March 1, 2012

Men who take paternity leave without doing at least half of the baby care.

That would be nearly all of them, if we are to believe this study:
Only three of 109 male faculty members surveyed reported that they did half or more of the care, while 70 of 73 women reported doing at least half. On average, both men and women professors reported that the mother did more than half the work for all 25 of the child care tasks. This result holds even when the male professor's wife works full-time.
Was breastfeeding included as one of the tasks? That would skew results. Also, these were professors. Professors are comfortable taking leave time away from work.
The female professors also reported higher average enjoyment scores than males on 24 of the 25 child care tasks. (The sole exception was managing the division of labor for parenting tasks, which men disliked less than women.)
First of all, maybe those women are maintaining their self-esteem by getting into the frame of mind where they think about themselves as loving what they are doing. Also, that management-oriented man might be managing her moods, taking care of her, and that might not have been counted as one of the "child care tasks."
Interestingly, the report suggests that paternity leave be eliminated, because men are using it to further their careers, thereby creating greater inequity for women who actually take time off.
Well, you can't do that. That would be illegal sex discrimination. But let's assume you could do it. Does it make sense? Let's give this advantage only to women, because, in the great majority of the cases, women will use it for the "right" reason and men will, as men tend to do, find ways to take selfish advantage of the opportunity. That's horrible sterotyping, which is why it's illegal, but quite aside from that, I don't like incentivizing the female professors' failure to take advantage of time off from teaching to work on their scholarship. And I don't like giving up on the ongoing project of mothers and fathers working out childcare arrangements together. And it's none of the employer's business how a man and a woman structure their activities within the home.


traditionalguy said...

But were they eating too much salt and sugar while out on leave? First things first at The Nanny State.

Men do better when working and providing what the mother and children need materially and with protection...but that truth of male female difference cannot be admitted according to current rules.

Does putting three legs across the female while she sleeps count as doing the male's job...oops, there I go again forgetting the rules.

Tank said...

In other news, the sky is blue. Is there a single man here who is surpised by this "reported" [always problematical] behavior.

Even odds that, of the 3 men who reported doing half the work, 2 are lying.

Tank said...

The article characterizes this "news" as a "stunner."


Rusty said...

Tank said...
In other news, the sky is blue. Is there a single man here who is surpised by this "reported" [always problematical] behavior.

Even odds that, of the 3 men who reported doing half the work, 2 are lying.

When our last daughter was born it was a huge strain on my wife's system-heart. It took her nearly a year to recover. In that time I did just about everything except breast feed-obviously. I worked full time too.

Carol said...

the authors seem to be making a regressive point—equating biology with destiny.

Oh dear, I thought we'd eliminated that biology thing.

Henry said...

Go to the study and you find out that the researchers specifically eliminated non-childcare-related household labor.

What if the dad taking paternity leave spent his time doing grocery shopping, cooking, and dishes? Not counted.

What if the dad spends his time painting the baby bedroom and finishing off the nesting projects started in the last trimester? Not counted.

The bias here is a definition of "division of labor" that doesn't tell us anything about how much total labor is being done.

Scott M said...

Even odds that, of the 3 men who reported doing half the work, 2 are lying.

When were you born, Tank? Every father I know personally, including myself, does not shirk responsibility over care of the children. Whether that counts as direct care given to the child to chores needed simply to run the household, ie laundry, meals, shopping, bill-paying, etc, it all counts toward "child care". Breat-feeding is the only obvious one we can't do, but, guess what? My wife pumped at work for the last two kids so I ended up actually putting MORE breast milk in their mouths than she did.

Brian Brown said...

Only three of 109 male faculty members surveyed

Nice to see how sexists the male faculty members are!

Now get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich!

Ann Althouse said...

@Henry Thanks for digging that out.

I'm picturing a great husband letting the mother handle the baby, including the very time-consuming work/pleasure of breastfeeding, and he is doing everything for her. He's preparing food and keeping the house clean, while she gets to relax and handle the baby more.

Peder said...

