A Man and His Shed

My favorite dialogue from "Lizzie McGuire," the Disney series my kids' glue their eyeballs to every afternoon, takes place when Lizzie's father discovers that her nine-year-old brother has dug a cave to hide from the women of the family.

Son: "Do you ever feel like you just want your own place to chill, where no one can bother you?"

Dad stares insightfully at the boy as if no one has ever understood him in such a profound way: "Every day of my life, son."

Echoing this sentiment, last Thursday The New York Times ran a House & Home piece called "A Hideout All His Own: What's a man who craves his own space to do? More and more are creating retreats in attics, basements and sheds." The shed part cracked me up.

But I see a larger truth here. Men need their own space. One of their primary male-dominated gathering spots used to be work. Not anymore -- women have flooded in, and there's talk of babies infiltrating that sacred domain! While the workplace has become feminized and in a few rare cases baby-fied, men are expected to do more household chores and childcare at home. Gone --forever -- are the good old days of putting on their slippers and sinking into the La-Z-Boy in the den with a cold one. There is no escape!

So naturally men are getting creative, building hideouts in attics, basements and outbuildings -- as far away from women and kids as possible. Home Depot reports strong sales of prefab sheds used for precisely this purpose. Maybe if men have their own inviolable forts, they'll relax already about giving women pay equity and a few more promotions to CEO. It is only fair that men should have their own "safe place." Go for it guys -- just don't forget to build a little diaper changing table in there.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
Previous: Friday Free for All -- Our Best Moments as Moms | Next: Guest Blog -- Worst Mother Ever

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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Men have been escaping to their garages for a LONG time!

Women have to hide in the bathroom....

Posted by: June | May 22, 2006 8:05 AM

So, Are you saying that women do not need their own little space? That it is strictly a male need?

Posted by: Richard | May 22, 2006 8:05 AM

After reading this piece of tripe, I had to check my calendar to see what century we're living in. Why bother writing this new stuff? Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper for the Post to simply print exerpts from the stuff written by Marabel Morgan and Dr. Laura?

Posted by: Jayne | May 22, 2006 8:29 AM

I don't want to read Dr. Laura and if you don't want to read Leslie's articles click the back button.

Posted by: scarry | May 22, 2006 9:08 AM

I agree, and have no problems with needing your own space. I'm planning a new home with my husband and part of the plans will be a "mancave" in the basement. Not to worry - I'll have my own space as well.

Posted by: Anastasia Beaverhausen | May 22, 2006 9:23 AM

The purpose of a hideway is to escape from duty, so there be no diaper changing table thar. Maybe a mini-fridge.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 9:23 AM

I think everyone needs a space to themselves at some point so they can decompress and relax. As long as people remember to come back out and reconnect with the world, I say huzzah for the sheds (or garages or cupolas or wherever you like to be).

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 22, 2006 9:26 AM

My "space" is currently in the corner of our living room! I feel naked to the world with no space to retreat from the demands of the day. Between the kids, the dogs and a busy wife, the house is noisy and often a wreck. After work at the office I help clean up, but it's a nonestop avalanche. I've suggested we add a room onto the house, but my wife gets upset with me, fearful that I want to leave her. I'd be less likely to leave her - by going nuts - if I had some space. I've had to settle for the car. I drop the seat back, put on an audiobook, and drift away into blissful rest.

Posted by: Michael Rigel | May 22, 2006 9:56 AM

Michael Rigel

Your entire family needs to work on why "the house is noisy and often a wreck" and stop the avalanch. Would you put up with this nonsense at work?

Then you won't be sneaking out to the car or another woman.........

Posted by: June | May 22, 2006 10:15 AM

Yeah, I sympathize for the need for their own space -- and the regular escape from duty. But how many women get either? Are they really this fragile?

I live in a house with three males. I am the only person here who doesn't have my own room. (I share a bedroom with my SO; he has a private office.) The odd thing is when we've discussed this, my SO tells me he considers all the rest of the space in the house besides his room to be "my space." It sure doesn't feel that way to me, except in the sense that I seem to be solely responsible for keeping it clean.

Posted by: Boy Zone | May 22, 2006 10:33 AM

My hideout is in the garage. I've got all sorts of toys there (planes, chisels, table saw, drills, sanders, etc) and can amuse myself there for hours making various things. My wife understands that I need "me time" just as she does (her space is one of the spare bedrooms) and besides, she is the primary recipient of all my creative "playing" when I'm there anyway, in the shape of tables, nightstands and the occasional bookcase!

Posted by: John | May 22, 2006 10:34 AM

My space just got sold. A basement room had been the discard pile for furnture that no longer was in favor (didnt match) in the rooms upstairs so I had arranged old oriental rugs from my mom's house (when she moved into a home), two old leather chairs, the old 27" TV, the way too big speakers, and memorabilia from sports, my motorcycling days etc on the walls. Clearly was at best a fraternity room decoration scheme - derogatorily referred to as Sanford & Son by my discerning spouse. SAHM of 3 fully scheduled kids certainly has both of us working full time. I am way more involved with the kids and the housework than my Dad ever was - but I guess I lived too close to Martha Stewart for me to get to have one room hidden away to regress.

