What Men Do
Men do more at home than they ever have, but it’s not as much as they think and it doesn’t come close to what women do. This may not surprise you.
Before children, research shows that modern young couples do about the same amount of domestic work. But after having a baby, women shoulder a lot more of the domestic and childcare responsibilities and most of the economic risk (giving up or sidelining careers).
Our own fathers didn’t help much with domestic chores. They did fix-its and built sheds,maybe took a turn with the dishes. They played with us and helped with homework, though. Their fathers were virtually hands-off in child-rearing and almost universally left all the housework to women.
Fathers have tripled the amount of time they spend on housework and more than doubled their childcare duties since their grandfathers had young children.
What Women Do
Nowadays, there are a lot more expectations put on parents, and most especially mothers. If asked, “Who should do more housework, the woman or the man?” we might answer: “They should share it.” But when we enter someone’s home and it’s a mess, or the children come to scouts with uncombed hair and stains all over their pants, our minds go first to the mother. It’s not fair, and it’s not true, but the blame is still so often squarely placed on the mother, especially when it comes to cleanliness.
Women today who work full time spend more time with their children than did stay-at-home mothers from our grandmother’s generation.
According to the study, women who are working full time have given up much of their leisure time. Even women who stay home devote more time to child-rearing and have less to themselves.
No surprise there, but one reason for such a difference is the change in “best practices” in parenting, and especially mothering. Our grandmothers were not expected to breastfeed. (Formula was even considered healthier for awhile.) They were not expected to know everything about pregnancy and birth and parenting. (For the most part, they just did what the professionals told them to do.) They were not expected to enroll their children in a multitude of activities or be heavily involved in their child’s education. Their children spent a lot more time just kind of…roaming.
Nowadays, every moment not carving out the perfect environment or opportunity or meal for your child is a teachable, defining moment missed. In the information age, “know better, do better” is exhausting.
Men in Women’s Spaces
I read an article recently that condemned us for always jumping to support men coming into spaces traditionally occupied by women–just because they’re men. And we’re guilty. The picture of a dad wearing his infant in a sling gets more shares than the mother wearing twins. After legions of mothers with careers spent years slogging along, trying to make waves, the couple of men who want paternity leave get immediate attention in the legislation. My friend with the lovely and established blog Clean & Proper recently lost a competition (along with other worthy women) to the blog Men Clean. It was just too hard to vote against Men Clean.
When presented with the cold facts, my initial reaction was “Hey! Yeah! Step off, guys! Ladies, gather round! Link arms! The patriarchy is trying to tell us how to clean our mini-blinds now!”
And there’s something to that visceral reaction (keep reading), but I realized there’s also another side.
I really appreciate not having to do it all. I like having support and being able to be professional me, not professional mom. That means having an involved (not just supportive) partner. I’m lucky to have one. I appreciate that my children have two parents in the trenches.
Does a dad at the park on a Wednesday morning make me look twice? Yes, it still does. The dad who comes to playgroup usually gets more attention–women work harder to make him feel included. I don’t think that’s wrong.
I want to welcome men into spaces that we want men in. So if a man wears his baby, it’s OK to fawn. Being supportive is OK. Allowing them to father is important.
But let’s not just let it all go the way of everything else in the world. Women cooked for millennia and then when men started to show an interest in doing it, a crop of professional chefs appear and make “the best cooking” a man’s thing. Teaching has been a ‘safe’ and acceptable professional outlet for women for a long while now. We love it and dominate it at about 85%. But eight of the last 20 teachers of the year were men. There are male doulas now, and couples are lining up with money in their pockets. (I involuntarily shook my head as I typed that.) Find a man in a sea of women and…that’s your man!
We’re happy for the men in our lives, that they are more involved in life. We’re glad they are more involved in their own lives–the day to day with their children, the care of their own underwear. It’s great that we share more than ever before. But they’re not any more awesome than us. We still deserve as much of the attention, the praise, the money, the cookies, and the claim to doing things well.
We still work harder.