Division of labor in the home (woman complains about her husband in the NYT)

“What ‘Good’ Dads Get Away With” (NYT) is subtitled “Division of labor in the home is one of the most important equity issues of our time. Yet at this rate it will be another 75 years before men do half the work.”

(In other articles, the NYT assures us that 75 years from now every coastal city on Planet Earth will be under water. Will people care about gender-based division of labor then?)

The author, who seems to identify as a woman, complains about her spouse, who may identify as a man:

When my husband and I became parents a decade ago, we were not prepared for the ways in which sexism was about to express itself in our relationship. Like me, he was enthralled by our daughters. Like him, I worked outside the home. And yet I was the one who found myself in charge of managing the details of our children’s lives.

I would love to find out what this man (if, indeed, he still identifies as one) thinks about the wife broadcasting his deficiencies as a partner!

[Separately, if living with a man is such a raw deal for a woman, why do any of them continue in the arrangement? Every jurisdiction in the U.S. offers no-fault on-demand divorce (though the cash profits may vary enormously from state to state). There is no social stigma for the woman who sues her husband. In the 50/50 shared parenting jurisdictions, she will be on track to be free of any child-related duties every other week. Does it make sense to say that male-female partnership is nearly always a raw deal for women if roughly 50 percent of them choose to continue in such partnerships?]

As usual, the reader comments are the most interesting feature. Example:

Samantha Kelly: Women are a long way from parity in most homes with two working parents. Considering our overpopulation, and that parenting is often a “baby trap” for women, consider not having children. It is a decision of remarkable freedom!

Sophie K: The answer to this – women have to become more selfish. Don’t volunteer for unrewarding projects at work (it blows my mind to hear that women do – who are these women and why are they doing this??). Don’t “mother” men in your life. Don’t be always ready to pick up the slack when they “fail”. Men are neither stupid nor incompetent. They’re just pushing the envelope to see what they can get away with. … Be selfish, ladies. You’d be surprised how well things will be turning out for you. Men have been like that forever.

David: This is in part why birth rates are declining in western world. Work demands have increased dramatically and the family has shrunk and government support has disappeared so that all the child rearing falls exclusively to the parents. On top of this, expectations in US to focus all available non workimg time on children makes for a miserable existence. Argue all you want over who is doing more, it’s the overall demands of current society that create this dynamic.

gizmos: Like Dr. Lockman and apparently many other readers, I bought into the false narrative that men don’t contribute to the household equally and haven’t done so in years. I did a lot of research into the topic for a project and found out the opposite is true. Time use studies from the 60s till date show that men consistently have contributed more total work hours than women, when including paid and unpaid work. Women consistently have greater leisure time after including the hours spent in childcare, housework and paid work.

HS: I would love if just once this type of article included gay couples with kids. My wife and I have a division of labor in our home that largely replicates our heterosexual parents. She works and I stay home with the kids and take care of the majority of household chores and kid stuff. And yes, I know my contribution counts as “work” too. There’s no resentment on either side in part bc we each think the other has the harder job. Maybe too bc we are both women. There’s none of that gendered expectation of who does what; it seems more freely chosen and thus more acceptable to us both. [i.e., Everything is Super When You’re Gay]

HH: I’m a gay man whose social circle is mostly comprised of other gay men, as is, obviously, my primary romantic relationship. All of the phenomenon the author describes exist in my relationship or those in my periphery. … If modern feminism is actually interested in honest conclusions about what is actually a gender bias and what is just a naturally occurring difference between people then a lot more attention should be paid to the parallel world of gay men. [Attention must be paid!]

JD: I would direct Lockman’s attention to Edith Wharton’s portrait of Lily Bart’s father in “The House of Mirth.” The man visibly ages and sags in Lily’s eyes before he passes, because of the stress of trudging to Wall Street every day in order to sustain his wife and daughter’s lives of leisure and to maintain the family’s membership in a certain social orbit dominated by Knickerbockers.

KBronson: The women are going to live ten years longer. They will catch up on rest later.

