Parents Talk: Does Letting Daddy off the Hook Make for a Happier Marriage?

One study claims marriages are better when dad is the "fun" one.

What do you think about one parent being the "fun" one? Please leave your response as a comment below.

I have a confession to make. I am not the fun parent. I'm the mean parent, the one who makes you eat your vegetables, put your clothes in the hamper and go to your room when you are naughty.

My husband? He's the fun one. He is the one who takes you to the park, pulls you on the sled and makes you hot cocoa when you get back home. He plays Hi Ho! Cherry-O and doesn't get mad when you cheat. And his bathtimes involve lots of splashing and whale noises.

Is this why we have such a great marriage?  A recent study out of The Ohio State University seems to think so

There's only one problem with the findings, though.  The study's authors seem to think that if you don't share the roles this way, your marriage is likely to suffer. 

Results showed that couples had a stronger, more supportive co-parenting relationship when the father spent more time playing with their child. But when the father participated more in caregiving, like preparing meals for the child or giving baths, the couples were more likely to display less supportive and more undermining co-parenting behavior toward each other.

The results were surprising, and may be disappointing for people who believe mothers and fathers should share equally in the caregiving for their children, said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.

Even worse? According to the study, the blame can likely be laid at the feet of the mother, who "undermines" the father.

…Fathers’ increased involvement in caregiving might also arouse negative maternal gatekeeping behaviors (a particular type of undermining behavior) as mothers consciously or unconsciously try to protect their authority over parenting.

Of course, once I read the article, I tried to think of any sort of "negative maternal gatekeeping" I might have somehow unconsciously subjected my poor husband to during our evening with the kids. I did tell him he didn't hold the baby right when he burped him. And I might have suggested that working without a diaper is just begging for a spit up.

But in the end, we ended up both giving baths—he bathed Vi in the big tub while I scrubbed down The Bass in the infant bath.  Somehow, I think we all ended up having fun, too.

Katelynn Metz June 29, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Patch appreciates your comment, thanks for sharing. That said, 'Parents Talk' is a weekly opinion column, which is simply meant to plant a seed that will stimulate local conversation about a parenting topic. We hope this article did that—we know that many past such columns have done just that. Thanks for reading.
Heather G June 29, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Very interesting point of view!
Ryan Houle June 30, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Interesting. I'm sure this is probably true "on the average." Men and women are very different biologically and culturally. But, individual personalities make this very hard to extrapolate out to every family. Probably helpful to be aware of this, though. Thanks!
Kay Nelson June 30, 2011 at 01:09 PM
This smacks of patriarchy to me. I think each parent should be the best and responsible person they can be when raising their children without the handicap of roles.
Kathryn Brandt July 06, 2011 at 05:29 PM
This is not shocking news - most people feel better about things if they think they have control over some aspects of their lives. It's too bad, however, that father figures have unbalanced roles i.e. "mean dad' to a "fun babysitter" role. Life is a balancing act, and parenting is no exception. Parents need to work together to make sure EVERYONE is happy and pulling their weight. It's the only formula produces a calm and productive environment where all family members can thrive.


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