Would people finally start working longer hours in the Netherlands? Secretly, hospital directors and childcare managers are hoping the Cabinet will take it easy on the purchasing power repair. Because maybe this monster of inflation will finally provide some relief when it comes to the structural shortage of nurses, carers, educators and solar panel installers.
The question is whether people actually want to work more. Culture is a factor in decision making that should not be underestimated. It’s like bath water that pulls your arms and legs unnoticed. Families would rather save on excursions and a pleasant indoor climate than take the children away more often.
Journalist Tamar Stelling put the numbers back together The correspondent. All causes of inequality between men and women (level of education, sexist leaders, government policies) have decreased; the only factor left is the child penalty for (heterosexual) women. As soon as they have children, they work less, as a natural law. You can pull women to the top by the hair, favor the Nobel Prize in Literature and other prizes, prioritize job openings and set quotas – if the difference is not made at home, it is pulling a dead horse.
Moreover, progress was made at home: thanks to microwave ovens, dishwashers and birth control pills, women had plenty of time to spare. But that time gain was largely ignored by the children. They are less numerous – and yet they take longer. Across the Western world, the current generation of parents, primarily highly educated mothers, spend two to four times as much time with their children as their parents did with them.
How is it possible? Would many people enjoy building a Lego castle with their child more than reading the internet about Gardnerella vaginalis’ amylopullulanase like me? Or do a significant proportion of my peers believe that a more intensive parenting style produces better children? That is also possible.
That by constantly bothering them with all kinds of moralistic lessons about cooperation, art, love and nature, they become more balanced, and that with a little extra guidance they can also avoid that horrible MBO. Pure evolutionary/economic purpose, an investment that pays off.
By the way, science is quite ambivalent about this. There is shockingly little difference in intellect or personality between day care, boarding school and foster children. They don’t seem to care about all those investments.
I fear that we spend more time with our children mainly because of the deep-seated belief that this is the way it should be. Because it is virtuous. Just like you have to fix your own bond, you have to vacuum your own house, you have to cook your own meals, you have to take care of your own children.
It was nota bene supreme feminist Anja Meulenbelt who joined last week NRC wondered aloud why a person has children if you just outsource them? I wonder how much of the gains she made for women from her feminism she wipes out with this one, misogynistic question. Does she have less understanding of a full-time working woman’s decision to become a mother than the part-time working woman who does the same?
That question takes us back to the deepest conviction that as a woman you belong to your children, and you are a lesser mother when you ‘outsource’ them.
Let’s just ignore that folklore. If you, as a mother, cannot avoid working more in the near future, then know how deeply culturally motivated the decision to work less was in any case until now. And know that the exact number of hours you spend with your children is ultimately irrelevant. The only questions that matter: are the children safe? Do they know peace and regularity? How is the atmosphere in the house? Do you have a good relationship with them?
The rest, the ocean water pulling on your arms, the voices, even if they come from überfeminists, you just have to ignore.
Rosanne Hertzberger is a microbiologist.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on 8 October 2022