What is with the extreme pressure in this generation to have everything look like it's out of MS Living?

Posted by: Ct Dad | May 22, 2006 10:37 AM

All sold in a Tag sale.

Posted by: CT Dad | May 22, 2006 10:39 AM


If you'd grow a spine, you wouldn't tolerate being treated like a child in your own home!!!!!

Posted by: June | May 22, 2006 10:52 AM

my husband runs away to home depot when he needs "cave time" and can while away the hours combing the aisles, dreaming of all the things he'd do to our fixer-upper to increas it's value.

as for me, the mom of an infant, i secretly keep reading material hidden in the bathroom. it's the one place i can go and close the door and no one knocks untill they start to worry i've passed out and hit my head on the vanity on the way down.

Posted by: nat | May 22, 2006 10:57 AM


Would strongly suggest you try the FlyLady at www.flylady.net. Her communication style may strike you as hokey but her system for organizing the home and managing housework is the real thing!

Posted by: valady | May 22, 2006 10:57 AM

I'm not one of the bash-Leslie brigade, but this is frankly silly. I sincerely doubt that the availability or lack of "cave" space has anything to do with equal pay or CEO promotions. And God knows women have the same need for time to themselves. It's not a male need, it's a human need. We just don't all indulge it in an obvious way.

Like the man whose personal time is at Home Depot, my personal time tends to come while cooking or food shopping. I like thinking about items I could make and playing with new recipes, and it's time that people will leave me alone.

Posted by: cavewoman | May 22, 2006 11:04 AM

Yet another stupid article bashing the gender with the Y chromosome. Yawn.

Posted by: oy gevalt | May 22, 2006 11:14 AM

How is this male bashing? According to many posts written by men, there is a real need for personal space (and women need it too).

valady: thanks for the link to flylady.net i like the idea!

Posted by: Sunny | May 22, 2006 11:23 AM

The apocryphal story of my great-grandfather is that he basically lived in a shed in his backyard with a tiny, coal-fed, pot-belly stove. Apparently, the shed was some sacred domain of which my father has these distinct memories from the rare times when he was allowed to enter. My father threatens to get a shed every now and then, and I imagine some day he'll make good on the threats. As a result, I view a shed as the last domain of geniuses and curmudgeons (my father is both).

Posted by: Nicholas | May 22, 2006 11:36 AM

I don't touch the washing machine or dryer without Her permission, and She doesn't touch My power tools without MY permission. Her place. My place. Her stuff. My stuff. Fair? However, when I borrow a fork from Her kitchen, I always put it back, and when She borrows a screwdriver from My toolbox, it goes missing for months. After 17 years of marriage, I've just found out the safest place in the house to hide things. You know that pile of clothes on her side of the closet that she won't throw away because she'll start wearing them again after she loses 15 pounds? Right under there...

Posted by: Even Stephen | May 22, 2006 11:49 AM


The second to last paragraph is stereotypical male bashing. There are times that I curl up and watch TV, crosstitch, or read, but for the most part I have my work to do. Reparing nail pops, repainting rooms, re-laying floors and subfloors, creating storage space, making sure the HVAC system is working properly, maintaining the family vehicles, fixing the leaky toilets, faucets, and dishwashers, mowing the lawn, not to mention all the "household chores," as Leslie refers to them. Seems to me I've got plenty of household chores without adding the diaper changing. But, guess what, I do that on the weekends and evenings too. The only thing I refuse to do is give him a bath, because I have a degenerating hip and can't lean over the bathtub that long.

It used to be that men could ignore their children to complete their household chores unless they were bad. Now, my 3-yr-old son is an integral part of any job I must undertake for the home, making it take 5 times the amount of time to complete. He just wants to help. And how do you refuse the "can I help?" I WISH I had my own space just to help me finish my projects. There just ain't much extra space in a townhouse and the "association" won't let me put up a shed.

Posted by: Working Dad | May 22, 2006 11:53 AM

Yeah, I read that article last week, and it was a theory that my ex-husband had as well. He definitley needed his cave. He was an amateur musician, so his cave was a home studio. I never really felt the need for "cave space" as I felt the entire home was part of my domain. I've never heard my girlfriends describe a need for a cave, either. It's definitely a guy thing, but contrary to what some are posting, I don't believe this is a good or a bad thing...

Posted by: single western mom | May 22, 2006 11:54 AM

Even Stephen, has the possibility of getting your wife her own small toolbox come up? They have nice compact toolboxes with basic tool sets (hammer, pliers, tape measure, screwdrivers, etc) that are lightweight and low on space maintenance. Heck, some of them are even color-coordinated. This might solve your missing tool dilemma.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 22, 2006 12:00 PM

Even Stephen

Withhold affection and sex from your wife until she loses those 15 pesky pounds!

Oops, sounds like you are already doing it!

Posted by: June | May 22, 2006 12:05 PM

Yes, I'm another guy who reads every day and hasn't ever bashed Leslie. But yes, today's topic is pretty clearly male bashing, or at least male-ridiculing.

