The very short Guy's Guide to mothers with Careers: For any man interested in talking to a mother with a career.Note 1: Although this may make you laugh or cry, I mean them seriously.
Note 2: This guide is intended for men, but I am sure anyone who needs it can use it
Note 3: These items relate to mothers with careers, not jobs. (I won't go into the difference)
Note 4: I try and often fail to heed my own advice. Just do the best you can.
Note 5: This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Note 6: I respect the decision of stay at home mothers and people who have consciously decided to enact a traditional gender relationship. I also believe fully that women should be in the workforce in major career positions. The seem mutually exclusive and I don't deny that I live in contradiction.
DO: Ask "How were things at work today?" And then listen.
Note that listening may take a while and is likely to involve comments about you or men in general that tick you off. Just nod, be sympathetic and hold tight (I am rarely good at this, but when I am, it works out).
DO NOT: Ask, "Did your a**h*** boss say anything positive today?"
This implies that her boss is the focus of her work - (s)he is not. She is there for the work, not her boss. And just because she calls the person she reports to bad names does not mean you can. Remember, this is her career and is a major part of her identity, you want people criticizing you?
DO: Ask about her current "project".
Note that career women have projects and projects are an important part of her work. You need to remember something about the project. Just a single thing - it can be the last gory detail she told you. After you ask, DO NOT then compare it to your work (note that I often make this mistake).
DO NOT: Ask "when are they going to give you the day off?"
This implies that she is beholden to "them" and at "their" mercy. She is not, this is her career for goodness sake. And by the way, don't you appreciate that she is working? :) You should, since she's contributing to the world and to the household finances.
DO: (For partners of women with careers) Figure out how you're going to drop the kids off at school. Then do it.
DO NOT: Ask "can't you get a raise out of them?"
Remember, it's only in part about the work for her. See "project" above. If you do bring up money, and you choose to use the "you deserve a raise", be prepared to cite examples of her work that demonstrate her success, or qualify your comment with "I don't really understand, but it seems to me that 'xyz'." Otherwise, don't bring up money - ever.
DO: (For partners of women with careers) Pick up one major typically woman's chore around the house.
It could be cooking, it could be cleaning, or laundry, it could be getting the children dressed in the morning, it could be dealing with the PTA. Just one will help, since it's highly unlikely you could do all of them anyway. Bear in mind this important fact: she is not going to appreciate that you do it; more likely she is going to feel lousy and defensive that she is not a good enough wife and mother that you have to "pick up her slack" and still give you a hard time. I do the laundry and it's hard to get very little credit. Of course, women typically get no credit for what they do at home, so now you know how it feels.
DO NOT: Make her feel bad for: hiring a house cleaner, or using day care, or bringing store bought cookies to the party.
When was the last time you tried to clean, cook or raise the kids after a full day in the office? Never done it? Not surprised, neither have I. So don't pretend you can know what she is dealing with or how you would solve it. ANd, how would you like it if, when you came home from work the first thing you heard was "wow, maybe if you had not half-assed that report you would have gotten that raise" or "your colleague seems to really know his stuff, have you talked to him about advice?" Wouldn't you rather hear "I know it's hard, you're doing great with this stuff."? Just say that and you're ahead.
Note: if you fall in to the camp of: "she should be able to do it all" then you are clueless. Just admit you are clueless, that will win you mega bonus points (for about 5 minutes). Think about it - if you have staff working for you, pretend you fired them all and had to do all their work too. If you say "I just did that and I do it all now", 1. you're lying, a lot is slipping through the cracks and the sooner you bubble that up to management the better off you'll be and 2. Now try going home and cook supper.
Note: if you fall in to the camp of "She should be in the kitchen cleaning and cooking and raising the kids" (which is no different that saying "I don't mind if she doesn't want to work" - empirically it's just not, so don't bother arguing it - see the last two below), then stop reading now, you don't belong here. Sorry, it's just that simple.
Note: if you fall into the camp of "child care is bad because only a mommy/parent [sic] should take care of a child". Um hello, are you a father? What happens when you go away for the day? Um hello - do you know anything about attachment and bonding? Um -hello - give your kids some credit for a change. Moreover, mothers are NEVER replaceable. Every adoptive parent knows this, accepts it and most try to help their children with it. See "Recognizing her work" below for the real answer.
DO: Make sure you let her know that the money she is making is a good thing.
Note: you may feel threatened if she makes more, or is making money at all. Don't; just enjoy it and go out to dinner and buy a flat-screen tv for the bedroom. She may not be doing it for the money, but it's definitely a nice benefit! I also believe that women who make money are more self-confident (based on their sense of independence) and sexy. Note, be sure to turn off flat-screen from time to time and enjoy your partner.
DO NOT: Say "Don't you want to be full time mom?"
This should not need to be explained, but... Last time I checked, were you not a full time dad? Duh? She's ALWAYS a full time mom. You think she goes to work and stops being a mom? By that reasoning, when she's a mom, then she can't also be your wife. By extension - what then happens if/when she goes out with her friends - not a wife or mother? Wow, you must be really worried about her business trips then.
Oh wait, I know what you mean, she can't really dedicate herself to being a mom if she's also working, right? Try saying that to a single mom - and good luck living through the results.
DO NOT: Say "You know, you could quit your job. I will support you in whatever you decide."
This is man-code and really means "I don't really value your work, respect your abilities or approve of your identity." Real nice - way to go. Grow up, be a man, have an opinion that matters. If you think she should stay home, then just say it and deal with the fall-out. Otherwise, get some courage and tell her you think it's great she works, that she should work and that's one of the things you love about her.
DO: Recognize that the work she is doing is valuable to her, you, your children and the world. It will inform how you behave.
I have hired and fired lots of people. I believe it's a tragic brain drain and a detriment to the world when women are not in the work force. They should be, they bring tremendous value to our work as human beings. Children who see their mothers in serious careers (I believe) are more confident, capable and mature. Men who are with women who work are better managers and are more self assured. The world is a better place with women committed to doing good work, and a TON more gets done with women working. Isn't that enough by itself?
Unless you've been a mother with a serious career, then some how became a father (not sure how this would work), you can not understand it. Don't pretend you do, it just makes you look like a fool and embarrasses you in front of others. I don't claim to understand it, or that I could understand what my career wife and mother of my children goes through. All I can do it do my best to support her (which is never easy) and try to get out of her way when she's in power mode.
My most practical advice: Genuine, honest and self-effacing questions are OK, but otherwise, you're better off just listening than commenting if you don't get it.
Since I missed 99% of the important points, I'd welcome additional DOs and DONTs from men with career wife/mothers and career mothers. To everyone else whom I just angered and alienated, I am sorry, but it had to be said.