A while back I attended a feminist event that discussed, amongst other things, maternity leave. An audience member asked how women could be successful and have a family when they both require so much time. The respondent, an academic, suggested that there were a few options- more maternity leave, more flexible work hours, children at work, and greater use of childcare. These are all great campaigns, but the elaborations that followed were mostly focused on the latter. There was a tone of resignation, like ‘this is the choice you must make’.
As a male feminist who wants to have children and be an active father, I was a little saddened. The idea of men putting their careers aside for a year or three to care for the children was not even considered.
I just can’t understand why we as a society (and the left-wing men particularly) do not expect men to forgo a period in THEIR careers to help raise children. It’s treated as a given that women will lose at least a year of their careers. I think men in general (and on the left especially) need to put their hands up and share the effort (and the reward) of caring for children. Not only is it fair for men for take time out of their career too, I think a lot of men would welcome the opportunity. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of gender norm policing from other men on the issue, but that makes the issue all the more important to raise. I think feminist men need to make more of an effort here.
If we all do so, perhaps one day parental leave will be expected of ALL parents, regardless of gender. And then, hopefully, parental leave will cease to be a career disadvantage for ANYONE, and will instead become an accepted necessity. Because expecting women to take a career break, and men to barely see their children is untenable.