The other day on the playground, a woman cracked that tired sexist joke about how asking a child to help is about as useful as asking a man. Hardy-har-har!
Despite my offense, the sad reality is that a bit of truth still lies at the heart of that quip. No, it’s not true that men are useless at doing household and domestic tasks. Far from it! I’m in the middle of the laundry as I write this, in fact. But unfortunately, it seems I’m an outlier when it comes to the overall national trend, at least for dads.
According to a new study by Ohio State University, prior to a baby arriving on the scene, husbands and wives tend to spend equal amounts of time working on the job and around the house. That changes once a kid enters a picture, though. Oh, they still toil the same at the office. But in the weeks after a birth, men work about five hours less around the house, while a woman only reduces her chore load by about one hour. Meanwhile, women do more than twice the amount of childcare, both the fun stuff (cuddling, playing) and the hard labor (diapering, bathing).
This seems nuts to me!
A new book called All In is hoping to change all of this. Time reports that its author, Josh Levs, hopes All In will be the Lean In for men. Levs says that we’re in a period when the concept of masculinity and manliness is being redefined. It’s OK now for a man to be nurturing and caring, no one is going to make fun of you for being any “less of a man” (Speaking of tired sexist ideas!). All In is meant to encourage men to help more on the home front. It also argues the importance of gender-neutral family leave policies, because until paternity leave becomes the norm in this country, many guys just won’t have the option of being around the house more.
I honestly felt bad for the woman who cracked that sexist joke on the playground. To paint men as helpless around the house strikes me as a horrible old stereotype, but perhaps to her it was more present, coming from experience. I don’t think any woman should be married to a man who doesn’t want to contribute to the household chores and childcare, and no man should be married to a woman who thinks he’s unable to do that kind of work, who sees him as just another child for her to mother. Ugh, the thought of being considered that helpless makes my skin crawl.
We should expect more of one another, people! Women can work, and men can do chores and take care of babies. And we should, ideally, have the right to work for businesses that feel the same, and provide both men and women the opportunity to be at home in those tender first weeks of a child’s life.