I grew up in what I consider to be a fairly stereotypical 1970’s family. My mother spent her days cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids. My father spent long hours in an office every day and returned home each evening to sit in front of the television with a cocktail in one hand and pipe in the other.
Even when my mother began working outside the home, the division of labor remained the same. Other than yard work and house repairs, mom was responsible for all things domestic.
But while my father used bourbon and tobacco to help him unwind each evening, a new study suggests that he might have been better off spending some time with us kids and giving mom a hand around the house.
Researchers, led by Dr. Caroline Gatrell of the Lancaster University Management School, surveyed 1,1000 working fathers to find out how they manage work and family life. What they found was that while lots of dads often feel “seriously stressed,” those who were more involved in housework and childcare duties were less so.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the expectations that fathers have of the way and amount they are involved directly with their children is altering. Fathers want to spend more time with their children and are doing more of the direct care for them.
That’s right. Dads want to spend more time with the kids and do more housework because it makes them happy. And what could possibly be wrong with that?
According to Gatrell, the issue is that while modern dads may want to be more involved at home, their employers have yet to get with the program. Working fathers are generally not offered – and don’t ask for – the work-life balance options working mothers enjoy.
Of course, ‘enjoy’ probably isn’t the right word to describe how many moms feel about the work-life balance options they are given by their employers. While we may be expected to leave early to take a child to the doctor or attend a parent-teacher conference, we are often penalized for it. Making our families a priority often means being passed over for promotions and being seen as unprofessional. And dads who ask for the same flexibility are no doubt going to suffer in the same way.
The answer here obviously isn’t more flexibility for working dads. What we need is more flexibility for working parents. Both mom and dad have a job to do at home and neither should be penalized for wanting to do it well.
Image: Anthony J/Flickr
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