‘I need a wife’
It’s a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women.
Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.
But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits?
The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.
Crabb’s call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that’s long overdue.
+++ Image and blurb from Penguin Books Australia +++
5 Bring-on-the-Rain Stars
I picked up this book with the assistance of the Adelaide Writers’ Week – to whom I am always grateful for boosting the diversity of my reading – but I had seen Annabel before on TV and when she interviewed Stephen Fry at the Dunstan Playhouse. Needless to say, the title alone sparked my interest, as many organisations and Government offices in Adelaide have restructured their management opportunities for women advancing up the professional ladder. Obviously, these changes have been accompanied by backlash, confusion and a whole lot of head scratching silence – as these ‘women only’ roles are considered to circumvent meritocracy and only give the workplace a healthy gender statistic. So naturally, with these changes taking place around me and the book questioning the assumed social roles of women and men, I had to read it.
Annabel Crabb manages to deliver a humorous and insightful perspective of the pressures faced by women and men in the professional spheres. Yes, this book delivers the hard truths that women who wish to pursue professions are often deterred, judged and criticised when wanting a family and a career – as the societal assumption that women are defined by their family and men by their job is still a giant spectre hovering over us. Therefore, women who wish to continue with their career need the support offered by a wife. Crabb by no means expects the partner to leave work to and perform the lion’s share of housework and childcare, but the work and childcare are shared and there is open communication between the couple to support each other in their career pursuits.
Another great point Crabb touches upon is the derision and confusion men face when they want to take parental leave or reduce their hours to spend more time with their families. To the extent that one man was asked not to involve himself in his young daughter’s Year 1 classroom activities, as is was a space for mothers and children. These social assumptions not only affect relationships and career growth but hinder the potential economic growth that can be achieved when women and men are happier in their work-family-life balance.
Crabb offers facts, personal experiences, interviews and statistics with a flair and passion that makes the information understandable and motivational. She concludes her book perfectly, that this drought is not only affecting women’s careers but men’s family life and therefore rain is good for all parties. So I recommend this book to everyone who is curious how out-dated assumptions of the roles of women and men in the home and workplace still affect careers and family life. Whilst some knowledge of the Australian political figures would be handy, it is not necessary as Annabel guides you effortlessly through the maelstrom that is Australian political history.