Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Love the Smell of Gender Parity in the Morning

I just read this NY Times article, Now, Dad Feels as Stressed as Mom, by Tara Parker-Pope. It says that men are reporting more conflict over their work-family balance, specifically that they are moving more into a nurturing father role from a solely providing father role, and so are more active in childcare and homemaking. This is bumping up against the classic workforce dynamic that does not expect men to have childcare and family-life demands that affect their availability as workers, or as the article puts it, assumes that men will be "largely unaffected by children."

One of my favorite bits of info from the article says that men are less likely to take advantage of flexible schedules and family leave, and more likely to take care of their family obligations in "stealth" mode. It conjures images of men sneaking out of the office to a Mission Impossible theme song, slinking along the row of cars in the corporate parking garage to their own carseat-laden vehicle. If the boss calls while they are at the doctor's office with the little tyke, he pretends he is out to drinks with an important potential client. "Hem, hum, yeah, I, uh, need to get back to this. Don't want to blow this deal," he mutters and hangs up the phone before his kid starts the usual post-vaccination wail.

Amusing mental images aside, I am encouraged to see more recognition of the shifting gender roles and the upswing of acknowledgment that more and more men are tapping into their nurturing natures and taking on more responsibility around the house to become more equal partners. I am bothered by the tone of the article overall, though. It starts on a campy note with the title, and goes on to cite facts about men and imply accusations about their women partners who doubt they are really contributing as much as they think they are. It comes across to me as a bit self-congratulatory on the part of the men, and seems to perpetuate some war-of-the-sexes thinking.

Instead, I would have preferred if the article took a more philosophical view of the shift: Look, these things are changing. Gender roles are shifting. Here is evidence that some men are making some of the shifts into the home that will balance some of the shifts out of the home and into the workforce that women began 50 years ago. No one has figured this all out yet, but isn't it cool that some of the hard work of social parity between (among) the genders is cooking along?

So I will file it away into my "hopeful signs badly interpreted by mainstream press" folder and move on, encouraged.

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