The other day I went to see the movie RBG about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true advocate and pioneer for women’s rights. She attended Harvard Law School as one of nine women in a class of 500 men and rose through the ranks all the way to the US Supreme Court during a time when women were supposed to stay at home and take care of their kids.
She’s an incredibly inspiring woman and everyone should see the documentary about her life, but there’s someone else in the movie I want to call attention to and that’s her husband, Martin Ginsburg. As parents of two, RBG was successful in her career because her husband, super smart and driven in his own right, often prioritised her career over his own. He took care of the children and household duties. He was the cook. He was her biggest cheerleader and supporter. He moved and left his job when she was given the opportunity of a lifetime to serve on the US Supreme Court.
Prioritising a woman’s career over a man’s was considered revolutionary even 20 years ago, but with 90% of new parents being millennials now, it’s not so unusual anymore. According to a survey of millennial dads, 40% of dads either were a stay-at-home parent currently, or had done it at some point in the past. Of those who don’t stay home, the vast majority — 65% of them — said that they could see themselves doing the job someday. And even in families where both parents work, it’s often the case that women are the breadwinners.
As the CEO of Winnie, a local platform used by over one million parents across the US, and a mum of young kids, I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years as the poster child for trying to have it all. Unfortunately, even with full-time childcare, I found myself stretched and stressed trying to balance my demanding job with my myriad household duties. In retrospect, it was because I had put so much on my plate, from restocking the refrigerator to dropping my daughter at preschool. I felt like the buck stopped with me.
Earlier this year, we made some big changes in my family. My husband took some time off work to become the primary caretaker for our daughter and primary owner of all things household-related. What happened next surprised me. My job didn’t get any easier, but I was less stressed out and more focused. All kinds of household duties were taken off my plate, giving me more space to think and be creative. As a result, my company thrived.
I never realised how much more I would be able to achieve professionally with dedicated support at home from my partner.
Likewise, my daughter thrived in my husband’s care. She learned to swim, started taking ballet lessons, and sometimes surprises me now by cleaning up her toys. My husband is a fun, capable, confident parent, and my daughter really blossomed thanks to his day to day involvement. It turns out men make for nurturing, awesome caregivers just like women do.
At Winnie, we built an app for parents, not just for mums, because the world is changing. Dads are taking on more of the childrearing responsibilities and therefore need access to the same information and networks that mums have. Men have traditionally been locked out of private mothers' groups and they’ve been defaulted to the role of secondary parent. This means women, especially mums, have more than one full-time job on their plate. We can’t ever get to 50-50 in the household if mums are always the ones who get the call when their child is sick at daycare and needs to be picked up.
The data shows that dads, especially millennial dads, are already interested in taking on more parenting responsibilities. The more than 35 million dads in the United States, spend much more time with kids than the previous generation and half would like to spend even more time with their children. It’s time to make it happen. We need to equip dads with the same information and tools to do the job of primary parent as we do for mums. We need to take paternity leave seriously so men can take time off work to care for a new baby like women can. We need to stop assuming that women are the default caretakers and somehow innately better suited for the job because that’s just sexist baloney. We need to include men in our playdates and our communities.
Every family is different and even within the same family, dynamics change over time. What’s important is that families have a choice to do what works for them. And this coming Father’s Day, let’s salute dads like Martin Ginsburg and my husband who feel comfortable and confident taking on the role of primary parent.