Schoppe-Sullivan Knows About Maternal Gatekeeping, So Why Didn’t She Mention It?

March 6, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Last month I posted a couple of pieces (here and here) on an article written by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan in The Conversation. In them I excoriated Schoppe-Sullivan on a number of counts. In a nutshell, her thesis was that, despite many changes to how couples address the issue of paid work and childcare, fathers still don’t do as much parenting as do mothers and that’s fathers’ fault.

That brief obviously ignores a great many very pertinent issues and naturally, Schoppe-Sullivan didn’t bring them up. The most obvious is that mothers do the lion’s share of childcare because that’s their preference. Dr. Catherine Hakim has made the point time and again based on huge sets of data out of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Many other studies find mothers of all sorts doing the same.

That mothers choose mothering to toiling in the corporate salt mines baffles the likes of Schoppe-Sullivan, but to others, it comes as no surprise. After all, for untold millennia, that’s what women have done when they give birth; their body chemistry all but demands that they attend first and foremost to their children, so why should anyone be surprised when they do just that? And fathers, although active parents as well, seem to be wired for a secondary childcare role. That too accords with our evolutionary history. At some point, female humans began selecting as mates, males who demonstrated a propensity for parenting and therefore humans became one of the few bi-parental species among social mammals.

So, if the biology of parenting is of any import (it is) and if eons of evolution matter (they do), the fact that mothers still do more parenting than do fathers should come as no surprise to anyone, much less someone like Schoppe-Sullivan, who’s an academic and supposedly has access to and knowledge of the research applicable to her topic.

In my first piece on her article, I rhetorically asked whether Schoppe-Sullivan had ever heard of maternal gatekeeping. That too is a major reason why fathers don’t do as much hands-on care as do mothers, so it seemed like a relevant inquiry. Well, a friend and reader emailed me to say that not only does Schoppe-Sullivan know about maternal gatekeeping, but she’s one of the most prominent authorities on it, having done extensive research and published several papers on the subject.

Good for her. But that only urges another question: “Since she knows so much about maternal gatekeeping, what’s Schoppe-Sullivan doing hectoring fathers for not doing more childcare?” She of all people knows one of the main reasons why they’re not; they’re marginalized in the child’s life and care by its mother.

And yet, rather than include that obvious concept in her article, Schoppe-Sullivan preferred to write as if men are shirking their responsibilities.

And, speaking of responsibilities, why is it that, whenever we read such articles (and they’re not exactly rare), they always ask why men don’t do more childcare and never why women don’t do more paid work? After all, that’s as reasonable as viewing the topic from Schoppe-Sullivan’s point of view. If mothers picked up a bit more of the slack at the office or the plant, dads could spend more time with their children, right?

Of course the relevant data invariably show men doing much more of the paid work than do women. The American Time Use Survey, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, for 2015, men who worked did so about 50 minutes per day more than did women who worked. And women who cared for kids spent about 42 minutes a day more than did men at that activity.

So the data urge us to ask why, if we want fathers to do more parenting, women don’t do more paid work so they can. Schoppe-Sullivan joins the ranks of essentially everyone else writing about the subject in pretending that question doesn’t exist so we don’t have to answer it.

There’s a reason of course. The point is less to solve a “problem” than to demean men. But those less inclined toward anti-male sexism notice, and in the process discount the arguments of Schoppe-Sullivan and those like her.




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