Modern Fathers the Equivalent of Hired Help?

Filed under: Opinions

father with stroller

Have fathers lost their place in the family? Photo courtesy Friendscallme on Flickr

Michael Lewis is a father of three who is feeling a little under-appreciated. He's written a book, based on a series of amusing pieces he wrote for Slate, called "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood." In it, he describes what he considers to be the raw deal that men have been handed by the mothers of their children:

"At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and -- let us be frank -- got fleeced," he writes.

He is referring to the role of the modern father -- a role that he says has been diminished and debased by the modern mother who has decided his value lies in doing as he's told with nary a thanks. No longer the powerful head of household, he's become the equivalent of unpaid hired help. The babysitter, the heavy-lifter, the go-to guy when something trivial needs to be done.

Day Out with Daddy: Celebrity Dads and Kids

    Matt Damon
    Actor Matt Damon gives his daughter, Isabella, a lift at LAX Airport. Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have two daughters together -- Isabella and Gia. Luciana also has a daughter, Alexia, from a previous marriage.


    Tom Brady
    The New England Patriots' star quarterback, Tom Brady, visits with his son, John Edward Thomas Moynahan. Mom is Brady's former girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan. Brady married Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen in February 2009 in Los Angeles.

    Revolutionpix / Fame Pictures

    President Barack Obama
    Despite his insanely busy and important schedule, President Barack Obama makes it a point to spend as much time as he can with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

    Getty Images

    Brad Pitt
    Actor Brad Pitt, who has six children with actress Angelina Jolie, visits the playground with three of their kids -- daughter Zahara, and sons Pax and Maddox. Not pictured are daughter Shiloh and twins Vivienne and Knox.

    James Devaney, WireImage

    Will Smith
    Will Smith and two of his children with actress wife Jada Pinkett Smith -- daughter Willow and son Jaden -- enjoy a night out in New York City. Smith also has a third child, son Trey , from his previous marriage to Sheree Zampino.

    Eric Charbonneau, Le Studio/Wireimage

    Tom Cruise
    Actor Tom Cruise walks the streets of Manhattan with his daughter, Suri Cruise; mom is actress Katie Holmes. Tom also has two other children -- daughter Isabella and son Connor -- from his previous marriage to actress Nicole Kidman.

    James Devaney, WireImage

    Matthew McConaughey
    Matthew McConaughey sits in the sand with son Levi on the beach in Malibu. Levi is McConaughey's first child with model/handbag designer girlfriend Camila Alves.

    Sexy crooner Seal, seen here playing in the park with one of his sons, has three children with supermodel wife Heidi Klum -- daughter Leni, son Henry and son Johan. The couple recently announced that baby #4 is on the way!


    Gavin Rossdale
    Singer Gavin Rossdale hanging out on the slopes with his oldest son, Kingston. Rossdale and his singer/fashion designer wife Gwen Stefani have two sons, Kingston and Zuma.

    Michael Buckner, Getty Images

    Ben Affleck
    Actor/director Ben Affleck picks up his oldest daughter, Violet, from school. Ben and his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, have two daughters – Violet Ann Affleck and Seraphina Rose Elizabeth Affleck.


Where his own father may have ruled his roost with an iron fist, Lewis claims today's fathers have been stripped of their authority and relegated to water boys for their wives and children. Their vast powers of leadership and moral-compassing are no longer required or even desired by their strong and empowered wives.

It would be easy to dismiss Lewis as a disgruntled stay-at-home dad, but I felt something when I read this article. It was a twinge of something I think was recognition followed by a tiny bit of guilt. While I acknowledge and appreciate my husband's ability to problem-solve, plan, and otherwise make sound decisions, I rarely let him do so.

I do, however, let him clean up the mess when the cat misses the litter box, carry the heavy potting soil to the shed and keep the lawn looking neat and tidy. He's not a stay-at-home dad. In fact, he's been edged out of a leadership role precisely because he works long hours and I am left to hold down the fort. This operation needs only one leader and I see no reason why it shouldn't be me. But in taking over have I taken him down?

How much authority does your husband have at home? Does he run the roost, or is he the errand boy? Or have you negotiated some amicable third option?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.