I'd thought the blog started to be inclusive (great to see women welcoming men in on Friday's topic). Leslie now seems to do lots of hand-wringing over these "mommy wars", yet she keeps firing shots on this battlefield. I just don't understand why that is. "Maybe if men have their own inviolable forts, they'll relax already about giving women pay equity and a few more promotions to CEO." Maybe there are some good-old-boys or retirement-aged-men out there who think like this. The problem is, the type of guys who would read this blog would all be offended by that type of statement.

Posted by: Wow | May 22, 2006 12:17 PM


Try to think of something constructive to add. So far, it is just pretty nasty.

Posted by: SR | May 22, 2006 12:17 PM

Women or men, I really don't think it matters which sex you're talking about; at some point each will feel squeezed to the point where private space, a place for reflection seems the first best solution for their comfort. Don't believe me? Look up Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" on Amazon. Back then, she was saying that having a place to be herself was a step towards a woman finding independence and the means to express and support herself. In this article, in this instance, Leslie's suggesting that a man feels the the need for a room of his own to relax and get centered. What does a woman of today need with a room of her own? Depends. Things aren't the same as when Virginia Woolf wrote about it, but that desire is still there, even if "the whole house" is her room.

Posted by: Patti | May 22, 2006 12:25 PM

I need space for my stuff and a place to work outside the house because, activities like hammering, drilling, pounding, nailing, and screwing are offensive to my wife.

Posted by: Even Stephen | May 22, 2006 12:48 PM

I don't understand some of the people on this board. First, Leslie doesn't include men in her articles, now that she does, she is male bashing. Come on, make up your minds already.

Posted by: scarry | May 22, 2006 12:59 PM

"I need space for my stuff and a place to work outside the house because, activities like hammering, drilling, pounding, nailing, and screwing are offensive to my wife."

Now that gives rise to an interesting thought: I wonder if anyone's considered taking a building like an old factory and repurposing it as rentable "cave space" for just such activities. It would be something like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, only instead of art it would be carpentry or metal work or whatever. This could solve problems like SOs that don't like the noise and townhouses/condos that don't allow outside buildings.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 22, 2006 12:59 PM


Posted by: caveman | May 22, 2006 1:01 PM

"activities like hammering, drilling, pounding, nailing, and screwing are offensive to my wife."

Above is an obvious reference to sexual activity.

Posted by: Eddie | May 22, 2006 1:02 PM

Wasn't there a sitcom episode where men had rented out self-storage spaces for use as "caves"?

Posted by: wagon | May 22, 2006 1:14 PM

Yes, it was the one with the uptight guy named Greg whose brother and sister-in-law lived in his guest house,it was funny.

Posted by: scarry | May 22, 2006 1:19 PM

"activities like hammering, drilling, pounding, nailing, and screwing are offensive to my wife."

Above is an obvious reference to sexual activity.

Didn't know school had let out for summer yet...

Posted by: dingbat | May 22, 2006 1:21 PM

the sitcom is "yes, dear"

Posted by: scarry | May 22, 2006 1:22 PM

I don't think it's very accurate to dub the rest of the house as the "woman's space." I know that certainly doesn't accurately describe the situation in my house, even though my SO seems to think it does.

Posted by: Boy Zone | May 22, 2006 1:27 PM

Some people just need their own space. I have to agree this is a little male bashing going on today. I think men get a bad rap, I really do. I know about the whole pay inequality, glass ceiling, etc but I think men and women just generally view the world differently, especially when it comes to the homefront. My mother says that while opportunities are wonderful for women today it has made things more stressful on the homefront, where there is a lot of resentment from both sides on responsibilities. However, to the gentleman who accuses his wife of losing everything while he "always" returns everything to the proper place -- those kinds of divisive comments are the reason we have the divorce rate we do in this country. My motto is, when you go to criticize, look in the mirror -- My husband has accused me of losing things before and yes, I do, but sometimes he is the one that loses them, and vice versa. You are inevitably going to do the thing that you criticize your spouse for doing. We all have issues with our spouses, of course. But, one of my friends' wives suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 47 two weeks ago so these petty issues we have with our spouses are stupid. So appreciate your spouses for all the good qualities they have and ignore the small things. Forgetting to return a tool is a small thing (and returning a fork is a small thing too).

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 1:30 PM

I am scratching my head, I honestly don't see how Leslie's article could be considered male-bashing. Quite the opposite in fact, if anything. I cringed at the idea that having women in the workplace "feminizes" it - doesn't that just make it equal? Or is everything that is not exclusively male suddenly feminized?

That said I think it is good for people to have their own activities and space. But I would not consider "washing machine" (which washes everyone's clothes, a CHORE) and workshop (most of the time a play place) to be equivalent. Maybe sewing room (if one likes to make clothing etc) vs workshop or art studio vs workshop would be a better "even steven" trade imo.

Posted by: Catherine | May 22, 2006 1:51 PM

What about the husband who commutes 2-3 hours a day, works 50 hours a week, and still has chores waiting for him when he gets home? When the first thing you hear is "take off your shoes" and "take out the trash" from the woman who sleeps 3 hours longer every morning - I think a little quiet time away from the constant barage of nagging people is just fine. Wives? It's easier than giving up a square inch of "your" house.

Posted by: JDC | May 22, 2006 1:58 PM

"Maybe there are some good-old-boys or retirement-aged-men out there who think like this."