BackHandSpin: And yet, women continue to choose and show their approval for these types of men in the dating world. No matter what women say. To display (i.e.)”child nurturing” and “caring” ( being respectful) qualities is the opposite of what women are attracted to ( status,manliness,power,money) in the dating world. There’s your problem. Millions of “macho jerks” have a faithful woman standing by his side . [Statistically, the “faithful” part is questionable!]

Carling: “He comes in from work and the first thing he does is brush his teeth!” “His teeth, not mine!

Observer of the Zeitgeist: Unless things are radically different from how they were 8 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics under President Obama certified back then that men and women are putting in equal time to making households run. In fact, men are putting in few minute more time per day. That means what needs to be examined more is psychology, not economics or sociology. Quite a few women, like this author, feel like men are not doing enough.

Benjo: Get your kids to take care of themselves and stop being a helicopter parent. You aren’t doing them or yourself any favors by micromanaging them.

Patricia: This is news?? I knew this in 1976 which is why I refused to have children. I have never regretted it.

Tanya Miller: I’m 51 so it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but from here on out when my friends and family ask wonderingly if I ever wanted to/will get married and have children, I won’t bother answering – I’ll just email them a link to this comments page.

Denise A: This article presents women as naturally executing more leadership than men. Women get it done. Women get it done early and often. These women people, these detailed oriented, never let things slide, go getters are presented as top performers in running complex organizations called Families. Wouldn’t we expect that these would be the most qualified people to run our companies and countries? Aren’t the qualities presented here exactly what are necessary to win in capitalist markets?

Andrea: Most American men I have met, my friends’ ex-husbands, my own ex-husbands, their male friends, are simply impossible. Each and every one of them has a huge sense of entitlement and a gargantuan ego, and housework and taking care of the kids just doesn’t fit into the their sense of destiny.

Ralph Petrillo: Actually a major change has occurred due to cell phones in the last five years.which is causing men to actually do more of the work then women. Shocking but women are addicted to their cell phones and this has caused a major deterioration in the household by both gender groups. … It is also a major deterioration in couples wanting to fully comprehend their responsibilities for they get an impulse to search for their cell instead of communicating in a more traditional manner. … It is time to realize that couples are more married to their devices then each other.

Susan: In 75 years, robots will do most of the house work, so it likely won’t ever be necessary for men to reach parity in household tasks.

Single mom: Long term romantic relationship that involves co-habiting of any kind with men is highly overrated. Traditional marriage is not worth the effort for women. It was supposed to provide physical and financial security for women. But that is not a requirement for many women across the world anymore. … Women-only community living would provide support and security. We should take our cues from the wise female-only elephants.

Cary: I came to read this material expecting the usual bashing of men. But I’m pleased to find some variety: the bashing is of straight men.

elained: This article explains why single women have children on their own [women who plan this can get another 2 million reasons per child]. When you’re going to have to do it all anyway, why also deal with an exploitive, forgetful, self-centered slacker into the bargain? Women spend a GREAT DEAL of time valuing and praising men, just to keep them halfway in the game. It just is not worth it. Maybe evolution will deal them out of existence. [see this book on genetics for how somatic cells from two women can be combined to make a new human with no father]

Sarah: Being raised by two mothers and liking men, I am honestly very scared of heterosexual marriage. It just seems so much less functional than the homelife I was raised in.

20 thoughts on “Division of labor in the home (woman complains about her husband in the NYT)

  1. 25% of American women are on medication for psychological disorders.
    American are brain-damaged, but we must indulge them, especially when it comes to the media.

    Overmedicated, obese, abusive and increasingly unhappy, these dysthymic, violent creatures resent their third-tier status now that feminism has relegated them to a lower level near-male status, albeit a male that doesn’t have to sign up for the draft, financially provide for their families, or perform manual labor.

    Like an old, highly polluting factory or a toxic custom from ages ago (think asbestos or lead paint), these grey, tired creatures will soon be even more irrelevant as they fade into the past.

    We will be better when they are gone from the landscape.

