Who Does More Childcare in Your Family, and Why is That?

A recent article by Tara Parker-Hope in the New York Times discussed why women do more childcare than their husbands.

On 16 out of 25 child-care tasks — like changing diapers, taking a child to the doctor or getting up in the middle of a night to attend to a child — women reported statistically significant higher levels of enjoyment than men. The only parenting issue that gave women less pleasure than it gave men was having to manage who does what for the child. Over all, women’s scores were 10 percent higher than men’s.

Is it really true that women end up shouldering more of the parenting burden simply because they like it more — or at least dislike it less? Steven Rhoads, a University of Virginia political-science professor and the study’s lead author, surmised that some women may have inflated their enjoyment scores because of feelings of guilt or cultural pressure. But he also said some research suggests that a woman’s parenting skills are deeply rooted in biology. Women with high levels of testosterone, for instance, often show less interest in babies, while a father’s testosterone levels are known to drop when a new baby arrives, ostensibly a biological mechanism to encourage bonding with the infant.

Here is what I commented:

I self-scored a 74, but of course I’d like to see what my wife scores for herself, as she probably does more childcare than I do. I rated all the tasks even though some of them we haven’t performed in years, as both kids are now teenagers. Also, I rated the tasks as much as for how often I did them as much as whether I liked them. Who really enjoys changing diapers? Nonetheless, I’ve changed thousands, and not only for my own children, but also for my younger siblings and when I did occasionally nursery duty at church.

As much as biology, I’d have to say it’s upbringing and environment that influences who does what in terms of household chores and child-rearing. My wife and I are both first-borns, and we did tons of both BEFORE we married each other. My mom taught me how to clean, and as she passed away when I was 12, I had to learn how to do laundry and cook at a young age, too.

I’m the fastidious one in the family, and so I do the vast majority of housecleaning; our teenagers do their own laundry most of the time. My wife does most of the cooking, and the kids and I do the dishes. My son helps me the most with the cleaning, and my daughter helps in other ways.

Here’s what I recommend:  have both spouses take the quiz at the New York Times site, and then have a discussion about the results, preferably away from your kids, and perhaps over a quiet dinner.  Then let us know what you learned about each other, and whether you need to take some steps to balance out the childcare responsibilities.


More Facebook Friends Than Real Ones? Facebook Support Equals 50% of Marital Support?

How many friends do you really have, and where are these friends?  This recent article by Ned Potter of ABC News indicated some trends and research findings that I find disturbing:

We may “friend” more people on Facebook, but we have fewer real friends— the kind who would help us out in tough times, listen sympathetically no matter what, lend us money or give us a place to stay if we needed it, keep a secret if we shared one.

That’s the conclusion made by Matthew Brashears, a Cornell University sociologist who surveyed more than 2,000 adults from a national database and found that from 1985 to 2010, the number of truly close friends people cited has dropped — even though we’re socializing as much as ever.

On average, participants listed 2.03 close friends in Brashears’ survey. That number was down from about three in a 1985 study.

Even more disturbing to me was this:

Compared to other things that matter for support — like being married or living with a partner — it really matters. Frequent Facebook use is equivalent to about half the boost in support you get from being married.”

My take on this is that to the extent that that particular finding is valid, then a lot of people don’t have very health marriages.


Answer: Marry the right man

The NY Times “Room for Debate” is about “How can we get men to do more at home?”  I’m afraid that I can’t help them with this one and I’m not particularly happy with any of the responses because they don’t reflect me and my family.

The discussions center around why men don’t feel the need to do more at home so that women can feel free to do more at work.  I don’t think this is something that this is necessarily a company or even the NY Times can answer.  In our family, it comes down to the fact that I just happened to marry the right man and we have worked hard to share both the work at home and the work outside the home.

