Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Academic Dads Don't Carry Their Share of Parenting Work

The Family Law Prof Blog posted Even in Academia, Dads Don't Do Diapers.  The assumption of this study was that if there was gender equality in parenting anywhere, it would be in academia where men have more flexible time at home.  But, no.

Most of the academics in our study said they believe that husbands and wives should share equally, but almost none did so.” To be precise, only three men out of 109 reported that they performed half the child-care work. One possible explanation, according to the father-and-son duo, is that women derive a higher enjoyment of many of the activities involved in the care of small children. The Rhoads asked the men and women to report their level of enjoyment in performing 25 different tasks—everything from playing with the baby to washing his clothes. On almost every count, women said they experienced a higher level of satisfaction. Steven Rhoads admits the discovery that mothers enjoy changing diapers was, to his own mind, the most surprising aspect of his findings. “It shows you gender roles go pretty deep,” he says.

Are you kidding me?!?  The conclusion is that we enjoy changing diapers!  Please.  The entrenched gender role is not that women enjoy such crappy duties.  (Ok, I couldn't resist.)  But that they are socially conditioned not to show dissatisfaction with mothering or towards their children under threat of the "bad mother" indictment.

Education, Family | Permalink


Tracy, you are spot-on! Surely this study ought to recognize that not only do women feel they need to take on these care taking duties, but they need to "like" it as well.

Posted by: Susan Apel | Apr 24, 2014 7:58:38 AM

I think there might also be a chicken-and-egg problem. Changing diapers and the like--which I've done, many times--is at first a dreary chore, but over time, especially as the dad spends more and more time with the child (like, when the mom is away), the chores don't really seem like chores, at least to me. They become practices of affect, where the dad learns about love in a different, more nurturing way, than he had thought possible. He learns about a side of himself that he didn't know quite existed, and learns to love the child, not merely as someone to protect, but someone whose company he adores.

Posted by: John Kang | Apr 25, 2014 4:44:14 AM

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