The Men Are Alright
Interesting Domestic Disturbances column today. Judith Warner tackles the idea that the recession has led to SAHMs complaining about having less disposable income and laid-off power career fathers sitting around like slugs instead of embracing the nurturing duties at home. Judith isn't buying this scenario - one that she says has been given way too much attention in the media. It may be true (or partly true) for a small percentage of the most wealthy families (the 'yummy mummies' and the $800,000/year investment bankers who support them), but the vast majority of families affected by the recession are caught up in simply keeping themselves afloat.
Judith interviews marriage historian extraordinaire, Stephanie Coontz, on the topic and says: "Increasing numbers of working class women now - in a downturn where 82 percent of the job losses have been among men - have become their family's sole wage-earners, it's true. But their husbands, very often, are holding their own at home just fine. For while the stereotype has long been that working class men won't do "women's work," Coontz said, the truth is that in recent years they've had a better track record than the most high-income men in sharing domestic duties. Twenty percent of these men, in fact, actually do more housework and child care now than their wives. "These people have been doing it for some time and they're much more ideologically committed to doing it," she said. "I think your worst offenders are in that top 5 percent. I've been a little irritated by the slams on men."
We have often suspected that the wealthiest of families are among the least likely to create - or desire - ESP. Dr. Coontz's words add meat to that suspicion, and a ray of brilliant hope in this crummy recession...that men are ready to embrace and value their full share of down-and-dirty childraising and housework, and are doing so. And as they decide how to figure out their best return to the work world, we hope they'll get a chance to realize their home duties are far more than chores - they are a means to a balanced and enjoyable partnership.