Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day post

Before I had siblings. Aunt Nell's electric vehicle in Huntington Beach.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Can Dads Have It All?", The New York Times, 16 June 2019:
Sure it's true that fathers do more total work than mothers nowadays, when you add up paid work, housework, and childcare—a good 20 minutes in families where both parents work, according to the latest statistical manipulations by Robert VerBruggen of the Institute For Family Studies, or considerably more, depending on how you massage it, but I'm not resentful. After all, women's work is harder, but they probably like doing it better than I do, so it all works out. I will point out, though, that this dispensation, combined with the need to watch children all the time because we're not allowed to just order them outside while we play with our X-Box, leaves both parents exhausted, inevitably lowering marriage and fertility rates, which is very important.
Because, he doesn't add, it leads to the possibility of race suicide, or, worse, contraception.

VerBruggen's piece is pretty silly, but it also brings up the reasonable idea that women generally do all the managerial work in the household (according to a 1989 study by Linda Thompson and Alexis J. Walker), which I find pretty stimulating to think about. It suggests to me that by current Republican standards women's home responsibilities should be regarded as about 271 times more valuable than men's. I don't have that much respect for management, on principle, but since most women do more than their share of dogwork as well, I'd say it adds up to a lot.

In my own child-rearing experience, where that pattern holds (I was absolutely the primary caregiver but we'd have had pure anarchy if not for the Old Lady stepping in as CEO for the occasional intervention), I was largely OK with the drudgery from diapers to dinner (not that I did it very well except for the cooking part) but poisoned from time to time with resentment at the financial inequity of her having a career and me scrabbling by with part-time work—crudely, by the need to beg her for money—as she was scandalized by the uncleanliness of the house. We survived it, and our kids are wonderful human beings, but it lent a degree of suffering and can't-talk-about-it emotional withholding both of us could have done without while that phase lasted. And I think I have some insight from that into the plight of couples like my own stay-at-home mom and somewhat remote, harried father, raging when some kid had dropped a sock on the stairs and nobody but him would pick it up, in the days when they were poor (and they weren't poor forever, and the hilarious and hopeful father of my infancy came back eventually). Which Ross, raised by two generations of wealthy divorcées (thing I learned today is that his grandparents were divorced too), probably lacks.

Which is, I think, that rather than quantifying the amount of work parents do in terms of minutes clocked in, we might want to qualify it in terms of prestige and affection and adjust our models, from the traditional economically nonsensical household where Mom has all the executive responsibility but has to fight for the executive privilege of ordering Dad around, to a situation where everybody gets respect and warmth in relatively equal measure, and some down time too. Happy Father's Day!

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