Yesterday, Bethany Sanders wrote about Nell Casey’s article wherein she explained that she earns more than her husband and admitted to using it, on occasion, to get out of parenting duties. Many families today need both parents to work, just to make ends meet, and yet, many women still find themselves doing the lion’s share of the work at home. But the home is not the same as it once was and marriage is not the same. These days, it falls upon both parents to both bring home the bacon and to fry it up in a pan — at least it should.
Once upon a time, says Dr. Nancy Cott, “men were deemed to be providers; women, the weaker sex, were deemed to need protection. Hence there was a division of labor. All socially conventional according to the times.” Dr. Cott, the Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University and an expert on Marriage, was testifying in the federal case on the constitutionality of California’s proposition 8 on Tuesday. She went on to say that these days, at least as far as the law is concerned, “both spouses are required to support one another, but no longer by specific gender assignment. In other words, the law is now gender neutral.”
So how do fathers handle this? Once the king of his castle, with a doting wife to bring him a stiff drink before dinner and make sure the kids were cared for, dads are now supposed to handle their share of the parenting. But can they really handle it?
All I can do is offer my own viewpoint. When I was young and stupid (only the young part has changed) I thought I would never want to be with a woman who was smarter or more successful than I. In fact, given that computers and technology were more of a defining characteristic than a career and a hobby, I decided that I would not want to date or marry a woman who worked with computers. It would simply be too much for me to handle if she was as good or, heaven forbid, better than I was. Naturally, I felt I would have to be the one to bring home the larger paycheck. It simply had to be. Ah, the foolishness of youth!
Fast forward more decades than I care to think about and I, a college drop-out, am married to a woman who has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree (in educational technology, no less!) and several other certifications and credentials. She is, quite simply, much smarter than I. Were it not for her choice of career path, she would be earning far more than I do. She is, however, somewhat challenged in the kitchen. And so I do the cooking (she does the cleaning, an endeavor at which I am clearly hopelessly inept.)
In regards to the kids, we both take care of them but I handle the doctor appointments and school duties and such — my schedule is fairly flexible whereas my wife’s day is structured and fixed. And if she were suddenly paid what she’s worth, I would quite happily quit my job and become Mr. Mom. Heck, I’d even learn to clean the house.
I understand that I may be a bit more enlightened than some men (growing up in San Francisco probably didn’t hurt) but I’m sure there are plenty of other men that realize that being the breadwinner is not necessarily the man’s job. What do you think? How do you balance income and duties and such in your family?