In my HR position, I see many of our employees struggle with the issue of child care. I see its effects on both men and women, but I see it more often with the female gender.
Since women are expected to do it all these days, many of them end up in the unenviable position of juggling their schedule almost daily. Men, in general, are not raised to think about who will watch their children if they are unable to do so, or what needs to happen if their children are ill or out of school for the day.
In many modern families, two full-time incomes are needed to maintain the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed. When one parent has to stay home, there is the possibility of a reduction in income. Childcare is expensive and most caregivers charge by the week or month and won’t give refunds for days that children don’t attend. In a lot of families, Mom’s income is lower than Dad’s, so Mom stays home when kids are sick, out of school, or have appointments.
I’ve talked with quite a few women about these issues. Not surprisingly, guilt runs rampant; guilt for missing work, guilt for not giving enough of themselves to their families, guilt for not taking time to recharge. What was surprising to me were the assumptions women make about their responsibilities to their families. Most of the moms with whom I spoke wouldn’t even consider seriously discussing with their husbands the difficulties they encounter juggling their lives. There was a pervasive, “that’s just the way it is” attitude, with unspoken resentment simmering just under the surface.
I don’t think men are wired to be mind readers. Somewhere along the line, they learn to be much more straightforward than women. One of the great things I’ve seen at my company is a willingness of men to step up to the childcare responsibilities. I’ve seen our guys ask for PTO to care for sick children, days off of school, and just because mom needs some time away.
Family responsibilities are not a male or female issue. They are a human issue. As in most situations, clear and honest communication makes it easier.
What have you seen work for families struggling with managing their responsibilities? What has worked for you?
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