NYT to Dad: Happy Father’s Day. Now shape up!

First let me just say that I have mixed feelings about Lisa Belkin. Sometimes I think she gets it. Other times, not so much.

I actually really like this story which ran in Sunday’s NYT magazine. But I just think it’s mean that they ran it on Father’s Day. The cover headline (not seen online) was also a little much. “Will Dad Ever Do His Share?” it blared. A bit like asking, “So, Mr. Smith, tell us, when did you stop beating your wife?”

But with all that windup, the article itself is good and raises a lot of interesting questions. It’s easy to make fun of some of these couples and their spreadsheets to track who does what. But the truth, which the article points out really well, is that most of us fall into gender role patterns without even realizing it. And these patterns are ingrained — even when they look like rational choices.

Telling stats from the article:

  • In households where Dad works and Mom is home full-time Mom does about a little more than 3 hours of housework for every hour Dad does.  This makes sense, given the set up.
  • In households where both Mom and Dad work full-time, Mom does almost 2 hours of housework for every hour Dad does.  Of course this doesn’t make sense.
  • But here’s the really crazy part: In households where Mom works and Dad is home full-time, Mom still does the majority of the housework.

And then there’s this anecdote, which I think really illuminates the issue, which is that perception is reality.  A social researcher relayed the story of two different couples.  One couple, the man is a physician and the woman is a college professor.  The second couple, the woman is a physician and the man is a college professor.  In both cases the couple declares that the woman’s profession is very flexible and the man’s is not.

At the end of the day the answer isn’t any one way — but to choose a way that works for everyone in the family.  Which is Belkin’s real point, as she elaborates in this blog post.  And, in the process of making your “choice” to see how much of your perceptions are colored by gender role expectations that have not changed nearly as much as we like to believe.

I’m an idiot.

When we were registering for the 3 metric tons of gear that one needs to have a modern baby, we decided to skip the baby monitor. Given that we live in a two-bedroom apartment with just over 1,000 square feet of space, we didn’t see how we really needed it. We’d hear the baby from anywhere in the apartment. Any fussing that couldn’t be heard probably wasn’t worth worrying about. Seemed reasonable.

We forgot to consider air conditioning. I’ve often said that pre-war apartments are unfortunately low on modern amentities. You want charm? We got charm. Central a/c … yeah, not so much. Instead we have window units which are fine, but loud. Suddenly it became clear that we needed a monitor after all.

So …. this morning. I wake up a few minutes before 6 a.m. feeling a little dazed and disoriented. Maddie didn’t wake up last night. She slept through the night! Wow, oh wow. My alarm goes off and I hit snooze a few times. Finally at 25 past I start to drag myself from bed when I notice that the lights on the baby monitor have all lit up, but there is no sound coming out.

OH. MY. GOD.

I had turned the sound off while we were watching TV and I forgot to turn it back on when we went to bed. It’s possible that little Maddie did sleep through the night. It’s also possible that she was crying and I didn’t hear her.

Now, I feel compelled to report that she seemed none the worse for wear this morning. She was pretty hungry, but overall very cheerful. And the nanny, bless her heart, assured me that I would have heard her if she was really crying.

But still.

I am the worst. mother. ever.

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Here’s a new photo. Preston snapped this after she was taking a little snooze on me: