Tag Archives: Belkin

What is family?

As we move toward a more tolerant society, variation in the structure of the nuclear family is becoming more and more common. While the traditional family is still the most widely adopted model, we’re seeing important shifts away from this longstanding norm to include families with gay, and queer parents, and families with nontraditional relationship structures- single parents, or others. Articles like the Belkin reading make it tempting to say that family models that share parenting roles evenly ought to be the new norm. But I believe we ought to move away from normalizing particular models altogether. Instead, we ought to focus on creating accessible avenues for people of all family structures. Our reading on the Swedish parental leave policy is a brilliant example because it provides space for new dads to be a part of their children’s early lives if they choose. The policy does not force dad’s to stay at home, but they have the option to (and 85% take advantage of it). Family ought to be determined by whatever structures and roles make its members most happy. Maria Bello’s Coming Out as a Modern Family is an excellent example of such an alternate structure. As long as we encourage and make space for alternative models of family, we’ll hopefully see greater numbers of fulfilled families, that foster acceptance both within and without the family unit.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html (accessed December 15, 2013).

Bello, Maria . “Coming Out as a Modern Family.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/fashion/coming-out-as-a-modern-family-modern-love.html(accessed December 15, 2013).

Bennhold, Katrin . “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All .” New York Times . http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-sweden.html (accessed December 15, 2013).

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What is privilege?

Different parenting styles call attention to the vast differences in lifestyles between people of different socioeconomic classes. The historical precedent of women serving a “childbearing and childrearing role” (Firestone 233) has persisted to the modern day, as mothers are more involved than fathers with the childrearing process in the majority of families. While it is simple to acknowledge the need for mothers and fathers to share in the responsibilities of childrearing, this is simply not possible for all families. Equally shared parenting, in which both partners “spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home” (Belkin 1), is a privilege that most parents do not have.

Equally shared parenting requires a high amount of resources and stability. For example, the Taussig parents described in the New York Times article was only able to make the arrangements necessary to spend time at home because they had stable jobs that permitted them to take time off. Additionally, time spent at home displaces time spent at work, resulting in a loss of income. Even though “equality in parenting should be every couple’s goal” (Belkin 6), it may simply be impossible for lower SES families to practice equally shared parenting, due to time and money constraints.

While I agree that we should be wary of stereotypical gender roles within families, I also think that equally shared parenting is an ideal that most parents do not have the means to actualize. We should not be too critical of families that do not practice equally shared parenting, since it is a privilege based on socioeconomic status. How can we create conditions that are more conducive to equally shared parenting? It may be necessary to restructure the economic system, as Sweden began to do through implementing and normalizing paternity leave (Bennhold).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Firestone, Shulamith. “Conclusion: The Ultimate Revolution.” The Dialectic of Sex ; the Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970. 233. Print.

Equal parenting: What is fairness?

In reading The New York Times’s article “When Mom and Dad Share It All” by Lisa Belkin, I could not help but think about whether or not the “equal shared parenting” described here is really the best option in a household. It seems that what we have read about and what tends to be posed in literature when it comes to the splitting of parental roles are the two extremes: the traditional model with the maternal figure being the primary or sole caretaker and this “equal parenting” with a 50-50 split between the two parties. An example of this latter strategy can be seen in the Vachon family, where “They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence” (Belkin).

But what if one has a naturally more demanding career and does not have as much free time? Or what if one person loves cooking and another hates it? Should these things still be evenly split no matter what? Perhaps rather than splitting each task itself in half, tasks can be split according to skill set or flexibility. Even in just remembering that long list that we came up with as a class of household tasks one must oversee, it seems inefficient to try to split every single one up, and potentially unfair if it puts more of a burden on one parent to meet those needs.

Judith Warner supports this notion and even takes it a step forward in her Time post “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” She talks about how, if one partner wants to do more of the caretaking role, should they not be allowed to because it would break that balance? Or if the breadwinner of the family — and in her case she talks about instances where the wife inhabits that role — feels they are unable to dedicate their full half, does that make them an inadequate parent? I think that rather than “equality” necessarily, we should focus on the concept of “fairness” when it comes to the matter of shared parenting.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Warner, Judith. “Equal Parenting: Why We Need to Rethink a 50-50 Split.” TIME.com. TIME, 1 June 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

WHAT IS EQUALITY: IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO SHARE IT ALL?

In 1961, Kurt Vonnegut published a satirical dystopian short story, “Harrison Bergeron”. In this futuristic short story, every American is finally equal. No one person is smarter, stronger, more skilled, or more beautiful than the other. People who are born smarter or stronger are fitted with handicaps (bags filled with birdshot, heavy weights, disruptive radios, etc.) to bring them down to average. Through government regulated handicaps and Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General, this absurd standard of perfect equality is enforced on the population.

The basic premise of Vonnegut’s story is that perfect equality, down to having equally shared preferences and intelligence, isn’t possible. Reading through Lisa Belkin’s When Mom and Dad Share It All, I can’t help but be reminded of Vonnegut’s story and wonder if such an equal 50/50 split of housework is possible. Belkin provides a lot of examples of equally shared parenting, and the potential problems that arise. In one case, it’s a matter of preference; the wife enjoys doing the shopping for her child’s clothing while the husband doesn’t. Another is feasibility – what if one spouse/partner would prefer to work at home rather than work outside? How does one deal with the question of money and finance? If one partner earns a higher salary, is he or she required to contribute more to the house financially? The questions that arise are endless.

