A Quiet Revolution Among Our Men
The other day, my husband apologized profusely for being unable to take the kids to swim class. "I can do it twice next week," he offered. I assured him it wasn't necessary, that it all evens out at the end...wait a minute.
As you all know, driving the kids around to various activities is, in itself, a part-time job. My 6-year-old son is taking piano once a week, while my 3-year-old daughter goes twice a week to dance class. The kids swim twice a week. Generally, I take the kids to the Y on Tuesdays, while my husband takes them on Thursdays.
Likewise, with dance class, he takes our daughter on Mondays, while I pick up the Friday shift. Since he is the only one who can play an instrument, my husband takes our son to piano lessons as well. We have been good about splitting childcare duties 50-50. I may do slightly more since I do all the cooking around here and must be flexible when things arise at my husband's work -- our main source of income -- but for the most part, I get them up in the morning while he puts them to bed at night. And he is forever apologizing when work gets in the way of that. I thought of all this when I read Julia Baird's column in Newsweek, "Beyond the Bad Boys: A quiet revolution in male behavior."
A couple of studies have come out showing that not only are men more involved with child-rearing, but they are actually feeling guilty for spending too much time at work -- a drastic change from their father's and grandfather's generations. And it is actually the manly so-called blue collar men who are reporting a 100 percent increase in household and childcare duties than their own fathers. Here are the studies that Baird cited:
"But a survey of recent family research, called Unconventional Wisdom, prepared by the Council on Contemporary Families for its annual conference in Illinois, contains fascinating new data that show how subtly and surprisingly male behavior has shifted. First, men are spending more time with their kids. Millennial fathers—those under 29—spend an average of 4.3 hours per workday with their kids, which is almost double that of their counterparts in 1977. A Families and Work Institute report found that these young dads are actually now spending more time each day with children under 13 than mothers between the ages of 29 and 42 are with their own. Which is staggering. Second, while women still do most of the housework, men are becoming far more familiar with the sponge and vacuum cleaner, particularly less educated men. Between 1965 and 2003, college-educated men did 33 percent more housework than they did before, and men who never completed high school did 100 percent more, according to research from Oxford University. Brilliant news. Maybe this is why divorce rates have been falling for 25 years. Sociologists tell us that the best way for a married man to have more sex is to do more housework—and it's scandal-free.
"Unfortunately, sharing the load can mean sharing the misery, too. Astonishingly, married men are now feeling more torn over balancing work and family than their wives are. Joan Williams, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, found that in 2008, 59 percent of employed fathers in dual-earner families said they suffered work-family conflict, up from 35 percent in 1977. The number of women in two-income families who reported feeling conflicted increased by 5 percent over the same period, to 45 percent. (Williams says women who feel conflicted change their schedules, despite damage to their careers; men try to avoid this, and hence feel worse.) Men who stay home are in the minority, but overall, Williams says, 'norms have shifted. Taking care of a child is now part of what it means to be a father.'"
I will echo Baird and say Hallelujah! Are you finding these studies to be true in your own lives?