Friday, September 28, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - September 28, 2007

It is Sukkot and here are my shakkin’ Shabbat Thoughts for September 28, 2007:
High Holidays in Baghdad
Where are the atheist leaders who are taking vows of poverty and giving themselves in sacrificial service to others?

As I was riding to the office today I read an interesting piece in the Metro. It was on the Bloomberg News sexism case. It raises the age old question of why shouldn’t companies be able to promote and support people who put the company first and personal life second? They should be able to do that and in most cases they do without breaking the law. Yet in this case I believe a much more interesting question would be asked, why aren’t men doing more work at home?

I grew up in a family where my mom brought home the brisket. My dad stayed at home and "worked" in the same way women "work" from home; he ran the house, cooked the meals, did the laundry and came on field trips with school. He also owned his own business, but his role for the most part was the same as the "unpaid domestic labor" or whatever the term is now. The concept that women should be permitted in the work place is undisputed. The fact that men should be equally responsible for family life is not as clear. In a New York Times article today, we see that men and women have switched places on the “happy scale.” This has a lot to do with the fact that women are working more than men.

Now that it costs so much to live that it requires two fulltime jobs, the traditional heterosexual couple/family will have both partners working outside of the house. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild wrote a book that coined the term "the second shift," where the first is in the office, and the second is at home.

But where are the men? We still get paid more, even in what could be considered a female dominated industry. JTA reports that male day school principles are making more money than female principles, but both are pretty happy with the work.

The happy scale that is described in the Times piece makes a few astounding statements. Men like spending time with parents more than women. They say this is the case because it is more work for women. Here is a passage that I had to re-read to believe it was in the New York Times:
Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist working with four psychologists on the time-use research team, figures that there is a simple explanation for the difference. For a woman, time with her parents often resembles work, whether it’s helping them pay bills or plan a family gathering. "For men, it tends to be sitting on the sofa and watching football with their dad," said Mr. Krueger, who, when not crunching data, enjoys watching the New York Giants with his father.

As big football fan, I love watching the game with my dad. No question. But I am pretty sure that when it gets down to it, I will do just as much to help my family as my sister. We will both pick up the slack if need be down the road. It is what we are supposed to do! It isn’t like football is all I do with my dad and my sister is slaving over family reunion plans and making sure the phone bill is up to date.

Now I know that I can’t use my personal understanding to excuse a Princeton Economist’s findings, even though his augments use his personal understanding to further his point, but what are we talking about here? Is the world essentially stuck in the 1950s once we are behind closed doors?

Men and women should be protected by the law when it comes to advancement in the work place because they are capable of doing the same kinds of work in office environments. Because this is a fact, men should also be expected to bear the weight of equal responsibilities at home.

As we pause to rest this Shabbat, consider what the value of this rest is for you, how it makes you happy, and remind yourself that work is how we give our families a good life. This good life has many equally important components. Once the third star comes out tomorrow night, get back to work. And dads that means you.

Shabbat Shalom


DK said...

I think it is okay in family get togethers--especially extended family get togethers -- to revert back to a traditional role of women performing more of the domestic tasks. Not that I don't appreciate you and the NY Times dictating how people should behave in the privacy of their own homes...obviously, this is your business...but there is something soothing to traditionalism on occasion.

I think if women's work were better appreciated, we would have fewer problems. For instance, the rise of obesity can be directly tied to the increase of women in the work force.

Liberal Jew said...

For instance, the rise of obesity can be directly tied to the increase of women in the work force.

d "freakonomics" k-
WHAT? It can also be directly tied to the increase number of high fructose corn syrupy things on the market, the lack of forced exercise in schools, the over scheduling of children, the Internet and video games, and even Harry Potter. Come on man, next you are going to say that it is the woman's fault for going into the work force that oil is running out. (Because clearly they need more gas to get to work, doubling the number of cars on the road.)

DK said...

Why do more people rely on fast food? Because they don't want to cook for their kids. Why not? Because they are exhausted from working.

I am saying that women provided important and crucial work for their families before they entered the work force. In order to claim nothing was lost, you are implicitly saying their work in previous generation has no value.

Do you really believe that? Was our grandmothers (or for you kids, perhaps great-grandmothers) work of no value?

Liberal Jew said...

The work of the stay at home parent isn't in question (re-read the post, Unpaid Domestic Labor isn't a put down it is a term to describe the value of the stay at home parent). The thing that is lost is not due to both parents working, it is due to the fact that both parents are forced to work due to the cost of living...BUT THAT ISN'T THE POINT OF THIS PIECE EITHER! it is about men doing what they should around the house to make everyone more happy!

To a wonderful shabbat!