He likes to do the laundry.  He does it better than me.  He sees the pile before I do and gets it clean before I even know it was there.  He is also a great father and loves being with our kids.  When we had our first child, I would stay with her during the day and then drive over to Penn State at the end of his day.  He would get in the car and take her home while I stayed to teach evening classes.  Aneil and Maggie had pizza and watched reruns of Star Trek (of course, Maggie does not remember this, but hears the stories all the time) together.  Classic father-daughter bonding time.  Now, while I am teaching my evening summer class, Aneil is taking both kids out for dinner and shopping at the mall at the Apple Store.  Bonding time but for teenagers.

Yes, I spent the first year of Maggie and Jack’s lives at home with them, but it was our decision that one of us should do that.  We wanted to have that time with our children that we would never have again.  There are times that I miss the extra income I’d be making if I had not missed those two years of work, but in the long run, we have well-adjusted kids who know we love them and that makes up for the lost income.

Aneil and I think of ourselves as a team.  I would not be able to go back and get a Ph.D. at 40 without his support and we would not be able to write two books together without working together as a team.  I really credit his Mom for raising him to think differently about men’s and women’s roles in a family and how we can both work together to create our family unit.  She died before I met Aneil so I never had the chance to thank her for raising the right man for me to marry.


What does 25 years say about us?

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary.  Even though it is a big one, we are keeping it low-key.

Whenever we share our research on trust, Aneil always tells people that we might know a little something about it since we’ve been married for 25 years. From my 25-year perspective (do I sound old?!), marriage at this long tenure is about

R) hanging in there through thick and thin

O) sharing everything with each other–always

C) doing your best to carry your fair share of the load (and sometimes more)

C) loving each other, even when we are not loveable

We are still learning about trust after all these years, but the best part is that we are still having fun together while we are learning.

— Karen

Does Texting Destroy Trust?

I’m still not as big a fan of of David Brooks as I used to be before he wrote a column back in August of 2008.  Nonetheless, I did agree with much of what he had to say in his New York Times essay yesterday.  (That is, once I waded through the first part of it which was designed to hook you in I suppose.  All it did was remind me that there a lot of shallow weirdos out there that Mr. Brooks comes across or reads about more often than I do.):

But texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. In today’s world, the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act than the choice of an erotic partner.

This does not mean that young people today are worse or shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. People once lived within a pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent and linked everyday urges to higher things. The accumulated wisdom of the community steered couples as they tried to earn each other’s commitment.

Today there are fewer norms that guide in that way. Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.

Karen and I had lots of the kind of help to which Mr. Brooks refers.  Some of it was wanted, and a lot of it unwanted.  It came from our families, our church, our friends, and others to guide us in our five year courtship before we got married.  Because I’m not a patient person, I know I didn’t enjoy all of the deferred gratification that I had in my younger years, whether it was waiting to marry Karen, finishing my education, or achieving other important goals.  The guidance we received and fun we postponed (and still postpone as we raise our two children) nonetheless did help Karen and I learn how to develop unconditional love and total trust in one another.


I Found My Mate as a Date in College

Original Post 1-31-08

Although”officially” Karen and began dating the summer before I went off to college, we dated each other throughout college and she was my “steady” (a term probably unheard of on today’s college campuses. So once again, I felt like I was a Neanderthal when I read this in today’s Wall Street Journal:

College life has become so competitive, and students so focused on careers, that many aren’t looking for spouses anymore. Replacing college as the top marital hunting ground is the office. Only 14% of people who are married or in a relationship say they met their partners in school or college, says a 2006 Harris Interactive study of 2,985 adults; 18% met at work. That’s a reversal from 15 years ago, when 23% of married couples reported meeting in school or college and only 15% cited work, according to a 1992 study of 3,432 adults by the University of Chicago.

On the bright side, more students are having fun on group dates; also, deep, but platonic, male-female friendships are more common. With the benefit of hindsight, though, some grads may yearn for the stretches of time on campus for extracurricular activities and studying with the opposite sex.

