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Maternal Gatekeepers -- What You Can Do About Maternal Gatekeeping

Maternal Gatekeepers -- Subtle Sabotage

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Photo: John Foxx / Getty Images
Photo: John Foxx / Getty Images
Questions for Wives
Questions and Solutions for Husbands
How to Stop Being a Maternal Gatekeeper
Gatekeeping Study Press Release

Although many women complain about their husbands not doing their share of work around the house, they may be actually inhibiting their spouse's involvement in housework and child-care by a subtle sabotage known as maternal gatekeeping.

Definition of a Maternal Gatekeeper

A woman is a maternal gatekeeper if she is inhibiting her husband from completing his share of household chores and child-care. A maternal gatekeeper limits her husband's involvement with chores and children by placing obstacles in his way. She may question and criticize his actions as a parent and fail to encourage his interaction with his children.

Maternal Gatekeeper Studies

Paul Raeburn of Psychology Today writes that studies find that "Even fathers who wanted to be involved with their kids often drifted away in the face of persistent maternal criticism."

"The takeaway message from this research is clear: maternal gatekeeping behaviors seriously undermine the confidence of new dads, causing dads to beat a hasty retreat from what they begin to perceive as dad-unfriendly turf. This quickly creates a no-win strategy for mom, dad, and baby." "So what's the alternative? Everyone fares better when new moms give new dads the time and space needed to figure out their own ways of comforting a baby, changing a diaper on the go, and mastering all the other early-parenting essentials."
Source: Ann Douglas, "A Dad's Way Isn't the Wrong Way: It's Just Different", TheStar.blogs.com, 6/13/2008.
A study done in 1999 by the Brigham Young University Family Studies Center researched the concept of maternal gatekeepers. Conducted by Sarah M. Allen and Alan J. Hawkins, the research revealed that 20 to 25 percent of married women fall into the category of maternal gatekeepers.

Another study on the topic of household chores was done in 1999 by Chloe Bird, a Brown University sociologist. Her research revealed that when women do most of the housework, they may feel anxious, demoralized, depressed, and worried.

  • Maternal gatekeepers' self-identity is often based on how others view their homemaking and nurturing skills. As a result, they may see their value diminished by a husband who takes on some of the housekeeping and child-care roles.
  • Women who are maternal gatekeepers have mixed feelings of both cherishing their role as the primary care-giver, and resenting it. They may feel relieved when their husbands take a more responsibility around the house, and yet feel displaced at the same time. Feelings of both guilt and liberation may also surface when a husband takes his paternal role more seriously.
  • In dual-income families, many women are still doing most of the housework and child-care.
  • Some men do about the same amount of work around the house whether or not their wives worked outside the home or were full-time homemakers.
  • Generally, the amount of housework that men do has remained unchanged over the last 20 years. One study does show that men are spending more time with their children than their own fathers and grandfathers did.
  • Some men have a tendency to overestimate how much they do around the house, and underestimate how much other family members accomplish around the house.
  • It is estimated that a married woman spends 14 hours more time on housework each week than a single woman will spend.
  • Women often feel a lack of respect and caring when their husbands don't do their share of work around the home.
  • Researchers believe that families where there is an equitable division of labor not only reduces a woman's distress, but it helps create a happier household and a more intimate marriage relationship.
  • Dr. John Gottman, of the University of Washington in Seattle, has stated that men who are willing to share in housework responsibility have more active sex lives with their wives.
  • It is also believed that children benefit from seeing their dads do housework. Scott Coltrane, a sociologist from the University of California, believes that children who help their dads do household chores are more likely to be well adjusted and more socially aware of democratic family values and co-operation.
Questions for Wives
Questions and Solutions for Husbands
How to Stop Being a Maternal Gatekeeper
Gatekeeping Study Press Release

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