  2. Btw – the solution to all this complaining from women, is to simply have another world war and reduce the male population by 20-50%. This will stop all the complaining, and the remaining men will live much better as they will be much sought after (see Paraguay – War of the Triple Alliance where I think 60-90% of the country’s male population had died. )

  3. Wow, so many sad comments, especially those of the “I am glad i did not bring children into the world” genre. The ultimate in nihilism.

  4. Phil:

    1) If the child sharing is 50-50, does one partner still get child support, given that in this case both parents are shouldering an equal burden?
    2) This issue of parental duties was actually solved in 1776 by Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations. Division of Labour, followed by specialisation, is necessary for the most efficient and optimal production. Hence, whomever is the *best* at childcare (or any activity) should do that activity. “Sharing” it between two persons of unequal ability is wasteful and inefficient:

    a) The children suffer because they do not get the best possible care;
    b) The less able child carer, and the family as a whole, suffers due to the opportunity cost in not using their time in a more profitable activity i.e. one they are better at.

  5. The female equivalent of “Mansplaining” is “Womanplaining”; change my mind.

    • “The female equivalent of “Mansplaining” is “Womanplaining”; change my mind.”

      I prefer the term “Femsplaining.”

  6. Agree with anonymous that divison of labor & specialization make complete sense within a household, so the 50/50 whining is inefficient, unless each parent is equally adept at all tasks. Let’s say the wife is a CPA — does it make sense for anyone but the wife to do the taxes (with cursory check by the husband)? Let’s say the husband is a trained chef — why would the wife cook much other than make sandwiches for the children’s lunchboxes?

    And the opportunity cost of not working should be the main driver in determining who stays home full-time (assuming that’s an option) to optimize finances.

    This was taught last century in basic intro econ. But not PC this century for economists or anyone else to offer up this guns v. butter/comparative advantage theory as to how to run a household, child-care, lawn-care, etc..

  7. Not too far-fetched, but not unlike the animal kingdom, the husband provides an uncompensated and unrecognized service as protector of the wife and children. Without a man in the house, the house is vulnerable to attack and intrusion (of course, by other males).

  8. Husband lollygags in the coal mines all day while I slave around the house and perform extra emotional labor planning dinner parties and lavish vacations. The slavery must end now!

  9. Sometimes my wife tallies up the laundry loads she does in a day, and announces it like it was some martyrdom mission. What is so hard about laundry? The machines do all the work. The algorithm is: sort the laundry into loads for colors or whites, by delicate or not-delicate, and then program each load with their appropriate wash cycle, add detergent into the correct dispenser, and 2 hours later, transfer wet clothes into the dryer. In 1 hour, remove dry clothes – hang the shirts, otherwise everything else just sort into dressers/drawers (and don’t bother folding socks!). Optional: Listen to Music/Podcast/Oprah while doing it.

    • GermanL: point taken, as my late mother-in-law decades ago pointed out that laundry’s the easy part of housework, and that therefore (as was my case), if you have a housekeeper about twice/month, don’t bother having that person strip the beds or do the laundry — do that yourself. Mother-in-law wasn’t an economist, but was good at math (off-track betting cashier at one point) and was simply advising me how to take best advantage of scarce resources, since housekeepers get a high salary (especially as it’s off-the-books $35+/hour in the DC area at the moment)
      But tending to young children and the chaos they create 15+ hours a day is a helluva lot more stressful and taxing than running loads of laundry.

    • Little children are exhausting. However, my wife doesn’t work and has early multiple sclerosis. She spends about 1.5 hours preparing the kids in the morning and taking them to school. Elementary school in Germany runs from 8:30 to 11:30am (!). We get afterschool care until 4pm (90 euros a month + 80 euros for lunch per month – the state pays parents 194 euros per child per month – so essentially it is free). She picks them up takes them home or to the park, then feeds them a snack and then waits for me to arrive at 5:30pm/6:00pm where usually I am the one to cook the dinner and then put them to bed – after a full days work. Who exactly is getting the short end of the stick here?

