Taking responsibility in the home

Dave Pollard has a fascinating post over at How To Save The World in which he discusses an increasing trend for men to give up authority in the home and defer decision making to their partners.

I had a discussion the other day with a friend who said that, in the opinion of several women he knew, most men had become 'extra children' in their families, led around by the nose, in fact if not in appearance, by their spouses or girlfriends. This ceding of authority, responsibility and decision-making is considered, he speculated, a fair trade-off by both sexes. Women haven't been pleased with how most men exercise their authority, and are fed up with men's incompetence at making decisions, especially financial ones. Meanwhile men have concluded that being the 'boss' of the family is thankless and usually more trouble than it's worth.

He then lists the four things that he believes men would rather do - lazy, easy, fun sex with many different, enthusiastic partners, to play games, to make stuff and to move.

While I wouldn't disagree with his analysis of what men would rather do, and share his fond recollection of carefree sex even if I marvel at his batting average, I am not sure I agree with his original supposition.

I'd be willing to bet that most women would love to avoid making decisions too and could provide an equally appealing list of other things they would rather do. I am also not sure that men are totally incompetent at making the decisions he talks about as both sexes are perfectly capable of making bad decisions.

What I do agree with is his point that women don't like the way that men have been exercising their authority. I also agree that men find being the "boss" of the family a thankless task but this is surely because we need to find a way of running things that doesn't involve being the "boss" whether you are a woman or a man.

I have been guilty of backing off from decision making in our household for some time but it is not because of lack of desire to take responsibility. It is more that working out how to decide things when neither of you is boss is hard. Everything, even the simplest decision, can turn into a pointless debate or focus for a power struggle if, in the absence of traditional paternal authority, there isn't another decision making mechanism.

For me this is simply part of the wider question of what you do when there is no clear authority. Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of oligarchies, but as previously discussed in the absence of authority we need to work out how to exercise responsibility - and that is hard. For both sexes.