Some months back I wrote a post about how the frenzied reaction to Jonathan Franzen’s book, Freedom, had been interpreted by some as sexist.
I felt there was some merit to the notion that Franzen’s work is interpreted as serious literature because he is a man, and a comparable novel by a female writer would be considered mere “chick lit,” but I did take exception to this response by a reporter for the Washington Post named Liza Mundy. Mundy believed that fathers approached their jobs as journalists in a far more guilt-free way than mothers:
I find myself obsessively counting reporting trips, men’s versus mine, and comparing their distance and ease and duration. I personally love reporting trips and professionally feel that it’s important to talk to people in locations other than, say, my own neighborhood, but like all working mothers, I pay a price whenever I try this. Forgive me, hard-working fathers, if I hyperbolize, but in my experience, male reporters say something along the lines of “Bye, honey!” when they go out the door to the airport, while women reporters have to make 7,000 back-up plans involving not only spouses but primary baby-sitters, secondary baby-sitters, pet-walking services, and carpooling colleagues, just to make sure that while they are away, no child gets forgotten overnight at gymnastics practice.
I won’t rehash my response to his, other than to say that I disagreed. At least in the part of the middle class that I live in, the “hyperbolic” notion described above really doesn’t exist. In fact, given that I mostly hang out with male creative slobs married to type-A, high-income, workaholic women, my personal experience is quite the opposite. I will concede that outside of my admittedly small circle of friends and acquaintances this might not be true, but in my realm—pathetic as it is—the stereotype holds.
I think about this now as my book work has begun picking up in pace and intensity. I’ve been doing a bit of travel for research, and expect to do a great deal more in the near future (with any luck you will all be reading DadWagon posts from Israel at the end of this month). In each case, all of my research has been structured around my parenting schedule. Does that mean that I haven’t put some of my typical responsibilities onto Tomoko and my ex-wife? No. I have. But in every case I’ve planned around the kids.
For example, today I will be leaving work early so that I can hustle home to Brooklyn and pick JP up from his mother. My father is taking him to the circus, and I’d like to drop him off a little early, as a I have a reporting appointment in midtown at 6:30 p.m. (if you are from New York you have some sense of the round-the-globe pain in the ass this sort of trip is). When the circus ends around 8:30, I’m going to leave my reporting event, which runs until 11, bust ass down to my dad’s place in the Village, pick JP up, run him home, get him in bed, type up my notes, catch a couple hours of sleep, and then get up in the middle of the night to take my turn feeding Ellie. Then I get up in the morning and do it all over.
Nothing unusual in any of this, and I’m sure many, many people have more hectic schedules than my own. My only point—and perhaps it is the broader point of DadWagon—is to call shenanigans on the puffed-up silliness of another writer.
Go Team Internet!