An article in today’s Sunday Life magazine has made me very cross.
For starters, its title ‘The parent trap’, is a misnomer.
A more truthful headline would have read: ‘Mothers can’t have it all’.
That’s the subtext throughout the article – illustrated by example after example of why mothers need to be around more not less as their children grow older.
Yet not one father was interviewed for the article, nor one case study shown that illustrates the joint-decision making being made in many households across the country around how to best meet the needs of our young, and the adjustments to careers of both fathers and mothers being made to accommodate this.
The article makes the case that teenagers are more in need of close parental supervision than toddlers, to help them manage the increasing emotional and social complexities they experience from ages 10 onwards.
The ages 10-14 are described by the experts interviewed as the pivotal time for more ‘nuanced parenting’, and in general, it’s parents who are best placed to provide that.
Statistics are provided that paint a picture of most working mothers (mothers again!) still adhering to the traditional model of cutting back their hours when their children and young, then increasing their paid work as their children get older.
That reflects my own work journey while a parent, yet with an 11 year old and a 9 year old, we’re on the cusp of that sweet spot where both our children are requiring more not less of us.
We already experience it in the more complex issues they seek both of us out to help them process. Why is so and so always negative to me? I got two unexpected hugs today – why? The latest ripper – Why do I exist?
Somehow, with supportive employers, and both of us working full time and close to home, between us we still manage to pick up our kids from school and get them to their after school activities, and supervise their homework (sort of!), three days out of five.
The other two days the children are fortunate to be with a carer, who has had them both since they were babies, who loves them dearly and is loved dearly in return.
With our son about to embark on his final year of primary school, and the more complex years of secondary school looming, we are already talking about how we can ensure one of us is present for the kids after school most days.
And not just physically present – but emotionally present – and not mentally and physically exhausted from the demands of work.
I know many fathers who are likewise part of similar conversation with their partners – and many who have made decisions about their careers based on equity and putting their families ahead of their careers – but their voices are noteably absent from this article.
That’s why I am cross. Because articles like this reinforce the prevailing view – backed up by legislation and acted out in workplaces across the country – that children are primarily a mother’s responsibility.
It diminishes the importance of fathering, and it diminishes us all.