Please take off your rose-coloured glasses: Before marriage and having children, it wouldn’t hurt to sit down with your partner and seriously discuss the practical issues. As beyond marriage and childbirth lurk things like the gender gap. What should we as women know before we have children?
Her: “I really want to have children … And you?”
Him: “Me too – ever since I met you. One, two, three … it doesn’t matter.”
Her: “Can’t wait to see what the mini version of you and me looks like …”
He: “You’ll make a great mother.”
Her: “… nd you a great father.”
These sentences should sound familiar to most people in love – who want children. When we imagine our future together, we tend to look through rose tinted glasses. Hard facts such as childcare, future family expenses – forgotton. The same goes for getting married. For months we meticulously plan for the day of days. Everything has to be perfect, after all, the pictures and memories are for eternity and a wedding dress is something we wear, hopefully, only once in a lifetime. But who wants to talk about a possible ending when everything is just beginning?
It’s amazing how many hours go into planning a single day (or finding the baby’s name) – and how little time we spend talking about what will determine and change our entire lives.
And yet, especially for us women, there are a few things we should be aware of beforehand. We should know these hard facts:
Love is all well and good, but understanding is also very nice.
“When you get married, you don’t count.” This sentence comes from Andrea Opel and she should know what she is talking about: as a professor of tax law in Lucerne, she is very familiar with family taxation law. Marriage, according to Andrea, «usually leaves women much worse off: “Under the current system, married second earners are unduly burdened for tax purposes – and in the vast majority of cases, that’s women,” she says in an interview with Annabelle. She calls this second-earner/earnings penalty. Women are also in a worse position after a separation. Those who are looking for a wedding dress naturally don’t want to hear about divorce. Understandable! They just don’t care about the statistics – they clearly don’t play in the “love” team: the divorce rate in Switzerland is 40 percent and the average marriage lasts a little over 15 years. That leaves a lot of time afterwards if we get married at 30. Andrea Opel advises to focus on an equal partnership. This includes “that both parties can remain gainfully employed to a reasonable extent”.
First a child, then back to work? That would be nice …
Whether it’s flying into space or becoming a board member – these days women are able to do everything that men do. But as soon as we have children, it’s usually over with the “able”. After the first happy, exhausting months as a new mum, what happens to most working women happens to us: We are confronted with the gender gap. Professional freedom ends with the birth of one or more children. Raising children requires skills that have nothing whatsoever to do with having a career. The man then often pulls through in his job, while the woman falls behind. 52.1 percent of new mothers with a partner and child(ren) work a mini-part-time job or are not employed at all, 33.4 percent have a part-time job of 50 percent or more. Only about 14.5 percent of mothers return to work full-time. In the rarest of cases, the husband then stays at home, usually an immense amount of organisation is required, for example with the help of grandparents (if we are lucky that is – there are also grandparents who don’t like looking after their grandchildren). So anyone who tells us something about “everything is easy to arrange nowadays” is not telling the whole truth.
Logically, both the marriage penalty and the gender gap have an impact on our financial situation. Devastatingly so. Marriage and childbearing: Romantic film meets thriller. The title of the film, target group women: “Motherhood Lifetime Penalty”. What it’s about: Married mothers lose between 40 and 70 percent of their income compared to childless women of the same age. Shall we see this film? No, thank you. With the high costs of childcare, we’d rather think twice about whether it’s worthwhile to work at all. And yet: Withdrawing from employment is a risk for every woman later at retirement age or in the case of divorce.
Where is equality in that, pray tell?
Swiss family policy is thus definitely expandable. Equal parental leave, individual taxation, better, cheaper all-day care would all be very desirable. Companies could speed up the cultural change through more flexible working hours, part-time for all or co-leadership. Incidentally, many men also feel the pressure in their role of financial provider and want more time for their family. Men should therefore take courage and demand paternal rights and as women we should demand a work-family balance – the work-family conflict needs to become a central issue.
Honey, let’s talk!
One thing becomes clear when we read these three points: As women we have to take care of ourselves. Preferably before saying yes and having children. What does our partner expect from marriage, from our role as partner and mother? Above all: What do WE want? How can we reconcile everything? How do we manage to be parents on an equal footing? It is not an affront to love if we talk about the case of separation. Concluding a marriage contract means that we, as future mothers, have a security of supply until we can once again stand on our own two feet financially. The more clarified, the more conflict-free we start into a joint future – and the higher the chance of beating the statistics.
Even if childcare consumes a large part of your salary: We should see it as an investment in our future and financial independence to keep working. Awina helps parents with the uncomplicated financing of crèche places so that both parents can pursue their careers equally.