Exactly. If Karen and I had waited until we got our professional lives settled (we’re still working on that), before seriously dating each other, we might have never gotten married. We might have moved to opposite ends of the country instead of meeting back in the middle again (in Michigan). Karen has done the bulk of the career sacrificing for the kids until recently. Now armed with her Ph.D. and a professorship at Meredith College, I am only too happy to let her take the lead while I take up more of the slack. Meanwhile, I’m sure that Maggie and Jack are both delighted that Karen and I chose to get married 22+ years ago.

Update 2-10-08:

Lori Gottlieb complains in this month’s The Atlantic Monthly about women in the 30s and 40s having “to settle” if they are going to find a mate before they can no longer reproduce or don’t want to grow old alone.  If I have time to draft a letter to  The Atlantic, I’ll recommend she read this blog posting.  She wanted to have it all:  perfect job, perfect lifestyle, and perfect mate.  Not finding the perfect mate, she chose to have a child on her own, and then still hope that a decent-enough mate might still be out there.

Unfortunately, not only is Ms. Gottlieb unrealistic to seek perfection, she hasn’t learned even in her 40s that you don’t seek out the ideal life (including a mate if that’s what you seek), you make it.  The same holds for careers, homes, and anything else it is making sacrifices of your time and energy.

Update 12-13-08

Now Charles M. Blow in the New York Times today writes:

To help me understand this phenomenon, I called Kathleen Bogle, a professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia who has studied hooking up among college students and is the author of the 2008 book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus.”

It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.

I asked her to explain the pros and cons of this strange culture. According to her, the pros are that hooking up emphasizes group friendships over the one-pair model of dating, and, therefore, removes the negative stigma from those who can’t get a date. As she put it, “It used to be that if you couldn’t get a date, you were a loser.” Now, she said, you just hang out with your friends and hope that something happens.

Here’s what I then commented on the New York Times site:

I dated my girlfriend, now wife of 23 years, for four years while we were both in college and then we were engaged for several months before we got married. During this time, I had plenty of friends who were girls with whom I could have a great time going to parties, etc., but for which there was no expectation of a romantic or physical relationship BECAUSE I had a steady girlfriend back home.

We had lopsided ratios at Princeton in the 1980s (more men than women back then, rather than the opposite which is now the norm on many college campuses), so I don’t think that was a factor (women could have taken advantage of the ratio in ways that men can now do I suppose, but they didn’t).

What’s changed in my opinion is that women have now decided to give up the self-respect they had 30 years ago in an effort to “catch up” with the boys in loose behavior. I suppose if women behaved back then as they do now, we guys would have taken advantage of that, to the detriment of both sexes. I find it ridiculous and ironic that when I was in college, before there was AIDS, we were more careful than now when AIDS is an epidemic.


Whom do You Ask for Advice?

In an article by Carol Hymowitz in today’s Wall Street Journal, several CEOs talk about how they rely on their spouses for advice on important issues. I think this is a great idea, even if the spouse isn’t a business professional. Getting input from as many intelligent people as possible before making strategic decisions is always good practice, and if one’s spouse complements the CEO in terms of how he or she processes information or makes decision, it should help the CEO make a balanced decision. As one person quoted in the WSJ article stated:

Unlike in past generations, when executives might simply have vented about a work problem over dinner, many executives today seem more likely to have lengthy discussions with spouses before making important hires or launching a new strategy. Most of those interviewed say spouses saved them from mistakes — hiring the wrong person, passing up a job opportunity, or not standing up to a boss, for example.

Many of these executives have partners with careers equally demanding to their own, similar educational backgrounds and a deep understanding of certain industries. They value having a spouse who can give frank feedback and keep matters quiet.

Of course, spouses aren’t the only ones to seek out for good advice. In addition to my wife Karen, I’ve consulted with certain trustworthy others before I make any “big” decisions (e.g., career or health). I also talk with these other individuals whenever I need a different perspective on what is going on in my life.

Some of my biggest mistakes in my life (e.g., choosing the wrong place to begin my academic career, getting sinus surgery without a second opinion in 1999) have been because I either didn’t listen carefully enough to Karen, or didn’t seek out other opinions from informed others before making my decision.

Who do you trust to give you good advice when making important decisions?