Getting Real About Men and Household Labor

By Kristen Myers

Fox News in Chicago recently invited me to do a Father’s Day segment during the noon news hour explaining how “Dads today are better than ever!” Aiming for a feel-good piece celebrating dads, they prompted me to talk about how “real men” cuddle with their children. On the one hand, I cringed at the use of the term, “real men.” What is a “real man?” Although sociologists have shown that there is no one right way to be a man, the notion of “real” manhood remains salient in the popular imagination. The expression, “real men do x,” is typically used to call men out, to shame those who don’t do x into “manning up.” The popularity of language like “real men man up” reminds us that the rules we’ve made for men haven’t actually relaxed all that much, even though some dads are able to interact with their children in ways that their own dads never could have.

Myers_1On the other hand, Fox News was using the expression “real men cuddle” ironically, to encourage traditional men to do something non-traditional, like show emotion. This gave me an opportunity to focus on ways that men can do things differently than they have in the past, how they’re “undoing gender,” as Francine Deutsch would say. More men today are able to physically and emotionally bond with their children without risking a blow to their manhood. The Pew Research Center has documented trends in the work world and the household that are permitting dads to be more involved than ever in childrearing and housework. The time is ripe for men, no matter how traditional, to take advantage of these shifts. Sometimes these men must be pushed out of their comfort zones in order to take the first steps. Continue reading “Getting Real About Men and Household Labor”

Equality in Child Rearing and its Relationship Benefits

By Daniel L. Carlson, Sarah A. Hanson, & Andrea Fitzroy

Today, both mothers and fathers are expected to play an equal role in child rearing and most couples want this for themselves. Yet, couples’ abilities to achieve equality in childcare remains elusive for numerous reasons, including difficulty arranging and paying for childcare, the absence of supportive families policies like paid parental leave and powerful gender conventions that push mothers into being primary caregivers and relegate fathers to the sidelines of their children’s care. Although couples want to share childcare, this may have negative consequences as numerous studies over the past 30 years have shown that couples who share breadwinning and housework in their relationships face numerous problems, including more relationship conflict, higher risks of divorce, and problematic sex lives. These findings, though, may have become dated as most of this research was conducted in the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, few studies have examined how childcare arrangements affect couples’ relationships.   Continue reading “Equality in Child Rearing and its Relationship Benefits”