I’m sitting on a plane, flying home to Sydney after a week-long business trip to Los Angeles. Despite going to bed at midnight every night after days of non-stop meetings, I got more sleep than I usually do at home because I “slept in” ‘till 8am most days.
I work full time, which is up to 70 hours per week. Partly because I now have a global position as Head of Public Relations and Spokesperson at comparison website finder.com, where I’m busy helping the company launch in the USA. And partly because I’m obsessed with my job – I absolutely love it. finder.com is my third baby, and while I’m spending more time thinking about planning and structure, I still get a buzz when I see finder featured in the media.
This was my first overseas trip away from my family of husband and two kids, since our second child was born. Zara is now six months old and Ezra is almost five. My husband has taken about a year of long service leave from his primary teaching career to look after the kids while I go back to my other love, my job.
Watch: The things I do after my kids go to bed. Post continues after video…
In the lead up to this trip, I was confronted with questions from you, asking me, “So, who will look after the kids?”
This question makes me angry. I’m angry with you for assuming there will be no one to care for my kids. I’m angry with you for assuming my husband is incapable of caring for our kids without me. I’m angry with you for judging me; by asking this question you’re underlying that I should be home to care for my kids. And I’m angry with you for perpetuating this diseased culture of gender inequality.
It’s not the first time I’ve been hit with judgment. It was you who reacted with “wow” when I told you my plans for going back to work full-time when Zara was four months old. It was you who asked me how I would breastfeed when I’m working full-time.
I’m sick of your judging. If my husband were going overseas for business, you wouldn’t ask him who would look after the kids. When he went back to work two weeks after Ezra was born, you didn’t bat an eyelid.
What is most upsetting is that it’s women who are the biggest culprits. What happened to sisterhood? You have kids or probably will soon. You juggle work with life. You juggle caring for your family. You face the same judgmental questions and reactions every day. And then you do the same.
Sweaty Betty PR owner Roxy Jacenko, was hammered recently for her brave defence of her husband, who was reportedly sentenced to 12 months jail for insider trading. Roxy is also her family’s breadwinner, working full time and raising their two kids. Roxy now faces a year without the support of her husband, juggling a busy career with caring for their two kids.
Since the very public hearing, Roxy has been called “...attention seeking trash...”, and this regular judgement “...I never knew that a parent , male or female, who decides to work instead of spending time with their kids is someone to look up to…”
Like all mums, Roxy shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because she has a career. Instead of the judging and the hate, we should be supporting each other.
I spoke to many women this week while at a conference called Women of the West in LA. Every time I spoke to women who are thinking about starting a family or they already have kids, they confess their guilt of leaving their kids to go to work.
Enough of the guilt. Turn that guilt into anger and question why society makes you feel guilty for choosing to have a career. Get angry with the people who ask you stupid questions about your career and family life.
So next time you're talking to a mum, don't respond by making her feel bad for choosing to have a career as well as a family. Don't question how she can choose to work rather than be at home. Don't react in surprise when she tells you she is going to work. And don't expect her to justify her actions. It’s your questioning that’s causing women to feel guilty for no good reason and keeping women behind men in their earnings. Think about the next generation of women who are hitting the workforce faced with what you're going to think of them for choosing a career.
Michelle Hutchison is Global Head of PR & Money Expert at finder.com.au, one of Australia's biggest comparison websites, and finder.com in the USA. As well as being a bargain hunter and self-confessed data nerd, she's passionate about helping families save money and make smarter financial decisions. She writes regularly about finance, property and other passions like gender equality, is a former magazine editor, mum of two, and thinks it's never too late (or early!) to start learning good money habits.