BUT WHO IS LOOKING AFTER THE CHILDREN?
MELISSA MCCOY, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & INTERNATIONAL ADMISSIONS
ST. JOHN'S MILITARY SCHOOL | KANSAS, USA
'What I love most about working internationally is seeing the differences and similarities in each others' cultures. Our differences are exciting and beautiful. Our similarities can be comforting and at times, surprising. I'm often struck by what conversations seem to follow us wherever we go.
This past year, I had the good fortune to spend a few weeks abroad and more than a few weeks traveling within the U.S. on recruiting trips. As a mother of two little boys, my heart ached for them each second I was away, but I was doing what I loved and am lucky to have a strong support network back home.
Going about the pleasantries of meeting new people the subject of kids inevitably comes up, and it always goes something like this:
Me: Two boys- two and four.
Them: If you are here, who is watching your kids?
Me: Their father…
Them: Uh oh! Trouble there! Are they all surviving?
This line of questioning has always annoyed me slightly but on a recent two-week trek overseas something different happened.
On this particular trip I was traveling with a male colleague. Our lives are parallel in a lot of ways- we’re roughly the same age, at similar stages in our careers, and each had two boys within a few years of each others’.
During a school visit, a group of us, stood around casually talking. When the subject of kids came up and my male counterpart dutifully recited his children’s names and ages, and there it wasn’t; the question of who was watching the children.
This was noticeably replaced with “How wonderful! Those are fun ages! I bet you are a great dad!” No more follow up. No grand inquisition. No side-eyed accusations of neglecting his fatherly duties.
When my turn came, I braced myself. Not two seconds after my male colleague was praised for the simple act of remembering the names and ages of his kids; I couldn’t even get a “I also have two boys.” Across my lips before the pearl-clutching began and I was hit with a rapidfire of the usual questions from the group.
“Oh! Wow! Who is watching them? Do they miss mommy? How can you stand to be away from them? Two and four and already mommy is traveling? Oh their father! How is he handling it? Are they all going to survive? Do you have a nanny?”
Even my associate looked uncomfortable as I gathered every ounce of tact I had in my being and with a forced smile calmly (okay with poorly veiled snark), explained that the children were alive and well with their father. Not only is he perfectly capable of taking care of his own kids, he is the person most-suited for this role in my absence.
Now, I understand that no one is trying to aggravate the mom guilt that already plagues me. I know that the implication that my children couldn’t survive without me is meant to flattering. And I appreciate it. I really do. But consider what this says about fathers.
We really aren’t putting much confidence in men as parents. Simultaneously, we’re placing the burdens of the homefront squarely on the woman’s shoulders, even when she is half a world away.
While my sense of motherhood was being called into question, my male counterpart received kudos tantamount to a participation trophy for the exact same circumstance.
Harmful biases and stereotypical lowered expectations reveal themselves in these innocent conversations. Men are absolutely capable of caring for their own children without being the butt of a joke.
We should be setting the bar higher. Men deserve more credit than that and really, us moms could use the break.'