June 17, 2008, - 10:20 am

Whipped Nation–Dads and Childcare: The Real (Hen-pecked) Story

By Debbie Schlussel
Readers know how I feel about Mr. Moms. But as American society unfortunately blurs the gender roles and more American Moms selfishly refuse to give up their jobs while also having kids, we hear more and more whining from them about how men allegedly don’t share enough in child care. But my view is, if you are a woman who chooses to have kids and a full-time job, tough luck on the predictable consequences.


Most straight American men really don’t want to be Mr. Moms. They are hard-wired as hunter-gatherers and want to be out in the world bringing home the bacon. They don’t want to be changing diapers after a hard day at work. But a new study–the most thorough of its kind and based on videotape–indicates another reason why men are allegedly less involved in child care–the constant bitching, belittling, insults, and other unappreciative, shrewish attacks on their husbands when they try to do the job:

In the closest look yet at how mothers’ behavior may shape dads’ involvement in parenting, a study of 97 couples with infants links both encouragement and criticism from mothers to fathers’ level of engagement.
Encouragement from mothers seems to have the most powerful impact, says Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, lead author of the study, which appears in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. Complimenting a man’s parenting, setting aside time for him alone with the baby, asking his opinion and praising his fathering in the presence of others, were strongly linked to greater paternal engagement and nurturing.
On the other hand, even dads who were determined to be involved, and who believed mothers and fathers should be equal co-parents, hit the sidelines when faced with a critical, judgmental mother. Among father-toxic behaviors by moms: looking exasperated at dads’ attempts to tend the baby; rolling their eyes; re-doing tasks he’d already done, or “talking through the baby” by saying things like, “Daddy made your bath too hot, didn’t he?” says Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan, an assistant professor of human development at Ohio State University.
The behaviors are “enough to send a message to the dad that he’s incompetent.”
In probing this phenomenon, labeled “maternal gatekeeping,” researchers asked couples to fill out various questionnaires and dress their babies together while being videotaped.

Talk about whipped. No wonder men don’t want to help. Who would in the face of this obnoxious behavior?
Several readers of the Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” Work and Family Blog agree, including this one:

[My wife’s] efforts to dictate exactly how I should take care of the children and house and to monopolize direct interactions with the children are a trying and constant obstacle to building a good relationship with the kids and their mother alike.

Working women with kids, take note. And stop micro-managing like Jimmy Carter with the White House tennis courts and alien sightings.

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8 Responses

Being at home sucks even with out kids. When I was off for 2 1/2 months it drove me nuts. Verrry tough on a marriage too.

samurai on June 17, 2008 at 12:02 pm

The demasculinization of Men: Reverse of gender roles in both sexes ie. Mr. Mom and Mrs. Dad.
In the case of homosexual domestic partnership, its an entirely different perspective but hey!One’s gotta stay home and do the dirty dishes while the other must go out there and make a living.I guess Mr. Mom plays a significant role in that regard.Thus far, no one’s complaining yet.

American Sabrah on June 17, 2008 at 12:24 pm

What a shocker! You mean if a woman nags her limp wristed hubby he is less likely to want to help with the kids? Wow! Almost as shocking as Morgan Spurlock’s documentary that showed you’ll get fat eating a bunch of McDonald’s food every day.
Again, thank you for just good, ole common sense, Debbie.
As much as the media tries and tries, 99.9% of the normal women I encounter don’t want a girly man Mr. Mom type. The media would be surprised how you are much more representative in your real man/real woman views than Oprah, The View, and their ilk.
Debbie, thank you for appreciating true, real men. And, most importantly, thank you for being a real woman, the kind that real men adore.

Jeff_W on June 17, 2008 at 12:48 pm

whatta shock-if you insult someone they don’t want to help? this is what academics get paid for? sheesh

mindy1 on June 18, 2008 at 6:42 am

Debbie Schlusssel on her dad- “My father was at many times both mother and father to us. ”

jmpw on June 18, 2008 at 10:07 am

Try sending a message to a working mother at your job that implies sheĆ­s incompetent. You will be looking for another job. I just thank my lucky stars that I never got married in this day and age, and appreciate immensely having one of the last real mothers.

Robert S. Trojan on June 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

“My father was at many times both mother and father to us.”

jmpw on June 18, 2008 at 10:15 am

What is wrong with women? If you’re going to be so damned controlling, do the task(s) yourself. I have always operated with the intention that if my husband is willing to help out, be it laundry, dishes, or making a meal, show some appreciation for the effort and accept the help graciously. So what if the kids clothes don’t match, or if the laundry isn’t folded the way you like. Did the kids get fed, bathed and was the child kept safe and happy? Then stop your bitching! Maybe then the divorce rate and maybe even infidelity will be on the decline!

musiccgirl on June 19, 2008 at 9:26 am

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