Do men need to “lean out”

Yes, I’d say.  And so says the Elizabeth Winkler in this TNR piece inspired by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s new book:

The notion that it’s a man’s job to “provide,” Slaughter points out, goes back as least as far as the New Testament. Saint Paul writes, “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”  The idea has been so internalized through the centuries that we seem to think there is a near-biological instinct for men to be providers, but it may very well be a socialized bias. “For the skeptics who shake their heads and think I’m challenging nature itself,” Slaughter argues, “consider just how certain men have been for centuries that the highest and best role for women was as wives and mothers, daughters and sisters, nurturing and caring for others.” As traditional notions about women’s roles in society continue to break down, it’s hard to see why men’s shouldn’t too.

In the process, our notion of what it means to provide must itself evolve: “Why,” Slaughter asks, “does ‘providing’ or ‘supporting’ mean money rather than care? The production of food rather than the preparation of it? The purchase of a car rather than  the driving of it? The building of a house rather than the making of a home?” Masculinity must mean this larger, richer sense of providing in which men aren’t just ATMs but engaged nurturers of their families.

Good stuff, but what I really found interesting was the take from Slaughter’s own husband– Princeton Politics professor Andrew Moravscik– on being a “lead parent” in the Atlantic:

But none of this is lead parenting. Lead parenting is being on the front lines of everyday life. In my years as lead parent, I have gotten the kids out of the house in the morning; enforced bedtimes at night; monitored computer and TV use; attempted to ensure that homework got done right; encouraged involvement in sports and music; attended the baseball games, piano lessons, plays, and concerts that resulted; and kept tabs on social lives. To this day, I am listed first on emergency forms; I am the parent who drops everything in the event of a crisis. These tasks aren’t intrinsically difficult, and my to-do list is far shorter than that of parents who cannot afford household help. Yet the role has unavoidably taken a toll on my professional productivity… [emphasis mine]

First, being a lead dad can be good for your marriage. I am passionately committed to academic research and teaching, and I value professional success. But Anne-Marie is more competitive and driven than I am. Her achievements make me proud, and the balance we have struck leaves us happier as a couple…

Second, lead dads have something special to offer their children. I believe my sons have benefited from having me at home, and not simply because they needed someone to care for them while Anne-Marie was away. A former senior colleague of mine at Harvard argues that men are biologically unsuited to care for children, but the opposite may be true. In my experience, dads tend to take a practical, project-oriented, and disciplined yet fun-loving approach to parenting—an approach that is in many cases precisely what is called for, particularly with boys.

So, why did I bold the part I did?  I’d hate to imagine Moavscik’s productivity if not being burdened by the demands of being a “lead parent.”  His cv is insane.  A cv like this would be the envy of 99.9% of academics.  Wow.  Easy for him to be less productive.  He’s clearly brilliant and extraordinarily self-disciplined.  Anyway, he makes some really good points.  That said, I’d feel a little better about his trade-offs if he were an ordinary professor at Montclair State instead of an extraordinarily accomplished one at Princeton.

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