Are Dads Under Appreciated?

Several recent studies conclude that men report that they are spending more time with their kids than ever before. However, these Mr. Moms aren't being noticed by their workplaces or by their wives. The New York Times reports,

In the 2008 Families and Work report, 49 percent of men said they
provided most or an equal amount of child care. But only 31 percent of
women gave their husbands that much credit. The perception gap
continued for cooking and housecleaning — more than 50 percent of men
say they do most or half the work; 70 percent of wives say they do all
of it.

Sometimes Steve will try to quantify the work he does at home. He'll estimate that does about 30-40% of the work in the house and with the kids. While the weekends are generally 50-50 — when I'm working, he'll do even more — the weekdays are all mine. I do about 90-95% of the work during the week, regardless of my employment status, because he has an intense, inflexible job. I used to be ticked off about that situation, but I'm just used to it now.

Img055 Still, it is amusing that Steve perceives himself as a more equal partner. There's probably a lot of reasons that Steve (and other dads) perceive that they are doing a larger percentage of work. Steve was an equal parent when Jonah was born, until he took on this new job. He also would like to be doing more than he is. I also don't tell Steve about everything that I'm doing, because it's a lot of boring little chores. 

I do appreciate everything he does. He is certainly more involved in parenting and house chores than my dad ever was. It's just not a 50-50 split.

UPDATE: GeekyMom was recently blogging about the distribution of housework between herself and her husband.

31 thoughts on “Are Dads Under Appreciated?

  1. “I also don’t tell Steve about everything that I’m doing, because it’s a lot of boring little chores.”
    But maybe Steve is doing lots of boring little things and not telling our hostess. I certainly don’t tell my wife about everything I do around the house.

  2. I am often frustrated at differences in degree with household tasks. What I consider to be a clean bathroom (and the effort required to achieve it) varies greatly from what my husband declares clean. To be fair, the same is true in the reverse when it comes to the yard, which he’s much pickier about.

  3. My husband is a pretty equal parent, but he’s not an equal chores partner. I think he’d be the first admit it though.
    Some of the gap in the first set of perceptions may be in defining what parenting is – for example, is getting my son’s clothing washed parenting, or just general laundry. And I also find that when I see my husband and my son having fun together I tend in my mind to define that as ‘fun’ whereas if *I’m* the one taking him to the zoo, that’s ‘parenting.’🙂

  4. Super G is a great dad who does a lot of the work in our house, but not 50% (which he recognizes). But yesterday, after reading that article, he tried to argue that he’s doing a lot more than his dad ever did, and maybe we shouldn’t expect change to be cataclysmic.
    My feeling was that if you recognize that you’re *supposed* to be doing 50%, then do 50%. (But really, we’d have to sit down and quantify everything, because I *hate hate* doing bills and taxes, so those are definitely tasks in his column.)

  5. “And I also find that when I see my husband and my son having fun together I tend in my mind to define that as ‘fun’ whereas if *I’m* the one taking him to the zoo, that’s ‘parenting.’🙂 ”
    Yeah. I’m guilty of this error. Especially when they look like they’re having fun.
    My husband does a lot, an awful lot, and in times when his travel schedule allows, he does an awful lot. It’s the flip when he’s not here at all that skews the overall ratio, and that work is largely invisible to him, because he’s not here.
    And, he tends to not be in charge of the management issues (i.e. scheduling camps, buying clothes, . . . ). But, I think I’d have to say that we do equally parent right now.

  6. And, he tends to not be in charge of the management issues (i.e. scheduling camps, buying clothes, . . . ).
    My wife counts ‘buy clothes’ as work. I don’t, at least not all of it. At least half of the clothes she buys don’t get worn unless she puts them on him. I don’t think a little boy needs that many clothes and our son only wants to wear things with super heroes on them.

