I read a fine piece earlier today (yes I know it was posted eight days ago but I hardly ever check my google reader) by Louise Shaw entitled Don’t Menschn the kids…. now apart from being a first rate play on words and far better than any I have thought up over the years (damnit) it has a very interesting and pertinent point to it.
Louise Mensch resigned as an MP last week and blamed the strain of juggling a family life along with her work as an MP as the main reason. In general she has been taken at her word and we saw a spawn of articles about how difficult things are for women juggling a family life and a career but why do we not recognise that it is also difficult for men? We talk about equality all the time but when it comes to this issue things are still perceived to be harder for women than it is for men. Why is this?
She puts forward the question of if Nick Clegg resigned citing the same reasons then would the media or the public at large believe him? The answer as she hypothesises is no and she’s correct of course. He has spoken before about his difficulty of juggling the two and in particular the school run caused a wave of opinions last summer when it came out that he shared the school run with his wife.
But the idea that the second most senior politician in the land is belting back from breakfast meetings at Westminster, where he is wading through the quagmire of a looming £43 billion bunga bunga disaster if the wobbly Italian economy collapses, in order to take his three sons to school, is risible verging on terrifying.
Ah the words of The Telegraph’s Judith Woods there in her oh so wonderful piece entitled Nick Clegg should run the country, not the kids to school. Yes dropping kids off to school or picking them up isn’t the be all and end all of being a parent but whatever happens – in any family – you look after them first and foremost. Same for David Cameron or any other MP or anyone in any job. Having a settled and happy personal life whether it be a family or not will lead to that person being a better worker. The happier we are the more positive we are.
However there is a stigma attached to a man doing the school run here. If Nick said ‘sod this’ and decided to do another job that would help his family more then would the media and public say ‘bravo Nick’ – would they heck. They would say he was a weasel and left politics because he was a spineless so and so. Imagine if his wife moved back home and he went with her to support her career choices the whole media would fawn over themselves to make him out to be a bad guy even though he was putting the happiness of his wife and family first.
Of course we aren’t expecting that to happen but it is a theoretical possibility. Even though attitudes are slowing changing with regards to traditional bread winners and men having more of a hands on approach to parenting these barriers have not exactly caved in.
I think that whatever happens people should put the well-being of their families and themselves first and foremost. Louise Mensch decided that the best thing for her and her family was to resign and move to New York to be with her husband. I read many people saying that she couldn’t he quit his job and move to the UK to support her? Well no doubt he could’ve done but aren’t relationships all about partnerships and they decided together that this was the best way forward.
If we are to take women at their word when they talk about family life and the stresses of it then we need to say the same for men when they talk about it. All families are different and all people are different. Some men want to be more hands-on, some don’t. Some women like all the responsibility and some don’t. Family life is different for everyone and people should never be ridiculed for putting their family and personal happiness first – whether it be a woman or a man who does it.
Sadly stereotypes and perceptions means that this isn’t the case and if Nick Clegg did quit to back his wives career or for family reasons then I suspect the media’s perception would be a complete 180 to how they covered Louise Mensch in exactly the same situation.