I was with a friend yesterday who was visiting London from Canada. We worked together a few years ago, and she was here on a short stop before heading off to Dublin for a wedding. Toots came with me, and the three of us shared lunch at an excellent curry house on Drummond Street, before having a coffee in Starbucks.
My Canadian friend is single, but still hopes to settle down and have children herself, and she’s quite creative about the ways that this can be achieved. She is lucky that she has plenty of time before the opportunity to have children passes her by, but we discussed some of my female friends who seem to have missed the chance now, and others who have taken the chance but perhaps in relationships that don’t suit them.
I feel there is a real difference between men and women when it comes to jobs and children. Women, it seems, have to balance their lifes between the desire to be successful in both. The momentum of the feminist movement has meant that women have the expectation that they will succeed in both as well, even when the practicality of doing this is almost impossible and to the ultimate detriment of both. Their colleagues and friends (of both sexes) have to go along with this in the name of sexual equality.
I find that the problem with this is that, in some regards, there is no sexual equality. Men are not under the same pressures to balance work and home life, delivering the demands that children bring with the demands that work brings. Men are much more focused on work, are freer to work longer hours and tend to remain the main breadwinners. Many of my male friends never see their children in the week owing to these factors and a long communte in and out of London. Many of them know that, in the long term, they’ll have regrets about it, but have no choice but to continue to earn a wage.
The unspoken truth – a obvious and undeniable fact – is that women and men are not biologically equal. As far as I’m aware, I will not be growing any breasts in the near future to feed Bub (it didn’t happen with Toots either, and even if it did, there’s no escaping the fact that the breasts would no doubt be abused). Neither do I have the physical ability to nurture a baby and eject it from my body. The woman’s desire to mother the baby (in the non-gender specific way) will always be greater than the mans, and must be at the heart of much of this inequitable situation we find ourselves in.
But surely this situation is wrong. Surely men should be encouraged to share the opportunities brought about by bringing children into the family. Men should have the opportunity to have longer periods away from work, and to be employed in a more flexible way. Men should have access to financial benefits that women can access to support their role as a parent. As a man working three days a week to ensure I have four days with my children, I am also bombarded on each of those days with mother and baby groups, rooms, mornings, events and the like which appear to explicitly exclude men from them (though the reality is usually different).
So, feminism is fantastic, equality between the sexes is marvellous, but feminism is too focused on women. We need balance – this country needs its men to take a greater role in the family and they should be allowed and supported in doing this as women are. That includes in their work.
Masculism already exists as a movement. How about we push our society towards equality for men in bringing up their children?