Monday, August 06, 2012
Writing at Relevant, Peter Chin formulates a
question nobody else seems to have thought to ask: Why can't
men 'have it all'? His curiosity has spurred by the common quest among
women to balance the demands of career and parenthood and the subsequent slew
of articles asking the corresponding question for women. I don't agree with everything he
says, but he does raise a good point:
The reason no one ever asks the same question of men is because we don't expect very much out of fathers. If a man is somewhat engaged with his children, and makes some attempt to be present and active in their lives, he is considered a good father. And fortunately, that level of participation in a child's life still allows a man enough time and energy to fully devote themselves [sic] to another calling, that of their professional lives. This is why men are better able to balance these two roles--not because of the enhanced abilities of men, but because the role of father is culturally diminished and relatively lightweight. A man can throw himself into his career, and dabble in fatherhood, and still win the approval of all.Chin is right to note further that there are lots of stereotypes about men as inadequate caregivers for children. I am less bothered about the more common stereotypes than he is: Most men are ill-prepared to participate in child-rearing to the same degree that most women do. However, the insinuation that we are inherently less capable of learning to be more involved I blame squarely on the "feminist" variety of collectivism. That said, I agree that there are generally different conceptions and expectations about what parenting entails among men and women, and that these differing expectations are causing people to not weigh parenting as heavily they should when planning their non-parenting careers or lives.
Most men -- as Chin notes -- do not see parenting as a potential rival to their careers for their time and energy. And perhaps, many women, seeing men "having it all", by "dabbling" in parenthood, are induced to imagine that essentially pursuing two careers at once is easier than it really is.
Chin holds that the stereotypes are unfair to men. That may be, but the the real losers here are the children. Being a parent is an undertaking of the same time scope and degree of difficulty as a career. Parents or people thinking about becoming parents should bear that in mind, particularly if each wants a non-parenting career of his or her own.