surinenglish

Feeling guilty

It's several decades now since women started to dismantle the establishment that underpinned society. When we joined the job market en masse, new needs were created (nurseries, care homes for the elderly) and new expressions came into play, such as “juggling work and family”, something that didn't exist before because it seems that men didn't need to find a balance between personal life and work, and “working mothers” (it's funny that no one has ever used the term “working father”).

Of all of these concepts, the most striking is the sense of guilt women have for not spending enough time with their children. Men apparently don't suffer from this, nor are they asked about it, or feel pressure from society to feel it.

Many women still feel bad about having a job or a working day that doesn't coincide exactly with their children's school hours. It's as if their work wasn't as necessary as a father's and when it comes to being at home, the opposite occurs - a women is indispensable.

Leaving aside the breastfeeding period, which tends to be a matter of months, not years, why should children need their mother to spend more time with them than their father? Habit and many years of history close our eyes to reality: the ideal situation is for the children to be with both parents and we shouldn't compensate for this impossibility always on the same side. This is teaching them inequality.

In the workplace, when someone asks to work fewer hours to look after their family it's assumed that they only work because they need the money, and are not concerned about their professional career, even though this isn't true. Nobody seems to be alarmed that the majority of workers reducing their hours for family reasons are women.

We thought that progress in equality would be slow, but steady, but there are obstacles in the way. And those guilty feelings are not disappearing but going from not spending enough time with the family to abandoning a professional career.

The salary gap is not just a man and woman doing the same job in the same firm earning different wages. That would be too easy to denounce. The salary gap involves professional categories, bonuses, management positions that require long hours drinking with the boss and lies about how we ought to feel about “abandoning” the home.

The next liberation movement should be to earn freedom from those guilty feelings.