Wanted: An exceptionally confident partner

It’s not easy being a female politician in Israel. But being her significant other is much harder.

Every woman who has tried to maneuver between having a successful career and a thriving family life has heard the following comments at some point or another: “How does your husband deal with this?” “What does he eat when you are gone?” “When do you have time for the children?” “Do you know how to cook?” And on and on it goes.
They are made in calm, sympathetic tones but they show that society – every society – is still plagued by an abundance of stereotypes concerning women’s abilities and rights to have a career alongside their family life.
MODERN SOCIETIES, even open and advanced ones, still consider family-raising as primarily a woman’s role. A man who comes home late every evening will be treated with appreciation as he’s naturally a career man, providing for his household. A woman who does similarly will be accused, directly or behind her back, of neglecting her family, no matter how disciplined and accomplished her children are.
Being a female politician in a patriarchal society is not easy but being her significant other is almost impossible. A career woman’s man must have exceptional self-confidence in order to survive the onslaught of comments from various people seeking his favor – not to mention those who don’t. Even my mother still asks my husband how he copes with it all every time she calls and I am not home.
JUST WALKING down the hallways of the Knesset, you hear conversations that illustrate the sharp contrasts that are the reality of our lives.
One moment you are giving an important speech about government policy and the next you find yourself sitting among men in suits, explaining to your husband or your son over the phone how to cook pasta, in which washing machine holder to put the fabric softener and how much detergent to use.
No matter what you do in life, how far you go and how much you accomplish as a woman, you will always have to juggle between work and family life. Gender equality today is much more advanced than before. But while we demanded and achieved (relative) equality and built successful careers, we have still not found the tools to carry out this equality in an optimal way. In addition, we have not yet convinced the society in which we live to accept our decision to have careers as a natural desire.
In fact, is some ways, we haven’t even convinced ourselves. Often, we volunteer to take on various familial duties, even if we work harder, longer hours, and sometimes earn more than our partners do. We still find the time to register the kids for school or kindergarten, help with homework, make dinner, hire a cleaner. That is our role.
DESPITE ALL this, I am optimistic. Even though, we are often “forgotten,” as was the case with the Turkel Commission, women today reach positions they had only previously dreamed of; in business, politics and various other fields. And slowly but surely, men are learning to make pasta and do the laundry.
“It’s too much for her” was one of the unsuccessful slogans of the Likud faction during the elections campaign, in its effort to paint Kadima leader Tzipi Livni as being unable to handle being prime minister.
That’s just it, it’s not “too much” for any of us. We do it every day.
But we still face some obstacles. We must find a proper response to those commentators who try to bring us down and win the support and patience of our partners – who sometimes need to practice more patience and restraint than we do, given the abundance of questioning looks they receive.
The writer is chairwoman of the Kadima Knesset faction.