An observation, question, and prediction.
The observation. Women with children do a better job than men of reflecting on and talking with one another about the art of parenting. My male friends and I don’t talk about parenting too often, and when we do, the conversations tend to be brief and fairly superficial.
The question. Why is there a gender gap when it comes to reflecting on and exchanging thoughts and ideas on parenting? If women spend more time with their children than men, and also spend more time with one another, I suppose the gap makes sense.
It may not be that simple though because my male friends and I are way more involved in our children’s daily activities than most of our fathers were. Our children also see us help around the house a whole lot more than we saw most of our dads. Sometimes when L complains that I’m not doing my fair share around the house, I remind her how abysmal my dad’s modeling was and how helpful I am by comparison. I admit, pathetic, blaming my dad when he can’t defend himself.
The prediction. Over the next few decades, “the stay-at-home dad” ranks are going to swell. If I were an entrepreneur I would be strategizing on how to capitalize on this impending social transformation. Like you probably, I know a handful of stay-at-home dads, but they’re still a distinct minority. I predict this will change because my female students are running circles around my male ones. My experience jives with what others are documenting in other parts of the country. Not only are there more female college students than male, they also tend to be more purposeful in their studies, they’re studying abroad at greater rates, and they’re enrolling in graduate schools in greater numbers.
In some of my classes, the gap is glaring. I might have 30 students, 17 or 18 female and 12 or 13 male. Typically, six of the top eight students who are most engaged, most hard working, and most successful, are female. Class after class, semester after semester. There are purposeful, hard working, outstanding male students; they’re just outnumbered by their female counterparts. To create better gender balance, some universities are relaxing admission criteria for men.
Apart from the fact that young men spend a lot more time playing video games than young women, I don’t have many sociological insights into the reasons for this gender gap in academic achievement, but I believe it is going to have profound implications for all us, especially my daughters and their girlfriends. Specifically, will my daughters and all of their girlfriends find partners with similar levels of education, ambition, and gumption?
Related to this, I predict more women will graduate college, more women will enroll in graduate programs, and more women will enter the professions, and in the not so distant future, women will out earn men. Given that likelihood, more couples will decide that the lower-earning male should take the lead in child rearing. This has started to happen already, but it will accelerate.
In twenty years, I expect more men to have even more child rearing responsibilities. They’ll probably form playgroups and bump into one another at their children’s schools, and seek out one another for adult conversation. They’ll spend more time together than my male friends and I do. And when they’re sitting at the park pushing their kids on the swings, I won’t be surprised if they begin reflecting on and swapping ideas about the art of parenting.