I should start out by saying that there is no argument about the amount of childraising done by men and women. Even in this dual income world, where mothers bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, do the laundry, meet the sexual needs of their lazy-ass spouses, the expectations and the reality remain: mothers do more of everything.
Certainly this isn’t universally true. Rumor has it that Matt has changed a diaper or too in his time (frugally, of course–sometimes he uses them twice). And yes, Nathan did breastfeed his youngest (and looked mighty fine doing it from what I hear). But frankly, I think that most modern fathers can only really say that they do more than their fathers (who did more than theirs).
As a divorced father I have had to perform far more parenting tasks than I did while I was with JP’s mother. Not that I was ever unwilling (ah the joys of never having my facts challenged). My ex tended to dominate most of this work because she was convinced that I couldn’t do anything right, and that I was likely to harm JP as I was to get him fed. I dispute that characterization, but it existed (still exists) nonetheless.
I thought of all of this after reading this Q and A the Times posted yesterday with Erin Sheehan, the community editor of UrbanBaby (must resist urge to poke fun at their tagline–no! I can’t do it: “Parenting, Kids, Honesty, Style” but not necessarily in that order):
Question: Where are all the stay-at-home dads in this city? How come we don’t have a support group?
Answer: As a stay-at-home dad you are part of a growing breed. Fathers today are spending more time with their children whether they are working fathers or stay-at-home dads. There are even those men who work with their employers to create a flexible arrangement so that they can make up for some child care during the week while the mother works. I personally know of two fathers in my extended family who have chosen to be stay-at-home dads.
Thanks for the acknowledgment, Erin, but I really think it’s unnecessary, and perhaps undeserved. Yes, I do have a flexible work schedule that allows me spend more time wih JP, but really, I think the media and the market will begin to more fully recognize fathers as parents when more fathers begin acting like parents. Like or not, it isn’t universal. The two fathers mentioned in her response? Well, I know two fathers who refused to have a child with their wives unless they had an explicit agreement exempting them from any childcare until the kid becomes a “person” at five years old.
Happens all the time.