by NIGEL MARSH
Yesterday I took part in the worst radio interview. Ever.
“We welcome Nigel Marsh from Australia to the show. Thanks for getting up so early Nigel. Let’s get straight to it – why do you advise our male listeners take a career break to stay at home?”
“Err… I wouldn’t. I don’t know any of them and in many cases I’m sure leaving their job to stay at home would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.”
I waited for him to ask me to elaborate on my views. Instead , after a buttock –clenchingly awkward silence, he cut to a commercial break and we proceeded to have an argument off air after which he wouldn’t let me back on air. Oh well maybe I’ll conquer America next year.
There’s a serious point to the story however. I continually meet people who want me to parrot a simple ‘all men should take a year off’ mantra – because that’s what I’ve done, several times in fact. But I refuse, as I believe the issue is a complex one and warrants a more thorough and thoughtful analysis. So this is what I intended to say if he had continued the interview with a simple follow up “please explain” question…
Most people can ill afford to take time off from their work. Even if they can afford it in the short term it can have a seriously negative impact on their future career prospects and earning potential. If the financial side of things is covered I still advice caution as many men that talk to me have a tendency to romanticize the wonderful life they could live if they didn’t have to go the office. I describe the frequent loneliness, uncertainty, lack of structure, fall in status and never ending domestic tasks that can be a real shock to a man who has only ever plowed the corporate path.
But even if all the above doesn’t put you off I still don’t recommend anyone does it unless they have got to the bottom of what their partner feels about it. And I don’t mean what they say to be supportive, but what they truly feel in their heart.
Every case is different so it is impossible to generalize for your listeners. But assume for a moment one of them is a married man who up until now has been the breadwinner whilst his partner has taken on the responsibility for bringing up the kids and running the home. I would be at pains to warn him of the devastating effect taking a career break could have on his wife. She could be enormously uncomfortable with having her space at home suddenly invaded by a newly stay at home Dad.