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CNN–The broken gender dynamics of our workplaces has a simple solution: We need to give women more power. But redressing the gender dynamics in our homes is not so simple.
Outside homes, society is largely organized according to a men-on-top-women-on-bottom power structure. Inside our homes, on the other hand, is where women hold a considerable amount of sway. Wives and moms tend to call the shots in most matters related to housework and child care, a reality evidenced by the ubiquity of "ask your mom" across space and time.
Women didn't ask for this power. In fact, a growing number of us have come to resent it, particularly since our increase in power (aka responsibility) in the workplace hasn't correlated with a commensurate decrease in our power at home. "Ask your dad!" moms have begun to cry out, more in desperation than hope.
Women don't just want men to do more housework and child care because such labor can be tedious and exhausting, they want it because men not doing it is hurting women professionally. Though the fix here clearly involves dads doing more at home, men, even the lazy and obtuse ones, aren't solely to blame for a lack of progress. Many moms -- often unintentionally, sometimes unconsciously -- stand in the way of progress.
Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as "maternal gatekeeping," when moms control dads' household responsibilities and/or interactions with their children. It's common and difficult to shake.
Research from the past 20 years has documented a connection between how controlling a mom is of her partner's parenting and how much parenting he does. The more gatekeeping from mom, the less parental involvement from dad.
Matt Stevenson, a postdoctoral research fellow in developmental psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied dads and gatekeeping, pointed out that dads are still too frequently seen as clueless, and moms too frequently buy into it. This is despite a generational shift toward co-parenting and a growing body of research proving that dads are just as fit to parent as moms.
Still, he's optimistic. Fathers do more child care and housework than ever and are perceived as more competent parents than ever. He expects these trends will continue in the future, especially with women's help.
"To a degree, this is a matter of giving a husband space in the house to come up ways to show love and help," Stevenson said.