Last night I went to an LSE lecture “Excel at Your Job, Be Home for Dinner” by Sharon Meers, co-author of Getting to 50/50: How working parents can have it all (oh, the irony, as the event was at 6.30pm and I missed not only dinner but bedtime as well).
It was actually a rather fascinating insight into the person and background to one of the authors of a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. They were selling books but I bought the kindle version this morning to read on the tube.
Well before I’d heard of Getting to 50/50, Marto and I set out the ways we wanted to parent and comfortingly, our goals are pretty similar to those of Meers and Strober. I’ve written before about choosing the things that are important to me and refusing to feel guilty about the rest (like choosing to go to work). Marto and I also divy up all of the household tasks, chores and so on equally (i.e. equally over say a year’s period, rather than week to week) and employ a cleaner, childcare, babysitter etc so that we can continue with the things that are important to us both. Work and socialising, mainly.
We also both try and have better habits at work (i.e. concentrating on delivering on important things, utilising our time in the office effectively, prioritising, and keeping in touch with the office on a BlackBerry in the evening if necessary) but there are always room for improvement.
So, it seems that the 4 important tenets of getting to 50/50 are things we have already considered:
- get rid of guilt
- better habits at work (results, not time spent present at office)
- welcome men to the home team
- clear space to connect
Meers also had some interesting things to share, which I thought were worthy of comment:
- Mums and dads are both equally flummoxed by a new born baby. Research shows that a mother is not naturally any better at stopping a baby crying or giving milk to an infant from a bottle. We therefore need to keep mums and dads equal. Trust that dad will do at least as good a job as you would have. Do not allow mum to become an expert and dad to just do things on instructions if you want to have a chance at being on equal footing as parents in the future. Basically, stop maternal ‘gatekeeping’. Mums do not know everything.
- We even extend this to friends who take care of Pip. We give some instructions and information about things we have found that work, and we tell her caregivers of routines and our non-negotiable rules (such as sit down when you eat) but beyond that, we say, we knew nothing about parenting and all we know is by trial and error. Use your judgement.
- Commit family agreements to writing, such as dinner time, or agreed nights off for social or travel or whatever (balanced over an annual period, say, rather than each week perhaps) but whatever works for you.
- Ask for what you need from each other.
- We haven’t managed to write anything down, but we do spend some time on Sunday evening discussing who has what commitments that week. We are working on planning food ahead of time to make it even easier. We also have a broad idea of what seems reasonable in terms of nights off and number of work trips, although we are both still in the career building stage, so not really in a position to say no to things.
Meers also had a lot more to say about corporate culture and so on, but I am writing a post on that for my work blog. I will post the link to that when it’s up.
Does this resonate with anyone? Would you like to hear more?
Lastly, sharing stories is really important, so I am trying to find time to continue my working mums series. I’ve a couple still left in my inbox which people have already kindly shared, so apologies for the delay, and stand by for those. In the meantime, please If you would like to join the conversation and share your story as a working mum, please email me for more details.
Did you know LSE run hundreds of free public lectures every year? They also upload lots of them as podcasts so you can listen after the event if you couldn’t make it.