Fine balance between caregiver and career

“Anyone seen grated carrot? I hate grating & worry about my nails.”

“I can’t believe schools have a whole week off. I’ve had to cancel a tennis lesson and a yoga class to look after my children. Annoying.”

We might chuckle at such expat comments – read @heardinspinneys’ posts for more – but besides an obvious sense of entitlement mixed with varying doses of contempt and snobbery, there is a much more serious social issue at play. You’ll never guess what it is – suffice to say, it’s about money. Read on for more.


These are stay-at-home mothers, whose husbands have few limitations on their work availability – you just know it. We could conclude that they “have it all”.

Now for the stuff you know: some partners gladly step off the career ladder to focus on their children, the burden of bringing in the money to make life happen falling squarely on the shoulders of the other half. Often the husband’s.

Sounds idyllic, and various studies “prove” that keeping more traditional gender roles is the best way to go about happy familyville.

But is it? There are counter-studies stating that stay-at-home partners become resentful and frustrated.

And others that share the guilt and confusion felt by the working partners of stay-at-home parents – not knowing how to integrate into a family role after a long exhausting day at work, unsure of how to prove that they want to help their stay-at-home spouse whom they love.

This isn’t my focus though. It’s about bringing in the money.

This is not about the mundane: I work, he/she spends with no regard for budgeting. It’s a much more serious issue.

It’s captured in a letter I came across by an anonymous husband to his wife. The title says it all: A letter to my wife, who won’t get a job while I work myself to death.

In it he describes how they fell in love, embarked on exciting work opportunities and had children. She stayed at home while he ascended the career ladder and made partner.

She socialises, volunteers and exercises. She can do this because he is in an increasingly stressful, demanding job – that he hates. In the letter the husband shares how he has begged his wife to take on any form of work – for whatever pay – so that he can have a life, and be healthy enough to enjoy it.

This isn’t a gender issue. I know women who live with husbands who don’t – read won’t – work, who are in debt that the wife takes on, who don’t pull their financial weight.

It’s a social issue. It’s about having family time, knowing your children and your children getting to know you. It’s about integrating work and the rest of life.

It’s a people issue. It’s about not being taken for granted. It’s about being loved – loved enough for your partner to care about your well-being, health, mental state and aspirations.

The way you respond to this will be coloured by your phase of life and personal aspirations. You might dismiss it – relishing your ability to jet around and focus on your career – for now. Or you might be screaming out for help – and leave this somewhere for your spouse to read.

I believe two things will converge to make this – the way we work and live – a more pressing issue: our younger counterparts don’t want the same things – they’re the driving force behind the sharing economy and more people-orientated work/ live space. They won’t accept the work ethic and conditions meted out to the professionals whose shoes they will eventually fill. Heck, they won’t even accept the way the office is laid out and furnished.

Add to this that more will be asked of you as the corporate world continues to tighten its belt.

We all have a point when we just won’t take “it” any more. When it’s your life partner who’s dismissing your needs, it takes on a more serious dimension.

A sense of entitlement isn’t pretty. Our life relationships are partnerships – the cost of how we live isn’t just a monetary one, it’s an emotional and physical one too. My personal belief is that two part-time jobs is an ideal way of marrying work and life. Or taking turns on the career ladder. The problem is that the corporate world isn’t structured to let this happen, plus people – the very victims of what it means to work at all cost – don’t go down this route until it’s too late.

Today’s word is meaningful. To do meaningful work and live meaningful lives.

I cannot see how it can be achieved with the way we live – full-on work versus full-on caregiver. Make it a mix of both.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com.

pf@thenational.ae

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