Written by: Rachelle Vanderzanden
Last month was Women’s History Month. A month when we were supposed to reflect on how far we’ve come, then take a good look in the mirror and acknowledge to ourselves how much work we have left to do.
Normal has been thrown out the window for basically all of us in the last few weeks, and I have honestly not given much thought to Women’s History Month. That’s because I am pretty sure that March of 2020 will now only be known as the month Covid-19 hit the stage on a global scale. It was a month of quarantines, scary news headlines, being cooped up with your kids (and partners), and economic uncertainty. It was also the month with so many things to clearly illustrate how very far we have to go to be equal partners in our families.
I believe women in general want to think that their jobs are as important as their male counterpart’s jobs and that parenting should be a shared responsibility; however, that is not the expectation that we have as a society. I’m not talking about some nameless sexist person: I’m talking about you and me in our everyday lives. I have seen it in small innocent jokes, in my own interactions on social media, and in the expectations for my husband’s job performance while home with a small child.
I can’t decide if I’m more disappointed in the jokes or myself. Maybe it’s both. More than anything I think we really need to hold ourselves accountable. Take that good look in the mirror ask yourself if you have the same expectations of the male parents in your life as the female parents. This might not seem like a real thing to everyone, but it’s real to me and below are a few illustrations from this past month in quarantine.
When my husband and I first learned that our four-year-old’s preschool had to close due to the ongoing public health crisis, we were a little concerned about how we might balance everything. But he was honestly a thrilled about what he thought would be an opportunity to spend more time with our daughter. He picked her up that Friday, and the teachers were pretty concerned about the closure as well. When he told them he was excited to have more ‘daddy time’, they teased him and said he was one of those weird dads that actually likes hanging out with their kids. I KNOW they were just joking. But I can’t help but wonder if they would have made that joke to me. I really don’t think they would have, because the expectation is that mothers want to be with their children and fathers want to work.
Given how serious everything as become this seems incredibly trivial. But think about how many thousands of times this happens in everyday life and what kinds of expectations we’re setting.
That same day a friend shared a Facebook group with me that was organizing to pool together ideas and provide support for parents with kids out of school. It seemed like an amazing community of supportive people. I promptly turned around and invited about ten of my female (mom) friends to join the group. Guess what? I know dads too! And I didn’t even think to send that link to a single male parent in my circle. I assumed that they would not be taking on that kind of care giving.
Following this group, I probably see at least ten posts by a mom for each post by a dad. In large part because no one, including myself, thought men would be interested in participating.
I work in financial services, and yes, my clients need me right now. My husband works in a job where he normally comes in contact with a lot of people every day. He can’t do that part of his job right now, because doing so would put a lot of people in harm’s way. We expected that he would be able to spend a bit more time with our daughter and shoulder some of those responsibilities, but his employer and his boss decided to create work for him and every other person on his team (all male). The expectation was that even though he had a daughter, he would not need to spend a lot of time caring for her. She has a mom, doesn’t she? It wasn’t really a problem for most of his male colleagues, but it was a problem for us. We had to try to balance the needs of my clients and the expectations of his superiors.
We have struggled to figure out how we can both balance full-time jobs and one lovable (but challenging) four-year-old. I think that is a reality for so many families right now. And we go back and forth between being grateful that we have jobs we can continue working in from the safety of our homes and being frustrated with the situation. Who isn’t frustrated by this situation?
We can do better and we have to do better. We need to cut the moms in our world a little slack and stop expecting them to do it all. And we need to give the dads a little more credit! Let them be part of this crazy parenting world too. Expect more and they will do more. I see a lot of dads out there caring for their children in very special ways, and then I see a lot of dads who are being asked to work entirely too much under the circumstances without any acknowledgement of the fact that they have children. This time has been really difficult for EVERYONE. But please, be understanding with the parents in your circle. Let’s show a little grace and assume that everyone is doing their best.
Too all the medical professionals out there – I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for you to try to balance. Please ignore my whining and know that we understand that all of the above applies but exponentially if you are a parent. You are appreciated!
Let’s all do our best to come together with our loved ones (and only our loves ones), stay inside, flatten the curve, and give the folks out there a fighting chance to care for those that are vulnerable among us.