'If nursery workers, doctors, etc., assume I am the primary caregiver and call me and not my partner, I will end up doing more childcare than him.'
Gender inequality is so firmly rooted in our society that most of us encounter it even in the most unexpected of places. Dr. Raina Brands, a professor at London's UCL School of Management, recently took to Twitter to call out one such example of gender inequality. In a now-viral series of tweets, Dr. Brands shared how her son's daycare always calls her when they need something despite repeatedly being asked to contact her partner first. "Our son has been in daycare since the beginning of the year. If he is sick and needs to come home early, they call me. If they want to give him paracetamol, they call me. If he has injured himself they call me. So what?" she tweeted.
I'm just a working mom trying (and failing and trying again) to convince my kids' school to call my husband first. pic.twitter.com/DmCJlTPdme— Michelle Cohen, MD (@DocMCohen) September 15, 2021
"I have repeatedly asked them to call my partner first. I have asked them to put a note on my file about that. I have asked the manager. Today they called and I asked them to always call my partner first and 2 hours later THEY CALLED ME AGAIN. What makes this more absurd is the fact that my partner has always been the main point of contact! He filled out all of the forms, he did all of the settling-in sessions and he drops our son off every morning. But they are incapable of viewing him as a primary caregiver," Dr. Brands continued.
I "stood guard" for a man in an hotel over the weekend as the only changing table was in the ladies' bathroom. He felt awkward going in, so I went in and said "a father is on his way into change a baby". No-one blinked. I let others know as they arrived. Thy didn't care.— Ocultado (@ocultado) March 2, 2022
My daughter is a teacher and can't take calls and leave her class unattended. The daycare insists on calling her even after being told numerous times Dad is the contact. Dad literally wears a phone all day and can answer anytime.— DJ 🇨🇦 (@DebraJ43) March 3, 2022
"Ma'am, we need to to come get your daughter." "We've called several times and don't want to have to interrupt your husband." "If you don't respond to this message, we're going to have to let your husband know you were unavailable to care for your kid." I. was. livid.— Thee Kathryn Francis, MA in Political Science (@francesthoughts) March 3, 2022
"When I say gender inequality is a self-reinforcing system, this is what I'm talking about," she concluded. Dr. Brands' tweets kicked off an important discussion about gender inequality in childcare as several parents shared how they've faced similar problems. "I'm a stay home dad. Primary caregiver to the kids. My wife is a busy corporate executive and they still insist on calling her first. Often she can't take the call, so they'll try her again later rather than call me like they should. It is beyond frustrating and disrespectful," tweeted @logical_one57.
This was us. No matter how many times I put my husband as primary contact they’d always call me first. One day I turned up in hospital scrubs, did a head injury assessment of my well child & deemed him safe to go back to class. Then went back to work. Now they call my husband. 😊— RunningDoc (@runningdoc7) March 3, 2022
I work in a nicu. If a mom is healthy and doesn’t come in to visit, everyone is alarmed. Nobody bats an eye when the dads don’t visit. If a dad comes in to learn infant care, he is treated as parent of the year. We still see dads who refuse to change their own child’s diaper.— AngieLa la la la la Ⓥ 🌹💚 (@Fulcrum_Ashla) March 3, 2022
My husband is the POC for our kids. He and I were hanging out one day - my phone was upstairs. When I finally got it, there were THIRTEEN MISSED CALLS FROM THE SCHOOL. My kid had thrown up and instead of calling him, they left increasingly hostile messages.— Thee Kathryn Francis, MA in Political Science (@francesthoughts) March 3, 2022
"I did this a few times: OMG you called their Dad and he's not answering??? Wait a minute let me call 911 and get someone to him at home ASAP. He's the primary contact and the only way he'd not answer is if he was unconscious or... that always fixed the problem," shared @No1CDAtty. Talking to Bored Panda about the responses to her Twitter thread, Dr. Brands said: "I am happy to have started a conversation on an important topic. I was appalled by some of the stories that women shared in their replies, which recounted seriously egregious examples of sexism."
