Thursday, July 27, 2006

When Moms Are Gatekeepers: Read Our New Piece at

From Ash:

We've written quite a bit about how fathers are involved in day-to-day parenting - including a look at "gatekeeper moms" – moms who are thwarting fathers' attempts to get more involved. We decided to take a further look at the issue, and the result's a new piece for

Of course, after reading a few hundred pages of sociological journal articles, and interviews with parents and sociologists, we had our usual dilemma of having far too much information for a single piece. But that's the great thing about the blog – being able to tell you more of the story – so we'll have more in the next couple days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Where did you get the information? Sometimes what I read is different from the reality. All of my friends' husbands are involved in the care of their kids. The husbands help out with everything. I cannot think of one mother who is a "gatekeeper". Perhaps I have not met any yet.

I wonder if the studies are conducted in areas where families are more traditional? Perhaps my perspective is different since I live in the SF Bay Area. I have no idea if the fact that all of my friends and their husbands have college educations made any difference in sharing of responsibilities? And the ages they were when they started their families. They had kids in their thirties and forties.

- Hayley

11:21 AM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

Well, I live in the SF Bay Area too, and for this essay we talked to quite a few local gatekeeper moms and dads being shut out by them. The studies also specifically looked at a population of working couples who were a little more educated and had egalitarian ideals towards parenting. So, you may not be seeing this phenomenon, but it's certainly right here.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Po, not sure if this is related or not. I find the Bay Area to be very diverse. For example, in Oakland and SF, I notice many Mothers put their babies in Baby Bjorn baby carriers. But in Berkeley, it seems like a totally different world. The Mothers often use the long cloth to wrap their babies, not Baby Bjorn baby carriers.

The local gatekeeper Moms that you meet...are they in San Francisco? Are they stay at home moms or do they have careers or do they hire nannies?

12:55 PM  
Blogger Po Bronson said...

We actually found maternal gatekeeping issues in all types of moms, if you were to categorize them. The local ones were interviewed were in San Francisco, Marin, and the Penninsula. But again, our own interviews were not comprehensive enough to be called sociologically significant. We were just getting quotes and observations from some real life Gatekeepers. The sociological statistics came from academics, principally the pair of researchers at BYU, and a few others.

Going into this, I suspected that Gatekeeper Moms were most likely to be working professional women who were really stressed.

Ashley theorized differently - she didn't think a woman's education level would be too important. She figured women with more education would be more exposed to co-parenting models, and therefore lay off the Gatekeeping.

Neither of us found anything in the research to support those categorizations. In fact, maternal gatekeeping issues were so common that they occured in all sorts of arrangements. Some stay home, some work full time, some part time, et cetera.

If you asked me directly, "Does this happen in Berkeley?," I would say that it happens less there, in theory. Mothers in Berkeley are probably very invested in parenting equality.

But again, most of these couples appear to outsiders to be the perfect co-parenting couples. If we see them walking past the coffee house, it seems that Dad's pulling his weight, entirely. What we can't "see" without actually interviewing people (even in Berkeley) is what it's like for those parents when they get home. Some could be in a Boss-Employee arrangement, where the mother tells the father what to do, but doesn't invite him in to those decisions. So they're equal laborers, but not equal decision-makers. You really can't tell just from looking at them at the playground.

1:32 PM  

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