9 Comments

  1. No one has left a comment, so what the heck. Here goes.

    Does this type of comic perpetuate the myth that women are always the primary caregivers and men are just ignorant slobs who are either completely absorbed with their own selfish pursuits (squirrel says: watching TV) to care for their young, or are just completely absent from the children’s lives to begin with?

    Or maybe it’s not a myth. Men! Bah!

  2. Stan: It’s a myth if the comics are saying that’s always the case. There’s a wide range of behavior for both men, and women, of course, so I’m sure you can point to families you know where the men are great at childcare, or are even the primary caregiver. But I think it’s fair to say that women are more often the primary caregiver, and more often the ones who end up up with the bulk of the household work. At least, in couples I know where things are imbalanced, it’s much more often that way.

    And the first one is from an advice column, so it’s a depiction of an actual, specific situation, not a stereotype: https://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/lifeadvice/carolynhax/s-2049222 (despite what you might guess from the comic, the guidance actually is to socialize more).

  3. And for a counter-point to this, I would recommend the book, All Joy, No Fun by Jennifer Senior; she embeds with a couple who do actually split the childcare (as in, Monday to Wednesday the father takes care of the household while the mother is on call as a nurse, and, Thursday to Saturday the mother takes over as the father goes to his work (EMT?)) as they juggle between their two jobs, and what emerges is that the father has a completely different parenting and coping style, perfectly competent, just completely different from the mother’s style, and that the mother’s style takes on extra tasks and burdens which the father’s style neatly avoids. Some of that is echoed in the above linked comic about leaving the house without having prepared everything before hand and not feeling guilty about it.
    It was very eye-opening and enlightening, and particularly nice to hear something other than the typical male bashing that you usually hear.

  4. larK: What’s the counter-point? Is the point that this is a typical division of parenting work? Because while I can’t speak for Olivier or Emma, my point certainly wasn’t that all men are jerks who can’t take care of kids. It was that, when I see unbalanced workloads in a relationship, most often (by a very wide margin) it’s the woman doing more of the work. So I’m not sure if the counter-point is supposed to be “that’s not true on average, because here’s a specific example where it’s not true”? Or is the point of the example “Here’s a typical relationship, and it shows that while women do more work, but it’s because they’re so inefficient.” That may be true of this one couple in this book, but again, this hasn’t been my general observation as to what happens in relationships.

  5. Sorry WW, I was responding almost entirely to Olivier’s linked comic, and not at all to the original point. The true life reporting in the book has two parents, both carrying equal loads, but with the father dealing with less feelings of guilt and being less overwhelmed because he consciously carves out time for himself, and doesn’t feel guilty about it, whereas the mother is unable to do this. There is no blame throwing, no shaming, it is just well documented, showing both parents and their parenting styles. Later in the book when the parents discuss it, they basically agree that, yes, the wife feels more burdened, but it is not because of anything the husband does, it is because of what she does (and doesn’t do, ie: carve out time for herself). (And thus coming back to the theme of the book, all joy, no fun — the woman can’t seem to have fun taking care of the kids.)
    The comic Olivier linked kind of bothered me because it seemed a little one-sided to me, and made conclusions that to me could be better explained by mis-communications; Debra Tannen has a whole series of books on the different communication styles of men and women, and the miscommunications that arise because of them. In the comic I see instances of what could be due to woman-style indirect communication vs man-style communication only for information: if you undertake to cook something in the kitchen, and don’t specifically communicate to me that I should do anything, I, as a man, will apply the golden rule, treat you as I would want to be treated, and not butt in, and assume you have things under control, unless asked — I will not read your mind and jump in. If you don’t have things under control, why did you undertake the project in the first place? I notice that the woman guest observing all this also does not jump up to help. Yes, it’s not her kitchen, it’s not her place, but that is a clue to how the man could be feeling: the woman claimed the kitchen space to do her project, so it’s not his kitchen right now, it’s not his place. Or he could be a jackass, it’s hard to say, we don’t know enough of the background.
    The illustration in the book I cite, you do get the background, and part of the problem is the woman taking on too much, more than her share, even interfering into the husband’s share, when he has things perfectly under control, but she just can’t help herself.
    So rather than universally condemn all men and blame the society for reenforcing sexist gender roles, I would first want to exam the specifics, and see if it isn’t largely miscommunication and conflict due to differing communication styles. Or maybe she only knows guys who are jerks.
    Either way, I could match her stereo-types with counter stereo-types that women won’t fix things they find broken along the way, leaving light bulbs burnt out and cars without oil, but those are just that: stereo-types. That’s why I liked the example in the book I cite so much: it is just reported, and it is much richer and more nuanced than simple stereotypes.
    Truth is stranger than fiction.