  7. I’ve been musing about this quite a bit myself. I definitely don’t like to quantify, because I think if I did, I’d find I’m doing more than I think I am. Geeky Boy estimates that Mr. Geeky does 18% of the housework. I think he’s probably right. Though Mr. Geeky is definitely a 50% parent in that he spends as much time with the kids as I do, there are certain things around the house that I have never seen him do voluntarily: clean a toilet or sink or shower, mop a floor (except when an animal has peed on it). Even the typical man chores I often have to ask him to do: mow the lawn, take out the trash. He does straighten up around the house, putting things away when things get messy and he helps clean up the kitchen, but the kids do the lion’s share of that chore.
    Like Laura, it used to irk me, but now, I just accept it and prod when necessary. It’s a pattern that developed from 11 years of pursuing tenure. During those years, he came home from dinner and immediately went back to work after the kids were settled into bed (sometimes before if the heat was on). My work has been low-key enough that I could pick up the slack. When my career ramped up, the gap was a huge source of stress and despite having hired help, we still couldn’t manage everything without one or both of us feeling stressed out about having so many balls in the air.
    What’s been hard for me to let go of is the psychological feeling that all this work is my responsibility so that even if Mr. Geeky does do his share, it will likely be because I’ve told him to. I want him to feel as responsible for the way the house looks as I do, but I can’t make that happen.

  8. Thanks for the link. Also, as usual, I commented and *then* read the article. Here’s the money quote for me:
    “Women remain psychologically responsible, and that’s a burden,” said Dr. Galinsky. “That psychological responsibility adds to the sense of feeling like you’re doing more, even though it may be somewhat invisible.”

  9. “that work is largely invisible to him, because he’s not here.”
    I was thinking of that. It might be that they’re doing 50% of the work when they’re around, and not in a position to average that out with the times when they’re not around.
    My husband does an awful lot when he’s home and not working (and we have bimonthly housecleaning help), but all those working Saturdays, end of term grading blitzes, admissions committee and hiring files, weekend-long interviews for hiring, conference travel and summer seminars tend to tip the scales in the other direction. This month will be a particularly horrid example–my husband will have been on the road (overseas and in the US) 10 days out of 30. Of course, one of those is going to pay for my long-anticipated Russia trip, so I’m going to be a good sport about it.
    “My wife counts ‘buy clothes’ as work. I don’t, at least not all of it. At least half of the clothes she buys don’t get worn unless she puts them on him. I don’t think a little boy needs that many clothes and our son only wants to wear things with super heroes on them.”
    I had the most shocking GAP Kids habit when my kids were more your son’s age–it was a 20 minute walk from our old house, and they always had such great stuff on sale!!! I also had a major Landsend mail order habit. My kids are still wearing the stuff that I bought during that era (the blue clothes purchased during my daughter’s Thomas the Tank Engine phase when she refused to wear any other color and demanded to be called “Thomas” are still being worn by her little brother). I think the drive to buy cute kid clothes may be hormonal. Also, we didn’t have a washer/dryer in our apartment, so we really did need more clothes to avoid chronic shortages.
    I still feel like we spend a lot on clothes, but I’m a lot more hard-nosed about buying for the kids these days, particularly since the kids wear uniforms for school. No new twirly patterned dresses for you, kid–you own 6 already, and I only have two pairs of pants.

  10. “I *hate hate* doing bills and taxes, so those are definitely tasks in his column.”
    It sounds like the division of labor in our household is similar to ianqui’s.
    Relatedly, regarding jen’s comment about standards, I was shocked when we got married that my wife did not save every invoice and record on each one when it was paid (and, if not paid in full, the amount paid). Also, my wife would prioritize bills by her personal feelings about the creditors in question, whereas I prioritize them by whether there is a finance charge, and then by order received.

  11. The water company irked me, so I always paid them late enough that they sent a second bill but not late enough that they stopped service. There was no late fee.

  12. We’re doing ok with splitting household stuff. In fact, my husband probably does more of the stuff around the house, while I do a lot of the thinking, planning and driving. And I hate the driving. Ugh.

  13. Regardless of individual perceptions, the gap between what men record on daily dairies and what they estimate as “time spent on X” varies pretty reliably, and not in a way that makes the men look good. Unless it looks good to over-estimate your contributions to household chores.
    Sociologists tend to be interested in questions like, “do you know your child’s current shoe size? Last dental appointment? Next vaccination date?” Maybe Steve is doing a lot of little stuff that Laura doesn’t know about, but it’s unlikely that they’re BOTH silently arranging the medical forms for the school or remembering and acting on the registration dates for fall soccer.