Sorry, it is not just "good old boys". I'm in my early 30s and there are guys my age who think "like this." And, I'm not the first one to cry out over it either. In fact, I'm a defense litigator who often is in the position of defending men in discrimination lawsuits.

Why is it "male bashing" to simply point out what has been historically the case (i.e. women paid less and systematic acceptance -if not outright promotion- of that fact)?

Further, I agree with one other poster. I saw on previous topics that some of men on this board were upset that they weren't being mentioned at all. Now they are and in a manner that can hardly be refuted (i.e., history of pay disparity AND comments by men on this that they generally do value "their" time) and it is "male bashing." Get real.

I pity you Leslie. You couldn't win with this group if you tried.

Posted by: JS | May 22, 2006 1:58 PM

I agree with Catherine's comments: I too cringed at the characterization of women in the workplace.

And to JDC, what about the wife who works and commutes just as much as the husband?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 2:02 PM

Wow. There is a lot of anger from men here directed towards their wives. What is this all about? Is it really about feeling like it's "her" house? Or something larger? I don't mean for there to be judgement in this question, I'm just curious because I never want my husband to feel this way. Father of 4 where are you? What do you have to say about this?

Posted by: Something amiss | May 22, 2006 2:14 PM

"What about the husband who commutes 2-3 hours a day, works 50 hours a week, and still has chores waiting for him when he gets home? When the first thing you hear is "take off your shoes" and "take out the trash" from the woman who sleeps 3 hours longer every morning - ...."

Maybe your wife should get a job and then you coul work less and commute less.

Posted by: scarry | May 22, 2006 2:15 PM


Please consider expanding your perspective on "wife." This one commutes 2-3 hours per day (her husband has a 5 min commute), gets up 2 to 3 hours before her husband and goes to bed after him (because of chores - I'm not watching Leno), and still is expected to be the only one who cooks, grocery shops, and does the laundry. I'd love to have a minute (literally) of "quite time," whether in a space of my own or not. So, please, remember your audience here - most of the wives that post to this discussion work outside the home just like you.

Posted by: cb | May 22, 2006 2:20 PM

typo on "quite"

Posted by: cb | May 22, 2006 2:22 PM

OK now I'm reading these things again -- I don't understand the animosity at all. Me personally I thrive on having people around me -- my husband does need time to unwind alone and that's ok -- he was like that when I met him. Sometimes it bothers me but sometimes not.
As a side note, there are occasional times I need to "get away" but I am not usually successful, but you have to have a sense of humor, which is the key to a successful marriage. One time after a LOOONG day at work I came home and it was just loud -- the kids were fighting, my husband was watching TV turned up too loud and I just needed 15 minutes of quiet time and announced to my husband and small children I would be unavailable for a little bit and not to. So I went upstairs to our room with the paper -- 5 minutes later my husband and children marched upstairs and asked "why did you leave? We miss you!" So my need for quiet time was replaced with appreciation from my family. So that's ok.

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 2:26 PM

forgot to complete the sentence "I would be unavailable for a little bit and not to disturb me."

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 2:30 PM

It's not that we get mentioned, it is the way we are getting mentioned.

"Gone --forever -- are the good old days of putting on their slippers and sinking into the La-Z-Boy in the den with a cold one."

I liked Leslie's article until I read that line. She seems to hate stereotypes of women, but promotes them for men.

My grandfathers never did that, my father never did that, and I don't do that. I have a whole half-season of West Wing on tape to "catch up". And that's quite a stack of tapes. (Yeah, I know, TiVo. Maybe for my b'day.)

There was a big discussion on stereotypes back when she mentioned a birthday party and the fact that her husband couldn't pick out ice cream without calling home three times, or something like that. She stereotyped men as not being able to do the simplest thing around the house. It sounds like her husband is the stereotype male, while most of the men that read this chat are industrious and enlightened.

I wonder how our wives view us ...

Posted by: Working Dad | May 22, 2006 2:36 PM

If a guy needs a tool shed because he can't get some alone time in his own home, he's got a bigger problem than he realizes.

Posted by: Registered Voter | May 22, 2006 2:49 PM

I find the complaints of "man bashing" to be interesting as well. I found the tone of Leslie's peice to be a bit flippant, for sure, but not hostile; however, I do think that her statement, "Maybe if men have their own inviolable forts, they'll relax already about giving women pay equity and a few more promotions to CEO," misses the difference between a societal and individual biases. We live in a society that has tended to value men's work more than women's, and both men and women have participated in this in one way or another. I remember a column a few weeks ago in which many poster commented that their women bosses were less understanding than male bosses; I think that's one example of how women can contribute to the problem. ALso think about the fact that in studies of classrooms, female teachers display gender bias as well as males; and of course the fabulous "mommy wars" on this board and others are another good example of women being oppresive to other women. Societal trends are not the result of the actions of only half the people. Leslie's comment (which again, I think was just flippant), takes the approach that this problem is only the result of a few uptight men trying to hold women down. So I can see why people take offense at it, but I really don't think that was the point of her piece.

As a working parent, I think the need for space, or at least time, to yourself is more to do with personality than gender. I definitely need time to myself, and often just want to sit and read for 15 minutes when I "come home" (I work from home most days); I used to get this on my commute on the train, and I really miss it.

