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June 17, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

One of the seemingly infinite complaints voiced by the anti-father crowd is that men spend too much time at paid work. It was one of Gideon Burrows gripes in his piece in the Huffington Post UK. According to them, fathers’ working forces women into childcare which, presumably, they’d never do were it not for those selfish dads.

Needless to say, none of these shoot-from-the-hip commenters ever suggests that it might work the other way around – that if Mom would earn a little more, Dad wouldn’t have to and he could spend more time with little Andy or Jenny. Nor do they acknowledge that female human beings, like females of every mammalian species, are hormonally bonded to their children. The idea that mothers might be staying home with the kids because one of the most powerful forces in nature encourages them to goes unmentioned.  No, the anti-dad crowd is, well, anti-dad, and can be counted on to spin essentially anything to blame fathers.

One thing that Burrows mentioned in exasperation is that, selfish louts that they are, fathers don’t even take parental leave when it’s offered them. See how greedy and self-centered they are? All they want is to work and earn to provide the best possible life for their wives and children. The nerve of those men!

But now we learn for certain what we’ve had inklings of all along; while both fathers and mothers tend to be penalized for availing themselves of flex time or parental leave, fathers get the brunt of that discrimination. Some call it the “flexibility stigma.” Here’s a New York Times article on the subject (New York Times, 6/14/13).

For some women, it gives employers a reason to view them through the lens of motherhood, prompting the strongest form of gender discrimination. Mothers are seen as less competent and less committed to their work, she said, citing other studies. But more surprising is that men who seek work flexibility may be penalized more severely than women, because they’re viewed as more feminine, deviating from their traditional role of fully committed breadwinners…

A group of researchers recently examined the stigma of workplace flexibility from all angles in a series of studies published on Friday in The Journal of Social Issues, co-edited by Professor Williams and others. Among other things, the researchers examined the effect of men taking leave after the birth of a child (they were more likely to be penalized and less likely to get promoted or receive raises), as well as the reasons some professional women decide to leave work after having children (working reduced hours resulted in less meaningful work assignments)…

“These studies show that deep-rooted cultural values intertwining work devotion and gender identity drive the flexibility stigma,” said Professor Williams said.

This being the New York Times, it’s no surprise that an article establishing that fathers are hit harder by their use of flex time should deal almost exclusively with flex time’s impact on women. And it’s not altogether clear that the Times reporter, Tara Siegel Bernard quite grasps the import of what she writes. For example, she seems to want to conclude that the refusal of U.S. lawmakers to require of employers parental leave and various flex time arrangements adversely affects mothers.

In fact, it’s possible that more women would be working if they had such arrangements available to them, and that they felt comfortable using. The share of working-age American women in the work force has been on the decline relative to other developed countries, a phenomenon tied at least in part to those countries’ rapid expansion of family-friendly policies, according to a study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, both professors of economics at Cornell, published in February.

In 1990, the United States had the sixth-highest share of women in the work force among 22 developed countries, with 74 percent of women ages 25 to 54 working. But by 2010, the share of American women working dropped to 17th place, with slightly more than 75 percent of women working compared to 80 percent outside the country, the research found. They estimate that American women’s participation would have been 82 percent if they had access to the other countries’ policies, which include a right to part-time work.

Those are interesting statistics and well worth knowing. But so are these:

Flexibility does potentially present a double-edged sword, at least as far as women’s advancement goes. Long, paid parental leaves and the availability of part-time positions may encourage women who would have otherwise been more committed to working to take those part-time or lower-level jobs, Professor Blau explained. And employers, in turn, may be less likely to promote or put women in higher positions if they think they are going to take advantage of flexible arrangements. As it stands now, women in the United States are more likely to work full time than in other developed countries and they are more likely to be in higher-level positions.

“If you have a very extensive network of these family-friendly programs, it can encourage women to take a more traditional role,” Professor Blau said.

Ah, comes the dawn! The “take away” (that I’m not sure Bernard actually takes away) is that Mom-friendly policies in those other countries actually nudge mothers into the ghetto of part-time work in which there’s usually no way to (a) earn much money or (b) advance. Yes, in those other countries, a greater percentage of women are working, but in this country a greater percentage of women work full-time. Face it, if you want to get somewhere in the world of work, you don’t do it on a part-time basis. And that is precisely where those liberal flex time schedules and maternity leave policies place women. More of them are able to work, but fewer of them can do the type of work that makes a significant difference to their family incomes or promises much beyond more low-level, part-time work.

What Bernard reveals, whether she knows it or not, is that feminists got it wrong again. Feminists have always wanted women to work and earn more, and do less childcare. So they’ve argued for more flexibility on the part of employers which turns out to ghettoize mothers in the workplace. Sheer genius.

For her part, Professor Williams too is less than impressed by feminist rhetoric.

After all, as Professor Williams explained, pressures on men haven’t changed. “Feminism is all about choices — well, choices for whom?” she asked. “Even feminism is putting pressure on men to live up to the ideal of work devotion. So long as that is the state of play, nothing is changing for men. And if nothing is changing for men, nothing is changing for women.”

I hate to tell her, but I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Men and women really are in this life together and what affects one tends to affect the other. As long as women opt for childcare over paid work, which they do in droves, they’ll earn less and save less for retirement. Men will tend to pick up the earnings slack and do less in the way of domestic work. And of course the more childcare men do, the more their partners are free to work and earn. It’s not a difficult concept, but it’s too hard for the National Organization for Women and countless other feminist organizations that invariably oppose even the slightest improvements in fathers’ rights to their children. A legal presumption of equal parenting post-divorce would, as many women have realized, be enormously beneficial to mothers’ bank balances, but NOW’s misandry routinely trumps its support for women.

So now we understand why fathers don’t tend to take paternity leave or flex time – they know better. That puts them in sharp contrast to the Gideon Burrowses of the world who look no further than their own anti-father biases. Every time those opposed to equal rights for fathers come up with a new argument, facts shoot it down. Try as they might, they just can’t find a valid excuse for keeping fathers out of the lives of their children. Nothing has changed; children still need their dads. Some fine day, legislatures and courts will figure that out. The rest of us did a long time ago.

Thanks to Don for the heads-up

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The National Parents Organization is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the National Parents Organization team. Second, the National Parents Organization is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this article with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.

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