(wrote this in June 2016 and just discovered it in the ‘draft’ folder. Oops)
We’ve been in Beijing for exactly five months. This Wednesday we leave to go on our great 2016 summer tour, in the USA. The boy and I do not return until early August. His school just ended and as we get ready to depart, this is kinda an end or the end of a segment of our time abroad and an opportunity to look back. I could look back on our time in China or go further back….
It’s been almost four years since I left a good IT job but one that brought little satisfaction to become a SAHD. For about a year I was a FT SAHD but in the winter of 2012 I started working on and in the summer of 2013, I launched a small company. Only working PT hours, this opportunity turned me into a PT SAHD but I remained the “lead” parent. Found this Atlantic article deep in the ‘draft’ section of my WordPress platform. Just re-read it and thought worth sharing and discussing a bit.
One year after adopting our son, we both worked FT. Like the couple in the article, kw and I expected to share parenting duties after I returned to work from a one year leave of absence and the boy started FT day care. At least for awhile. We both had solid, white collar jobs. I was a senior level ‘contributor’ while she was just entering into a lower level leadership position with a local non-profit. Her job was significantly more demanding while mine provided more flexibility (ex-like running around Lake Union at lunch). But, I really just had a ‘job’, she had focus, and motivation towards her ‘career.’ At the time, not sure if we realized that intense jobs tend to beget even more intense jobs. Regardless, she had more senior leadership potential and if she was able to jump onto that career fast track, me being available as the “lead” parent, would significantly support her.
By the next spring I was completely disillusioned with my job and she had taken that first significant jump and was already moving up the ladder. That summer, I embraced the new challenges as “lead” parent FT and left the workforce.
Now, she would not have to deal with what the article calls, “the mother hood penalty.” Pretty shocking:
According to a Pew Research Center study, 50 percent of married or cohabiting women report doing more child care than their male partners, whereas just 4 percent of men do more than their female partners. This disparity has a devastating effect on women’s careers. Researchers refer to the gap between male and female wages and seniority as the “motherhood penalty,” because it is almost entirely explained by the lower earnings and status of women with children. Despite their superior performance in college, surprisingly few women reach the pinnacles of professional success.
KW was free to ascend, embrace any opportunity that likely would require more of her time. I took care of getting him to daycare and pick up each day. Handled all doctor, dentist and the many speech therapy appointments. And embraced my opportunity to spend time cooking.
And as the article mentioned, she too has discussed with other female industry leaders that if they have children, the requirement to have a spouse who takes the ‘lead’ with all things required at home. The benefits are clear.
A female executive needs what male CEOs have always had: a spouse who bears the burden at home.
Even after nearly four years, being in this position, I am periodically still uncomfortable and sometimes hold mixed feelings about my chosen role in the family. Walking into a parent organization meeting for the first time is not easy for me, whether in Seattle or Beijing. The PO group I recently joined here, I feel fortunate that hidden among the 25 women is one French father. (Thanks Joel).
Here, I am a “trailing spouse,” (the other spouse’s job brought us to China) the one who doesn’t work. My Seattle company is mostly run by a co-worker so I only have a few hours of work per week. Therefore, with all this free time, (when not running), I am trying hard to embrace the opportunity. As I mentioned, I’ve joined my son’s school PO group and monthly they take day trips around the city. Normally, visiting tourist sites, like temples, the Wall, museums, etc. And in this city, that could take a decade to see them all.
With over 250,000 expats in Beijing, there are A LOT Of trailing spouses so numerous local companies exist to cater to the needs of these folks (99+% women). I found a company that offer Chinese art classes. Took one Chinese landscape painting. As expected, really challenging but glad i took it and may sign up for level 2.
So, we’ll see how this non traditional dad, who runs alot, will work out living in Beijing.