Newsweek: Recession's Good - Makes Men Do More Housework

Newsweek writer Kathleen Deveny found a strange way to spin the current economic recession as a blessing in disguise.

In a column published Friday called "Unemployed Families Need to Man Up," Deveny visited the topic of working mothers and the difficulties of raising children while juggling a career.

Conservatives who broach this subject are usually met with disdain from the liberal media for being anti-feminist. But when mitigating a recession under a Democrat president, it was suddenly okay to discuss reasons why a career would be a burden.

Yet Deveny didn't see a troublesome schedule as an obstacle for women - rather, it was a chance to complain that mothers could handle the workload just fine if not for Archie Bunker living at home:

I would like to believe that for families who can get through this economic slump in one piece-without losing jobs or health insurance or homes-these hard times might encourage a rebalancing of responsibilities.

Deveny began with anecdotes about the hard choices a busy woman makes. For a moment, she inadvertently echoed conservative points that mothers need more absence from work, tend to feel more guilt about bad parenting, and often end up earning smaller salaries, partly due to sexism but also stemming from the frequent time off.

During a major economic slump, Deveny found that women felt more pressure to perform in order to keep their jobs, and managers were less accommodating about absenteeism. For working women already predisposed to feeling stress, this made life all the more complicated.

These problems might tempt a struggling couple to secure a full-time job for the man while the woman remained at home. Indeed, a study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2009, over half of working women preferred a job with limited hours, and more than 80% of parents believed that children need a mother at home at least part time.

Feminist arguments about women being liberated through careers have not caught on with mothers in the real world. But Deveny would have none of her fellow women retreating in the workplace, even if they wanted to.

Instead of telling exhausted mothers on the brink of layoff that they could stay home for a while, she encouraged them to remain in the workforce even if they had to cheat. She also saw the recession as an opportunity for unemployed men to become more acquainted with running a house.

Before extolling the joy of fathers who stay home while their wife barely clings to a smaller salary, Deveny confessed that she's protected herself from the unemployment line by lying to her boss about family obligations (emphasis mine):

Like many people who work in industries that have been battered by the  recession, I am absolutely thrilled to have a job. And like many who fear the next round of layoffs, I am on my very best behavior at work.

Which means that when I have to take my daughter to the pediatrician or cut out early to attend her school's winter concert, I will probably lie and say I have to go to my own doctor instead. I am lucky to have reasonably flexible work hours, and an extremely flexible boss. But in an era of rampant job insecurity, it seems indefensible to request time off to hear my kid sing an Italian folk song-or get her a flu shot. Wouldn't that time be better spent doubling my productivity or developing new revenue streams?

Deveny was not alone in her devious ways. In 2008, CBS News highlighted a study that found some 75% of women lied on the job to avoid repercussions. Instead of expressing guilt about such dishonesty, Deveny explained that the ends justified the means:

And yet women still shoulder the bulk of child-care responsibilities because of retrograde family roles, school-event schedules, and employers' attitudes. All of which can force an otherwise honest woman to fib.

So you see, virtuous women were given no choice but to lie about time off because society was sexist. Nowhere in the column did Deveny contemplate that perhaps managers knew about the lies, which further exacerbated unwillingness to hire more mothers. Nor did the column offer any sympathetic words to a manager stuck with chronically absent employees.

Instead, Deveny used the issue to attack men for not taking the time off themselves:

Sure, working dads do more chores around the house than their fathers did. But the waiting room at my pediatrician's office is still invariably packed with women. Working mothers spend 60 percent more time each day on child care and household tasks than employed fathers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It would seem that no matter who took a day off for little Billy's checkup, a missed day of work would be just that. But Deveny insisted that men get away with being good fathers because, well, they're men:

In part, the reaction is rational. Maternal profiling is real. When a working father takes time off to watch a ballet recital, he's seen as noble. When a working mother rushes out of the office to care for a case of head lice, she's more likely to be labeled undependable.

The solution, according to Deveny, was not to entertain the slightest chance of a woman cutting back her work schedule, but that "men must do better on the home front, doing the dishes, yes, but also planning the dinner that precedes them."

So, in the world of a Newsweek columnist, it would be best for a woman to cling to a job she didn't want, lie and cheat to remain employed, and ignore persistent guilt about missing her children, giving no thought to out-of-work men who actually prefer employment. All of this was done in the interest of "rebalancing the family roles" even if a woman became miserable in the process.

Deveny ended her piece with a strange observation from an expert:

"I love this recession for families," says Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author. "It's helping kids learn to tolerate disappointment and frustration."

You read that correctly. Unhappy mothers with frustrated children were a positive thing to "love"about the current recession.

Whatever it takes to advance a feminist cause.

Unemployment Feminism Recession Newsweek Kathleen Deveny