Archive: Division of Labor

Rules for Ruling the Roost

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The New York Times Magazine on Sunday ran a long piece on how household duties are divided. The article focuses on the idea of "equally shared parenting," a concept that is being lived to its logical extreme by On Balance regulars Amy and Marc Vachon. The story extensively profiles Amy and Marc, whose commitment to equality goes all the way to the folding of the socks (Amy gets the white socks, Marc the darks), as well as a handful of other couples, who have tried to live (with varying degrees of success) with similar arrangements. Reading the piece, I was left with the impression that making equally shared parenting a reality meant instituting a set of fairly comprehensive rules about who does what and when. I understand why couples might want to swap child-care drop-off responsibilities based on work schedules, but I get nervous when smaller...

 

By Brian Reid | June 17, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (98)

Salary.com's Assumptions About Division of Labor

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A couple of years ago, Leslie wrote about a nifty little PR gambit by Salary.com, which came up with a Web site that purported to calculate the value of work done at home by both go-to-work moms and at-home moms (it was later extended to dads, too). The original column received a lot of comments on whether there was any great perspective to be gained in attaching a dollar amount to labors at home. Salary.com is still at it, two years later, but what is really interesting is not how much they think we're worth around the house, but what they're assumptions are about what parents do all day. The Web site comes up with the final salary numbers by figuring out what real-world jobs a parent does at home, making the assumptions behind the final "salary" every bit as interesting as the number. Among the...

 

By Brian Reid | May 20, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (56)

Do Dads and Mom Have the Same Back-to-Work Plans?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This is apparently the season for at-home dads to consider returning to work. First, M.P. Dunleavey penned a piece for the New York Times about her at-home husband's impending move to go back to work full time. Then, The Washington Post Health Section, Mark Trainer raised the question of when his stint at home would end. Both Dunleavey and Trainer make similar points by the end of their respective pieces: At-home dads rarely see their gig as open-ended. There is a point at which almost every at-home dad decides that re-entry back into the workforce is inevitable. Dunleavey even goes one step further, suggesting that perhaps the eventual return to the workforce is taken more seriously if you're an at-home dad than an at-home mom: In all my musings about the difference between the lives of male and female breadwinners, this is one I hadn't considered....

 

By Brian Reid | May 1, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Working Women Are Happy (And So Are Their Husbands)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It's been awhile since we had a nice balance brouhaha, but I knew there was one boiling when I saw this headline at the BBC: "Mothers 'are happier' having job." The folks over at Salon picked up on it, too, running a piece that declared "The whole 'working mother' thing actually works." Of course, I couldn't trust the media to get all the facts right, so I dug up the research, from the UK's Institute for Social and Economic Research. According to the study, satisfaction with life is lowest for women who don't do paid work; those who work full-time have the highest ratings. I'm not a social scientist, but all of this seems compelling and seems to stick a pin in the idea that working women are caught in a life of two-sphere drudgery. On the flip side, it's not fair to label at-home parents...

 

By Brian Reid | December 20, 2007; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Should Leave for Moms Equal Leave for Dads?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As most of you know, family leave policies are one of my favorite hobby horses, and I have a pretty straightforward view of things: The more paid leave offered for the birth of a child, the better. Work-life balance is improved, worker retention is better and parents get time with the kids that they might not otherwise have had. Of course, in the United States, long paid leave isn't required by the government, so such policies aren't exactly standard. In fact, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, good leave policies are exceedingly rare. The IWPR looked at the 100 companies on Working Mother magazine's list of the most family-friendly workplaces and found that even among these standout companies, half provide six weeks of leave or less. That's pretty unimpressive. But even more interesting is how dads are viewed by these paragons of family-friendliness. Half...

 

By Brian Reid | September 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

The Fringe Benefits of Housework

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I rarely use my coffee table to display coffee-table books anymore. I don't have the room in the budget for huge, overpriced tomes full of glossy pictures. And I don't really have room on the table, either, what with the half-completed artwork and medical journal articles and laptops and whatnot. But I am tempted this summer to clean off the table and plop down a wonderfully scandalous book: Porn for Women. If you click the link, you'll see that Porn for Women is actually something of a joke, a hardback that contains nothing but photographs of fully clothed, aproned men performing housework. At least, I think the whole thing is something of a joke. While I don't think the sound of the vacuum sends my wife's heart aflutter, I have collected enough information on the link between housework and sex to conclude that the best way...

