Thursday, March 6, 2008

Daddy Day Care

Luke and Max are sick this morning, so I'm working at home until the nanny can drag herself over. That means I sit on the computer while they watch cartoons. Right now, they're into The Backyardigans, which is almost as good as Rocky and Bullwinkle in terms of pleasing the secondary audience. The Backyardigans isn't nearly as funny as Bullwinkle, but the dancing is stunning. Fifteen years ago, I would have insisted on a Backyardigans party at the old condo, complete with brownies and chips and salsa and beer and brownies.

The Iron Giant is another kid's movie that catches adults off guard. I don't know why the ending of the movie is so touching. When the Iron Giant sacrifices himself for the good of the community and is then resurrected, it remindes me of something or someone. But who? John Travolta? Britney Spears?

Since I'm watching the boys while Wendy is working, I thought the headline on page 1 of the Seattle P-I was fitting:

"Helping at home? Dad's the word"

Dads are scrubbing toilets, collecting kids after school and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner as never before, a fundamental shift that holds the promise of happier marriages.

"Men and women may not be fully equal yet, but the rules of the game have been profoundly and irreversibly changed," a new paper analyzing 40 years of family research concluded.

The article goes on about how fathers are spending more time on child care now than at any time in history. The author takes an entirely positive approach to the "new marital bargains" and the closing gap between men and women. According to this slant, the only drawback is that there's still a gap; women unfortunately continue to do more housework. The underlying premise is that full equality is the goal.

What I haven't heard mentioned in newspaper articles or anywhere else is a rational analysis of drawbacks to women entering the workforce. I'm not talking about the stuff that laments the decline of manly men -- you know, the riffs from macho guys like Denis Leary or the bitchfests from horny Cosmo writers. I'm talking about an honest discussion of the societal consequences of women joining the workforce en masse over the last fifty years.

Here's one drawback. Having so many dual-income households has reset the base income standard. For a time, dual-income households had a distinct advantage in competing for resources. Now that dual-income families are the norm, single-income households are at a distinct disadvantage everywhere except in Utah county. Is this a good thing? Aside from me, who have you ever heard mention this? It seems like the kind of subject chauvenists express from a different angle and feminists shy away from or dismiss too quickly as a necessary evil for the sake of gender equality. I happen to side with feminists on this one, though there's a soft spot in my heart for the chauvenists.

There's a similar problem with outsourcing child care. Since both parents in most homes now must work in order to make ends meet, other people have to tend to their children, which is especially sad with newborn babies and infants.

Another issue that the article didn't raise is that women and men take different approaches to household chores. In my case, I would have to alter my personality to be as mindful of clutter and filth. I don't want to do that. I don't want to be "equal" in that sense. Equal workload, yes; equal approach, no.

If someone comes across a balanced, thoughtful article on the societal impact of women flooding into the workforce, let me know, m'kay?