Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some articles informing my angst-ridden perspective:

When Mom and Dad Share It All, by Lisa Belkin, The New York Times Magazine, via Feministing. Emphases mine.

. . . "If you gave people a survey they would probably check all the answers about how things should be equal," says Francine M. Deutsch, a psychology professor at Mount Holyoke and the author of "Halving It All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works." But when they get to the part where "you ask them how things work for them day to day," she says, "ideal does not match reality."

Deutsch has labeled the ideal "equally shared parenting," a term the Vachons have embraced. DeGroot prefers "shared care," because "shared parenting" is used to describe custody arrangements in a divorce, and while "equal" would be nice, it is a bar that might be too high for some families to even try to clear. Whatever you call it, the fact that it has to have a name is a most eloquent statement of both the promise and the constraints facing families today.

"Why do we have to call it anything?" Amy [Vachon] asks.

Marc [Vachon] adds, "Why isn't this just called parenting?" . . .

Why indeed, Mr. Vachon?

. . . The most recent figures from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households show that the average wife does 31 hours of housework a week while the average husband does 14 — a ratio of slightly more than two to one. If you break out couples in which wives stay home and husbands are the sole earners, the number of hours goes up for women, to 38 hours of housework a week, and down a bit for men, to 12, a ratio of more than three to one. That makes sense, because the couple have defined home as one partner’s work.

But then break out the couples in which both husband and wife have full-time paying jobs. There, the wife does 28 hours of housework and the husband, 16. Just shy of two to one, which makes no sense at all.

The lopsided ratio holds true however you construct and deconstruct a family. "Working class, middle class, upper class, it stays at two to one," says Sampson Lee Blair, an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo who studies the division of labor in families.

"And the most sadly comic data is from my own research," he adds, which show that in married couples "where she has a job and he doesn’t, and where you would anticipate a complete reversal, even then you find the wife doing the majority of the housework." . . .

So I get to bring home the bacon and fry it up, too? Yippee skippy.

. . . Messages, loud and soft, direct and oblique, reinforce contextual choice. "A pregnant woman and her husband," Deutsch says, "how many people have asked her if she is going to go back to work after the baby? How many have asked him?". . .

I would certainly ask him, because I'm not sitting on my duff at home. I'd get bored and cranky.

. . . "It’s a chicken-and-egg thing," she says. "Even when men and women start off with equal jobs, they make decisions along the way — to emphasize career or not, to trade brutal hours for high salary or not."

She goes on to suggest that the perception of flexibility is itself a matter of perception. In her study, she was struck by how often the wife’s job was seen by both spouses as being more flexible than the husband’s. By way of example she describes two actual couples, one in which he is a college professor and she is a physician and one in which she is a college professor and he is a physician.
In either case, Deutsch says "both the husband and wife claimed the man’s job was less flexible." . . .

I have actually witnessed this phenomenon first-hand multiple times. It's sad how little women value their own work in comparison to the work of men.


. . . Women, she says, know that the world is watching and judging. If the toddler’s clothes don’t match, if the thank-you notes don’t get written, if the house is a shambles, it is seen as her fault, making her overly invested in the outcome . . .

Mmhmm. My clothes didn't match during my birthday party one year. I'm pretty sure anyone with a small child knew what my garish ensemble meant: I was the one who had selected my outfit that day. But yes, the world does watch and judge women under the assumption that they are the Primary Parents, while it simultaneously praises men for simply showing up.


Gay unions shed light on gender in marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times, via Feministing. Emphases mine.

. . . Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.

"Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship," said Esther Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University. "That's very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with." . . .

Eek. That's not encouraging. Maybe that's why I'm not married; I have my own stuff to deal with. Why would I want to (pretend to) clean someone else's house, too?


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