Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is Father's Work?

My neighbor wrote this as her Facebook status today:
[My husband] puts the children to bed every night, washes the dishes, scrubs showers and toilets, stays up all night cleaning up throw-up if someone is sick, and is basically a team partner as a parent. Why, then, does he get either teased or criticized, for doing the "mother's work"? It is so ironic that people are all about women doing nontraditional things, like working outside the home, but when it comes to a man putting in his fair share as a parent instead of playing video games or watching tv, it's treated as strange. All I can say is, I am one fortunate woman.
Let's talk about it.

You tell me:

Why is the double standard so pervasive? Even in the Church?

How can we teach our sons to value family work as much as we teach our daughters?

Where is that decisive line between "providing and protecting" and "nurturing?"

My opinion is long and --of course, as always --very personal. But you tell me yours, first!


Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

My thought would be that the division of labor is hardwired into our culture. For generations the idea that men work and provide, and that women take care of the home has been the norm.

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

Sadly, some people - usually men - wrongly think that their responsibility ends when they come home and turn on the TV. They forget the next line:

"In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."

I have actually heard a man say "My wife doesn't come to the office and help me with my work - why am I expected to come home and help with hers."

The goal of the church is to make bad men good - and good men better - just be glad you don't live in parts of the world where the women wear both hats!

Sorry - this extra long comment is payback for some of yours! ;)

Anonymous said...

Father-specific work: providing half the chromosome mix for conception.

Mother-specific work: providing the other half of the chromosome mix for conception; gestation; lactation.

Everything else to do with home and family is Parent work, and gets divided up according to who has a predilection, gift, available time, or least amount of dislike for it.

Stewardships set out a general sphere of operation; it's for the individual, or the parenting partners, to decide exactly what tasks fall into which sphere most often, and the huge majority of the tasks are totally gender-neutral.

When my husband worked away from home full time, I did take most of the household sphere under my stewardship, because it wasn't feasible for him, time-wise. But, we still worked together on household projects and tasks; we'd visit over kitchen clean-up, and work together outside, or on laundry, or he'd wash walls while I vacuumed... we just listed out what needed done, and decided between us who could best do each bit.

He managed just fine as a functional adult doing all his own housekeeping before he met me, as did I, so there's no pressure or sense in thinking adult living tasks are gender-specific, or should fall to someone simply based on whether their plumbing is internal or external.

We do the same with our kids and teaching them about adult responsibilities; girls and boy rotate through each task, learning every step. They all do dishes, cook, clean, do laundry, learn drywall repair, carpentry, basic car maintenance, gardening, sewing, embroidery, blacksmithing (okay, we have an odd family), music, Highland dance, organizing, pet care, helping with smaller siblings, etc. Nothing is off limits due to gender.

They work out responsibility swaps among themselves, too. If one of the big kids has a presidency meeting, band practice, or other responsibility, they'll trade chores as needed, based on "who has the time", not "who's the boy or girl."

My husband IS providing and protecting and presiding when he's cuddling a pukey kid in the middle of the night while I change the bedding. He's providing, protecting, and presiding when he helps a little dancer get her timing right in a Highland Fling. He's doing it when he gets the kids drawn into a home remodeling project. He's doing it when he takes on every single Primary Parent role and every Loving Spouse role for a few days because I'm ill and need to be in bed. He's a Real Man, a Real Father, and a Generally Good Fellow To Know. I'm determined that my son will turn out at least as well, and not have the idiotic attitude that some normal adult living tasks are better suited to those who have ovaries.

And those men who made fun of a Good Dad for filling his stewardship as he felt inspired to fill it? They have much more patient wives than I. MUCH more patient. I'd have done damage. That's some severe ignorance in need of correction.

Cheryl said...

This is from my friend, Kaylie (blogger ate her comment!):

I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is to examine our own attitudes and what we say to our kids. I had a friend in college whose parents didn't want her to play the drums because it wasn't a "feminine" instrument--so she ended up playing the flute. These kinds of stereotypes are just silly, in my opinion. What are we afraid of? That if our boys like pink or our girls climb trees they'll end up with gender identity issues?

I also think workplaces can do much to change these attitudes. Mothers are marginalized right now at work (less pay, less likely to be hired, viewed as less committed, etc.). Men who can see that mothers are not treated as as competent people at work probably don't want that same kind of treatment for themselves. Men (especially top-level men) need to be an example of making family time a priority so that men won't pay a professional penalty for doing so.

I also think that in the Church, we need to remember that the Proclamation is intended as a guide, not as a stick to beat ourselves or others up. The parts about husband and wife helping each other and individual adaptation are just as important as the providing and nurturing parts. It doesn't say one or the other is the exclusive role of men or women--it says "primary".

Also, I think if you look at the example of how Jesus treated women and children, you can find great examples of both nurturing and protecting. So men don't need to think they can't participate because that's somehow disobedient.

Cheryl said...

This is nice. I don't have to express my opinion because you people did such a good job of doing it!

flip flop mama said...

I really wanted to write a comment a few days ago but the other people said it so well. Good post Cheryl.