Flexibility in the news
Real fatherhood means love and commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to share responsibility and not walking away from one's children
The last week has seen quite a bit of news about flexibility.
First of all, in world news, we found out that German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is adopting a flexible work arrangement taking a half day every Wednesday afternoon to collect his two year old daughter from school. Astonishing. Don’t get me wrong I am all for male champions of change and Herr Sigmar is setting a wunderbar example of how men can be real role models and mentors . And I note that he is taking no prisoners in his response to not being 100% committed to his VIJ (very important job). Something every woman with a VIJ and children has to put up with at some time or another.
When I first read this I was disappointed and more than a little bit cynical – disappointed that in 2014, a man in Germany makes the world news for taking time off to care for a child. Imagine the newsprint that would be used up every time a woman with a VIJ gave up time at work to pick up a child from day care. On the other hand, I think it is wonderful that such a man is taking fatherhood (or should I say parenthood) seriously (at least the second time around) and not sacrificing himself completely to his work with such a young child. He admits it is his 'turn' to collect their child from nursery school, and would be working from home, managing his time to be able to do so.
Herr Gabriel also tweeted a photo of himself, in front of his computer at home checking his emails, having picked up his daughter, and made a coffee. Something a small army of women do every day.
On balance, of course it is a great thing and we need more of it, if not for women to be able to participate in their careers more fully with a partner who is a true partner, but because it is better for children and families, to have both parents, of whatever gender, involved in the care of children. Historically, in families with both parents involved in parenting, it is the mother who is more likely to work part time, and more likely to be the primary care-giver. For women with children to be able to participate more fully in their careers, they need a partner who will do more of the 'heavy lifting' that goes with parenthood. And housework.
The article about Herr Gabriel, became even more important in light of what came out later in the week. A study covering 35000 Australian families, conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, has found what they called the 'tipping point' of work/life balance - that for women (my emphasis) with careers they should work 2-3 days a week. You can read the news report on the research here.
The senior researcher said that in doing so women (my emphasis) were more able to fit their work around their caring responsibilities and that if they worked longer than that women (my emphasis) risked creating an unhappy home, as they rushed family time and missed key family events.
First, how awful for those who have no choice financially but to work full time to have more guilt heaped on them by this research.
Secondly, this is once again about women being solely responsible for working and creating a happy home. Enough of these stereotypes. Herr Gabriel, I take my hat off to you. Hut ab vor ihm!