A newly released Boston College study called "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context" points to a sea change in the workplace: Fathers may be facing a bias similar to that which working mothers know all too well.
But there's a twist: It seems that their wives are also discounting the work these dads do at home.
I'll admit it: I know I've been guilty of this. It's too easy to fall into bed after a long day of juggling work and parenthood and housework and start thinking of all the things you did that he didn't have to do -- without considering the things he does that you don't. Which is in keeping with the findings of several studies: The National Survey of Families and Households from the University of Wisconsin found that when both husband and wife work outside the home (which is the case more than 70 percent of two-parent households with kids, according to 2008 US Census data), the woman spends about 28 hours a week on housework while the husband spends about 16 hours. But I have to wonder what falls under "housework." My husband rarely does the laundry or vacuums the floors, but in the many years since we bought our home I've never once mowed the lawn or repaired the siding. Doesn't that make our time commitment more or less even?
Still, dads are being penalized by perception. According to the 2008 Families and Work report, more than 50 percent of men say they do most or at least half of the housework, while 70 percent of women say they do all of it. Another survey, just released by online organization company Cozi, shows similar numbers: while men say the do about half the cooking, laundry, and grocery shopping, women say they are responsible for about 75 percent of those chores.
And the perception is the same when it comes to taking care of the kids: In the Work and Family report, 49 percent of men said they provided most or at least half of the childcare, but only 31 percent of women agreed with them.
According to the Boston College study, part of the problem is that women managed to retain legitimacy in the home as their level of credibility and acceptance in the workplace rose. But while legitimacy at work hasn't been a problem for modern men, acceptance of their desire to be good fathers is harder to come by -- both from their employers and their spouses. And that's what needs to change, the authors of "The New Dad" conclude: "If we want all people to feel like “whole persons,” that means respecting the man’s role as care-giver, cook, cleaner, nurturer, and comforter every bit as much as we respect the woman’s role in the workplace."
For Dana H. Glazer, a stay-at-home dad and the filmmaker behind the documentary The Evolution of Dad, that's what the modern father is working toward: "...a time when there will be no real distinction between Stay-At-Home Dads and Working Dads. They will all just be… Dad."
So parents, weigh in: Do you think you and your spouse pull equal weight at home? And would your spouse agree with your assessment?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.