Forget brekky in bed and scented candles. What we’d really love for Mother’s Day this year is for a reform in paid parental leave, so mothers and fathers can become equal both at work and at home.
Eight months ago, I stepped away as CEO of my company to have a baby.
On my maternity leave, I promoted myself to the position of House Manager while my husband worked hard to keep our business thriving.
Now, you might say there’s nothing special happening here? Wife stays at home, husband goes to work. But that’s exactly the outdated thinking we need to avoid. And, a year later, as I transitioned back to the role of CEO, my husband took advantage of our company’s paternity leave policy and took over the role of “House Manager”.
This shift in labour division has been life-changing — and needs to be an option for all women returning to work.
Give women mental space for work
Stepping back into my role post-COVID, I’m faced with the most challenging time we’ve seen in our nine years. The world has changed. Staff and customer expectations have shifted. This is a time of abundant opportunity but also abundant uncertainty.
Leaders need to be switched on. And thanks to my husband taking parental leave, I can be.
I have flexibility in my work schedule — I’m not limited by childcare drop-off/pick-up times. I can spend time thinking about our company’s global impact, rather than the (literal) laundry list of things I was doing on maternity leave.
This is a pivotal time for professional women. Evidence shows that female country leaders have handled the pandemic more effectively than male leaders and yet 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether because of the pandemic’s strain on the work-family juggle.
Prioritise parental leave in the federal budget
In a time where leadership is so crucial, many women lack the mental space they need to flourish in leadership roles. More paid leave for fathers has been proven to achieve a more equal division of labour.
We need to make shared leave available to all working mothers and fathers. There are many proposed ways to start this process with the upcoming federal budget.
Getting women back to work, with the ability to work full-time, should be a priority for our government.
A two percent increase in women’s working hours would boost Australia’s GDP by about $11 billion. We need to see the limited financial incentive for fathers to take paternity leave as a serious economic issue that limits the potential of half our workforce.
In addition to the economic boost by more workforce participation from women, paid leave for fathers may help combat Australia’s declining birth rate – the lowest in a century. We can learn from Japan’s demographic crisis, where women are increasingly opting out of marriage and motherhood. Many attribute this shift to the disproportionate burden Japanese women face at home and the difficulty balancing this lifestyle with a career.
Josh Frydenberg, if you want your baby boom, let’s give father’s access to paid parental leave, so that the Australian workforce doesn’t have to choose between career & parenthood.
Tips for onboarding your new “House Manager”
If you are fortunate to be in a two-parent family situation where both parents have the ability to take parental leave after having a baby, this is our advice for handling the switch when mum goes back to work:
- Treat the role seriously and create a thorough handover document. Include things like schedules, meal planning, cleaning, life admin and things you could outsource. Go as far as drafting up a position description if you like!
- Accept that your partner won’t do things the same way as you. Trust that house is their remit now, and give them autonomy to do things how they please.
- Be prepared to offer support. Remember, the House Manager job is 24/7, and often involves doing things that aren’t fun. Step in to help where you can, even after a tiring day at the office.
- Dream big, together. Start planning what life will look like when you’re both back full-time at work and how to make it fair. As you discuss this you’ll have the advantage of both knowing what it takes to manage a house.