If we let the new mothers vote on paternity leave, the results would be wildly one sided. Even if the mother is doing 90% of the work, she still wants help and back up.

DADvocate said...

Henry and I are on the same wave length. The study doesn't even ask about cooking meals for the family, doing laundry, mopping floors, grocery shopping, doing dishes, let alone the more traditional male chores such as lawn mowing and such.

This paragraph from the study is telling: Among this population where almost every female breastfeeds and no male does, and where most females need months to regain full strength (Rhoads, 2004) and few males do, it might not seem unreasonable to grant only female professors four months of paid post-birth leave. If this movement away from gender neutrality should seem too radical, it would seem prudent to require all would-be leave takers to sign a formal document declaring that they intend to do at least 50% of care for their newborn. Yet, if even those who believe in 50/50 sharing in childcare ignore this belief in their day-to-day behavior, such a document may have little effect.

Police state approach to family leave for men. Just shows, you can be an idiot and still be a college professor.

Henry said...

@Althouse - You're welcome. That was exactly my experience, each of the two or three weeks time off I took for our children.

With our third child, I split my time between taking care of the two older children (a toddler and a pre-schooler) and finishing a bathroom remodeling project that had been started a little late in the pregnancy.

My wife wanted that time to be with her new baby and I wanted her to have it.

Pastafarian said...

Our small company pays so little for maternity leave that I doubt very many of our male employees could afford to take it, with a pregnant wife also off work.

But I guess if one asked for it, we would be obligated to grant it. If not legally, at lest morally.

edutcher said...

I can see where paternity leave might be more for Mom care than baby care.

As an example, The Blonde had a very rough pregnancy to the point where her gall bladder went bad and her bones decalcified enough that she broke both her ankles.

Paul said...

There is apparently a wild rumor going around that most women who've recently had a baby want their men to spend all their paternity leave doing baby-care chores. My experience was precisely the opposite, and I've observed the same among most of my friends.

On the contrary, most young mothers want nothing more than to spend all their post-partum time either sleeping with baby or -- when awake -- playing with, holding, cooing at, shopping for, and showing off baby. They want their men do all of the other (read: BORING!) things that need doing: shopping, cleaning up around the house, laundry, cooking, etc., in addition to their "usual" chores (yardwork, handyman, bills, etc).

The one exception to this? Getting up at oh-dark-thirty when baby wakes up wanting to nurse. It is the man's job to go get baby and bring him/her to She Who Is Lactating, then carry baby back to crib afterward.

I would be interested in hearing from women and men who have been in this situation -- was this your experience as well? Or am I the oddball?

(Everyone else: feel free to chime in too, but be advised that your opinion will be ignored, by me at least, given that you have no basis for holding it.)

Deirdre Mundy said...

A HUGE task for my husband when he takes off with a new baby is shuttling the older kids to all their activities so that I don't have to take a newborn around hordes of snotty kids.

Not to mention laundry, dishes, bathing toddlers, shopping, morning routine, night duty with vomiting older kids, etc. etc.

But it is true he doesn't breastfeed. And while the internet is full of articles on how to teach a male to lactate, he seems.... very adverse to the idea... something about it being 'creepy' and 'unnatural...' (It takes a combo of antibiotics and massive quantities of soy, with the baby suckling to boot.... he claims it's easier just to let me handle that end of things.... crazy, retrograde, un-feminist man! :) )

holdfast said...

As we had just moved prior to having #2, I spent the vast bulk of my Pat leave working on the house - generally 10-12 hour days. I also did routine chores like cooking and laundry, but my wife did the vast bulk of the child care stuff.

Henry said...

Paul -- Your experience maps to mine.

Another thing that someone has to do, especially for a first child, is handle all the relations. That can be a lot of work.

And someone has to order takeout. ; )

I will say that with our first child my wife and I did a lot of baby things together, including me getting primo for nighttime breastfeeding, then returning him to his crib.

With our second, when primo was a toddler, I quickly realized that taking care of a toddler when you are very very very tired is insanity. That is when we really split out the labor.

