I was a reading a New York Times article recently about the lack of women coaches for players in women’s professional tennis. It seems only three of the top 50 women’s players in the world have coaches who aren’t men.
The story examined possible reasons why women are more likely to have men as their coaches. The following paragraph stuck out to me:
The combination of family responsibilities and the demanding travel on tour is a major factor dissuading women from coaching. “The men can still go on the road if they have a family and not disrupt the family,” said (Chris) Evert, (one of the greatest women’s players in history). “It’s much harder for women. It’s 35 weeks a year, the weeks on the road and the weeks off the road training with your player.”
The key phrase there — “men can still go on the road if they have a family and not disrupt the family” — gnaws at me like a dog chewing your socks. It is a philosophy that comes straight out of the middle of the 20th century, when men kissed their wives goodbye in the morning to head to work and the women stayed home, cleaned the house and raised the kids.
Of course, those of us who live in the 21st century and have gained a minor degree of enlightenment know that not to be true anymore. Plenty of men stay home with their kids, or work from home, or have wives who kiss them goodbye in the morning while heading off to work. And the family gets along just fine.
As a father, it is distressing to me to hear a woman — any woman, let alone one who has achieved at the highest level like Evert — suggest that if the mother has work obligations that draw her away from the family for a period, that the family will just disintegrate in her absence. It seems so patently absurd that it hardly requires a response. Unless the family to which Evert references includes infants and breast-feeding mothers — and even in that case, some accommodations might be viable — it is hard to envision how a family is irreparably “disrupted” by the mother’s work obligations.
If the father can leave for weeks without disrupting the family, while the opposite is true for the mother’s departure, then that is only the case because we have made it so. Men are perfectly capable caregivers. Women do not have the market cornered on that. Whatever roles that Evert references — the ones which apparently she says must be filled by women — I would suggest can be filled by men.
There is nothing inherent in being a man that prevents him from doing the roles that are required. It is unfair and wholly inaccurate to imply that men aren’t capable of “holding down the house” or being the primary caregiver while the woman works.
Men can. Men do. And men should.
Tony Bleill is the managing editor of Chambanamoms.