I was recently at an evening work event where a woman said to me, “Your husband agreed to put the kids to bed?”
I’d like to say that I was shocked that anyone would ask such a question, but I’m not. The vast majority of couples I know with children are living an updated version of the 50’s lifestyle. Many mothers are working outside the home while still being almost solely responsible for changing dirty diapers, cooking dinners, giving baths, and putting kids to bed.
Mothers that stay home with their children often have it even worse. Their job doesn’t end at 5 PM. Anyone who spends all day with children knows that as much fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly hard work. Having done both, I can honestly say that I was more exhausted after a day at home than a day at the office.
So what’s going on? Are some moms somehow encouraging this notion that mom must do everything? Are some dads not being expected to share the child-rearing load?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that kids need more. For example, last year, one of FPG’s studies found that in families with two working parents, fathers had greater impact than mothers on their children’s language development between ages 2 and 3. Researchers videotaped pairs of parents and their 2-year-old children in their homes during playtime. The children whose fathers used more diverse vocabularies had greater language development when they were tested one year later. However, the mothers’ vocabulary did not significantly affect a child’s language skills.
It may seem strange to be writing about the role of fathers the day after Mother’s Day. But perhaps it’s as good as time as any to be reminded that parenting is a full-time job for both moms and dads.