  14. “And I hate the driving. Ugh.”
    Me too. I’ve picked up the pace on doing more driving, now that we have two kids with two different schedules, and I hate it. What a horrible time sink. I’m going to have to find a way to make it less than an unbearable hell.
    Is there a difference between men and women on how their self-reports and time diaries vary? I’ve always been hugely suspicious of reports of what people *say* they do, rather than some passive measure of what they actually do, but I did not know that there was a sizable gap between men and women on how accurate their reports of their time were. Hence, my recognition that I quite often don’t regard the time my husband spends with the kids, “playing”, in the same category that I regard the fact that they arrive in my office whenever they’re free.

  15. bj–I saw somewhere a study where sociologists actually went to people’s houses and recorded what they did, but I don’t think it was much about housework and more about family time.

  16. ‘Sociologists tend to be interested in questions like, “do you know your child’s current shoe size? Last dental appointment? Next vaccination date?”‘
    OK, but what about questions like, “when was your family’s car’s last tune-up? what is the average lifespan of the overhead lightbulbs in the kitchen? what portion of the monthly mortgage payment is deductible?”

  17. OK, but what about questions like, “when was your family’s car’s last tune-up? what is the average lifespan of the overhead lightbulbs in the kitchen? what portion of the monthly mortgage payment is deductible?”
    In order: Neither of us would know, about a week since the boy can now reach the switch, and less than just a few years ago.

  18. “I’ve always been hugely suspicious of reports of what people *say* they do, rather than some passive measure of what they actually do, but I did not know that there was a sizable gap between men and women on how accurate their reports of their time were.”
    I think my husband and I are fairly accurate in our description of tasks completed, but his time sense is extremely suspect, as is his ability to add and subtract times and deal with scheduling. He just doesn’t know what time it is, or how long tasks take, or how to deal with anything involving time. I don’t know if this is a gendered characteristic or unique to him.

  19. He just doesn’t know what time it is, or how long tasks take, or how to deal with anything involving time. I don’t know if this is a gendered characteristic or unique to him.
    That sounds very much like a work-related injury to me, Amy. He is an academic, right?

  20. “That sounds very much like a work-related injury to me, Amy. He is an academic, right?”
    Righto, but he’s always been like this.
    Some time ago, somebody (jen?) was suggesting that in the interests of equity, we ought to split scheduling tasks 50/50. I’d die slowly inside if I ever was so foolish as to try that. Plus, I actually like being in charge of that stuff.
    “OK, but what about questions like, “when was your family’s car’s last tune-up? what is the average lifespan of the overhead lightbulbs in the kitchen? what portion of the monthly mortgage payment is deductible?””
    1) 75k miles. 2) Neither of us knows–who knows how long these compact fluorescents will last. 3) We don’t have a mortgage yet, but he does do the taxes, so he’d be more likely (although I think I will follow the pay-down of our mortgage with the sort of focus and enthusiasm that others reserve for their favorite sports teams).

  21. 1) We each take our own cars, and mine went in last week, at 19000 miles, when the oil maintenance alert came on; 2) I always have extra bulbs in the closet, so the issue isn’t pressing, which is good, because a lot of our CFLs have not lasted anything like the promised number of years; 3) Percentages I can’t tell you, but total dollar amount, I can, because I file the taxes.
    But I take the point, that there are many different kinds of silent labor, and it would be important to tally all of them to calculate household contributions. Although I haven’t met a couple yet who didn’t know who was doing the taxes, and how bloody long it was taking them.
    Everyone mis-remembers how they spend their time. The American Time Survey reports at http://www.bls.gov/tus/ are a useful counter-balance to the “what do you think you do” polling data, but I can’t seem to find any reporting that looks at women’s self-estimates versus their time-survey data.
    I can find studies that use self-estimation to evaluate the time usage of women scientists, and mothers of multiples, and mothers of kids with special needs, but the big studies of how women allocate their time in a general population all seem to go back to the more vigorous time-survey data.
    Of course, back in January, there was a big enough debate about how we interpret those numbers, too: http://bit.ly/8ycYuK

