Blue Collar Men and Childcare

We noted a while ago the statement by historian of marriage Stephanie Coontz that 20%  of working class men do more housework/childcare than their wives.  So we should be prepared for this anecdote from the NY Times “Metropolitan Diary”:

It was a damp and cold morning on the Hudson as the ferry made its way to Lower Manhattan. As the large brawny deckhand, clad in a hefty blue anorak, a knit cap hugging his head, closed the sliding exit door, he continued a very intense discussion with his co-worker, a fellow of similar build and dress. Both were right out of central casting as Exhibit A for life on the docks.

Eavesdropping, I was hoping to be treated to a colorful story about a dramatic recovery, or some other novel talk of the sea. The beginnings of their conversation were promising.

Big burly sailor No. 1, authoritatively: “It’s a struggle, but you will know when they are ready. Just wait.”

Big burly sailor No. 2: “But that’s the question: How do you know when they are ready?”

I strained to listen closely over the noise of the engines.

Big burly sailor No. 1: “You lift them up and put them on the potty and tell them that’s where big girls go.”

Big burly sailor No. 2, incredulously: “And after that, no more diapers? It’s that easy?”

Knowingly, big burly sailor No. 1 took the time to share his strategy and to explain that it was not that easy.

Sailors discussing potty-training techniques — who would have guessed?

3 thoughts on “Blue Collar Men and Childcare

  1. This story reminds me of one of my favorite parenting moments: we’re in a piercing/tattoo parlor in North Carolina; my husband is getting a couple piercings, and our two-year-old son is on my back in our beloved Beco backpack-style carrier. A huge, burly, hairy dude–shirtless because he’s just had his ENTIRE chest tattooed–turns toward me, towering over me. And says: “How do you like that baby carrier?” The Baby Bjorn he and his partner have works okay but is killing his back. We proceed to have a long and very serious conversation about babywearing options, for all the world as though we were both fully clothed. Who knew?

  2. Coontz appears in a recent edition of the NY Times’ “Room for Debate”:

    Today, more men than women report feeling work-family conflict, suggesting that men are internalizing an identity based on their ability to nurture, not just earn money. Conversely, most women now say that having a husband who is capable of intimacy and who shares housework and childcare is more important than having a partner who earns more money.

    These shifts in gender norms come with pain and conflict, of course. But they can also be a win-win recipe for marriage. The best predictors of a man’s marital satisfaction are how much sex he gets and how little criticism he gets. And numerous studies show that women feel more intimacy and more sexual attraction toward — and are less critical of — husbands who participate in childcare and housework.

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