May 22, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This continues yesterday’s discussion of a New York Times piece that excoriates fathers for not doing their share of childcare, but ignores mothers’ failure to pull their weight in earning (New York Times, 5/4/19).

In so doing, the author, Darcy Lockman, produced one figure on the percentage of childcare done by mothers with no citation that contradicted the best survey data on what men and women do every day. Plus, she ignored all figures on how much time at the office or plant men and women spend.  And of course, she also failed to mention that, when hours spent in paid and unpaid labor are aggregated, men and women are as close to identical as statistics-gathering allows.

All that tends to maintain the popular fiction that women are done dirt by men who in turn are lazy louts, unconcerned about their children and wives.  There’s a lot of commentary in the press and among politicians to the effect that we live in very conflicted times.  That’s right; we do.  And the Times contributes to that conflict by imagining issues that don’t exist.  I understand that the message “men and women spend almost equal time in childcare and paid work and the two together are equal” won’t sell a lot of papers, but then you’d think there’d always be room for the truth, especially when the truth is good.

But Lockman’s intention is to lower still further her readers’ opinions of men.  It’s not easy, requiring her to ignore her own biases that fairly scream out from the page.
The couples offered three explanations for this labor imbalance.   
Again, there is no labor imbalance.  The only way Lockman can use that phrase is her dogged insistence that paid work isn’t part of the equation.  But the great majority of couples know better.  Partners all but invariably sort out who’s going to earn most of the money and who’s going to do most of the childcare.  If both work full-time, then some form of daycare comes into the equation. 

The permutations of who does how much of what and why verge on the infinite, but essentially no one turns a blind eye to how much time the primary source of income spends doing so.  No one, that is, except Lockman.  She pretends to be terribly concerned about “unfairness,” but never pauses to consider how unfair it would be for John to work an hour a day longer at the office than Jane and still be expected to do an equal amount of domestic work.  No, for her, unfairness is a phenomenon that only affects women.
 The first was that women take over activities like bedtime, homework and laundry because men perform these tasks inadequately. But this isn’t “maternal gatekeeping,” the theory that men want to help but women disparage their capabilities and push them out.
Actually, that’s exactly what it is.  To a ‘T.’  Indeed, one of the main ways that mothers sideline fathers in childcare is by “letting” them try it, finding their efforts wanting and then taking over.  The simple truth is that, likely due to the biological imperatives of motherhood, men often have to fight to do hands-on childcare.  That sometimes includes real conflict with Mom who relinquishes her role only begrudgingly.  If Lockman knew even a little bit about maternal gatekeeping, she’d know that what she and her interlocutors are describing is a form of it.  Instead, she casts the concept aside without explanation.

Meanwhile, one father said,
So my wife does most of their laundry. Let me do it my way and I’m happy to do it, but if you’re going to tell me how to do it, go ahead and do it yourself.
Lockman could have actually listened to him, but again, that would have interfered with her anti-dad narrative, so she ignored the fact that the man is happy to do the laundry, but not if he’s denigrated by his wife.  What would be the point?  Men and women parent differently and they keep house differently.  One is neither better nor worse than the other, but very often we see women hewing very closely to the traditional role of “queen of the house” compared to whom no man can measure up.  Women who truly want men to take an equal share of domestic tasks need to accept that the men have an equal say in how they’re done.  NOW president Karen DeCrow long ago understood the concept that, “if women want power in the workplace, they have to give up power in the nursery.”  Too bad Lockman’s not as enlightened, balanced or respectful of men.

The “other two” “explanations for this labor imbalance” are actually just more of the same, i.e. men’s and women’s differing approaches to domestic work tricked out as men’s oppression of women.
The second explanation involved forgetting or obliviousness…
A dad in San Francisco said that many of the tasks of parenting weren’t important enough to remember: “I just don’t think these things are worth attending to. A certain percentage of parental involvement that my wife does, I would see as valuable but unnecessary. A lot of disparity in our participation is that.”
Again, if we listen to the man, we learn that the disparity in the time he spends on domestic chores is mostly a function of his wife’s choices.  He wants it done differently and, rather than agreeing to do it that way, she spends more time and does it hers.
Finally, some men blamed their wives’ personalities. A San Diego dad said his wife did more because she was so uptight. “She wakes up on a Saturday morning and has a list. I don’t keep lists. I think there’s a belief that if she’s not going to do it, then it won’t get done.”
More of the same.  But whatever the reasons why mothers do more childcare than do fathers, the simple fact is that, on average, the difference requires just 29 minutes a day.  If Lockman were to admit that, she’d undermine her thesis that women are hard used and men are the reason.  That amount of time is not, for most people, reason to rush to the barricades, so of course Lockman omits the salient point.

For many decades now, certain segments of the commentariat have been doing their best to exacerbate female-male conflict.  The New York Times is a reliable part of that, one of the generals in the anti-father/anti-male army.  That it can only do so by ignoring important facts and is willing to do so speaks volumes about its editorial integrity.

But despite it all, men and women keep right on doing what they’ve always done – living together, loving each other and raising the next generation.  That they never manage to suit the editorial page of the Times seems to concern them not at all.  Who’d have guessed?

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