Russell Brand recently revealed he has never spent 24 hours in sole charge of his two children.
His comments caused an uproar with women who labeled him “sexist” for his parenting style, and questioned why he was leaving the majority of the responsibility on his wife, Laura Gallacher. The two share two daughters, Mabel, 2, and Peggy, six months.
He did add to the U.K.'s The Sunday Times Magazine that Laura doesn’t leave him alone with the girls for more than a day because “she respects and cares for them too much.” He also admitted he’s not good at changing diapers or understanding meal times.
“When I looked after Mabel on her own, she dropped two social classes in an hour,” Brand said. “In no time at all we’re in a coffee shop, she’s just got a nappy on, she’s covered in stuff because I’m not willing to fight any of the battles.”
He called his wife “astonishing” for all she takes care of at home.
Isn’t this a bit old-fashioned? Aren’t the days of women doing the majority of childcare, housework, and errands over?
Nicole Avena, PhD., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, tells Personal Space why women still (and often) tend to take the primary role as caregiver.
“[It’s] for a few different reasons,” she says. “One is biological. Women respond to the hormone oxytocin in a familial way, and this hormone is elevated after giving birth, while nursing a baby, or even in response to snuggling.
“Another reason is societal expectations. We just expect mom to do it all. Studies show that women, even when they are working outside of the home, are still spending more time than men doing housework and caring for children.”
A lot of the inequality in childcare begins early on, she adds, “because the woman is the primary caregiver because she is often nursing, and the post-pregnancy hormones make her very attached the baby.”
“Psychologically, dads can feel left out, and feel that mom can do it better, so dad steps aside and helps out only when they are asked to. This type of dynamic can then lead into other parts of the child’s life, such as meal prep, helping with homework, and social activities.”
But moms actually hold a lot of the power in breaking the inequality in child care.
“The best thing new moms can do is to expect dad to be their equal when it comes to taking care of their child, which means encouraging dads to help with the less traditional male roles, like diaper changing and feeding,” Dr. Avena says. “This also means that moms need to allow dads to make mistakes (like if he puts a diaper on backwards, who cares?). The ideal situation is for a child to feel like they have two parents who love and care for them equally, and that dynamic needs to start early in life for it to have a real effect.”
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