Do it for the Children: Challenging the Male Breadwinner/ Female Caretaker Model

4 Jun

by Alissa Orlando

Last Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a report revealing that mothers are the sole or primary providers in 40 percent of households with children.  Four (male) correspondents on Fox News lamented about these “disturbing statistics” and cried out that “something is going terribly wrong in today’s society.”

What these men fail to do is segregate the two VERY DIFFERENT groups of breadwinner moms: 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers, and 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands.

Let’s focus only on two-parent households.  What is the problem that college-educated women are out earning their husbands?  Saying that this is a ruining the social fabric of America is sexist.  There is no INHERENT risk to women making more than men.  Families where the woman out earns the man make an average household income of $80K, significantly more than the national median of $51.7K.  So financial risk is not an issue.  But what about the social risk to children?

Let’s assume that a child is better off if one parent stays home (which is a huge and potentially false assumption). Erick Erickson, Editor of RedState, says that it’s impossible for women, especially middle class women, to work 12 hours a day then come home and be a good full-time mom.  Therefore, he advances, it is our duty to our children for mothers to stay home.  According to the Pew survey, 51 percent of Americans agree that a child is better off with the mother home, and only 34 percent say that a child is just as well off if the mother works.

Why is this problematic?  The same survey reveals that only 8 percent say that a child is better off if a father is home, and 76 percent say that the child is just as well off if the father works.  Also, the men who are so quick to criticize working mothers frequently have their own children – and illustrious (at least 12 hour a day) careers.  Take the example of billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, who said at the end of April that a woman trader’s career was over the moment she became a mother. Specifically, he said, “As soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom, forget it.”  The irony?  He has three daughters.

So the overwhelming double standard is clear.  The same men who advance that children are better off with a parent home full-time have decided to devote their lives to providing for their families financially.  They do not demonize their fellow men who have made this decision, and do not view working fathers, such as themselves, as distracted.  After a woman no longer has to breast feed, there is no biological reason that she has to be the primary caregiver for the children. The recent study reveals that 84 percent of women in two-parent households are just as or more educated than their partners.  As the number of women who out earn men continues to rise, the male breadwinner/female caretaker model will become increasingly obsolete.  Public attitudes and public policies must change accordingly.  C’mon – it’s for the children.

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