Posted by: Megan | May 22, 2006 2:50 PM

Wow - Imagine what a tragedy it must be for a male to live with Leslie . Day in and day out walking on egg shells hoping not to offend. You know, a guy joke here and there. Maybe a burp or two every once in a while. With the tone in her writing, one just doesn't see that happening in her presence. Hopefully, this is just her online personality and outside of work she is a wonderul, easygoing, comfortable person to be around.

Posted by: dc | May 22, 2006 2:53 PM

Could someone please explain why referring to a "shed" is grounds for Leslie to "crack up"? Is there something intrinsically funny about a shed, as opposed to an attic or basement or any other part of a house?

Posted by: Unclued | May 22, 2006 2:56 PM

I think Working Dad has a great idea for an article! I think personally that sometimes women have their own way of doing things and get mad if their husbands don't do it their way (I am totally guilty of this), particularly things like birthday parties for the kids, anything related to the kids so maybe the appearance of men not being able to do something so simple as picking out the right flavor is really more a commentary on the fact that women want to do things their own way and men don't want to screw up. I think women can be judgemental.
But on the flip side, this is my biggest gripe about my husband and how I "view" him. When he promises to do something and says "I'll do it this weekend" and says that for 8 weekends in a row and it still isn't done it drives me crazy. I just ask that something be done when promised -- but I think he gets worried I will be mad if he says I can't do it for 3 months, I have other things I have to do first. Other than that he is perfect in my eyes.

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 2:59 PM

Changing the subject: Where do women like to spend their quiet time? Based on my wife's experience, it's somewhere outside the home.

Posted by: Jacknut | May 22, 2006 3:31 PM

I have a question. What do we think? Are men and women identical in their thoughts, needs, psychological make-up, outlook on life and personal strengths, or do we women have something unique to offer? What is it that women offer that is unique?

For instance, does the presence of women in the workplace change the workplace in any way, other than increasing the number of people in it (i.e., would it be the same if there were simply more men, rather than men and women)? How do women change the workplace?

Having thought about that, do we think that men are in any way different from women (other than producing sperm rather than ova)? Do they have anything unique to offer? What is it that they do offer?

Do we think women have psychological or social needs that are either quantitatively or qualitatively different than those of men? If so, how are they different? If women have unique needs (or particular needs that are uniquely important to them), do men have any unique needs? What would those be?

If we think that there are differences, could it be that the hoary old stories about grandad tinkering in the garage, or dad going on fishing trips with his brothers and cousins, are based on some of these differences? Is it male-bashing to recognize these things? If we do recognize some differences, should we use them to bash men? (And would our answers be if we asked these questions about women?)

Posted by: Re Male Bashing | May 22, 2006 3:45 PM

My husband is one of those people who needs to unwinde after work in a quiet place without being disturbed. It's just the way he is -- it is not a flaw of his character. I never had a problem with it and I still don't. B.K. (before kids) he was perfectly entitled to his own unwinding technique. But it is no longer possible --we are both working parents and he has to carry his load just as I do in the evenings on on the weekends. I need my quiet time just as much as he does but I know that until the kids are in bed asleep I won't get it. So, during my metro commute I am enjoying a book or a magazine and steeling myself to the loud and busy evening ahead. When I come home, I belong to my children until bed time. My husband, on the other hand, is still fighting this routine. He is yearning for the "place where no one can bother him" -- shouldn't he know by now that he will never have it until kids are in college?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 3:48 PM

I can definitely see where there's some man-bashing:

"Maybe if men have their own inviolable forts, they'll relax already about giving women pay equity and a few more promotions to CEO."

There are many men who understand the need for pay equity and the dismantling of the glass ceiling and old-boys' networks who also need a bit of "alone time" - as others have pointed out, that's a human need rather than a completely male need. But in that sentence, Leslie seems to be insinuating that all the menfolk who need a shed are also standing in the way of women and women's rights. It's a nasty little stereotype. There is some overlap between the two groups, of course, but not all guys who need time alone are opressing women.

For what it's worth, I don't think it was intentional (though that doesn't make it right).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 3:49 PM

Many men and women need some private space; stereotypically, it was something like the garage or basement workshop for the men, and the kitchen or sewing room for the women. And the tasks that were done there were valued (my Granny sewed everyone's clothes; and while I imagine my grandmother joked about my grandfather's basement shop, she nevertheless appreciated all of the things he was able to repair). Today, we buy our own clothes and throw things out rather than repair them -- and, of course, now that the whole family lives in the kitchen (or the family room that it opens onto), that isn't much of an "escape," either (if it ever was!).

I think that's a shame. As much as we love our families and spouses, most people I know need some place that is just theirs. And we like to do things that are useful and productive, and have that effort valued. I was really impressed with the creativity shown by the guys in the NYT article to claim some sort of private space in their world.

In our family, my husband is an engineer who goes stir crazy unless he's knee-deep in solving a problem. When he took up woodworking, he became a much happier man. I must say, I didn't get it at first. But then we moved and I started telecommuting from our shared office, and it drove me nuts -- having to figure out a place for my files and my laptop and my research materials, when his computer and our bank statements and his computer games were all over the desk. So my husband went out to that shop of his and built me a desk of my own. I was never so happy as the day that desk appeared and I had my own personal space. And all of a sudden, I got it.

