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?


  1. The backyardigans are an unknown to me, however, my daughter and her kids are well aquainted with them. The other day, my daughter heard her three year old telling her dad, "I'm not YOUR henchman, I'm Sam's henchman." Referring to her older brother. Apparently this came from the backyardigans.

  2. Good points. I'm all for freedom and the pursuit of happiness, but I hope people consider all the consequences.

    For my wife and I, we had children so WE can raise them and spend time with them. My wife stays at home and I'm lucky enough to have a job that allows it. I know not everyone is so lucky and it saddens me that the two-income norm prices them out of some options.

    Utah county is not immune. Sure the emphasis of the predominant religion (Mormon) that women stay home to raise and nurture the children has an affect. But real estate prices have risen dramatically here and that puts pressure on couples to go two-income.

  3. Shit bob, come on. yer bringing me down here. First paper steak, which made me brefly consider jumping out a window or driving to Missouri and push my wheel-chair bound mother out a window.

    Then the post about Boeing (whose engineers are magic with bike trails) made me breifly consider moving to Bolivia.

    And now an anti/pro-feminist; quasi-chauvanistic call for simultaneously more and less time spent by women and men at home and at work. Now I'm just really confused and conflicted.

    Personally I'd love to be a stay at home parent...just without all the house work and diaper changing.


    P.S. The real reason I came over here to post today was to point you to Fat Cyclist today. Elden's considering punting this year as far as fitness goes, whcih means that this is the year for you and I to get in really good shape as to maybe beat him up a hill or two and hold it over his head for all eternity.

  4. the iron giant is in my top five kids movies, along with matilda. i'll have to think about the other three. i'm sure there are some other good ones. oh yeah, spirited away and princess mononoke. hmm. one more. terminator three maybe?

  5. My wife and I have an unspoken code which seems to work well. If something needs doing, just do it. Load the dish washer or washing machine, clean the toilet, ect.
    I still do most of the cooking, since I like to cook, and she folds the clothes and beats (disiplines) the children. The grandparents live close by, so they lend a hand from time to time, along with drinking my booze. Works for us.

  6. I think Vin Diesel is the voice of the Iron Giant.

  7. Earl - You should give The Backyardigans a try. There are some great non sequiturs in the lyrics, and if you catch the right episode, some dance moves will crack you up. It's the only kid's cartoon I don't tune out.

    Kris - My wife and I try to raise the children together as well. She's more nurturing than I am (surprise!), and I'm a better provider than she is. Well, she can make more money, but the money I earn is of higher quality. Seriously, I wish we could have figured out a way to get women and men equally in the work force without both parents working full time.

    Dug - The top 5 children's movies are Toy Story, My Neighbor Totoro, Iron Giant, Finding Nemo, and Star Wars, which stars Nuke Skyknocker.

    Botched - Sorry I'm bringing you down. This is really the worst time of the year for me. I'm sick of winter, there's no sign of spring, the Super Bowl is over and March Madness doesn't seem to start until April. This might surprise you, but I left out some more depressing stuff, like how the influx of women in the work force is both positive and negative in the actual work environment. I was headed into dangerous territory with the negatives. I should write about this when I'm not caring for a boy with viral pneumonia. I will. It'll be fun!

    Boz - That unspoken code works with us in terms of money, but not with household chores. I need defined responsibilities, or I'll get too stressed. I make breakfast, do all the dishes, do the yardwork, and a couple of other things that I may have forgotten. I hate constantly picking up things, so I'm supposed to do "bursts" in which I tidy up a room or two. That's going about as well as my cycling bursts.


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

    Here's one for you, Bob:
    "Flood of Women into Workforce Impacts Society"

  9. The Backyardigans. Noted. I also loved Iron Giant. I adore Veggie Tales, too. They are based on Christian tenets, and have wonderful, funny moral lessons that I think even most non-Christians can get behind. Be nice to people. Don't gossip. Don't steal. Even though I'm no longer an uber-Christian, I still think they're great. The religious parts aren't very prevalent, or too heavy handed.

    As for the working thing . . . right now I work (as an HR Manager, a job I sort of hate) and make all the money, and my husband stays home and works on his PhD. This arrangement has been fine, but will cause a great strain when I go out on maternity leave in approx. 8 weeks. My salary drops to 60%, right when we need money most. That's a negative consequence of women in the workplace, I guess (not to mention the workplace having to do without me for that time.) And then when I have to go back in six lousy weeks, I'm not going to be terribly on task. Weepy and miserable and missin' my baby, more like! (I'm lucky, though - I get to leave him with his dad, and not with child care. Since he'll be six weeks old, so tiny - that will be a wonderful reassurance.)

    When husband finishes school in 1 year and counting, we hope to be able to share child care responsibilities with one another and put the kid(s) in outside care maybe 10-15 hours a week? College professors don't make much, but they do have flexible daytime schedules. In this way, we naively hope to "have it all."

  10. Is "staying at home working on his PhD" a euphamism for 'cooking meth'?

    If not, you should really consider it. Other than the illegality, toxicity to humans, and likilihood of being in a shoot out with drug dealers, meth-heads, and/or police, making and selling drugs is a nice alternative to a traditional career.

    Both you and your husband could stay at home AND make full-time salaries.

    I happen to sell a Dr. Botched's Jr. Chemistry Set, that can be easily adapted to non-educational persuits. Let me know if you're interested.


  11. Botched -

    Oh the possibilities! Learning all about chemistry AND supplementing income all at once - I could even get the kid in on it. When they're little like that, they can easily squeeze through the pharmacy window and steal mama some Sudafed.