Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Domestic Dynamics, Part II

Yeah, we're back on this again. I feel like yesterday's post started some things that need finishing - or at least some expanding...

So, studies have shown that despite men's increased involvement in matters of the home/family, women still put in more time and have more difficulty balancing family and work. Because women are recognizing the massive amounts of stress and sacrifice it takes to raise a child, they are more understanding of the decision to remain childless.

And now for the million dollar question: why are men are still spending less time parenting? I do not have a deep-rooted hate for men (cause, let's clarify - that is not what feminism is about), so I refuse to believe men aren’t putting in the hours because they are miserable, heartless, and selfish Neanderthals.

So, what then? Is it work? Is parenting something men feel women do better? What affects how men and women parent?

On Businessweek.com, I found an excerpt from the book, "Work and Family – Allies Or Enemies?" by Stewart D. Friedman and Jeffrey H. Greenhaus. Friedman was the director of the Ford Motor Company’s Leadership Development Center from 1999-2001, and teaches at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business. Greenhaus is a professor of management at Drexel.

In their study of 861 professionals, Friedman and Greenhaus found that that on the whole, those who brought home higher incomes had lower parental performance.

"With all that money can buy for children, a high income still does not overcome a serious problem kids face when their parents (especially their fathers) are so psychologically involved in work that they cannot attend well to the demands of being a parent."

Interestingly, income levels affected men and women differently when they evaluated their own parenting skills.

"Mothers who want money and power from their careers feel that their children receive higher-quality care than do mothers who have lower career aspirations and who care less about wealth. Yet it is the opposite for fathers: the less a father aspires to hierarchical advancement, the better he feels about his performance as a parent. And the lower the value a father places on wealth, the better he feels about the care his children receive."

F&G say that women who have high aspirations for career success have higher self-esteem, which "enhances her capacity to care for her children and to arrange for effective childcare." Conversely, men who aren’t as work-centered feel they are better parents because they are more available to their families.

But the authors remind us that just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be a lousy parent. "What is really operating here is that intense psychological involvement in career leads to the perception of lower parental performance."

It’s not the income itself, but the associations we have around higher salaries (i.e. I put in a ton of hours and sacrificed a lot for this). What really determines one’s parenting is the flexibility of their job, how good they feel about their work, and being in an environment that is sensitive to personal and family needs.

So, maybe it’s simply the high-powered, high-earning execs that aren’t stepping up when it comes to the kids? And just because they’re not putting in as much time as their wives, that doesn’t necessarily mean, a) they don’t want to; and b) they don’t feel bad about it.

After all that, I really don’t think I answered the question at all. Not like I expected this post to be the end-all of the debate. If I had the answer to unequal parenting, I’d probably be doing something much more lucrative than writing this blog. It’s a step, though – to understanding what affects men and women and how they operate in and out of the home.

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