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We should be careful what we let our daughters read. Many of us, as girls, have swooned over Mr D (in the book, not just the wet shirt), been challenged to save Mr Rochester or even succumbed to the questionable charms of Heathcliff – though probably not if we re-read Wuthering Heights as adults and realised what a boor he really was with all his lovelorn ways. Seeking and finding the alpha male to provide for us was the only way to guarantee security in Miss Austen’s time but this tendency still lingers in an age where women are carving their own careers and independence. Only over the last few weeks have I begun to calculate how many of the senior women we work with have partners who are flexible and eager to be equal in caring for the family, raising the children and covering at least some of the domestic chores. These men work freelance, flexibly or at the least in roles where you can still get home in time for tea. Yet we only hear about these partnerships in terms of jokey, nudge, nudge stories about house-husbands at the toddler group sharing with the Mums. It is much more common than you think and is at least one element of these women’s career success. What we are actually seeing is modern, communicative couple who work out what is best for both of them, rather than resorting to outmoded rigidly defined roles – a flexibility of thinking that allows them to take turns at making the lion’s share of the money, while both having fun and enjoying watching the children grow while sharing domestic duties. This pattern is so much more suited to our times and offers modern men a range of choices rather than the stoic dutiful one of carrying all the economic burden. The inimitable Caitlin Moran in the Times on Saturday addressed the concept of women earning more than their men. Tony Parsons writing in Grazia had stated that men would feel ‘as if their penis’s were dropping off’, if their woman earned more than them. He felt it was ‘against the law of nature’. As you can imagine, Caitlin made mince meat of him and presumed that the most attractive man of the future will be the one who is attracted to a woman who does well in her career. The Office for National Statistics forecasts that women in Britain should be out-earning men by 2020. The number of men who are, ‘economically inactive’ and looking after family or home while their wives work, has steadily increased over the last 15 years as women’s educational attainment has soared and with it their earning capacity. Last year 62,000 men were classed as ‘economically inactive’ and looking after their family or home. In 1996, there were only 21,000 men in this category. 43% of women in UK earn more or the same as their partners (National Equality Panel 2010). So, perhaps we need to guide our children as they form their ideas of the world. Our girls need to seek a mate who will value and support her drive and ability and our boys need to know that they have choices other than the corporate treadmill- ones that involve being part of a modern sharing home.

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