Just read an interesting article in The Atlantic about overpraising good dads. The article is actually a response to two recent articles about how, by praising fathers for doing things that we consider routine when done by mothers, we are reinforcing stereotypical gender roles and making the assumption that most fathers aren't doing those things (when in fact, many are). I had read both of those other articles (they are here and here) and found myself nodding vigorously in agreement, but I think Noah Berlatsky makes a good point for offering praise:
The point then, I would argue, is not that men are condescendingly overpraised for domestic achievements. Rather, the point is that women are systematically underpraised for these same skills. Taking care of kids and running a home take a lot of effort and a lot of physical and emotional energy. I'm wowed by women I know who make hot lunches for their kids—something I certainly don't have the expertise or inclination to do. I'm wowed by women I know whose husbands are frequently out of town—or who, for that matter, are raising children on their own. I'm wowed by my wife, who manages to dress our son in flattering clothes, and to punctually buy new ones when he grows out of them. (I also greatly appreciate that she has taken over the purchasing of my wardrobe, so that I no longer look like I've been mugged by a J. Crew catalog.)
Slaughter suggests that by recognizing male domestic contributions, we could get to a place where the home is not seen as a gendered space. I think that's a great insight, and a worthwhile goal. Alongside it, though, or as a corollary, I'd argue that appreciating the work men do in the home is valuable because it can help to raise the status of that work. What men do has, after all, traditionally been seen as more important and more valuable than what women do. As men's investment in home rises, therefore, we can perhaps hope that the value society places on home might rise as well. This would be to the benefit not just of mothers, and not just of fathers, but of everyone in our work-and-autonomy crazed culture. Rather than hoping that dads' contributions can someday be as unnoticed as moms', we can maybe hope for a day when the domestic skills of parents of whatever gender are seen as worthy of praise—or even, occasionally (why not?) of overpraise.
The full article is here. What do you think?