Thursday, March 02, 2006

Do Men Change Diapers? - Honey Dads and Bitter Moms

From Ash:

Okay, so here's the thing about Honey Dads. It's not that I think all men are completely uninvolved couch potatoes. And I'm not saying that fathers and husbands aren't working as hard as they can for their families.

But, as painful as the truth is -- Honey Dads have to really take a good hard look at what they are really doing on their own accord, and what their actual contribution is. Because the unfortunate fact is that, survey after survey show that men just aren't doing as much of the domestic work as women are. And what may even be worse than that, husbands think they contribute more than their wives think they contribute. That may sound silly, but the disparity between men and women's contribution in housework and child rearing is a frequent, serious cause of marital unhappiness -- especially for wives.

So if your wife thinks you're a Honey Dad (and statisically, she does!), then you have a problem.

And before you say you're not a Honey Dad -- consider these facts. American women put in additional five hours a week in housework once they are married, while marriage doesn't significantly effect the number of hours a man does.

American women do 70-80 percent of the total domestic work -- regardless their employment status. And such disparity isn't just in the US: in a 16-country survey, only one country (Russia) had men doing the same amount of housework as the women. If they don't work, they do even more. But unemployed men, on the other hand, don't signficantly increase their own domestic work.

When American women become mothers, they spend more time at home, with the kids and doing the work of the household. When American men become fathers, they spend more time at work. They don't increase the time being caregivers, but being the good old fashioned breadwinner at the office.

For every boy aged 12 to 18 in a family, the dad does almost one hour more of housework -- but the mom does three hours more. For every girl that age in the house, Mom does an extra hour of housework -- and Dad doesn't do anything extra at all. Which has to mean that the Mom of all boys is doing three times as much work -- and the Mom of girls must be having her daughters help out -- not the sons, and not the father.

In fact, a recent study determined that women aren't just doing more -- they even spend twice as much time just thinking about what needs to be done than men think about it. Not only that, men seem to overestimate the time that they actually do work.

So Honey Dads have to address this issue. They need to do it to resolve what could be tension in families. We need to address the issue as a society because things will have to change . . . or not. Meaning we all seem to take for granted now that women work before having a family, and many if not most will likely continue to work once they have children.

But recently, sociologists have been thinking that we may have actually hit a saturation point with women in the workforce -- that the amount won't really increase much further -- might even decrease -- because women simply aren't shaking off the women/gender role of domestic goddess.

There's a good, solid article in today's New York Times about this -- that the problem of work/life balance and mother/gender roles in housework, etc. may have flatlined the growth of women in the workforce. (And, for once, I'm positively delighted to note that a reporter talked to all the right people. I'm actually a fan of most of the quoted experts (Bianchi, Madden, Goldin, Blau) so, kudos to its author, Eduardo Porter.)

I'm not saying that I think all women should work, and you can't be fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom. But we need to recognize that it's becoming clearer and clearer that the Mommy Track isn't just an option, but is, instead, a societal and practical requirement.


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