The thing that drives me nuts now is our kitchen; that's where I like to putz when I have time. But right now, we have about 4 square feet of usable counterspace, and since it's right next to the sink and on the way to the backyard, it is constantly filled with dirty dishes, charging electronic devices, and tools that need to go back to the shop. I just need my own, efficient space, with my own sink (so I never have to nag him to do something about the dirty dishes), my own workspace, and my own "tools" that are all where they belong. Luckily, he recognized that, too, and now soon I will have my own cooking area, just the way I want it -- with an island for everyone else to be on the other side of. Except, of course, when our 5-yr-old wants to "help." :-)

Posted by: Laura | May 22, 2006 3:49 PM

The sheds comment cracks me up, but only because I am familar with the famous composer, Arthur 'two sheds' Jackson.

Perhaps this is what cracked up the writer of the article

Posted by: richard | May 22, 2006 3:50 PM

I know that this is off subject but I found this article on CNN.com today. It is from the Health Page and MedPageToday.com. Any comments?

Women who bring home the bacon -- as well as cook it -- are likely to be thinner and healthier than their stay-at-home counterparts, researchers at University College London said this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Even at age 26, women characterized as stay-at-home mothers were larger than women who worked outside the home, and for the next 27 years, they consistently gained more weight than women who "occupied multiple roles over the long term," the researchers found.

And pregnant women juggling jobs and family responsibilities shouldn't worry that normal life stresses or anxiety will harm their developing children, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said. In fact, women who reported more stress and anxiety during pregnancy tended to have children more advanced in their mental and motor development at age two, the investigators reported in Child Development.

They stopped short of suggesting that women seek out additional stress to give their kids an added boost.

Posted by: FYI | May 22, 2006 3:54 PM

thank you, FYI, for your post. My kids should be "einsteins"... and I should weigh no more than like Linsay Lohan

Posted by: bethesdamom | May 22, 2006 3:58 PM

Everyone needs their own space, Leslie. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: F | May 22, 2006 3:58 PM

FYI: interesting article about the benefits of mild stress during pregnancy-- but the study doesn't prove whether the kids are more advanced because of biological or environmental factors... I think the key word here is "mild" in any case...

Posted by: FergalMcDergal | May 22, 2006 4:12 PM

Maybe it is just me, but it seems like everytime a male stereotype is used by Leslie or whomever, the excuse is "oh, they were just kidding" or "you took offense to THAT?", but if the situation is reversed and an unflattering female stereotype is put out there by a man, that man is called all sorts of names and told to join the 21st century. Seems like a double standard to me, but curious as to what others think...

Posted by: tiki | May 22, 2006 4:12 PM

Tiki, that could certainly be, though I would also guess that the way the statements are made might make more of a difference than the gender to which they apply. I think there's a pretty big difference in tone from some of the things Leslie writes (which are, after all, geared for publication) and the things people write in their comments (which are totally anonymous, whether the poster supplies a name or not). The comments are often incredibly venemous, whereas Leslie's columns are less venemous even though they may be stereotyping or still be offensive.

Though I do remember people really attacking Leslie about stereotyping after some of her columns about SAHM v. WOHM.

Posted by: Megan | May 22, 2006 4:17 PM

Where is Father of Four when we need him?

Posted by: Derwood Mom | May 22, 2006 4:22 PM

I think Father of Four did not feel welcome after some of the posts last friday, unfortunately -- some wanted to make it a "Moms Only" posting....

Please come back Father of Four!

Posted by: typical working mother | May 22, 2006 4:29 PM

I only have one thing to say to any man that feels offended by Leslie's blog today: "You are a wussy!"

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 22, 2006 4:30 PM

My thoughts on this debate: reminds me of when I took the Myers-Briggs. One comment in the analysis part said something to the effect of "Introverts enjoy people, but being around them drains their energy. They need solitude to recharge. Extroverts thrive on people contact -- for them, that social interaction recharges their batteries."

DH and I are both introverts at heart -- we may look like extroverts at work and among others, but we each need me-time - separate from each other. Grant each other that space and life runs much more smoothly!

Posted by: Derwood Mom | May 22, 2006 4:32 PM

Father of 4,
I'm ashamed of you. How can you have 4 kids and still use the term "wussy". That went out in the 80s.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2006 4:33 PM

Compared to some terms more popular today, I think "wussy" is pretty good. Thanks for coming back Father of 4!

Posted by: FergusMcDurgus | May 22, 2006 4:35 PM


RE: "I would also guess that the way the statements are made might make more of a difference than the gender to which they apply. "

No - some of the stuff that's said about men on this blog is positively poisonous. We, as a society, are so used to double standards that we don't even notice them. Once we become sensitized to an underdog group, we react very, very negatively to any negative statements about that group. Perhaps due to a very deep "Robin Hood" streak in our culture, we seem to delight in zinging the "privileged" group presumed to be responsible for the plight of the underdogs. Most of the time, we don't even see it (at least, I hope we don't - I'd like to believe better of people than that we're content to malign a group simply because they aren't popularly believed to be oppressed).

