It's a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women.
Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.
But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits?
The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author's work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.
Crabb's call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that's long overdue.
Thoughts: The tag line of this book - Why women need wives, and men need lives - may be off putting, particularly to the male portion of the population. Don't let it fool you. It means men need lives outside of work and our social paradigm makes that incredibly different.
Crabb defines a wife as "...male or female. Whether they're men or women, though, the main thing wives are is a cracking professional asset. They enable the busy full-time worker to experience the joy and fulfilment of children, without the considerable inconvenience of having to pick them up from school at 3pm...Having a wife means that if you get caught up at work, or want to stay later...it can be done. Many wives work, but they do jobs that are either part-time or offer sufficient flexibility for the accommodation of late-breaking debacles."
So a wife can be either male or female, but the reality is that it's usually the woman.
The thing I found quite refreshing about this book is it actually had a look at the effect of how our societal norms affect men as well as women. While it has worked to keep women out of the workforce, made it harder for them to move up the corporate ladder and achieve equal pay, it has worked equally hard to keep men in the workforce and out of the home. Men who do take time out to be "the wives" not only suffer in the workforce, but also in the world of the stay at home parent. Crabb points out that we have spent too long looking at what is happening in the workplace without considering what is happening in the home. The reality is most families need someone who is willing to be the wife. I know in my own house, my role as wife is essential and allows our house to operate smoothly, but it has come at the cost of my career. In houses where both parents work full time, women still tend to pick up the slack of running the rest of the house. While chores may be shared, women still do the lions share. They are the ones to organise the extra curricula activity and take time off when the kids are sick.
In this book, Crabb suggests until we address the inequality in the home - not only towards women, but men as well. We need to make it ok for men to take time off to be the wife. We need to value the wife's role and realise that without them many of our full time workers could not do what they do.
The Wife Drought gets 3 stars.
* Did not like it
** It was OK
*** Liked it
**** Really liked it
***** It was amazing
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