For quite a long time, I’ve been a diligent reader of anything that discusses “having it all”. I’ve managed to buy two Lean In books: one for graduates and one for non-graduates and have been religiously following Sandberg on the social media. I’ve bought a number of other books and seen a number of articles in this area.
While it does not seem that there is a general consensus on whether it is possible to “have it all” or even what exactly it is, there seems to be an agreement that:
- Women are economically punished for having children. For men ,the effect is neutral, if not positive:
“Some of the best studies that we have of the gender pay gap, following individuals longitudinally, show that when they show up right out of college, or out of law school, or after they get their M.B.A. — all the studies that we have indicate that wages are pretty similar then. So if men were better bargainers, they would have been better right then. And it doesn’t look as if they’re better bargainers to a degree that shows up as a very large number. But further down the pike in their lives, by 10-15 years out, we see very large differences in their pay. But we also see large differences in where they are, in their job titles, and a lot of that occurs a year or two after a kid is born, and it occurs for women and not for men. If anything, men tend to work somewhat harder.
More on this can also be found here: The Wage Penalty for Motherhood
- Women are seen as not so committed to the job once they have children, while men are seen as more committed. At the same time, this means that the pressure on the new dads increases. Pressure to work more, perform better and rely on their partner to take heavier burden at home:
“The lack of flexibility and pressure on dads at work means women are still doing the bulk of the caring and the work around childcare”
- This means, that women either are less motivated to have children at all or accept the “punishment” and reinforce this effect by having even less focus on the career or even becoming stay at home moms.
While the above are focused on the US, I certainly see the same happening in Europe. The two countries, where I have lived the longest (Denmark and Lithuania) certainly experience the neo-housewife ages, where staying at home with your child is valued so much, that the view on full time working mothers, having less than maximum provided maternity leave is negative. To the point where “why did you have children at all?” question is raised. This happens even when the child is, in fact, staying at home with a loving parent, but in this case, this parent is male.
Thus, no matter what “having it all” means exactly (and there are probably many meanings of it), it seems that women are punished not only economically, but also socially simply for trying to reach for it. This is a lot of punishment!
What about men? They are also punished – by not being able to spend the time they want with the children because it is expected that they will work even harder after having children and because it is expected that their partner will work less, earn less and will need more support, but at the same time will be the only person that actually knows how to put the little one to sleep (thus, daddy will be useless and will have even less motivation to help with childcare).
I think this is extremely sad. It is clear lose-lose situation, but everyone around seems to try to reinforce it (well, not everyone, but many many – too many people!!!).
Do I think it is possible to solve it? Do I think it is possible to have it all? What is “having it all” for me? I will leave it for the future posts…