The Benefits of Overpraising Good Dads (and Moms, Too) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 04-11-2013, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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:

 

 

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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?

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#2 of 9 Old 04-18-2013, 01:40 PM
 
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As a SAHM who lives with one income (husband's) by choice, I feel strongly that the lack of quality affordable child care plays a huge role in our situation. I would have to have a pretty high paying job to offset the cost of child care, which is pretty hard to find with the additional need for flexibility when children cannot attend school for some reason. We've done the math and searched our hearts for what "feels" right for our kids. For us, that means me pouring all of myself into being the primary child care provider for our two kids. I have trouble seeing the benefits of parental scarcity versus a modest single income with me always available and mostly undivided. If I were to attempt generating an income on top of home and child care, I would be spread so thin. Alternately, the stress of making sure everyone made it to their proper places on time each day, and arranging additional care/transportation during sick times would be mayhem. I really applaud those parents who manage to work from home or part time AND be the full-time parent/caregiver. They amaze me to no end. But for us, this is what works for now. I do know that raising the "status" for SAH parents, as well as tax breaks for those who elect to have one unemployed parent ( even long term homeschoolers) would certainly ease the burdens a bit. Until then, I take pride in my role, and in knowing that our little single income is taxed in a way that helps fund public school education for those who need it. High fives all around. smile.gif
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#3 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 06:57 AM
 
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Ah, and I digressed. My husband is a full time employee in a somewhat stressful non-profit. i am always amazed that he centers himself somewhere along his way home so that he comes to us fully present and ready to wrestle. I prefer to have him be full on with the kids while I take on the dinner clean-up and such chores. It isn't meant to demean his abilities for domestic chores, but to give me a bit of respite from the constant needs of children while he gets his fill of fun and kid lovin' after a day of meeting adult demands.

Weekends are often the same, unless he needs some personal space. If he does, I will take kids to park so he can have personal time and tidy something up. We both seem to fit our personal time in with chores so that there is optimum family time. To me, he is a marvelous father many steps above mine was.

My personal experience with my own dad is not the present, engaged, fun, affectionate one. Mine was a tired, detached, in attentive, grumpy, authoritarian man who was not at all interested in us as little people. So I probably would make the faux pas of complimenting a great dad, but only out of my own delight at seeing it in display in public, and not from my own husband. Society and culture didn't really set the expectation for fathers to do anything but unwind after work and spend their time grilling and watching sports on weekends. The demands of a man's job were viewed to be as much as they should need to put up with.

I am thrilled that our culture is shifting toward the expectation of actively engaged, loving and fun fathers who do their share around the home. I cant say whether it is becoming the mainstream expectation (maybe it has been for a long time- i wasn't paying much attention), but it is working its way into my scope of awareness more than ever lately. Everyone finds the rhythm of what works in their family, and that is the most important thing.
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#4 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 08:17 AM
 
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I havent read the article yet.

There will always be a double standard. I will take care of my kids 24/7, bend over backwards, forwards and sideways to change their diets so they behave  in an acceptable way in public, be the one to take them to school pick them up,  read to them at bedtime, clean up the poop  etc etc. Then along comes a dad on the weekend with his child, and actually allows himself to give *me* advice, when  he looks after his child for a few hours on a saturday morning (at a synagogue for eg). 

 

I just accept that no matter how hard i work at this (whether i love it or not, and it is a labor of love) i will receive very little credit, whereas a dad will breath in the presence of his child and he is the hero.

 

But i would still rather be me,  double standard and all. And maybe the world knows that i am the lucky one.

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#5 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 03:03 PM
 
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I admit, I'd like more acknowledgement and praise for the drudge work I do. My family praises me up and down for my cooking. I like cooking and I put a lot of thought into it. But I can't say that I'm praised for folding laundry, a task that I loath, but I do because it needs doing. A little praise now and then feeds my soul.

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#6 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 03:17 PM
 
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And yes, it does gall sometimes when dh corrects me and tells me how to do something that I've been doing for years now. Something that i figured out through trial and error and worked all the kinks a long time ago. I don't tell you how to engineer Internet security infrastructures. You're the expert at your job. I am actually the expert in this instance.
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#7 of 9 Old 04-19-2013, 09:39 PM
 
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When ElderSon's wife seriously relapsed after rehab, he divorced her and got sole custody of his kids. He did the single parent thing for about 3 years, until he remarried a wonderful woman who has totally accepted the kids, and is doing a great job of parenting them. All the family praises ElderSon because he "stepped up to the plate". He is seen as some sort of hero. Don't get me wrong - I am proud of the man my boy grew up to be, and I admire that he fought for, and took care of his kids. But if he had been a woman, it all would have been expected. She wouldn't have been mightily praised, it would have been expected. By family and friends, by society.

 

For about 3 years, he did what any woman would have done, often for longer. And it was seen as so amazing. This is an example of underpraising "women's work".
 

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#8 of 9 Old 04-24-2013, 08:20 AM
 
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I think over praising dads is kind of like affirmative action. Sure, it puts a damper on equality, but it gives an extra boost to populations who need extra encouragement to enter into a field that is not easily accessible to them.

In the same way, I think it's OK for men to be praised for doing everyday "women's" work because it may just be the boost they need to feel proud and happy that society approves of their choices.

Eventually, just like with affirmative action, the need for this unequal praise will phase out as being a particularly involved or SAHD is just normal.

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#9 of 9 Old 07-07-2013, 07:38 PM
 
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