Fatherhood bonus vs. Motherhood penalty?

Claire Cain Miller writes in the New York Times about The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus, summarizing the data that “A child helps your career if you’re a man”.

There’s a part of me that bristles at this entire discussion when she says “one of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children” while “for men… having a child is good for their careers”.

the great gender divide?

But another part of me realizes that it is quite likely true and that in our society women are likely prioritizing children over career when they become mothers while men are still likely prioritizing career over everything else, but because they’ve just become more responsible now they’re fathers, they’re even better employees?

I don’t really follow the logic, but regardless, my question is: so what?

Why is this a news story at all? After all, it’s only very recently in human history that the job of nurturing has been other than just the mother’s responsibility, and that the task of bringing home the proverbial bacon has been shared between the parents in the household (or households).

At the risk of alienating some people, I do believe that all children need active, involved fathers, but that particularly when they’re younger, there’s something about the baby/mother or child/mother relationship that’s essential for happy, healthy children and adults.

Hold on, though! I’m not advocating a return to the 50’s where women had to fight to be respected as peers and men were off boozing and having affairs with their secretaries. Hardly! But the underlying assumption of Miller’s article is that perfect equality is the goal of our cultural evolution and I just question whether that’s actually a good goal or not.

What if mothers indeed are always going to prioritize their children over their jobs while fathers are going to struggle more with that, and while some of us are kids first, work second, plenty of other men will always default to “I gotta work. You deal with it.”

If so, then pragmatically that does indeed make fathers better, more reliable employees than mothers. Which isn’t to say that millions of women aren’t great employees or execs, nor is it to say that there aren’t plenty of fathers who bail on big deadline projects because their child has a sniffle.

But where’s the fire?

One comment on “Fatherhood bonus vs. Motherhood penalty?

  1. Tough topic. In our society, admitting gender differences can get you in trouble. Yet men and women are different. As a culture, we need to explore those differences, accept them … and then allow both sexes to move beyond preconceived notions when it benefits our children. Oh, we have our work cut out for us.

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