May 31, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Esquire Misses the Boat on Men’s Work-Life Choices
Sometimes the state of the mainstream media is just too depressing to grapple with. The piece I’m referring to is here and, by the standards of the MSM must be counted as pretty good (Esquire, June/July, 2013). That lets you know just how low the bar is set. Richard Dorment, writing in Esquire makes some salient points and cites some informative data. But in his way-too-long, way-too-rambling article, he repeats outright falsehoods, completely ignores relevant and material issues and proves incapable of connecting dots. Like I say, by the standards of the MSM, his piece is pretty good.
Dorment is taking on our old friend the “work-life” balance. He takes a long time to do it and detours through anecdotal details that would have been better left out. But his bottom line is accurate enough — both men and women, mothers and fathers, work hard in this country; neither has it better than the other and women (read, feminists) should stop complaining. Both men and women strike their own work-life balance; they try to do what’s best for them and the way that works out on average is that women do more domestic chores and childcare while men do more paid work. And when the two — paid work and household chores/childcare — are combined, men and women spend the same amount of time at their “jobs.”
Good. Of course those of us who plump for equality in family courts have been saying that for years. Why it took Dorment so long to make the miraculous discovery, I have no idea. After all, take 10 minutes out of your day, go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, click on its American Time Use Survey, and you can see the data for yourself. It’s not like the information has been hidden away. The only ones obscuring the truth were feminists with their years of false claims about lazy men and the slavery of the “Second Shift.”
Still, Dorment’s main message is a refreshing one. He’d like women (read, feminists) to take one good look at reality and note that they don’t have it any harder than do men.
Allow me to paint another picture. One in which women are asked to make the same personal sacrifices as men past and present — too much time away from home, too many weekends at the computer, too much inconvenient travel — but then claim some special privilege in their hardship. One in which universal preschool and after-school programs would be a boon to all parents (and not, as [NYT columnist Gail] Collins suggests, simply to women). In which men spend more time with their children, and are more involved with their home lives, than ever before. In which men work just as hard at their jobs, if not harder, than ever before. In which men now report higher rates of work-life stress than women do. In which men are tormented by the lyrics of "Cat's in the Cradle." In which men are being told, in newspapers and books, on Web sites and TV shows, that they are the problem, that they need to help out, when, honestly folks, they're doing the best they can. In which men like me, and possibly you, open their eyes in the morning and want it all — everything! — only to close their eyes at night knowing that only a fool could ever expect such a thing.
In other words, the way things are. These are concepts that escape feminists like Collins and the many others Dorment cites. Somehow, feminists have always wanted women to spend more and more time in the workplace, the way men do, but never reminded them of how their fathers described that life — “the rat race,” “it’s a jungle out there.” Sound appealing? No, the feminist narrative made out the corporate grind to be “fulfilling,” “self-actualizing.” Now that women occupy that world as never before, they’re discovering the lie feminism told them. If you’re “fulfilled” by the “rat race,” you’re a rat. No wonder so many women opt out.
But where Dorment misses the boat is where so many people do. In the feminist narrative of the work-life balance, women don’t want to spend time with their children. What they really want is to toil longer and longer hours at paid work, and the fact that they don’t do so can mean only one thing — the oppressive “patriarchy” forces them, in its own dastardly and arcane ways, to do childcare.
Dorment’s right that women have the same opportunities as men and indeed more given their now-superior levels of education, but he never grasps why they don’t take those opportunities. That too is in the literature on the work-life balance, and Dorment’s read at least some of that, but the message seems not to have quite sunk in. Women don’t advance up the corporate ladder as readily as do men for one overwhelming reason — they don’t work as much. The don’t work as much because they take time off work to care for their kids. Dormant tells us that women work 11 hours a week less than men at paid work, but doesn’t connect that dot to the one about how few female CEOs there are. Strange.
Now again, feminists shout long and loudly that that’s the fault of an oppressive patriarchy that fiendishly teaches women to love their children and want to care for them. Of course that’s arrant nonsense. Feminists don’t do science, and that turns out to be a problem. When a female human, or any female mammal for that matter, becomes pregnant, hormones kick in that resolutely bind her to her child. Can she resist their insistence that she care for and nurture the infant? Of course she can, but, given the choice, given the opportunity, she may well choose home and family over work. Who, apart from feminists, can blame her?
Unsurprisingly, we see countless women doing exactly that every day. Remember, there are about 5.8 million stay-at-home mothers versus about 186,000 stay-at-home dads. How is it that Dorment misses that most obvious fact?
And what about family courts? Does it occur to anyone in this endless work-life balance debate that there are perfectly good reasons why fathers don’t spend more time with their kids. They know full well that almost half of marriages end in divorce, that some 70% of those divorces are filed by women and that the reason is that women know they won’t lose their children when the divorce is final. Men know they’ll lose their kids, that the court will relegate them to the status of occasional visitor, if that. Is it any wonder fathers concentrate on work rather than family? Why put all your eggs in a basket there’s an excellent chance you’ll have taken from you?
Oh, I know what those unfamiliar with the depredations of family courts will say. “Franklin, you’ve got it backwards. If fathers spent more time with their kids, courts would give them custody more often.” To which I quote Stanley Kowalski: “Ha!”
No, we’ve seen far too many fathers who’ve done far too much hands-on care only to be shoved to the curb with all the rest to buy that argument. Remember Scott Ritchie? He’s the Michigan dad who, like most of the others, lost custody of his son. The difference between him and the others is that, for all the boy’s life, he was a stay-at-home father. That’s right, he and his wife had an agreement: until their son reached school age, she’d work and earn the family’s money, and he’d stay home and bring the lad up. When the child started school, Ritchie started looking for a job, but Mom moved a couple of states away and filed for divorce. In vain did Ritchie argue that he was the nurturer, the primary parent. It didn’t matter and in fact worked against him, the judge opining that he seemed too invested in parenthood. Imagine a judge saying that about a mother.
But of course the problem fathers face in family courts goes far beyond mere anecdotes. Judges have all the information they need ready to hand to decide that equal parenting is best for children. Decades of social science demonstrate the fact, but fathers are routinely marginalized in their children’s lives post-divorce. Except in cases of unfit parents, judges are mostly free to order equal parenting if they want to, but they don’t. Year after year, the data on child custody remain unchanged.
Why would anyone claim that if fathers just did more hands-on care, they’d get a better shake in court? The science is clear: kids need both parents. A child doesn’t need its father less just because he took on more of the obligation of wage earning than its mother did. But courts act exactly like they do. The point is that, whatever his work-life balance, courts tend to disrespect what a father does.
And that’s one of the many obvious reasons why men continue to see their main role to be that of breadwinner and allow their wives to do the childcare that their post-partum hormonal makeup fairly orders them to do.
It’s an obvious motivation for many men. Too bad the MSM is utterly blind to it.
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