 

By Brian Reid | August 16, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Labor Imbalance

This summer my three kids are in three different day camps. (What was I thinking?) I've done a lot of driving and listening to the radio as a result. I recently heard an intriguing Diane Rehm Show that made me think about something I rarely consider: starting another career when my children are grown. By 2030, one in four Americans will be over 60 years old: some interpretations of Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a coming labor shortage as more baby boomers retire. However, instead of living out their lives in retirement, more and more Americans are opting for second careers later in life, because they want to -- or need to. Employers are catching on. Forget about recruiting Generation Next. A growing number of businesses are targeting stable, experienced, reliable folks over 50 years old. Employers as diverse as food and beverage retailers, churches, police forces and others are...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 23, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (208)

Buying Time

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A couple of years ago Mike, one of my local at-home dad buddies, received a burst of attention when he was featured in a couple of national media outlets detailing his theory on at-home parenthood. It's a simple theory: If you decide that you are going to leave the workforce and stay home with the kids, raising the kids should be your prime concern. Not the cooking. Not the floors. Not the toilets. So Mike outsourced pretty much everything he could. Dinner, most nights, was takeout. And the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach was someone else's problem -- he happily paid for housecleaning. After all, his logic goes, if both spouses are dog tired after a long day, why should at the at-home parent automatically be saddled with assembling the chicken cacciatore? The big objection to this kind...

 

By Brian Reid | June 14, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Surviving the Weekend Without Divide-and-Conquer

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A long weekend could not have come at a better time for me. The yard is a mess, the playroom closet is so full of junk that I can't close the door, the car could use a good cleaning, and we're about a dozen Cheerios away from a bare cupboard. Once upon a time, my wife and I would divvy up the tasks with great precision, each grab a kid, and each begin an individual march through the to-do list. It was classic "divide and conquer." But about six months ago -- collapsed on the couch on a Sunday night -- it dawned on us that we'd managed to go through an entire weekend without doing much more than crossing paths. Given the challenges of coordinating jobs, school and the other weekend commitments, the weekends were exactly when we should be spending some family time together....

 

By Brian Reid | May 24, 2007; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (455)

In Defense of the Dual-Earner Household

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the great myths of the work-life balancing discussion is that (as neotraditionalist rabblerouser Caitlin Flanagan once put it) "when a mother [or father] works, something is lost." The idea that kids with two working parents are somehow getting shafted is plausible enough to fuel an avalanche of books of the glories of at-home parenthood, but the actual data on this point is always pretty meager. That's why I was excited to read through this essay from the American Prospect's incredibly exhaustive series of essays on work-family balance (titled "Mother Load," but thankfully cognizant of fathers). In it, author Kathleen Gerson talks to a number of young adults about their perceptions of family, starting with their impressions of their own upbringings. And here, she drops a bombshell of sorts: Those who grew up in dual-earner homes were least ambivalent about their parents' arrangements. More than...

 

By Brian Reid | March 15, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Packing Your Husband's Suitcase

The nitty gritty details of people's lives fascinate me. Like this one: I had coffee last week with a friend who has one daughter. For the first four years of her daughter's life, her husband was a stay-at-home dad. My friend, a smart, feisty design and manufacturing entrepreneur, worked 14 hour days and traveled for two weeks at a time to Asia to visit her clients and manufacturing plants. I say all this just to establish that my friend is not a traditional stay-at-home mom (whatever that is), although now her husband works and she stays home. Over coffee, she casually mentioned that she had to pack her husband's suitcase that night because he was going on a four-day trip. She said it as if all good wives pack their husbands' suitcases. I experienced that horrible sinking feeling of: Here's another reason I am and will forever be a lousy...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 24, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (494)

Marriage Contracts

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I finally got around to reading Alix Kates Shulman's infamous "marriage contract." The document is nearly 40 years old, but the brief contract -- which declares that household roles are to be divided right down the middle, regardless of who is the chief wage-earner -- has continuing resonance. It was initially republished in all sorts of places, from Ms. to Life, and it was highlighted most recently -- in less-than-flattering terms -- in neo-traditionalist Caitlin Flanagan's 12,000-word Atlantic Monthly "Nanny Wars" screed a couple of years ago. Reading through the contract is eye-opening, and it's easy to understand why the piece has drawn the ire of so many over the years. There are few things less romantic, less in concert with the values of marriage, than spelling out each and every home responsibility in faux legalese. On that basis, it's easy to see why a "marriage...

 

By Brian Reid | January 4, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (303)

Are Today's Dads Really Different?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, in the discussion over the super-silly Forbes piece, I let loose with one of my favorite points: today's dads "are much more interested in getting family and work time in the right proportions" than previous generations. But I was so busy scratching my head over the whole Forbes flap that I didn't get around to reading the study lying on my desk, "The Effect of Fatherhood on Men's Patterns of Employment." It's an interesting piece of work that pretty much contradicts my argument, coming to the conclusion that dads are working every bit as long as men without kids. There's only one problem: One of the two sources of data the researcher relies on is a survey of men born in 1958. And while guys born in '58 pioneered a lot of things -- disco, stagflation, the personal computer -- I don't think they're...

 

By Brian Reid | August 31, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

Career Women Beware!