  6. larK – reading the latter part of your comic – about stereo-types of women not fixing things, thoughts of an incident back when we were dating jumped into my head.

    I had a 1972 Mustang and it had a problem with the carburetor sticking sometimes when it was being started. We were going somewhere in my car and I started the engine and it did not start. He started to panic. I jumped out of the car, pencil in hand and he followed. I popped the hood, took off the air filter, and shoved the pencil into the carburetor and moved it around, reinstalled the air filter, dropped the hood and got back into the car and started it. He was dumbfounded as he had no idea what to do. Of course I only knew what to do as my dad had showed me – but he was impressed – almost as much as the time I pushed the Mustang by myself out of an intersection when it broke down (he wasn’t there – I told him about it).

  7. larK:”The comic Olivier linked kind of bothered me because it seemed a little one-sided to me”: I agree with that. What you say about miscommunication is true as well. But these concepts are not intuitive: I appreciate them being pointed out, even in an exaggerated way.
    The case you mention is interesting but raises questions: it sounds like alternating custody; is the house supposed to be spotless and tidy (pantry full and wash done) on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the other parent, or is that for Sundays ?

  8. So, I found an interview with the author where she talks about the part I’m referring to; naturally I misremembered some of the details (she’s a psychiatric nurse, he manages rental car locations).
    https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=265365876
    If you go to the part about a third way down that starts with “BLOCK: You spent time observing different families around the country”, you get to the part that deals with what I’ve been referring to. It doesn’t answer the questions Olivier asks, and it’s been long enough since I read the book that I don’t want to take a stab at definitively answering his questions either, but the interview does capture the essence of why I brought this up as a counterpoint in the first place. In fact, I’m pleased to say there is a quote that is apropos to Winter Wallaby’s original point:
    “So women seem to have this running tickertape of concerns in their heads all the time about the kids. Whereas men just have this great gift of compartmentalization, and this is not just me speaking anecdotally. This has been borne out in not just one study but many. And, you know, the amount of kind of psychological effort that women sort of spent on the kids – in addition to his physical effort and all that stuff – is really quite striking.”

    Ooh! An even better quote from a NY Times review ( https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/books/jennifer-senior-studies-parenthood-in-all-joy-and-no-fun.html ), that captures almost everything I wanted from the story:
    “Later in the book, Ms. Senior presents Clint, Angie’s husband, who has to wake up at 4 a.m. and who sees his wife for only 15 minutes a day. So he’s in charge of feeding the kids, playing with them, putting them to bed, cleaning up, doing the household bookkeeping and maintenance. He approaches his part of the job much more calmly than his wife approaches hers; this alone is cause for argument. Angie’s take is that Clint doesn’t care about the kids in the way that she does. Clint’s take is that Angie gets overly emotional about problems that can be handled with efficiency. He’s the one who advocated the cry-yourself-to-sleep method, and he’s not sorry to say that it worked.
    Another big difference between these two: Clint is comfortable taking free time for himself if he can occupy the kids with some other activity. So he is not fully devoted to them at every moment and feels just fine about that. Angie sees a degree of negligence in this and perhaps feels some superiority about her own dedication. Without Ms. Senior asking them questions, how long would it have taken for these two to communicate about any of these issues at all?”

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