real life

Are you a woman with a job and a relationship? You're doing it wrong.

Just what women needed: Another reminder that we’re doing it wrong.

Ah, women. They’re always frivolously neglecting their families while they run off to work, never sparing a thought for how to keep their loved ones happy.

Those selfish women — so unconcerned are they with juggling work-life balance in a way that pleases everyone at once — probably need a reminder that their priorities are all wrong because they’re NOT DOING ENOUGH to please other people. Right?

Oh wait… That’s the exact opposite of most women I know.

a new study has “proved” something that is a) bleeding obvious and b) helpful to almost nobody.

Let me back up a little and explain why I’m currently rolling my eyes so hard that I risk corneal injury. It’s because a new study has ‘revealed’ something that is a) bleeding obvious and b) helpful to almost nobody.

You see, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, released today, has demonstrated — *drumroll* —  that men are more comfortable when they have a full-time partner at home. 

“When you look at men’s relationship satisfaction, it’s at at its highest when their wife is not in the workforce,” report author Professor Roger Wilkins told The Australian. “I guess all things being equal, men would prefer their wife at home and managing the household.”

Some researchers discovered that men like having a full-time partner at home to take care of life admin. #NailedIt. (NB: This is definitely not the actual research team.)

Thanks for the mansplainer, sir — but didn’t we already know that?

I mean, isn’t it common sense that life is more comfortable when you have a person at home, looking after things on the life-admin front?

As Annabel Crabb adroitly pointed out in her book The Wife Drought, having a spouse at home full-time is “a Godsend on the domestic front [and] a potent economic asset on the work front.” It allows a person (statistically, usually a man) to spend long hours at the office without worrying about school pick-ups; to rely on someone else to look after the little ones when they get sick; and to put in extra hours at the office when working towards that promotion.

Perhaps that’s why, as one of Crabb’s studies found, of 30 male CEOs, 28 had children, and all of those 28 had a stay-at-home spouse.

telling women that men prefer them not to work sounds like just another reminder that women who work are ‘doing it wrong’; that women’s can’t ‘have it all’; and that it’s a woman’s role to ‘keep things solid on the marriage front’

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy for those women who choose to stay at home while their partners work (feminism is about choice, et cetera). This post is not an invitation to jump up and down on stay-at-home mums.

But it must be said that for almost everyone apart from those women, today’s survey findings are about as helpful as a slap in the face with a wet fish.

Because telling women that men prefer them not to work sounds like just another reminder that women who work are ‘doing it wrong’; that women’s can’t ‘have it all‘; that it’s a woman’s role to ‘keep things solid on the marriage front’ — and a bucketload of other hackneyed, gendered, harmful cliches.

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Related: Stop calling yourself a ‘full-time mum’. You’re implying I’m a part-time one.

Women are already acutely aware of the way their family and work lives interact — and as women have written elsewhere on Mamamia, many don’t have the luxury of choosing whether to stay home, anyway.

So today’s research finding — or at least the way it’s been translated by mainstream media outlets today —  will do very little to help families make good life choices. But will probably go a long way to making women feel guilty about their life choices. Again.

A mainstream media outlet’s headline about the study today.

To be fair on Richard Wilkins et al, the HILDA data serves a legitimate purpose, forming as it does part of a comprehensive long-term study of Australian households. (For the record, I’m sure Prof Wilkins and his colleagues don’t hang about sipping whisky and bro-slapping eachother on the back as they do in my imagination, either. Admittedly, it’s not their fault the study unearthed this unhelpful little nugget of data.)

Related: A man calculated what his stay-at-home wife’s salary should be.

But I do have some idea for further research that might be more useful.

There are other questions we should be studying, such as: Why, exactly, aren’t more men happier staying at home?

Why don’t we ask, instead, why having a full-time at home partner is an advantage enjoyed by vastly more men than women?

Why don’t we work towards reframing the issue so that ‘keeping the marriage stable’ and ‘work-life balance’ are not framed solely as women’s problems?

Why don’t we look at why men still feel less happy or stable when they’re the ones staying at home — and while we’re at it, why don’t we do more to challenge the gender stereotypes that perpetuate those old-fashioned roles?

On that note, read: Why I feel sorry for men.

There are so many questions women have about how to balance their personal life with their work and so much need for open discussion about work-life balance.

I’m just not sure talking about how women’s careers affect men’s happiness is the best place to start.

Related:

Mamamia talks to Annabel Crabb about work,family and The Wife Drought.

6 reasons stay-at-home-mums feel ashamed.

Unpopular opinion: Being a stay-at-home mum is not a job.

11 things not to say to a working mum.

What do you think of the study?

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