    • Agreed as when I and many others in my peer group were SAHMs, we could take the 9:30 am spin class whereas long suffering hubby had to obey his boss by 8:30 am most weekdays. You’re one hard-working father. My hat’s off to you.

    • @GermanL — wondering whether Germans are as crazed as wealthy Americans are about youth sports. Our kids did summer swimming, in an affluent area where parents often spent $3000+ per kid (and this was a decade ago) per year for them to “winter swim” from August to May when the summer season took over. This entailed driving a 14 yo to practice at 5:30 am before school 3-5 days per week. The parents, including many fathers, wore this like a badge of honor that they were awakening before 5 am to drive their kid to an indoor pool (about 5 miles away, sometimes more so carbon footprint considerable for this non-local endeavor), and then head to work. In more cases a SAHM mom was the designated driver. We still had a toddler/pre-schooler in our household so no way was I awakening that early for one of my four kids. My husband had the audacity at one of these “pep rallies” with parents and kids to say to some of these parents, “If I have to wake up at 5 am for XXXX to swim, he’s not swimming.” Some of the other parents looked on with scorn. But the reality was that perhaps one of these kids who swam in the intensive winter programs was recruited for Division I (scholarships, although swimming is often not financially rewarded by colleges so not at all Division I like football or basketball) and maybe a few were qualified by $15,000+ investment to swim Division III, which in theory helps in college admissions. (But another of our kids was in fact qualified to swim Division III, but it made no difference in his acceptances/rejections by colleges. However, was great exercise, and for about 2 years, with him paying half the fees from his earnings as a freelance programmer, he chose to do winter swimming as junior and senior in high school.) Return on investment (for sleep deprivation reasons alone) pretty poor. Long way of saying that parents judge other parents — but no one would say you’re anything but a saint coping with your wife’s MS as you are.

    • I agree with your husband. Waking up at 5am to go swim training at a competitive level that is not even close to olympic levels of competition is just ridiculous.

      No Germans are not crazy like Americans with regards to sports. There is a strong sports club culture here since people tend to make their friends via clubs, and not at work. The biggest difference is that sports are not tied to education. It plays no role in admissions. So no parent here is dreaming of getting a scholarship for their kid by spending $3000/yr so little Johnny can be better than average at throwing/kicking/hitting a ball of some sort. To get in university you first need to get into Gymnasium (sort of like high school but with all AP courses) and pass the Arbitur or final exams (not sure if these are standardized tests). If you pass the final exams then you can go to university without any more testing, however the first year there is a heavy culling, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak – not many make it through. There are actually three levels of ‘high school’ : Hauptschule – the least demanding like U.S. public high schools, Realschule – a little better than U.S. high schools, and Gymnasium. In the past the teachers would decide where your child would be funneled, but nowadays the parents can decide (the school can be switched if it doesn’t work out for the child). Naturally most parents want their kids to go to Gynasium.

    • Thanks! Gymnasium, along with British A-levels and O-levels, isn’t that familiar to most Americans.

  10. Regarding this topic, CNBC recently posted this jaw dropping video about a couple paying childcare in NYC. The woman is batshit insane – she has three little children, insists on living in Manhattan, is running a failing “business” that brings in no money, her husband earns 100k, they spend 5k on rent and 5k on childcare per month (so she can run her “business”). Why hasn’t it occurred to her to stay home with kids?

    • & why does a family with limited assets pay a “financial advisor” fees rather than simply park their savings in a mutual fund account? But to address her quitting her job, it’s possible that she values the status of being employed, and that she is looking toward the future in the event she and her husband were to divorce — the opportunity cost of staying home with kids includes being Mommy-tracked/sidelined were she to try to return to the workforce once her children were older. Her husband’s salary isn’t enough to finance two separate apartment in the NY area in the event of a divorce, so she needs to be financially independent going forward. This video of their home life on a typical morning is not something I want to show to my millennial sons. That said, their three children are spaced closer together than a pediatrician would advise (both to mitigate sibling rivalry and for the mental health of the parents). Why on Earth would they have both a cat and a dog (and maybe more animals which weren’t shown)???

Comments are closed.