Happy Mother’s Day from the New York Times: Fathers are useless

“Mom: The Designated Worrier” is a Mother’s Day gift from the New York Times, an example of “tall poppy syndrome” in which the best way to build up mothers is to point out how useless fathers are.

Here’s a representative quote:

Half of the men surveyed in a Families and Work Institute study from 2008 said they were either the responsible parent or shared the role equally with their spouse, while two-thirds of the women said they were the one in charge. This suggests that either men overestimate their contribution or women define the work differently.

Apparently neither the writer nor the editors of the New York Times thought that it was possible for a woman to overestimate her contributions as a parent.

The writer says “One reason women like me get stuck with the micromanagement…,” i.e., the writer and editors are comfortable assuming that children need to be micromanaged.

We can be sure that at least one man in New York is having a great Mother’s Day:

I’ve definitely been guilty of “maternal gatekeeping” — rolling my eyes or making sardonic asides when my husband has been in charge but hasn’t pushed hard enough to get teeth brushed or bar mitzvah practice done. This drives my husband insane, because he’s a really good father and he knows that I know it. But I can’t help myself. I have my standards, helicopter-ish though they may be.

I submitted a comment to the piece:

The author suggests that fathers are essentially useless, except for paying the bills. Her conclusion is that this leads to unacceptable unfairness when mothers and fathers live together. But a woman who desires domestic fairness above all already has an option: avoid a live-together partnership with the father(s) and collect child support. Then nobody needs to change, nobody needs to argue about who did what percentage of the chores or the worrying that the author feels is essential to children, and it all fits under existing laws. In New York, for example, the mother is entitled to roughly 1/3 of after-tax income for a single child. With three children from three different fathers of equal income the mother would end up with 100% of the after-tax income of one father. Then, without the hassle of wedding planning or divorce lawsuits, she’s got the kids and the cash and can stay home to hover if desired.

Other readers’ comments are kind of fun. Here’s a selection:

I really feel sorry for this woman. She and her peers have constructed lives that are replete with drudgery without respite, at least until the kids move out for college, and she can’t understand why husbands are goldbricking … what are her kids doing to help out?

The author has a complete lack of self-awareness. Basically her “list” exists largely in her head, where all tasks are equally urgent. The husband has to buy into all of it, at exactly the same degree of urgency, and perform each task exactly the way she would do it, or risk having it redone the “right” way and failing to “share” the completely artificial sense of urgency.

I think the author conflates productive worrying with non-productive obsessing that is more comforting for the obsessed mom than it is for the dad or more importantly – for the kids.

If we can all agree that becoming a parent is, in most cases, a voluntary act, can we please stop this endless pity party that many mothers seem to revel in? If the job is that hard and thankless, and if the male part of the equation is clueless, why bother doing it at all?

(from a male physician) Female parents such as the author shouldn’t confuse “worry” with caring for children. Obsessing, double checking, and undermining other peoples choices creates dependent and anxious children. Questioning and feeling that you can critique male parental effort causes fathers to step back from care since the “worrying” female parent is going to repeat their effort or criticize until it is done “the right way” (based on a female standard)

I’m a big girl, those are small tasks and part of life. You just run with things. Articles like this make women seem weak and harebrained.

As a pediatrician, I talk with a lot of families. … is it possible that (some of) the difference you are describing is part of a tacit negotiation between the stereotypical mom and stereotypical dad about what is necessary to perform good parenting? If some of a mom’s need to be organized and in control is due to “worry” AKA “anxiety” is it really the dad’s job to take on part of that? Or is she (partly) treating her own anxiety and calming her own worry, rather than doing “more than half” of the NECESSARY parenting?. There is not necessarily one right way to parent.

What would obsessive/compulsive martyrs complain about if there were true Gender Equality?

When men and women operate like interchangeable workers in a factory, not only does the child lose, but the parents also lose out on their chance to shine to their fullest potential,

The author should have married a woman.

Mom: The Designated Victim

As a mother, I saw myself primarily as my children’s teacher, not their maid, that Mommy Marty trap so many women fall into, which allows them to feel important while nursing endless grievances. … Teaching children to do things for themselves takes a lot more time and is much messier than doing it yourself, but raising an independent child who does not need you to survive is the primary role of a parent.

Here finally is a woman bold enough to speak out and complain that her husband is lazy.

As an only-child whose father passed away during childhood, I often wished that my father were around to balance out the stifling (and wholly unnecessary) worries imposed on me day-in and day-out by my own mother.

(from a young-looking woman): So divorce the jerk. You’re doing all the work anyway. I don’t understand why women stay with men like that. What are you getting out of the relationship, other than aggravation?


One thought on “Happy Mother’s Day from the New York Times: Fathers are useless

  1. This article helpfully introduces concepts like “worry work” which is something some Sociologists call something… Sometimes. And finds it surprising that something called “household supervision” resists gender reassignment.

    This seems like a pathological author, she worries, she has pockets of guilt about not worrying enough. There’s an app for it, but it requires “extensive research” to find the right one, it’s Cozi!

    She worries that she won’t fit everything into the article, so there’s the throwaway line: “Sociological studies of heterosexual couples from all strata of society confirm that, by and large, mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items.”

    But somehow she doesn’t follow the implication. NYTimes has been defending the virtues of gay parents adopting and raising perfectly well-adjusted children (and I’m not going to disagree). But the author, should just go ahead and say that the useless pair of fathers will raise an 80%-scheduled, -micromanaged fathers, while lesbian mothers should be producing a 120%-capable, not to mention anxious, list-obsessed children

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