September 24, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Sigh. These people just never seem to get it right. Here’s yet another article excoriating men for their “failure” to do more childcare and other domestic chores (Human Resources, 9/22/15). But for some reason it neglects to mention that women don’t pull their weight when it comes to earning. For what I suspect is the same reason, it also neglects to mention that, according to multiple datasets, the number of hours spent by men on paid and unpaid work is statistically identical to the number of hours spent by women at paid and unpaid work.
All that of course leads to some pretty obvious conclusions. One is that neither sex is being taken advantage of by the other sex. Another is that men and women both still tend to keep to traditional sex roles – men toward providing resources and women toward caring for children. And finally, we could conclude that there’s nothing threatening or sinister about any of that.
But those obvious and uncontroversial conclusions fail in one important regard; for many, they insufficiently denigrate men, so they must take a backseat to more sexist takes on the data.
So in the linked-to article, we get gems like this:
Whether men taking up family chores are likeable or not, today’s Millennial fathers are certainly more committed to families compared to their fathers and grandfathers.
Hmm. That’s an interesting notion. Nowadays, young fathers are often being compared to those of previous generations. And, in at least some segments of the population, those dads’ attitudes toward childcare differ from those of their own fathers and grandfathers. Whether they actually end up doing substantially more childcare on a consistent basis remains to be seen, but, generally speaking, there does seem to be a shift in that direction.
But what’s interesting about the above quotation is that it defines family commitment in terms of mothers’ behavior. According to that concept, young fathers’ now doing more childcare constitutes being “more committed to families” than were more traditional dads. And that in turn means that toiling away all day every day at the office or plant to earn the money to put a roof over his family’s head, food on the table and clothes on their backs in some way isn’t being “committed to [their] families.”
As these people understand it, providing the resources without which his family would perish isn’t commitment, but using those resources is. Stated another way, what traditional fathers did (and do) for their families doesn’t constitute commitment to them, but what mothers typically do is exactly that. Apart from being factually wrong, it’s sexist. But article after article has much the same slant.
And, speaking of commitment to families, in generations gone by, parents of each sex tended to stay married much more than do parents today. In the 1950s, divorce rates in the United States were a fraction of what they are now. And within the present high divorce rate, 70% of divorces are now filed by women. How’s that for being “committed to families?” But again, that’s just an obvious fact the people who are eager to explain how deficient fathers are find it convenient to overlook.
In keeping with that anti-male bias, the article traffics in the usual ignorance about basic human motivations.
However in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times by Steven I. Weiss, managing editor at The Jewish Channel, he argued that millennial fathers are less family-caring than most would have thought.
He pointed out Pew research in 2013 showing that 40% of Millennial women have reduced their work hours or taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or family member; only about a quarter of millennial men have done the same.
Now, those with the most basic knowledge of human biology and motivation understand that, when a woman gives birth, she tends to want to care for the newborn. That of course is due to hormonal connections between her and the child that developed during and shortly after pregnancy. It’s one of the most important reasons for the survival and success of the human race. It’s a motivation that’s millions of years old. People have understood this since time immemorial.
But no longer. Now writers like the one responsible for the linked-to article have no concept of basic facts on their chosen subject – parenting. For them, women doing what they tend to desire most in the world – caring for their kids – is really just slacking by men. There’s literally nothing to back up the notion, but rather than get it right, they’d rather dish on men.
There are two problems with getting a wrong answer. The first is that it’s wrong and the second is that it’s an answer. Obviously, a wrong answer isn’t as good as a right one. And usually, when people come up with an answer, they tend to stop asking questions. After all, when you’ve got the answer, why continue? So a wrong answer, like a right one, tends to discourage further inquiry.
And so it is with the current discourse on fathers, mothers and the work/family balance. Far too many commentators, when viewing the imbalance in childcare duties of mothers and fathers, draw the wrong conclusion – that, in some way, fathers are deficient. That’s wrong and it hinders them from thinking further about the matter and maybe coming up with a right answer.
The right answer is that mothers, at least as much as fathers and probably more, determine how much time they spend with the kids and how much paid work they’re willing to do. Fathers tend to accommodate those wishes as best they can, which usually means dads pick up the role of resource providers.
Unsurprisingly, what men and women naturally gravitate to are their traditional roles that have been evolved over a couple of million years of hominid evolution. Men provide resources, women care for children and men can step in as primary caregiver if necessary.
That’s what we humans do. It may be that, due to things like historically unprecedented prosperity, much better health and greater longevity, effective contraception and the like, those age-old roles are no longer necessary. That’s a discussion we can have. But that discussion won’t be served by the type of basic ignorance and sexism demonstrated by the linked-to article.
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