No doubt Gina would rightly say in her defense that the women do most of the things on her list without being asked. But that only highlights the essential dynamic here: As androgyny becomes the theoretical ideal, and sex differences are treated as nonexistent or suspect, women tend to make "parenting" synonymous with "mothering." And most men really just aren't as good as their wives at being mothers.
As one father tried to explain about his "parenting" experience: "Oh, look, the littler person is crying -- which of the five major reasons could it be? Let me go down the list, after I find the list. Where is the list? Meanwhile my wife will have solved the problem. She doesn't have to consult the list; she is the list."
What this gender confusion turns into "in our home," writes another family guy, "is a big Mexican standoff, with the Loved One saying, I'm making more money than my mother ever did! And The Jerk saying, I'm doing way more housework than my father ever did!"
Men marry because a wife and family give meaning and purpose to their lives. What they want, says Dr. Laura, is simple "appreciation, approval and affection from their women."
The problem is not that working wives want more help with household chores, or that all women want husbands deeply involved in family life. The problem comes when a culture of grievance (and the illusions of power it gives) replaces the cultivation of gratitude. Most especially, when appreciation, approval and affection get translated as "subservience" rather than love.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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