The recent flurry of blogs, online magazine articles, tv and radio rants, and the rewriting of research statistics and history prompted by Forbes.com's Tuesday column originally titled "Don't Marry Career Women" has been so enthralling that Brian Reid and I both had to weigh in for today's Free For All. Leslie: The bad news: a smart, well-educated senior editor (Michael Noer) at a prestigious national magazine (Forbes) is so utterly out-of-touch with the 80 million moms and 63 million working women in the United States that he wrote an article titled "Don't Marry Career Women" for Forbes.com. A few choice phrases: "Guys: a word of advice...whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. ... Recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy...

 

By Stacey Garfinkle | August 25, 2006; 06:40 AM ET | Comments (302)

Beware the Gatekeeper?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, Time Magazine raised an interesting obstacle to involved fatherhood: "Gatekeeper Moms." According to Time, new moms acquire parenting skills more quickly, and -- as the de facto kid expert -- then begin cutting dad out of the day-to-day care rather than watch him fumble with the bottle/diaper/bedtime routine. It's not generally portrayed as a sinister, intentional thing, but rather a natural consequence of the economics of child-rearing: Let the expert (mom) handle it. There are all kinds of smart objections to the "gatekeeper" idea. It emphasizes the dads-can't-parent canard, it blames moms for poor father involvement, it suggests that biology is destiny because breastfeeding is often the gateway to gatekeeping, it reinforces gender roles and so on. What's worse, gatekeeping is nearly impossible to measure, so it's tough to draw any conclusions about the extent or history of gatekeeping. Indeed, I'd wager that this...

 

By Brian Reid | August 17, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (137)

Do At-Home Dads Help or Hurt Work-Life Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid For a long time, I've assumed I was doing right by society and my kids by being an active dad. I was thrilled to find academics that linked involved fathers to everything from reduced contact with juvenile justice to lower rates of teen pregnancy. And I thought that by throwing gender roles to the wind that I was part of a tiny revolution that would change the way that the home and the workplace operated. But lately, I've been forced to reconsider whether at-home dads do much to promote work-life balance or actually hurt the cause. It all started with a wonderful profile of at-home dads in and around San Francisco by the San Francisco Chronicle. Though a compelling and honest look at an interesting group of guys, a Salon piece raised a reasonable question: Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices? Does...

 

By Brian Reid | August 10, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (118)

Guest Blog: Building a Stepfamily

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. Stepfamily Balancing Act by Anne Burt, the editor of My Father Married Your Mother: Writers Talk about Stepparents, Stepchildren, and Everyone in Between (including an essay by me). Anne's essays and fiction have appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Talk of the Nation" and in Salon, Working Mother, and The Christian Science Monitor. Anne lives with her husband, daughter and stepdaughter in Montclair, N.J. My second husband and I both have six-year-old girls. Just a few months ago, I returned to work full time. My new job (which brings in the health insurance...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 30, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (133)

Friday Free-for-All --Who's The Decider?

From President Bush to The Daily Show to a front page article in Wednesday's New York Times, buzz abounds about the new term "the decider" -- the person who pulls rank on major decisions. A 2005 Yankelovich Monitor survey showed that women in the United States make 54% of new vehicle decisions and 56% of grocery purchases. Little data exists on "decider" status when it comes to who works, who stays home, who decides which art projects get memorialized and which get shoved to the bottom of the trash bag, when to move or stay put for a parent's job, who takes the kids to which pediatrician, what afterschool activities, which sleepovers -- all the nitty gritty family life decisions. In your family, who makes the decisions regarding the kids' lives and why? Are your family decisions truly made jointly, or are subtle and not-so-subtle power plays at work? And...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 28, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (66)

Those Formerly Wifely Chores

My husband recently took a large bag to the dry cleaner on the main floor of his office building. Inside the bag was a bath towel that needed its hang strap resewed, an overcoat missing a button, dress pants with a seam pulling apart. He handed each item to the older, reserved Asian woman who owns the shop. She appeared amused, an emotion my husband had never seen her display before. "You got no wife?' she asked, as she burst out laughing. "My wife is busy," my husband explained. This made her laugh even harder. One of the perks of being a working wife is that I have a legitimate excuse to refuse life's details that were once considered the wife's -- grocery shopping, sewing, mending, running errands for my husband, cooking homemade meals (although I can make a mean set of chocolate chip cookies). I hate household chores --...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 4, 2006; 09:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sick Days

My indoctrination into the politics of sick days -- my wake-up call that combining work and motherhood involved inescapable rocks and hard places -- came 10 years ago when our infant son got sick with a fever the day of a presentation I had to give. I blithely asked my husband to stay home with our child. I quickly saw evidence that men, especially primary breadwinners, suffer peer pressure at work as severe as everything I lived through in seventh grade, except that our financial future was at risk rather than my slot in the popular crowd. So, I gave my son Tylenol to hold down his fever, dropped him off at the daycare center, delivered a killer presentation and scuttled back to his classroom where they reported X. was feeling a little warm. Since that day, I've always been the one to stay home with our children when they...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 22, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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