Title: The Wife Drought
Author: Annabel Crabb
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: 1st October 2014
Pages: 255 (not including references)
Rating: 4/5 stars
‘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 not 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 the 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.
I have only really started to get into non-fiction, and this book has definitely left me wanting more! Annabel Crabb is that rare Sunday paper columnist who actually makes me interested in politics. Generally, that feeling only lasts the four or five minutes it takes me to finish the column, but this book has left me with an undeniable passion for equality in the workplace – and not just women’s equality. As Crabb notes, it is time for attitudes to change in regards to men in the workforce – there needs to be greater opportunity for them to request flexibility. And therein lies the book’s tagline – ‘Why women need wives, and men need lives.’ We need to make it easier for women to stay in the workforce when they have children, but we also need to make it easier and a valid option for men to get out, or take on flexible hours.
It is a remarkable book looking at a different side of the gender wars. While I am all for women’s equality in the workforce, some books on the topic leave me feeling that staying at home with one’s children as a woman, which I personally would love to do someday, is not a valid choice in this modern age. At no point did I feel that way while reading Crabb’s book. She uses well-researched statistics and studies to show that it is not just a female problem – men are missing out on the joys of parenting and women on the joys of work. Both genders are lacking a proper work-life balance.
Critically, this book is about the attitudes firmly entrenched in our society. It is about the need to recognise these attitudes and where they come from so that we can work on changing them.
But the most important thing about this book, I think, is the conversational tone in which Crabb writes, making it accessible. There is no high-brow academic discussion, even though studies and statistics are referred to – it is written like an extended column, making the experience of learning more enjoyable. Crabb has done a fantastic job with this book and I believe that it truly will be a catalyst for change, not least because it is a highly accessible read.
I would recommend this book most definitely for any woman, whether in the workforce, studying or at home. It is a great read, and reinforces that the antiquated attitudes our society still clings to are standing in the way of true equality. It is only by understanding and acknowledging these attitudes, which we all subconsciously subscribe to, that change can be engendered.