We list my number as the primary contact for our daughter.— Alex Hartman, MD (@alexjhrtmn) March 3, 2022
The school calls, or daycare calls, or her pediatrics office calls. I answer, and they say “Oh, sorry. I thought this was her mother’s number.”
And I Work At That Pediatrics Office.
The dentist office called me with an update on a long appointment even though my husband had accompanied her to the appointment, checked her in at the front desk, and was literally IN THEIR OFFICE waiting for the appointment to end.— Ahnalee Brincks (@AhnaleeB) March 2, 2022
This is my life. My partner is the primary contact for everything. “Hey, I’m in the operating room, please call their dad.”— Alyssa Burgart, MD, MA (She/Her/Anesthesia) (@BurgartBioethix) March 2, 2022
"I was also quietly amused at the small number of people who took offense to me referring to my partner as my partner instead of my husband (even though we are not, in fact, married)," she added. Explaining how gender inequality is a self-reinforcing system, Dr. Brands said: "Just take my experience as an example. If nursery workers, doctors, etc., assume I am the primary caregiver and call me and not my partner, I will end up doing more childcare than him. An hour here, a day off there—any single instance doesn't matter. But the cumulative effect is significant."
My husband is the school P&C president, knows all the office ladies by name, volunteers as an ethics teacher and they STILL call me first.— Denise Duffield-Thomas (@DeniseDT) March 4, 2022
It’s also hard to get people to email both parents. I’m like, Dad is involved, too, and now I just have to do more work to forward this to him. Also, all the “homework”, Spirit Days, little things to remember is mostly on moms. And it’s a lot.— Lisa Kays (she/her/hers) (@LisaKBarth) March 2, 2022
So it’s universal then! And I hate the guilt trips - they ring three times and when I finally ring back they say “your child has been in the office with a migraine for an HOUR, and we couldn’t get hold of you!” I hear kid in the background “I told u to call dad!” 🙄— KB (@docbayliss1) March 3, 2022
"Perhaps my employer notices I am more distracted at work, or that I am more unreliable than before I had a child, and I don't get that promotion I wanted. At home, I will likely find it more difficult to balance work and home commitments than my partner because I’m doing more childcare, so I might start to think about a job or career change that will give me more flexibility," she continued. "But flexible jobs tend to be paid less than demanding ones, so if I take one, suddenly the earnings gap between me and my partner is a lot bigger. And then we are in a situation a lot of couples find themselves in, where it doesn't 'make sense' for my partner to contribute an equal share to the childcare because his career is so much more important to the household."
2/2 Nobody likes appearing like an idiot in front of their boss. With the added benefit that including leaders lets everybody know politely & subtly but clearly that any next meetings will be just as polite but with more titled participants.— dedance BLM, she/her (@mdanceur) March 3, 2022
I've got a better idea. "Update" the call list at daycare. only thing changing is the phone numbers, his under hers & vice versa, since the daycare won't call him first.— HCIBSW - SAY GAY 😷 Never unmasked. 💙💛 (@HCIBSW) March 4, 2022
Have her record a voice-mail that says something like, "Hello, this is ____, if this my son's daycare- For the Thousandth Time, Call My Husband First! For everyone else, please leave a message after the beep."— Swen 💊 🏴 🍄 🌲🎣 (@mswen07) March 3, 2022
Hopefully they'll get the message sooner or later.
However, Dr. Brands noted that childcare workers can't fully be blamed for assuming that the mother is the primary caregiver. "It usually is the case. Why? Because men in the UK rarely get more than a week or two of parental leave! This is what I mean when I say it is self-reinforcing: gender inequality in the home is reinforced by gender inequality at work/society which leads to more gender inequality in the home," she said.
I teach Gender in Labor Markets. For mor than a decade I’ve told my students true equality will come when they are equally as likely to call the father as mother when a kid pukes on the floor. Both my kids are Finally off to college. Good luck to you all!— Dr. Molly Malloy Cooper (@cooper_338) March 3, 2022