About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Friday, September 24, 2010

#68 - Drum roll, please

So, after 2 false starts, my 68th book of the year ended up being ...

The Lazy Husband: How To Get Men To Do More Parenting and Housework, by Joshua Coleman (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005)

Summary: "'My job is more stressful thank yours.' 'I'm just not very good at domestic stuff.' 'Your standards are too high.' 'I never learned how to do this chore.' Have you heard one or more of the above excuses in the past month? Are you sick of your husband's avoidance tactics regarding housework and parenting? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need this book. The Lazy Husband is a hands-on guide to changing men's attitudes towards domestic work and child care. Dr. Joshua Coleman, author and clinical psychologist, understands that a happy marriage is a balanced marriage. And now, in his refreshingly honest and straightforward style, Coleman reveals exactly how women can motivate their husbands to become better partners and better fathers. By outlining and defining the various types of lazy husbands, Dr. Joshua Coleman teaches women how to understand where their husbands are coming from and enact change. Some Lazy Husband types include: * The Boy-Husband: This husband wants to be taken care of, and pretends to be incompetent around the house. * The Perfectionist Husband: This husband wants the house and the kids to look perfect, but doesn't want to do the work himself. * The Angry Husband: This husband keeps his wife at bay with his irritability, anger, or intimidation. From here, Coleman develops type-specific plans for change. By following these proactive plans, you, too, can achieve a happy, well-balanced marriage. Just remember, you can do less by getting your husband to do more."

Table of Contents:
  • Introduction
  • 1 - The Perfect Mother
  • 2 - Creating Change
  • 3 - Once Children Arrive
  • 4 - Foundations: What Kind of Marriage Do I Have?
  • 5 - Childhood Revisited
  • 6 - It's a Personality Thing
  • 7 - What's with Men, Anyway?
  • 8 - For the Husband
  • 9 - The Lazy Husband Campaign
My take: First of all, it's time for a disclaimer and a confession. I'll start with the latter: I have an embarrassing weakness for self-help books. No, they're not Harlequin romances or Star Trek novels, but I'm the woman who goes to tax school in her free time; it's not like my inner dorkiness has ever been a big secret.

That brings me to the disclaimer: My reading this book is not in any way a reflection on my own marriage! In fact, Mr. Hazelthyme is presently doing an admirable job of pulling his weight and my own at home, as I've been out on the town 3 nights a week (see the preceding paragraph) and taken on another part-time job besides. Can you see why I've been hiding this book amidst a big stack of others from the library, and always making sure it's face down on the nightstand? (Hey, some people hide candy wrappers or liquor bottles in the trash -- so what if some of our secrets are lamer than others?) But I'm always interested to see how the popular press treats topics I'm interested in -- gender roles, intimate relationships, parenting -- and what's Out There in the zeitgeist. I read this stuff for much the same reason I waste the occasional evening playing Plants vs. Zombies: even if it's not going to make my life any better in the long run, it's still pretty entertaining.

Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to the review. In short, Lazy Husband was imperfect, but better than much I've read in the same genre (and we've already established that that's a lot). Coleman's chief argument won't surprise anyone who's ever been in a committed long-term relationship: Marriage is a complicated dance, and every action has its reaction. Over time, both parties' behavior contributes to the patterns that emerge, and some of them can be frustrating at best. Provocative/ inflammatory title and cover photo aside, Coleman's treatment of husbands' vs. wives' role in this dynamic is actually fairly even-handed. His book is primarily addressed to women because that's where the perceived need is greatest; you rarely hear men grousing about how much easier life would be if only they were more involved in parenting and domestic chores. He does, however, spend some time talking about why it is that men and women's expectations seem to differ so widely in this area, and even includes a brief mention of why men should care (the short answer: happier, healthier kids, and more, better sex).

My main criticism isn't one I usually make: I think Coleman's a bit biased in favor of what he calls egalitarian marriages, which colors an otherwise-interesting section of the book. He presents 3 different models for how heterosexual couples divide paid and unpaid work: traditional, transitional, and egalitarian. So far, so good, except that he seems to imply that only traditional relationships have their down sides, and that all marriages ultimately should be egalitarian. Perhaps I'm mellowing in my old age, but I'm not sure I agree. Should couples negotiate their division of labor together, and address the inevitable snags with affection and respect? Absolutely. But I do think healthy, respectful families are possible in all configurations, even traditional ones, and I know that egalitarianism itself is no guarantee of a strong, sustainable relationship.

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