When the Workday Ends, More Fathers Are Heading to the Kitchen: Who washes the dishes?

NY Times: Sometimes, Joe Kreisberg ponders the question during his morning commute. Sometimes, he considers it at his desk at an advertising agency in Manhattan or on his afternoon stroll for a caffeinated pick-me-up.

“It’s kind of in the back of my mind all day,” said Mr. Kreisberg, 35, describing that perennial working parents’ dilemma: What will I cook for the family tonight? “I’m thinking about the ingredients. I’m thinking about what I have in the fridge.”

He hops on the subway back home to Long Island City, Queens, around 5 p.m., dashes to the day care center to pick up his 7-month-old son, Harrison, and often squeezes in a run to the grocery store. Finally, he gets into the kitchen. Soon, he is roasting a chicken stuffed with rosemary, thyme and onion, or seasoning some fresh salmon or frying up eggplant for parmigiana.

Mr. Kreisberg is a freelance copy writer, a husband and a father. He is also a member of what he and other men describe as an often overlooked portion of the population: the growing number of working dads who cook.

“We do a lot more than barbecue,” Mr. Kreisberg said wryly.


Mr. Kreisberg got in touch with me earlier this month when I invited working parents to join an online conversation about the challenges of juggling hectic work schedules and family dinners. In my column, I ended up quoting only working mothers — many more women responded to my query than men — and some readers protested.

“It really frustrates me that this is so often framed as a women’s issue,” said Natalie Pacholl, the mother of a 3-year-old who lives in Vancouver, Wash., and works for a high-tech manufacturing company. “Where are the dads in most of these discussions?”

Michael M. Rooke-Ley, a retired law professor in Eugene, Ore., echoed those concerns, noting that “a 1950s ethic still prevails” at times, even when both parents work.

“In these outposts of gender-based tradition,” Mr. Rooke-Ley said, “Dad needs to get off the couch!”

Mr. Kreisberg would like you to know that he and many other dads are already off the couch. Statistics bear him out. While women are cooking much less than they did in the 1960s, men are cooking much more.

A study published last year by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that the percentage of men who spent time cooking on any given day jumped to 42 percent in 2008 from 29 percent in 1965. (As more women joined the work force, the percentage who cooked dropped during that period to 68 percent from 92 percent.)

Women still spend more than twice as much time preparing meals than men on an average day, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. But I have to agree with Mr. Kreisberg when he points out that fathers are clearly spending more time in the kitchen than they used to.

Some cook a couple of days a week or on the weekends. Others embrace the bulk of the work.

I’m talking about men like Derek Hartwick, a 55-year-old rowing coach who lives in Highland Park, N.J., and cooks about five times a week for his wife and two sons.

He and his wife both work full time, but Mr. Hartwick gets home earlier, so he handles dinner, serving up dishes like pasta with shrimp scampi, breaded chicken and homemade pizzas where everyone picks their own toppings.

It can be a struggle, he said, working full time and preparing home-cooked meals while also offering homework help and volunteering as a soccer coach.

“Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not,” Mr. Hartwick said. “But we try to make a conscious effort. We feel like it’s important to have some time to sit down together over a meal.”

Lorin Wertheimer, a 44-year-old television producer and father of two, cooks his family’s meals for the week on Saturdays and Sundays. He juggles family outings with time in the kitchen where he prepares chicken, stews, chili and vegetables for the workdays ahead.

“I believe in an equal share of housework,” said Mr. Wertheimer, who lives in Park Slope in Brooklyn. “It’s a way in which I can pull my weight.”

Mr. Kreisberg, who has a shaved head, a beard and tattoos, said that people were sometimes surprised to learn that he is the primary cook in his household.

“He’s kind of tough looking and rugged,” said his wife, Amy, who works full time for a pharmaceutical company and does the dishes after dinner. “But he loves to cook. I feel really lucky.”

Managing the evening scramble is not easy, Mr. Kreisberg said. But it is one of the many ways that he cares for his family and serves as a role model for his baby boy, who often watches him cooking from a high chair.

“I hope to teach him to develop his own brand of masculinity,” Mr. Kreisberg said, “and that ‘being a man’ can include baking zucchini bread, watching the Food Network and being curious about cooking.”

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