Archive | February, 2013

Dinner at 6? If only …

13 Feb

My heart sinks at Yvette Cooper being quoted as saying that Ed Balls ‘would have starved’ if he was the kind of husband who expected ‘dinner at 6’.  Why? Because in most even moderately senior jobs the idea that anyone, man or woman, would regularly be home in time to cook a dinner served at 6 has become a pipe dream.  In term of work-life balance, dinner at six is just not the issue any more; how either or both parents manage to fit in any family life at the end of each day is what matters.  A man ‘expecting dinner at 6’ would not only be frequently disappointed, he’d be a dinosaur.   Whilst I am very much in support of the idea that we should all be able to read about how people ‘at the top of their game’ sort work-life balance, I’m not sure this kind of comment is either realistic or helpful.  Let’s face it, how many evenings is Ed (Shadow Chancellor) let alone Yvette (Shadow Home Secretary) really home at six? If their reality reflects that of senior echelons of corporate life in terms of hours and responsibility, then the answer must be ‘rarely’.

The idea that dual-earning heterosexual couples might find that the main obstacle to equality is his desire for an early dinner, really should be given its own early bath.  Most ‘work rich time poor’ couples might be grateful if dinner were regularly possible at 8 (and cooked by either party).  The issues for most men and women whose jobs earn enough to justify absence from the six o’clock tea table, are how do they afford the child care to cover this gap in the timetable, or who is going to take the career hit to get the flexible hours which might accommodate feeding their children at six, if not the whole family.  In fairness, I haven’t read the whole piece and maybe this quote is taken out of context, but it does a disservice to both men and women to suggest that sitting down to a full meal at six is really the main issue here.  Long working hours, perceptions of prestige and the inequalities imposed by the gender pay gap keep many of us arguing until midnight, rather than expecting dinner at six.  

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