I read an interesting article this morning about how parenthood impacts the careers differently on a mother and a father. Its here, if you are interested. Basically, it isn’t anything most of us (sadly) aren’t aware of, even though the year is 2015. A woman is expected to step back from work pressures to raise her family. A man is expected to provide for the family. His work prospects, if anything, will expand as his family grows. Now I realise there are many examples of women going back to work full time after the baby is born, and many fathers who decide to stay home and raise their kids. But let’s face it, most of us still find this an unusual situation. I have rarely heard it said that a man’s career will stall if he stays at home for a year or two with his kids.
But I believe there’s another layer to all of this as well. And yes admittedly I write from a point of personal experience. The father who fully abandons his child(ren). I’m not talking about the man who never knew his kids or left when they were very young. I mean the “family” man who one day decides his life is just too much and he leaves and never returns. Of course there are all sorts of reasons why this happens. And I fully understand that couples break up (my own parents divorced when I was young). But to completely abandon your kid(s) with little or no further contact is something fortunately not many of us will ever endure (though I have met lots of other mums like me over the years). I have discovered this man actually hurts not just the people he has left behind but his own future career prospects. Let’s face it, we live in a world where men can pretty much have it all. Even in the workplace, a man with a family is revered. ‘Great, aren’t we all “lovely” family men, with our fantastic wives at home raising our kids to be future scientists, doctors, lawyers, etc.’ It’s almost a club, if I can call it that. And I dare say the man at age 45 without kids and a supportive wife, probably is looked at a bit suspiciously in many more conservative professions. Sorry if this all sounds a bit 1950’s, but from my own experience, this is still very much the world we live in.
So after years of the man establishing himself in his chosen career, he just gets up one day and leaves his family. No contact for weeks or months, it’s as if he fell off the face of the earth. How do you think all the professional relationships he has made over the years perceive him? All of a sudden you find that cosy father’s club you were in amongst your peers has shut you out. Who leaves their kids? Not anyone most people want to associate with, as they’re swapping stories of their kid’s weekend football matches and swimming races with their colleagues. All of a sudden this man, who was previously held up on a pedastal for being the great father and family man, is now looked down on. How could he do that? And he finds himself more professionally isolated than he had ever imagined. What kind of an employee could a person be who so easily just abandons their own flesh and blood. If you treated your child(ren) like that, how could we trust you to run our vital operation?
My point is that there are a whole host of complexities in the way society deems men and women, fathers and mothers, in the workplace. I realise I have written this from a largely personal POV, and that it is just one women’s experience. I write largely to make sense of my own life and experience. I don’t profess to imply this scenario applies to all men or families. But if there is one other person out there who reads it and understands my story, then it was worth the time to put it into words.
(I left out the obvious severe emotional trauma the mother and kids who are left behind experience. I have covered that topic in various other blogs I have written)