Equality Can Be a Problem

Last week I wrote in the Daily Beast about the flack I catch when I take care of my kids. I’d been thinking about writing an article along those lines for years, but always backed off because I worried that a man’s voice wouldn’t be welcome in (especially online) discussions at the intersection of work, family, and gender (the opening anecdote from this Atlantic piece seemed all too typical).

To my surprise, the backlash never materialized. Andrew Sullivan linked the piece, The New Republic‘s Marc Tracy suggested that it was a useful corrective to those who see work-family balance in strictly monetary terms, and ECE PolicyMatters’ Susan Ochshorn urged me to push for more from the state—not just employers.

I almost felt let down. What an anticlimax! Truth be told, I was a little disappointed. So I wrote a followup with a title that’s sure to attract more ire and less encouragement: “The Trouble With Work-Life Equality.”

Here’s a sample:

The point, I think, is that debates about equality aren’t always productive. At some point, they distort the way we talk about work-life balance. That’s because equality is a fickle, amorphous goal, notoriously difficult to measure and maintain. Which equality do we want? Energy? Hours? Responsibilities? Tasks? Fulfillment? There are numerous ways to measure the effort adults put into their work and family lives, which makes it easy for any parent—working or not—to frame their contributions as generously as possible.

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