Why Don't We Ever Ask Men How They Balance Work and Family?
My husband recently made the grave error of telling someone I'm a stay-at-home mom.
I am, indeed, a stay-at-home mom. Who also holds down a full-time job, which I do from home by squeezing 40+ hours of work each week into the 23 hours that my toddler naps and/or is with our babysitter. There's no shame in being a stay-at-home mom, but if it in any way denotes that I don't also work for a whole paycheck, color me offended.
I'm proud that I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs (three, actually, if you add up the planning that goes into it all, plus all of the other countless house stuff I do) doing what I love. And I like being asked about it - especially if my efforts can ever inspire someone else to figure out how to cram in 48-hours worth of work and parenting into a 24-hour period if that's what they want to be doing.
Dodai Stewart over at Jezebel wrote about how the new United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner and all-around superstar, was recently asked in an interview with the Today show about balancing her young children with her job.
By virtue of Stewart writing about the question being asked - and that a chyron on Today that remained on the screen for the duration of the interview said Power was discussing "diplomacy and diapers" - the assumption is that the question is sexist. Power is so accomplished that it's demeaning and insulting to ask how she does it all, was the implication. After all, no one ever asks men that question.
I see a problem with it, too. But it's not that we ask women how they balance career and family. It's that we don't ask the same question of men just as often. It's that we don't allow men to credit the resources in their lives (wives, partners, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, daycare providers, elementary school teachers - or even just themselves) who allow them to work and thrive professionally while their kids are well-cared for.
I found myself curious to know how Power, does, in fact, balance her career and family in the hope that I'd get some pointers, or at least some satisfaction in knowing that maybe she doesn't - because it's tough as nails and I feel like I do it under extraordinary circumstances at best, and on most days, I don't. Either my work or my children suffer. Always. But I keep trying to find the sweet spot where everyone's happy, or at least mostly satisfied.
So I watched the video, which would possibly mark the first time since the Gumbel/Couric years that I've watched anything on the Today show. Why? Because I never learn anything. And the Power interview was no exception. Of course, the Today show is hardly a haven for news junkies. Case in point: The Power interview was conducted in her home, with her kids running around. How do younot ask about diplomacy, diapers and the relation between the two with little kids milling around during a national news interview?
But the fact is that a man in Power's position or the equivalent would never be interviewed in the same setting or with the same set of questions. And that's the problem. Let's create some gender quality in that we ask men how they do it all, too - and sympathize with them if they don't, and applaud and learn from them if they do. The same way I was hoping to do with Power.
Part of the problem is and isn't with Today and similar media outlets. They know their audience - and they know no one's tuning in for hard news, otherwise they'd devote more than roughly 11 minutes of it over the course of three hours. They know their audience wants to relate in some way to their segment and interview subjects. What they're missing, however, is that men can offer just as much perspective on the topic as women can in balancing work and family, and the people watching will probably be equally, if not more entertained and informed.