Last week, one of our excellent writers, Leah Arnold-Smeets, penned a great piece on the struggles of being a working mom. As a working dad, it got me thinking.
(Photo Credit: Shed On The Moon/Flickr)
I’m the lucky husband of an incredibly talented and hardworking wife — a Product Manager here at PayScale and an amazingly devoted, loving mother to our two-year-old son — I’m the first to admit, working moms have it tough. (To be clear, stay-at-home parents are also working their butt off. If you intend to have children and don’t believe parenting is a full-time job, and a difficult one at that, you’re in for a rude awakening.)
But speaking as a working dad, I’ve always believed, hey, we’re no slouches either!
In our household, I’ve been under the impression we divide parenting duties as evenly as biology allows. (For obvious reasons, my wife took on a larger parenting role when our son was a newborn.) Time is of the essence when you have small children, so my impression has been we each take on the tasks we know we can do more quickly and easily than our spouse: she’s an excellent cook, so she cooks most of our meals, and when we’ve eaten, I clean the dishes. If I were to cook, we’d be eating mac and cheese seven nights a week, and it wouldn’t be on the table until 9 p.m.!
I’m physically stronger than my wife, so I handle most of the yard work, like turning over the soil in our backyard and reseeding it, giving our family a lawn full of grass instead of dandelions. At least, that’s the goal….
We both do laundry, washing and folding.
We both care for our son, playing with him, changing diapers, bathing him, reading to him, putting him to bed.
We generally carpool to work, dropping him at daycare on the way. On days when one of use has an early meeting or has to stay late, the other picks up the slack by picking up our son.
To me, this arrangement has always seemed equitable.
But after reading a November 2015 New York Times article on a report from the Pew Research Center, and Andrew Moravcsiki’s October 2015 piece in The Atlantic, Why I Put My Wife’s Career First, I’ve started having second thoughts.
Moravcsiki notes, “According to a Pew Research Center study, 50 percent of married or cohabiting women report doing more child care than their male partners, whereas just 4 percent of men do more than their female partners.”
And the New York Times adds, “In most cases … women still do the majority of the child care and housework — particularly managing the mental checklists of children’s schedules and needs — even when both parents work full time.”
“Well, maybe in most cases,” I thought. “But that’s not true in my family.”
But the Times goes on, “Just don’t tell fathers that. They are much more likely than mothers to say they share responsibilities equally.”
All right. So even if things are more equitable in our household, the data indicate that’s not true in most cases. Which is a total bummer.
My wife is very good at her job, and she derives a huge amount of satisfaction from working hard for her success. She’s also, as I mentioned, 110 percent committed to putting our family first, and the welfare of our son above all else. I need to make sure I’m doing at least my share when it comes to supporting her ambition, her goals, and her happiness.
Like all working moms, she’s a superhero.
And even when we’re trying really hard, it seems the vast majority of working dads are merely superhero sidekicks.
Again, according to the Pew report, “Sixty percent of children now live in households where all the parents at home work at least part time, up from 40 percent in 1965.”
Over the course of that time, the hours men spend on housework has doubled to almost nine hours per week. So dads are stepping it up.
And, while 59 percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, more than half of working fathers say the same.
Tellingly — and perhaps hopefully — it seems fathers feel more guilt about their perceived failures as parents: says the Pew report, “Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.”
With all of this in mind, can we now agree to say, assuming both the mother and father care equally about their children and attempt to split their duties equally, that life is tough for working parents?
Even so, based on the Pew report, it would seem fathers in families where both parents work are not yet performing an equal share of the parenting duties and housework; my personal goal is to do at least that much. I’d like to think all fathers in my position feel the same way. I hope and believe that’s becoming more and more true. (Indeed, the theme of Moravcsiki’s piece is that he is the primary parent to his and his wife’s two children, while professionally they’ve both agreed to put the focus on her career.)
For now, however, in most families where both parents work full-time, working dads play Robin to a working mom’s Batman.
And as much help as Robin can provide, it’s still Batman who has to save the world. Hopefully, one day, they can do it together.
Tell Us What You Think!
Are you a working parent? What’s your experience with dividing parenting and housework with your partner? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter!