A few months back, I read an article on the Wall Street Journal about Nickelodeon and when moms grab their TV time.
The article was mildly interesting, but nothing earth-shattering. It said what mom bloggers already know: moms are influential and corporate executives are now gearing their marketing toward moms more than ever.
Far more interesting was a series of male reader comments on the article. The first man said:
Anyone wondering why women have not yet reached income parity with men, need only to read this article, or watch the 2nd hour of the Today show any morning, or any old episode of Oprah (my wife used to say: it’s 4pm…turn on Oprah! I bet it’s about women and self-esteem!)
A recent study showed that women watch 11 hours more TV each month than men. I find this true even in my own house. This works against women’s self-interest.
This glorification of motherhood is a little overdone. Yeah, yeah, it’s SO hard to be a mommy. Well guess what? It ain’t a walk in the park to be a daddy either: Trying to make enough money to support your wife and kids, long term concerns about paying for college, constantly reading textbooks from 9pm to 1am to improve one’s earning potential, instead of watching shows to “unwind”, yet still make enough time to take kids to soccer practice. Enough!
and the second male responded:
No it isn’t. The glorification of fatherhood is just underdone. I know full well my stay-at-home wife has a hard job. Is it as hard as mine? Some times, but then again, she gets to experience all the little precious moments that I just hear about.
Life has trade-offs.
to which the first guy responded:
I don’t disagree Kurt. Stay-at-home motherhood is a job in which the stress and effort level is generally low, but never really ends. It does allow for things like television in the middle of the day, especially if the kids are school-aged. Sole-breadwinner fatherhood is a job in which the stress and effort level are much higher….but for about 8 hours, then it is low but bumpy for the next 16 hours, then it repeats. I think the “area under the curve” is about the same.
Both are difficult jobs, but popular culture, and about half of society (guess which half?), seems to think that motherhood is martyrdom and fatherhood is a cakewalk.
My first instinct was to respond back with a flaming comment, hackles raised, about how goddamn hard it is to be a mom, how thankless it can be, how lonely and isolating it is, how it can be 99% drudgery some days with no reprieve in sight.
But I stepped back for a minute and tried to really think objectively about what this guy was saying.
It’s pretty goddamn hard to be the breadwinner. It can be thankless. It can be isolating from your kids. It can be 99% drudgery. I know because my husband’s told me so.
So what would happen if working dads were allowed to bitch and moan about how hard it is to be them as much as we’re allowed to bitch and moan about the bummer parts of motherhood?
They’d be called pussbags, I’m certain of it. I’m also fairly certain that a tit-for-tat battle over who works harder and whose job sucks more would ensue.
Moms, however, are not only allowed to bitch and moan, we’re encouraged to. Would the mom blogging community even exist without this dynamic? Certainly there’s more to our community than bemoaning the typical tough day with the kids, but it is a significant component. The challenging parts of motherhood are the common bonds that help us connect and feel less isolated.
Is this guy is an exception or the rule…do guys generally think moms make themselves out to be martyrs? Do they think we make out fatherhood to be a cakewalk in comparison?
And if they do, should it matter?
What I know for sure is this.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years playing martyr and secretly carrying the belief that my job was harder than my husband’s.
Until August of this year, when the roles reversed in our house. Currently, I’m the sole breadwinner. While I work from home, I do it full time. The entire fall, I didn’t take my kids to school. I didn’t clean the house. I didn’t cook meals. I didn’t take charge of homework. My husband did.
It was goddamn hard. It was thankless. I felt isolated from my kids. It felt like drudgery most of the time. I felt enormous pressure to provide for the family. I longed for my old job back..you know, the one I had complained so much about, the one that was so much harder than my husband’s.
My husband did that same grind for years and years before I did, going quietly into work every day, without real complaint, without engaging in a competition about who works harder.
I have no answer – only questions:
Should we all be martyrs?
Or should we all just suck it up? Own what we do and complain less? Acknowledge that moms and dads work equally hard?
Do we actually minimize ourselves when we spend too much time trying to prove how hard it is to be a mom?
What do you think? Do we spend too much time being martyrs? As a society, do we discount the role of fatherhood and the pressures that it brings?