“Who Pays For the Kids”

Once upon a time, what feels like a lifetime ago, I was working towards my masters degree. To make sense of what I was researching I read a lot. A lot a lot. Including lots on power and gender.

It’s funny what sticks with you. I had to look up Nancy Folbre, but I remember (some) of the points of her book “Who Pays for the Kids.” The absolute shortest version of it is that women are in charge of the labor of raising a family and how everything (class, gender, race, sex, nation, etc) interlocks to explain/enforce that.

Don’t ask for too much more of an explanation. I read the book almost ten years ago, and the book itself is almost thirty years old. I’m not saying you’ll agree with everything, but if you ever see a copy give it a read.

Why am I bringing it up?

My wife makes more money than me. I’m going to stop there for just a moment. I watch a lot of movies and tv. I never understood when when the plot centers around a man’s insecurity about making less. Who cares? Maybe I shouldn’t do a post about who we view married money… any interest? Leave a comment.

So, she makes more money than me. She runs her business. I’m a salaried school teacher here in Japan. In theory, I quasi have child care leave. If she doesn’t work, the money stops that day.

It only makes since that if one of our children is sick, I stay and do the unpaid labor of taking care of the kids. In a way, we are bucking the system.

Being her own boss, she doesn’t have to explain this. I, working for and with others, kind of feel like it needs constant explanation. And, yes, I do feel being a man plays into this. The expectation is that I won’t be the one taking care of the kids, and taking those allowances does rankle feathers.

I might have mentioned in the past how a former, unmarried and childless coworker frequently would complain about how little men contributed to the home but was also the first to complain if I needed to take off for family reasons.

This is on my mind because the last two days my youngest has been home sick. Luckily, my school also just transitioned to online classes. My entire today was running between the computer to teach and my child to parent.

And I who pays for the kids? And I do like to hope there are more involved dads now than there were 30 years ago.

But I also think there are many barriers that between men fully embracing being a dad. I think of how many people I know that gleefully deride men while also actively making it harder for them be there for their family.

Someone has to pay for the kids. It has been women for a long, long time. There are many things we can do to make that change, and a lot of that change still needs to come from the fathers. But we also need to be more willing to let men take that action.

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