  22. Oh, and the question about silent labor, and its types, does rather avoid the question that sociologists raise, and that Laura/Geekymom highlighted, which is that being responsible for childcare involves a great deal of psychological labor, and invisible labor, that cannot easily be tallied and compared the way that “I drove her to soccer but you sat with him for two hours doing his homework” can.
    Yes, taking care of the household also involves psychological worries, but if the trend reporters want to say, “look at how different we are from traditional families of a previous era,” then evidence that men spend more time worrying about oil changes and tax receipts, while women worry about shoe sizes and doctor’s appointments, doesn’t advance the argument.

  23. Jody, is there a possibility that the major strategic household decisions were actualy balanced fairly evenly (albeit inflexibly) under the previous gender-role regime, and that the imbalance was in tactical, nitty-gritty activities? In other words, while stereotypical, oversimplified fifties dad never touched a vacuum or changed a diaper, did he pull his own weight when it came to the big stuff?

  24. Ben, I wonder about that, too. It seems to me in many cases that in today’s families, the guys are doing more diaper changing and vacuuming, but the women have taken on the taxes and the bills and general household management, something that would have been split evenly perhaps. I know when I was doing research on households from the 17th century, women ran the business (and it was kind of a business) of the house. They usually kept the books, bought and sold items, did a fair amount of strenuous labor as well as caretaking labor. Wealthier women, of course, hired out everything, including sending their children off to live with others for long stretches of time. Their husbands were also gone for very long periods. They couldn’t really wait for him to come home and take out the trash.

  25. Their husbands were also gone for very long periods. They couldn’t really wait for him to come home and take out the trash.
    Look, I know it was twenty years, but I had some problems. How about we all pitch in and get rid of the corpses of the suitors, then we’ll go have a nice night out.

  26. Ben, I would probably argue that Plains families in the nineteenth century had fairly balanced responsibilities, as did English families in the seventeenth century, with certain fairly major caveats, but outside my own periods of study, I’m reluctant to generalize. I do know that German families were aghast at how much leisure time Yankee women seemed to have — and it does seem to have been an aspiration for native-born northern farm families to take as much labor away from women as possible.
    MH, the point about shoes is, if you and your spouse both work and you both split the bathtimes and the soccer games and the weekend playtime fairly evenly, the question then becomes, who’s stopping on the way home from work to buy this season’s clothes? Who knows how many pairs of pants will actually get your child through the week, and who has a general idea of when to check their toes and prepare to buy the next pair of shoes? Consistent research has shown that on average, regardless of how time with children is spent, women continue to be responsible for the vast majority of these other caretaking tasks.
    Now, some men might argue, buy new shoes when the kid complains and don’t think about it the rest of the time. Some women might say, my husband is incompetent and I am perfectly happy to continue to be responsible for this vast underground economy of caretaking. (Gatekeeping is the term of art for that, no?) But that it’s a consistent issue, and that it speaks directly to Laura’s original point — that childcare involves a lot of little boring chores which women often feel foolish bringing to someone’s attention — cannot possible be argued.
    One of my aunts was diagnosed with a serious cancer a few years ago, and sat down to create a spreadsheet of everything she did in the year to keep her household running. She tried to think of every last thing — and my uncle, who almost certainly would have reported doing 40-50% of the work to care for their children and keep their household running, was more or less thunderstruck.
    Calder and I sat down and did a similar exercise on the strength of that story, and tried consciously to redistribute some of the little tasks more equally. I’m still a SAHM mom, though, so I chose to continue to bear the greater workload at home.

  27. Who knows how many pairs of pants will actually get your child through the week, and who has a general idea of when to check their toes and prepare to buy the next pair of shoes?
    I don’t even know that for myself. I keep a pair of ’emergency clothes’ in the back of the closet so that I don’t have to go to a meeting with gravy stains. Clothes go in the washer before you can wear the emergency pants.

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