In their Herculean efforts to avoid doing chores around the house, fathers will stoop to pretty much everything, even sitting through an excruciating pee-wee basketball game during which their children forget which end of the court to defend and accidentally score a miraculous, game-winning field goal for the opposing team.
A new study from the Social Sciences division at UCLA called "Fatherhood and Youth Sports: a Balancing Act between Care and Expectations" explains that the pressure to get involved in their kids' lives leads many dads to volunteer their outdated junior varsity sports knowledge in the effort to make little Chloe or Sebastian a future Olympian and score that sweet million-dollar Wheaties contract, long-recognized as the highest achievement in the sporting world. Though men often take on the sporting responsibilities in a household, researchers found that this involvement did little to assuage traditional gender divisions for day-to-day housework — moms, it seems, are still largely considered the default vacuumers and mysterious-stain scrubbers.
Study author Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik explained this trade-off in child-rearing responsibilities. "Women may be unhappy about this inequality," he said, "but at the same time they value the fact that their partners are involved with the kids — even if it is mostly manifested on the soccer field." Translation: at least dads are doing something to keep kids from mucking up the house with their dirty fingernails and carelessly-brandished Ring-Pops. Though researchers found that most fathers are gently nurturing their kids' athletic travails rather than forcing them to shoot baskets until well-past dinner time like Denzel Washington in He Got Game, women are still stuck doing the "lion's share" of more quotidian childcare and household chores, i.e. the thankless stuff that keeps a household from devolving into a jungle of crayon wall-art and discarded jack-in-the-box landmines.
Kremer-Sadlik explained that critical studies investigating the link between masculinity and fathers' involvement in youth sports is limited, but modern dads do seem to be a little gentler when it comes to encouraging their children to play sports. Still, men aren't making much progress in taking over some of the less-glamorous housework. "The fathers we studied," said Kremer-Sadlik, "are finding ways to create a new ideal of fatherhood, but they are not creating a new ideal with their partners." He added that some fathers even use sporting events as an excuse to get out of doing housework, but it's easy to imagine that watching children try (and fail) to hit a baseball off of a tee must be its own kind of karmic comeuppance.
Men Involvement At Home: Sports 1, Housework, 0 [Science Daily]
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