A recent study conducted at Georgia State University discovered that heterosexual couples who share childcare duties evenly (between 40 to 60 percent) are happier, less fighty and do sex better than their less egalitarian counterparts.
This has made the news across the media as if it was, in some way, groundbreaking. Essentially, what they are saying is that relationships that don’t force both parties to fulfil old-skool stereotypes (if they don’t wish to) leave both parents happier and more sexually satisfied but did we really need to delve into the sexual goings-on of 500 couples to discover that?
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Dan Carlson, assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University said, “What we found is that couples who shared childcare really seemed to have the most positive outcomes.” He might as well have said, couples who respect each other and share responsibility for the happiness in their lives like each other more. And let’s face it, bumping uglies with someone you like is always more orgasm-inducing that with someone who you spend most of the day resenting, right?
While the world has gone and mostly accepted women as an equal species (I know, bonkers), the family set up hasn’t really kept up. While more and more families are taking a more millennial approach to childcare, the majority of families are still playing by the old rules. While this probably works for the majority of those families for many it happens because it’s expected to happen that way. This isn’t the result of a band of misogynistic husbands plotting desperately to keep women in their Mad Men-style aprons and hair rollers. It’s a result of outdated social expectations, standards in workplaces, maternity pay, paternity pay and a million other things. Whatever the reason, we are a new breed of parent in a new century and we’re just not as happy with it anymore.
Which, shocker, feeds into our home lives and, more specifically our sex lives. It’s worth noting at this point, that the study does not say that those who share childcare duties have more sex, just that they have better, more satisfactory sex. The message is clear – whatever your set up, having kids will reduce your sex life to a rare, snatched (pun fully intended) and weary entanglement somewhere between picking food scraps out of your hair and emptying the nappy bin.
So, while the headline looked sexy, it turned out to be a bit of a limp fish. The research did, however, unearth some really interesting observations more generally. The study looked at couples where the mother takes the lion’s share of the Small, couples that share childcare and couples where the father takes the lion’s share. Interestingly, the only one that seemed to have a negative impact on the relationship was the one where the mother did the bulk of baby-rearing. As Carlson says, those relationships had the worst outcomes, “across the board.”
It’s only when we ask why these shifts are happening in the family dynamic that we start to understand how the modern family is evolving. Yes, our ‘villages’ have largely disappeared due to our disparate geographical statuses, but our nuclear units are evolving to pick up the slack. The millennial dad is, for the first time, accepting childcare as a shared responsibility. Yes, many women are earning more money making it an obvious choice for the father to take the role and primary childcarer, but it’s more than that.
Our new evolving social mind is giving dads the confidence to look after their children. Yes, there are still snide comments from some women about how dad’s can’t do girls’ hair, or how they put on nappies backwards, but really, in this day and age, it’s that kind of thinking that’s backwards. Dads want to be involved. Cool is no longer sneaking a pint or three in at the pub before heading home to the old ball and chain; cool is wearing your baby, being as comfortable with a wet-wipe as with a wrench and still finding time for a bit of fully-satisfactory slap and tickle at the end of it all.