When I woke up this morning at 6:30am my four year old came to “help me” get ready. She ignored daddy who was still lying in bed snoring and focused all her attention on me. I had precisely 45 minutes to get out of the house and had hoped she would stay in bed whilst I got ready, but no, she knew mummy was going away on business and wanted to have breakfast with me.
Luckily, the night before I’d packed my briefcase and suitcase and was ready to go. This was done between baking biscuits, putting the washing on and out on the line, making dinner, helping my son with his homework, clearing the dinner things away, knitting a cardigan, doing my bookkeeping, sending my book proposal off to another publisher, filling in the consent form for my four year old’s nursery trip, liaising with the childminder about childcare, answering a call from my middle child’s guidance teacher, soothing the exam fevered brow of my fifteen year and walking the dog (twice).
My husband, gets up, goes to work and then comes home to dinner, usually cooked from scratch by me. To be fair he does do drop-offs and pick-ups for various activities in the evenings and sometimes puts a washing on.
Women do not get further in business, whether it be the corporate world or their own business, because they have the practical and emotional pull of children. If women don’t have children, then they can get as far as they like in business because they are generally extremely capable, intelligent and professional and quite frankly don’t need any special help.
Women in business, with children, need a house husband or a nanny to take care of the emotional and practical side of running a household. I am not even talking about housework, that’s easily outsourced these days. I’m talking about remembering gym kits, swimming bags, form filling, paying subs, booking haircuts and dentist appointments, booking tickets to plays, recitals, completing permission slips, giving cuddles, words of reassurance, being there when one of them asks about drugs or sex, making decisions on whether they can go to their friends for a sleepover, etc.
How many husbands or male partners do the weekly shop, think about what’s for tea, get the stuff out of the freezer ready for tea, remember to do the washing and hang it out, empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher, wipe the work surfaces down, feed and water the dog?
By the time a woman with kids has got to work, she has already done a full days work. By the time most fathers get to work, they have dressed and eaten their breakfast, ruffled their kids hair and walked out of the door, oblivious to the work going on in the background to keep the house remotely liveable.
Yes, there could well be some saintly men out there who don the pinny, do the breakfast, do the talk on sex and drugs, get the food out of the freezer for dinner, but not many. Many fathers now share such burdens, which is fantastic. The vast majority however, are free to climb the career ladder and build their empires while someone else, usually their wife, works part-time or not at all, so that the house and the children run smoothly. He doesn’t have to give one iota of thought to the domestic scene during his working day and can focus his whole attention on his business.
Our society rewards and promotes this. The man is present at work more that his female counterparts and ‘presenteeism’ is rewarded in most industries, whether he’s better at his job or not; there seems to be a mental block with business leaders, who mistakenly believe that the only way to be effective at work is to be there more than anyone else. A slight scratch on the surface of this argument discounts it instantly. When I ran my recruitment business, my part-time workers were the most successful. They worked harder, wasted no time chatting and billed the most. I made the most profit on these workers, so much so that I actively encouraged everyone to work part-time.
To succeed in the workplace, whether it be a corporate or your own business, women with children need someone at home to share the emotional and practical needs of the kids. We need to acknowledge that simply physically being at work is not an indication of good performance.
There are as many highly capable women out there as there are men and I would actively encourage businesses to employ as many highly capable people as they can in part-time and full-time roles and for those women who are running their own businesses and who have kids to get a “wife”! That’s how the men do it.
Rebecca Bonnington is a Leadership Coach, Corporate Trainer and Licensed Trainer of NLP. You can train with her by visiting www.rebeccainspires.com or email her firstname.lastname@example.org