Family life

Are dads to blame for their daughters growing up to be housewives?

A new study suggests diaper-ditching dads are more likely to raise daughters who will be stay-at-home moms.

By Jennifer Pinarski
Are dads to blame for their daughters growing up to be housewives?
What did you want to be when you grew up? Was it Aunt Mildred’s love of gardening that led you to horticulture or Uncle Sam’s stories about his years as a principal that inspired you to be a teacher?

I bet you never thought that it was your father’s habit of putting his feet up at the end of his work day instead of putting supper on the table that led you to be a stay-at-home mom! New research out of the University of British Columbia found that fathers who do not have an egalitarian view of household duties are more likely to have daughters who want to grow up to be housewives.
In her study of 360 elementary students (and at least one parent of each student), University of B.C. psychologist Toni Schmader discovered that fathers who help with the household cooking and cleaning are more likely to raise daughters who may go on to choose a career rather than be a stay-at-home mom. “Girls may be looking at their father not as a model for who they could be, but as a model for who they could be with,” Schmader said. Her research suggests that a father who contributes equally to household chores means his daughter will likely choose a spouse who will share diaper duty.
But what about stay-at-home moms, like me, who grew up in non-traditional homes but are now living very traditional lives?
You see, my parents divorced when I was 10 years old, but in the years they were together they had a "traditional" marriage: My mother stayed home with me, my brother and my sister while my father worked as a heavy equipment operator. After their divorce, my mother chose to farm and raise us on her own, an untraditional role (at least in a small rural town in the early 1980s). I was a tomboy — you were more likely to find me climbing trees or tormenting my siblings with bugs and mud than playing with Barbies. In fact, I never learned how to cook until I moved away from home — that’s how opposed my mother was to raising me as a "girlie girl."

Yet, instead of returning to my job after the birth of my daughter, I shelved my successful marketing career in favour of days filled with princess dolls and dishes. My marriage is very different than what Schmader’s study results predicted.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe parents influence the career choices their children will make. However, I think if a little girl wants to be a doctor when she grows up, her dream has more to do with her family supporting her choice than whether or not her father folds more laundry than her mother. There are amazing career opportunities available to today’s generation of girls, but if Gillian grows up to be a writer like daddy or a “mommy kitty” like me (which is what she’s told us she wants to be), then that is a dream we will support. After all, there is nothing wrong with being a housewife.
Do you think your partner’s attitude towards household chores will influence your child’s career choice? Was your career influenced by how your parents divided housework?

Photo by dan4th via Flickr.
This article was originally published on Feb 25, 2013

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