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Friday, April 23, 2010

Men more involved with kids, housework

This is a nice column in Newsweek that incorporates some interesting research data. Here's the last 3 paragraphs:

But a survey of recent family research, called Unconventional Wisdom, prepared by the Council on Contemporary Families for its annual conference in Illinois, contains fascinating new data that show how subtly and surprisingly male behavior has shifted. First, men are spending more time with their kids. Millennial fathers—those under 29—spend an average of 4.3 hours per workday with their kids, which is almost double that of their counterparts in 1977. A Families and Work Institute report found that these young dads are actually now spending more time each day with children under 13 than mothers between the ages of 29 and 42 are with their own. Which is staggering. Second, while women still do most of the housework, men are becoming far more familiar with the sponge and vacuum cleaner, particularly less educated men. Between 1965 and 2003, college-educated men did 33 percent more housework than they did before, and men who never completed high school did 100 percent more, according to research from Oxford University. Brilliant news. Maybe this is why divorce rates have been falling for 25 years. Sociologists tell us that the best way for a married man to have more sex is to do more housework—and it's scandal-free.

Unfortunately, sharing the load can mean sharing the misery, too. Astonishingly, married men are now feeling more torn over balancing work and family than their wives are. Joan Williams, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, found that in 2008, 59 percent of employed fathers in dual-earner families said they suffered work-family conflict, up from 35 percent in 1977. The number of women in two-income families who reported feeling conflicted increased by 5 percent over the same period, to 45 percent. (Williams says women who feel conflicted change their schedules, despite damage to their careers; men try to avoid this, and hence feel worse.) Men who stay home are in the minority, but overall, Williams says, "norms have shifted. Taking care of a child is now part of what it means to be a father."

Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus." In the midst of the tabloid hysteria about bad boys and dirty dads, it's important to remember that some things are going right. It is such a simple and important change that we have almost missed it: more and more men are starting to care for their children. The consequences of this are enormous.



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