A recent study about parents’ effects on childhood ill health found that unemployed mothers spend about seven hours a day doing chores related to their children’s diet and exercise (such as grocery shopping, cooking, and playing with children), while employed mothers spend about five. On the other hand, both employed and unemployed fathers spend less than an hour on these tasks.
Let’s play a fun game of Guess The Headline:
A) Fathers put less effort than mothers into their kids’ diet, exercise.
B) Fathers perform fewer routine child care duties than mothers.
C) How can we get fathers more involved in their children’s health?
D) Working mothers spend less time daily on their kids’ diet, exercise.
If you picked D, congratulations, you understand how the sexist mind works.
Are men incapable of cooking? Grocery-shopping? Playing with children? Surely not. And at least two of those can be deeply gratifying. (Well, grocery shopping on a budget can be fun too– it’s like a game!– but very few people cite that as important.) Instead of blaming employed mothers for not being able to make their children’s health basically a full-time job the way that unemployed mothers do, we should be asking why moms with jobs put in more than four times as much effort into their children’s health as dads without jobs.
Some of the reasons may be fairly benign, such as fathers tending to do other household duties, or employed men being likely to work more than employed women. Some are not, such as the incredibly awful idea that if men try to take care of children there will be poop on the ceiling and the six-year-old will still be awake at 2 am. (Or men who have internalized sexism to the degree that they believe it is perfectly normal and acceptable for a father to be completely incompetent at childrearing.) Nevertheless, nearly all of them are probably rooted in sexism, and it is something that should be eradicated. Not erased by blaming mothers.
Photo– Jeda Villa Bali/Flickr. A father holds his daughter.