Until we raise boys and men who want to and know how to be full-time caregivers and parents – rather than mere aides and assistants – gender equity at home/work remains both a dream and a joke – in the form of women doing double duty.
By and large, while women parade their professional careers in the day-time, they remain full-time parents, and by and large, fathers remain relatively part-time parents. For childcare: women are organizers, researchers, supervisors and employers of any child-care arrangement that they can find. For most social classes, such childcare is poor to mediocre in the US if you happen to be one of the unfortunate multitudes who do not have grandparents, relatives, stay-at-home fathers/mothers, etc. that you can rely on. It entails the time-consuming labor that ensures such childcare is effective and nurturing (as a parent who used a few daycares, I know of what I speak). It entails, too, the edge-of-your-seat manuevers that are necessitated by sudden babysitter emergencies – the slack for which is usually picked up by mothers (women still make less money than men, overall, so it costs the family less when women lose wages or jobs.) By and large, the default parent in charge is still the mother. By and large, the individual who takes it for the team is still the mother. By and large, it is the mother who ensures that the home is clean and livable, that the children’s education is supervised, that laundry and dishes are done, and that children’s emotional needs are met.
This is why I say again: Until we raise boys and men who want to and know how to be full-time caregivers and parents – rather than mere aides and assistants – gender equity at home/work remains both a dream and a joke – in the form of women doing double duty.
Women do not need ‘help’ in the kitchen and with the children. Women need mature co-parents and domestic co-workers who can work unsupervised to ensure quality of life for the family. Women’s caregiving remains time-consuming in comparison to men’s. Women do not need someone who can microwave mac-and-cheese if she is not there: they need someone who can prepare healthy dinners, check if a bath is needed and administer that bath, while ensuring that homework is completed and garbage taken out.
Are you raising a boy to be that parent/husband? Or are you raising a part-time family member who is incapable of being centered around care for others? I do not say, one who can love. Wild animals can love and provide for their offspring. Caregiving is not love + paying bills. Caregiving is not buying gifts on amazon.com. Caregiving is time-consuming, sometimes draining, often boring.
Caregiving is a full-time job. Which brings us around to the capitalist economy which seeks to own the individual, whether parent or son/daughter, who has personal needs and relationships that work threatens more than ever to attack from their central positions. The American workplace as it is now threatens equity of any form (including gender), personal centeredness, and connectedness with others. There is an urgent need to contemplate the basis of our economy, and to reflect on the competitive urge that seeks to be bigger yet the expansion of the economy fails to benefit (I’ll say it) the 99%.
Where people in general are dehumanized to mere workers and spenders/buyers, happiness and harmony remain out of reach – for men AND women. And until men and women can all learn to nurture, give, and transcend the self, men and women remain in a tug-of-war that cannot conclude. You can bring the woman into the boardroom, but until you can bring the man into the diaper-changing bathroom – and the diaper-changing setup into the men’s bathroom – you will not truly succeed in achieving gender equity.
PS: This post refers to the majority of American families, not to exceptions for which anyone may provide anecdotal evidence.