In a two parent working household, does one career always have to come second?
11am. Your phone starts buzzing on your desk. The caller ID?
Every working parent’s heart sinks. Commitments later that day are already downloading in your mind when you answer the call to the inevitable:
“Her temperature’s 39C, we’ve given her Calpol but you need to come and pick her up.”
You’re both in the office and the awkward WhatsApp ‘whose day is busiest’ debate commences. Whose meetings are more important? Whose commute is quickest? Whose boss is the most understanding? How ill is she really and how long can you push it before leaving..? (terrible parent thought, but we’ve all been there)
I recently set up my own business, in some ways to allow for dealing with this exact kind of situation. After months of terrifying and exhilarating moments, as parents of very little people my business partner and I both decided that #ThisMumCan and launched Talented People, our rather special recruitment company for TV production. For me it means an exciting new career direction, no London commute, flexible working when possible but also an ambitious project with endless opportunity.
But for all those moments I’ve already been more present for – like Harvest Festivals, nursery pickups and school phonics masterclasses (don’t say I don’t know how to live!), I’m now the one with the more vulnerable position in our two parent working household and the pressure to make my career choice work. Financially as well as for myself – as with any startup, you work your backside off with not a lot to show for it for a long while.
So I may be around the house more, but does that make my job the one that has to give when nursery call up with a sick toddler?
I’m very thankful that my other half and I are a brilliant team and split all house and child admin 50/50. He also works locally, so in an emergency he’s generally be able to pick up from nursery or school too. But to be fair, he’s the breadwinner right now, so his job is the most important in terms of security. He couldn’t risk too many child sickies, cancelled meetings or networking events in case of jeopardising his work and our mortgage payments…
But when I’m also at a crucial point in my own career, albeit a slightly more flexible one these days (flexible in that, it’s possible for me to work til the early hours if I’ve had a sick baby on my chest all afternoon), shouldn’t mine come first right now?
It’s a tricky one though isn’t it? I know it’s mainly Mums whose careers are compromised – because we’re the ones who grow them, push them out and often have the time off work to bring up baby for a bit. And getting back to work brings a whole new wave of difficult questions – can we do the same job now with childcare hours to consider? Do we want to? Perhaps it’s just more natural for us to alter our own work set up seeing as us Mums have already had time away from the office, whereas for the Dads, nothing has actually changed at work – whether that’s right or not?
For me, the answer is that both careers should of course be equal at all times. And in an ideal world they would be. But with little people in the equation, adding the other pretty big job called parenthood into the mix, perhaps one career always has to take a backseat for those 39C moments.
Or does it?
Feat image credit: Shutterstock / NotarYES