Posted by: Man's Observation | May 22, 2006 4:54 PM

Man's Observation:

"No - some of the stuff that's said about men on this blog is positively poisonous."

Very true, but I don't think that anyone writes in defending those statements as "just joking," which is what Tiki suggested tends to happen. My sense is that most of the time when people defend someone else's stereotyping of men, they are defending Leslie's, which I don't find to be as poisonous. I take your point about general double standards, but I think the venom flows in all directions on this blog, and it's not usually what gets defended. But I don't have time to go back and look, as much time as I do waste on this blog...

Posted by: Megan | May 22, 2006 5:00 PM

"I think the venom flows in all directions on this blog"

That is certainly true - and I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that it's bad enough to make the whole exercise useless.

Posted by: Man's Observation | May 22, 2006 5:07 PM

My husband and I each have an office in our house. Someday, I can envision giving up mine if we need the space, but I would never ask him to give up his. He needs it more. It doesn't have to do with who works more or who does more around the house; it only has to do with personality. I can "get away" by cooking or holing up in front of the TV with whatever else going on around me, but he needs the retreat, and I'm happy to give it to him. I knew that when I married him.

Posted by: Sally | May 22, 2006 5:12 PM

The "shed" in the south is called a pouting house(pronounced pautin).It was and still is where women send the husband when he is under foot and just plain getting in the way. In purchasing a new home a few years ago, I refused to even look at a house if it did not have this necessary "shed".

Posted by: Grits | May 22, 2006 6:06 PM

"Go for it guys -- just don't forget to build a little diaper changing table in there."

"Ha ha, you men are now responsible for changing the babies. We grrrlls will run the business and be CEO. Hope you like it in your shed back there."

Man-bashing b.s.

Posted by: another-guy-dropped-by-and-left-quickly | May 22, 2006 6:29 PM

more manhating. wow, leslie, you are original

Posted by: moremanhating | May 22, 2006 6:30 PM

In real life Leslie is a nightmare. I am not her husband -- more like her battedred wife. Help me!

Posted by: Leslie's Wife | May 22, 2006 6:32 PM

In the continuing spirit of
fun and frolic, my answer (and the answer by many, many women, I'd expect)to "Where do women like to spend their quiet time?" is, naturally, "WHAT QUIET TIME?" The entire 19 years I was
married and with only 1 child (a boy), there was darned little quiet time for me and lots -- assumed, of course -- for my ex.
At one point, when he said he needed a room for himself, and I asked where MY room was, he said, "You have the kitchen."
What a lunkhead. Boyzone, you
have my thoughts and prayers as
you apparently face similar in your houseful of men!

Posted by: SF Mom | May 22, 2006 7:08 PM

"Leslie's wife"-- that is the most disgusting comment I have seen on this blog. Take it somewhere else.

Posted by: Feminist | May 22, 2006 9:06 PM


Re: ""Leslie's wife"-- that is the most disgusting comment I have seen on this blog. Take it somewhere else."

Really? There've been some true doozies.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2006 8:52 AM

When making a statement like: "Maybe if men have their own inviolable forts, they'll relax already about giving women pay equity and a few more promotions to CEO." It's important for women to keep something in mind here.

Right now there is just enough left of the male dominated work environment that some women can nearly "have it all" i.e. a high paying career of their own and a highly paid spouse as well. I've talked to many women for whom the earning power of a potential mate is still a primary factor in who they are interested in marrying.

However, as women successfully occupy more and more of these "high-earning" positions, they will have to realize that the number of men with large paychecks will dwindle, and many women will have to realize that they must "settle" for men with more humble career prospects as a direct result of women's own success.

Posted by: Dismal Scientist | May 23, 2006 10:01 AM

Sweet Jebus, can men do nothing right? You whine and complain when Lay-Z-Boys and wall-mounted stuffed fish and nacho-stained football jerseys clutter up the house, and then when guys get sick of the nagging and simply move everything out to their own space suddently they're shirking their "duty" or implicitly engaging in anti-social behavior. It has been scientifically proven (really!) that women have a greater awareness of and sensitivity to dirt and clutter, and seem to take this as their mandate to just transform the entire house to their standards. Sadly, the worst part is that it'll eventually extend out even to these man-sheds. When I was growing up, my favorite part of every summer was when my dad and his friends took all the sons up to a fishing lodge for a few weeks. We did nothing but gut fish and put our feet up on crappy furniture, and it was great. Then, when I was about 10, wives started showing up and suddenly the place sprouted curtains and a dishwasher and you know what? Nobody goes there anymore.

Posted by: Jimbo | May 23, 2006 12:17 PM

I am an artist, as is my spousal unit. But my writing desk is in the hallway. His large amount of music and painting equipment gets its own room, which is too cluttered for me to want to write in.

Posted by: Rita | May 23, 2006 12:19 PM

"I am an artist, as is my spousal unit. But my writing desk is in the hallway. His large amount of music and painting equipment gets its own room, which is too cluttered for me to want to write in."

Ever thought of putting a shed out back and claiming it as your space ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2006 1:56 PM

I'm bothered by the inevitable conclusion of this entry -- that men are programmed by genes and hormones to be antisocial loners. That sounds depressing to me, because it suggests that men can never be fully civilized. The idea that much of human behavior is biological rather than intellectual sounds anti-civilization to me. In my view, a civilized male should naturally feel as comfortable around females and children as he does around other males. If that sounds naive, so be it.

