' was easy for her husband.

If the 'having it all' discussion is still around in the future I suspect there will be a fairer weighting towards both genders. The millennial generation may have no choice but to share the load as young women will demand equality at home and in the workplace. But for now, it remains a loaded question with women as the target.

Do you agree that men can have it all without doing it all?

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