Personally, I prefer Marc and Amy’s (of the Equally Shared Parenting blog) response to shared parenting. On their blog, they start off with the codicil that 50/50 split of housework and childcare isn’t for everybody. What they emphasize more is the equality of choice, that both parents have equal say and responsibility in both housework and childcare. For example, when they discuss “breadwinning” they write that both spouses’ careers, regardless of what kind of career, are equally important and both partners are required to make equal sacrifices in order to balance the house with their careers, such as leaving work to take care of a child or passing by promotions. It is less about both father and mother making the same amount of money, or spending an equal amount of time at home, but rather assuming and equal amount of responsibility at home and receiving an equal amount of respect and consideration for their chosen career. Marc and Amy emphasize the importance of equality of choice in other aspects of shared parenting as well. For example in “childraising”, they write about how both parents, including the father, have a right to decide what is best for their children. While Marc’s parenting decisions are not necessarily the same as Amy’s, she still respects the decisions that he makes regarding their daughter, just as he does hers. With the removal of “mother knows best”, the arguments of men not knowing how to handle children or that women should know how no longer apply. While their daughter’s clothes may not always match perfectly and the house may not be ordered the way Amy wants it to be, they manage an amiable 50/50 split of responsibility, with neither Amy’s nor Marc’s contributions being deemed more valuable than the other. Marc and Amy may not have a perfectly equal 50/50 split of housework and childcare, but their equal split of responsibility for the house and their child appears to me like a more feasible and workable model of keeping house.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All”” NYTimes. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 29    Nov. 2013.

“Equally Shared Parenting” Amy and Marc Vachon (2011)             http://equallysharedparenting.com/index.html

Vonnegut, Kurt. “Harrison Bergeron”. 1961.

Clorox Wipes for Women

This ad for Clorox Wipes is problematic because it perpetuates gender role stereotypes. The text, “Your husband wasn’t quite as accurate as he likes to think he is,” is placed over the image of a woman’s hand cleaning the toilet, meaning that there is a huge disparity between the husband’s perceptions and the actual reality of the household. Implicit in the ad is the idea that cleaning is solely the wife’s responsibility, as well as a heteronormative perspective.

The ad reflects the historical role of women as housewives, responsible for domestic tasks such as “cooking, cleaning, managing fuel and laundering” (Cowan 168). This is still as true today as it was in and before the early 20th century, the period that Cowan describes in More Work For Mother. According to the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households, on average the wife spends twice as much time doing housework as the husband, even if both hold full time jobs (Belkin 4). Studies show that this lopsided ratio holds true within all families, regardless of socioeconomic class.

This advertisement is clearly targeting heterosexual women. It serves to further normalize our society’s deeply entrenched perceptions about gender roles. It does nothing to challenge societal convention and conveys the message that it is okay for men to sit back and let women take care of the household tasks. Furthermore, it makes cleaning seem like a woman’s obligation rather than a chore that should be split between the members of the household, creating unfair expectations for women.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

Free choice and the pressure to “have it all”

It’s very easy as a society to accept the cultural norms surrounding the idea of family and the gender roles of women and men in terms of child care without realizing the very sexist and problematic nature of the societal division of labor. It is an undeniable fact that women are, by and large, expected to do the majority of the upkeep and childcare around the house. At the same time, our progressing society has seen a new rise of “career women” and an influx of women who are rising to the top of the ranks and co-existing alongside men in jobs that 50 years were solely reserved for those of the male gender.

And this is great, right? It’s so exciting that I, as a young woman, am able to look at female role models in every potential career path I could take (whether that be politics, business, etc.). What isn’t so enthralling is the new developing standard for women: now that we are free from the bonds of homemaking and sewing, we need to have high-ranking, impressive jobs. And have a husband. And kids. And be at home to take care of those kids. Instead of women losing the pressure to conform to a societal ideal of femininity in the home, now women are expected to “have it all.” Societally, women that can do everything perfectly are the new ideal.

As our society continues to progress, we can see a new wave of “shared parenting” and fairer divisions of labor within the modern-day household structure (this was discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article, “When Mom and Dad Share It All”). But will this idea of “having it all” disappear as we break down societal norms? My hope is that with a more societally pervasive practice of “shared parenting,” or at the very least, a fairer division of labor, that the conception of “having it all” could more realistically be attained instead of an inaccessible ideal. Women have a right to access and choices surrounding her own source of income and occupation, family life, and motherhood, and should feel free to choose one or any combination of the above and more to create for herself a fulfilling life. It is when societal pressure forces women to conform to an impossible ideal that the choices women have worked so hard to obtain become debilitating rather than freeing.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

A Woman Cleaning? Shocking…

Here is yet another traditionally gendered commercial from the house cleaning industry (surprise, surprise). In this ad, a cute puppy, woman, and her vacuum are terrorized by the frightening dirt monster that arises from the woman’s carpet. By using Resolve deep clean carpet cleaning powder, the woman is able to persevere over her dirty carpet and is free to happily play with her puppy on the spotless shag.

The cleaning powder advertisement reflects cultural norms surrounding the gendered division of labor in the home, a division of labor that has not changed since the 1900s despite the numerous household technological advances described in Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940.” Naturally, it is a woman who is found cleaning the carpet; Resolve cleaning company feels no need to challenge the traditional belief that women are responsible for the upkeep of the household. But unlike most cleaning commercials, Resolve’s features a male presence (both the narrator and the dust monster are men). The husky quality of the narrator’s deeply rich and masculine voice conveys clear authority; of course a male authoritative figure would help market a product in an ad clearly directed towards women (because not even women listen to other women).

The portrayal of gender in the commercial is merely a mirror of societal norms, as the assumption of the female role of house organizer and caregiver is discussed in Lisa Belkin’s article “When Mom and Dad Share it All.” Perhaps by itself, the commercial is not so alarming; but when every household product advertised on TV is automatically marketed alongside traditional gender roles, there is some serious cause for alarm (which is much more worrying than Resolve’s dirt monsters).

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” New York Times 15 June 2008: 1-15. Print.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.