Posted by: John | May 23, 2006 3:25 PM

"I'm bothered by the inevitable conclusion of this entry -- that men are programmed by genes and hormones to be antisocial loners."

Whoa - this seems to be jumping off a cliff. Isn't it at least possible that everyone needs social connections, and also needs some solitude at times? Look around - the world isn't made up of extroverts who are never, never, ever alone, and loners who are never, ever, ever with other people. The balance just differs a bit between people, that's all. I suspect that, on average, the balance may differ a bit between men and women.

"In my view, a civilized male should naturally feel as comfortable around females and children as he does around other males."

Well, sure - men need women, and should be comfortable around them. Just as above, healthy, well-adjusted women seem to find value in spending time with other women, but also get along fine with men and children. Similarly, healthy, well-adjusted men seem to find value in spending time with other men, but also mix with women and children. The balance between the two varies some from person to person (and that's o.k.).

"The idea that much of human behavior is biological rather than intellectual sounds anti-civilization to me."

Not at all. We are not pure intellects, but have bodies as well. Those bodies define many of our basic needs, and affect the way we think and behave (note that I did not say that they define our thoughts and behavior, but merely that they affect them). The structures of successful civilizations recognize the innate influences of our biology, and channel them in productive ways. One of the primary reasons most utopian communities fail is that, in seeking their ideological ideal, they tend to ignore or suppress human nature.

"it suggests that men can never be fully civilized"

Of course men can be civilized. One wag once defined civilizaton as the sum total of everything men have created in their ages long effort to impress women (Please don't slam me for this, I fully recognize the equal contributions of women to civilization; but it is an amusing way of noting how biological imperatives can play a role in things). I strongly suspect, though, that even in the most utopian society, civilized men will, on average, think and behave slightly different from civilized women. That's not bad.

Posted by: Huh? | May 24, 2006 11:37 AM

Re: Huh?

"Isn't it at least possible that everyone needs social connections, and also needs some solitude at times?" Yes. I'm a major introvert, but it has nothing to do with me being male.

Besides, but that wasn't the point of the original piece. The piece seemed to be saying that "solitude" for men means being away from women and children, not necessarily from other men. To me, phrases like "the workplace has become feminized" suggest that the author worries that men lose their manliness if they spend all their time around women. The author sounds like Spanky founding the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

I was also thinking of this comment. If this is the case, I sincerely hope that it's due to nurture rather than nature, because I worry that biology can "define our thoughts and behavior" against our will.


"Finksburg, Md.: Back in the dark ages when I was in grade school in the '50's we had patrol boys. They wore cool belts and got to walk with the school kids and make sure they stayed on sidewalks, obeyed the crossing guard etc. ( one boy even saved a kid's life by grabbing him out of the way of a car. He made the news) . Then someone suggested that they let girls join too. Someone, I don't know who, I wish I did remember- said it might not be a good idea because whenever girls join a previously all boys group, the boys no longer want to join. But they admitted girls anyway and sure enough, the boys participation dropped off. I think we see a similar thing today. There are more women than men in college today. I am wondering if, since women sort of left the home and hearth, and went out into the work force in the last 30 or so years, -Since they became patrol kids- maybe, some of the men have stopped participating."

Posted by: John | May 24, 2006 2:18 PM

"Yes. I'm a major introvert, but it has nothing to do with me being male."

Me too. But that's not really my point. If these two things were true:

a) Men need, on average, a bit more solitude than women (notice the "on average" and "a bit"); and

b) Men need, or at least value, time in the company of men (just as women seem to need, or at least value, time in the company of women)

Then we would have what I believe to be an adequate explanation of men trying to create personal hide-outs in the garage, basement, attic or workshop, and a desire for some (as Leslie puts it) "male-dominated gathering spots."

"I worry that biology can "define our thoughts and behavior" against our will."

I don't. I think it's clear that biology helps shape our thoughts and behavior (else why would sex and good food be so important to so many people rather than, say, canasta). The role of civilization is to shape our natural inclinations and abilities into something humane and meaningful.

"To me, phrases like "the workplace has become feminized" suggest that the author worries that men lose their manliness if they spend all their time around women. The author sounds like Spanky founding the He-Man Woman Haters Club."

Agreed. Mrs. Steiner seems to assume that since she's a woman, she gets a free pass on gender stereotypes and can say anything she wants. (The sad thing is, in our current politically correct culture, she's basically correct in that assumption.)

Posted by: Huh? | May 25, 2006 8:55 AM

I don't think there was bashing here, but it certainly gets to the line of condescension- somehow if we give men their "private castles" then they will be happy to give up their "public castles" to the women to take over and enjoy together.

I realize she was trying to be cute with her diaper bag comment, but how would she feel if someone said to her "This is your bathroom and spa area, your private solace away from stress and worry...but don't forget the playpen."?

Posted by: Liz | May 26, 2006 10:32 AM

Shed? Sounds like a better idea than an ice fishing house.

Posted by: DM | June 5, 2006 1:55 PM

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