Rehel and Townsend: Paternity Leave and Gendered Division of Labor

Luis Ramos

This week’s readings concentrated heavily on the idea of gendered division of labor between parents following the birth or adoption of a child…

Rehel’s article kind of pointed out the obvious as I read through it. It mentioned how parenthood was a time for “dramatic change,” especially because mothers tend to exit the workforce through maternity leave and fathers maintain or strengthen employment ties without even considering missing a few days of work after child’s birth. This is not news. It’s a common thing that’s witnessed in our society. The idea of gendered division of labor is well known by everyone. Children grow up witnessing it, and parents fall into that division when they become parents.

The interesting part about Rehel’s article was the fact that research was done based on “what would happen when men experience similar ways of transition to parenthood just as women do?” In order for such experiences to be similar, fathers had to develop a sense of responsibility and gain mastery and confidence in parenting tasks. Mothers are presumed to have a “maternal instinct.” Rehel made it seemed as if fathers had to be MORE INVOLVED in their family lives to be just as equal to mothers. The idea of gendered division of labors is extremely flawed because of the differences between the labors that each parent does to raise their child.

In Townsend’s article he clearly continued to talk about the inequality of the division of labor. Apparently mothers have a lot of control, and they’re in charge of controlling how and when the father can interact with their child. This can be seen with Roy, who mentions that his wife usually sets up individual time for him and his kids. But as for men, they feel as if their labor DOES NOT compare to that of their wives. Staying home with the children is not as difficult as what a father’s job is. Based on the “toughest job in the world” video, mothers have it TOUGH.

It’s not fair to compare and contrast who in the relationship does the most to raise a child. There should not be any division of labor whatsoever. If anything, it should be equally separated between the two parents. This kind of reminds me about Olivia’s friend’s family, whom she mentioned last week on her post. It reminded me about my ideal family. Could paternity leave be the answer to such thing? PERHAPS. When reading over some of the paternity leave policies, it was crazy to see how in the US, paternity leave is unpaid and only 60% of the workforce offers it. I wonder if men who have the opportunity to take the leave will do it even if they’re not getting paid for it. I mean, should parenthood be measured through money or through your involvement with your child? Is making money more important than developing some sort of bond with your child? If there wasn’t a stigma attached to paternity leave or even maternity leave, parents wouldn’t be afraid to be with their child for so long. The way people react about those who take leave causes parents to feel less of a parent because they’re not following social norms. That should not be the case. Do it because you know what you’ll get out of it in the long run. Engagement, accessibility and responsibility really matter when raising a child.

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8 thoughts on “Rehel and Townsend: Paternity Leave and Gendered Division of Labor

  1. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    Luis, I agree with the statements that you made on your post, parental work should be divided more equally.I also agree that if there wasn’t such a negative stigma behind the idea of paternity leave then more fathers would be willing to take paternity leave and break gendered roles of parenting that have been in place for a long time. A good study would have been to interview fathers in countries where paternity leave was offered in the majority of work places and where fathers received a large portion of their salary (70%<), then compare how these parents feel about the way work is divided between parents.

    I agree with you when you say that men should no say that their role as "breadwinners" is harder work than the physical labor that goes into being a stay at home parent, both of these jobs are just as important as the other, if there is no money or not enough money coming into a household then it will be difficult to give your child a good quality of life, but at the same time if parents do not take the time interact and partake in the raising of their child then they will regret it later in the future. Both mothers and fathers should try interchanging their parental roles so that they can learn to appreciate each others roles.

  2. Olivia Rabbitt

    Luis, I also really enjoyed the Rehel article because it gave both parent the opportunity to experience early parenting without stigma. If joint parental leave were more of a norm in our country, I really wonder which gender would be opting to be the stay-at-home parent more often. Perhaps the reason more fathers are not staying in the home (aside from the wage gap and gendered stigmas) is because fathers are never given the opportunity to prove that they can act as the primary parent or the choice to decide that out of the two, they are more “maternal.” Personally, I think mandatory parental leave in a necessity for both genders and helps create a stronger familial bond.

  3. You point out some very good structural flaws with our political system that I noticed when I was reading both texts. Our government continues to devalue work women have been encouraged to do. I think if men were required, or at the very least highly encouraged, to take paternity leave, then the whole institution of parental leave would be more valued than it is today. I also agree with you that paternity leave is only the first step, we should also start getting rid of media influences which construct males as inadequate parents and begin programs which prepare both parents equally for parenthood.

    Patrick Gallagher Landes

  4. Sophie Furman

    In your first paragraph you say that, “gendered division of labor is well known by everyone,” though I agree that everyone probably gets the roles in which males and females play when it comes to parenting, I don’t think people spend enough time dissecting it to realize how big the division gap is. I wonder if things would change if more people stopped to think about it. I agree I think it’s sad that we have to compare parenting between mothers and fathers in order to understand how parenting is done, and the ways in which people go about it. I find that both my parents work just as hard to raise us, and they do it in different ways, but I get that not every household is like that.

  5. I like that you mentioned Rehel’s point about fathers being more like mothers if they spend more time with their children. This reminded me a little bit of the documentary that we watched yesterday. In Daddy and Papa, the narrator asked whether gay parents are mimicking heterosexual parents or just being good parents. This can easily be applied to the idea that fathers who spend more time with their children show a capacity for “mothering.” This made me think, is it that fathers are imitating the actions of mothers, or are they just learning to become better parents? I think it is the latter.

    Sophie Sharps

  6. Bianca Scofield

    Traditional marriages enforce gender norms where division of labor in the home is not equal. Like you said parenting SHOULD be equally divided among two parents, however, in most households it is not. I think the article’s main point is that paternity leave should be more prevalent in our society and never shamed, because a present father is generally a better father. When mothers are responsible everything other than money, how are fathers even considered to be parenting their children. Parenting is not only being available when life is easy, good parents are present through all times and through all of a child’s childhood in my opinion.

  7. Gracie Hall:

    I thought it was interesting that you framed mothers in Townsend’s article as having a lot of control. Their ‘control’ includes being able to choose when and if to communicate information about their children to the fathers. I, however, would not agree that this means they have a lot of control. Similar to mothers who are given the power to manage their children’s lives, or women who have the power to turn down a man’s advance to grind on the dance floor, mother’s ability to control the flow of information isn’t really a form of real control at all. Instead it is a power they have because they are the ‘default’ parent is not a power they chose to have, and furthermore it is not a power that is optional.

  8. Karen Cardona,
    While reading this it took me back to the way many people tend to argue that male parents need the same amount of leave that mothers receive during maternity leave. The problematic thing here is that many males think that paternity leave consist of playing with the child for a bit and then when the baby starts to cry to hand it back to the mother. Marriages and having a child is very gendered , mothers are still expected to take care of the child 24/7 while the father goes to work, comes back tiered and sleeps. I believe that couples need to take classed to learn how to split responsibilities so that both parents could have ‘breaks’ in between.

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