Dads are catching up!

The Washington Post had a very intriguing story about “Mommy Guilt,” which I hope to get to in my next post.  For now, I'll start with the accompanying story on how much better fathers are today than those of the past.  Or, as the sub-headline put it: “Fathers are no longer glued to their recliners.”  In a nutshell:

In what is surely a sign of modern life, recent research shows that
over the past four decades, fathers like Clark have nearly tripled the
hours they spend focused on their children.

They still lag behind
American mothers, who put in about twice as many hours directly
involved with their children and doing housework. But, as researcher
Suzanne M. Bianchi put it, today's fathers “do a lot more than their
fathers did.”

A comprehensive study of “time diaries” by researchers from the
University of Maryland shows that fathers have increased their
child-care work from 2.5 hours a week in 1965 to seven hours a week in
2003. There is a similar trend with housework: Dads did 4.4 hours a
week in 1965 and 9.6 hours a week in 2003.

Perhaps even more
striking, the total workloads of married mothers and fathers — when
paid work is added to child care and housework — is roughly equal, at
65 hours a week for mothers and 64 hours for fathers.

Sure men are laggards when it comes to housework, but 1) we're way better than we used to be, and 2) when you put all work (including household and childcare) men do surprisingly well.  In fact, it seems almost too well.  I wonder if the researchers investigated whether men were more likely to inflate their time totals in their diaries. 

I also found this particular tidbit interesting:

Thinking about the generational change, Stuart Melnick, 44, said
that it starts right at a baby's birth. In his father's era, he said,
men stayed in the hospital waiting room and passed out cigars. Today,
“every man I know” is in the delivery room, part of a child's life from
the beginning.

Melnick, who has one son, said his involvement as
a father is an economic reality, too. He and his wife are lawyers, and
“my wife could not function if I didn't do much,” he said. “You can't
not be involved.”

As my mom always likes to say, “everybody needs a wife.”  And when it comes to a successful two working parent household that clearly means both parents need to pick up the slack around the home.  The increasing workplace success of women is clearly in part attributable to the fact that men are increasingly stepping up at home.  I'll be honest, sometimes I think it must have been nice to be a dad back in the day when you could expect to come home and just relax while your wife continued to take care of the kids.  But as one dad in the article expressed things:

Thinking of generational differences, he recalls that he once
mentioned to his father the joy of having a baby sleep on his chest.

“Did you do that with us?” he asked his father.

“No, I never did,” he recalled his father saying.

I gotta say, moments like that are more than worth all the additional housework and childcare men do today.  (Not in the least to suggest men have it rougher than women– I'm not looking for angry email here). 

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