* * *

In terms of the study, I'm not clear if they counted the husband's work for children older than two or not. I'd have to do more than skim than thing.

Tank said...

I note:

1. The article [and this post] refer to "baby care."

2. "half or more."

My experience and observation is that, even in those families where the man contributes much time and effort, he's not close to 50% of the "baby care."

Triangle Man said...

@Henry picked out the crucial flaw in reasoning. There are also situations where the mother becomes ill during or after childbirth so the husband ends up caring for baby and mom.

I should not to any who care that UW does not offer paid maternity or paternity leave per se. However, one can use accrued sick leave for this purpose as a mom or dad, or for adoptions.

CJinPA said...

The post is much more enticing when you read it quickly, as I did:

"Men who take paternity tests leave without doing at least half of the baby care."

tim maguire said...

Nice sleuthing job Henry. I'm not surprised that this study does what pretty much every household chores study does and limits the definition of "work" to things that are more likely to be done by the woman, giving her full credit for most of her work and him zero credit for most of his. Then tallying the scores and, surprise surprise, she does more work than him.

This study has the extra flaw of being a self-reported study rather than an observed behavior study.

Tank, you and I come from different worlds. You think 2 of the 3 are lying? Not only are they not lying, most of the 106 men and the 70 women are unrealistic about their self-assessments. Men do plenty, they just don't get much credit because they don't whine about it.

raf said...

"child care tasks"

Somewhere I read -- many years ago -- that the most helpful thing to do for a new mother was the "other stuff" -- cooking, cleaning, etc -- leaving her time to take care of the infant. I doubt that this kind of support was counted, but I kinda agree that these are more useful tasks for someone on paternity leave.

And I never shrank from diaper duty or 2am crying alerts when that was relevant in my life.

smitty1e said...

I do everything but lactate for my 7 month old.
Fatherhood is a blessing.

Lyssa said...

And it's none of the employer's business how a man and a woman structure their activities within the home.

This, times 1000. If your baby's dad is leaving you with an unfair burden of things that must be done, then that's a problem with your marriage, and you should be adult enough to deal with it yourself.

MarkW said...

Paul's got it right--new mothers generally don't want a partner in taking care of the baby, they want an underling (house work is much the same -- though to a lesser extent). Early on, my wife and I had some 'discussions' about those kinds of things -- generally where I had to make it clear that if I was doing a job, I was going to do it the way I thought best, and I didn't need a supervisor. And, BTW, I actually did half the child care when my kids were very young -- we both worked part time for a few months -- and did at least half as they got older as well (because I've been able to work out of a home office).

John Lynch said...

Women don't want men who stay home and take care of babies. This is one of those things that people say but don't really mean.

I stayed home and raised my son when he was an infant. I stayed up late so my wife could sleep. I fed him and I changed his diapers. My wife appreciated it, but no one else did.

I assure you that women, and men, don't think that taking care of babies is a good thing for a man to do. I didn't get my friends back until I was working again and my father disowned me.

A man who stays home is a loser and women don't like losers. I felt like one even though I knew I was doing the right thing.

So, this isn't a simple case of men being selfish jerks. Society doesn't want men to take care of small children, and half of society is women. Men are just being rational.

ElPresidenteCastro said...

Is paternity leave designed to provide care for the baby or to allow time for the father to be with and bond with the infant?

Does dad get any credit for mother care? As I recall the first week or two at home the mother spends a lot of time sitting. That provides a lot of time for baby care but does require someone making a substantial effort for mother care.

Blue@9 said...

All this tells me is that academia is full of selfish douchebags. But I don't think I needed a study to confirm that.

traditionalguy said...

To affirm john Lynch, I remember The day my first born and my wife came home from the hospital, and she began bleeding again and they ordered her readmitted that night.

I then did it all alone for 3 days. Formula, diapers (had to be folded and pinned back then), alcohol on the navel wound, burping etc. It was easy to learn and I enjoyed doing it.

But my skills became a scandal among the women folk on both sided of the family. I was seen as a dangerous person by them after that. But they were the crazy ones.

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