Darcy Lockman, ALL THE RAGE: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership

Darcy Lockman, ALL THE RAGE: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership

Darcy Lockman, ALL THE RAGE

I’m here today with Darcy Lockman, PhD. She is a former journalist turned clinical psychologist. Her first book, Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist, chronicled the year she spent working in the city’s psychiatric ward. Her latest book, All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership, comes out in May. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and Psychology Today, among others. She currently lives with her husband and daughters in Queens.

Welcome to Darcy. Hi. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Darcy Lockman: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Zibby: This is so great. I wanted to know what made you decide to write All the Rage. First, I want to hear a little more, you were starting to tell me about your writing journey and your time at Vogueand fact-checking. All that is really interesting to me.

Darcy: I moved to New York after college to be a magazine writer. I always wanted to be a writer. I was never a fiction writer. That seemed the avenue to go down. I got a Rolling Stoneinternship, actually, when I was still in college for post-graduation. I moved here to do that and then ended up getting a job at WarnerMedia at the time, US Magazine. I started working in magazines. I worked all around, started as an edit assistant answering phones and then started writing, quit my job to be a full-time freelance writer, which was a great thing to do in the late nineties. It was a good point to make money that way. I don’t think it would be anymore. The web was new, so you could write all sorts of stuff for the internet. Then after freelance writing for a while, I wanted a little more stability. I went to Vogue as a fact-checker, which was great. It was such a wonderful place to work around the year 2000, and then went back to school to be a psychologist because it started to feel like the stuff I was writing wasn’t that interesting to me. To make a living full time as a freelance writer meant doing a lot of stuff that wasn’t going to be that interesting to you, at least the track that I was on. I stopped, but I always had the idea that I would write about psychology eventually, which isn’t what this book is about. It was always in the background, writing, even though I was going down a different road.

Zibby: We have a very parallel thing. I was a psych major. I thought I was going to be a psychologist. I interned at Vanity Fair. I thought I would be a freelance magazine writer. I feel like if we took one of those Myers-Briggs tests, we would probably be the same.

Darcy: What happened with psychology?

Zibby: Just because of where my life was, I couldn’t commit to being in one place for five years. I put it on hold. I ended up going to business school. I used it more in analyzing consumer behavior, and doing it more in the business side, and doing marketing and things like that for a little while. Anyway, this is not about me.

You became a psychologist. You wrote your first book, Brooklyn Zoo. Tell me a little bit about that.

Darcy: It’s about the year I spent working at Kings County Hospital on the psych ward. Everyone, at the end of their doctoral program in clinical psychology, does a clinical internship, usually works in a hospital for a year. I went into it knowing that I wanted to write a early-career memoir. That would be the category. Part of the reason I picked that hospital, because you rank places, is I wanted somewhere really interesting. I remember being on my interviews and loving Beth Israel, but I thought this isn’t going to be interesting for a book. Kings County, that’s the place to be. Bellevue was the place where people had typically written these kind of books about. It seemed overdone.

Part of my thinking in going to that particular hospital was it would be a really rich place. It ended up being a great place to train just because you see so much that you don’t necessarily get the chance to see in a different setting. I took really copious notes all year. I would get on the subway after my day at work and write down everything that had happened during the day. I also had notebooks with me during the day. I would take notes, which probably seemed a little strange sometimes, but we were learning so it was acceptable. I wrote a proposal for that book when my internship ended and sold it and wrote the book, which was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed doing it. I knew I wanted to write another book.

Zibby: Then how did you arrive at this topic for All the Rage? First, tell listeners a little more bit about what All the Rage is about. The subtitle, I read already in the intro, but it’s Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership. I actually thought you would arrive here looking very angry, you know, rage, but no.

Darcy: Oh, really? No. My kids are older now, so there’s a lot stress on our family.

Zibby: How old are your kids now?

Darcy: They’re six and nine. At the point when I started to write the proposal, they were six and three. It’s a really different phase of life. I arrived at this topic by having children with a man. My husband and I are both fairly progressive. There was never any thought that I would be a stay-at-home mother. We met in grad school. We graduated with so much debt that there was no way that, even if I had been inclined to be a stay-at-home mother, that would’ve been something that we could’ve thought about, though I wasn’t particularly inclined to do that. It wouldn’t suit me temperamentally. When our first daughter came along, though my husband was in love with her and totally involved with her, I began to see that all the work around her was falling to me, from finding a preschool, to making sure she had everything she needed, to being the one who remembered diapers when we went anywhere. I was really surprised.

We were living in this way that felt kind of retro to me and didn’t align with our values. I saw it going on around me as well. You meet a lot of moms when you have a kid. Because most of the mothers I met were from our preschool, they all worked full time, pretty much. They had the same complaints that I did. I thought, this is so weird. We didn’t think we were going into parenting in 1950, but we found ourselves parenting in 1950. I just kept thinking, why is it this way? What is going on? Why is this? Because I come from a journalism background, I thought, I can really use my journalistic tools to dissect this problem. I was really just very curious. I really wanted to know, how is this that this is going on? That was the genesis of the book.

Zibby: Wow. You have a great scene in the beginning where you’re talking about a mom in the 1950s who wanted to go into the theater, but she said, “My husband wants me home in the evenings.” You wrote, “It sounded just so very long ago, or did it?” I loved that line. I’ve heard that said many times. “He doesn’t let me do this. I can’t do this. He needs this. He needs that.” It depends on the relationship. I feel that could’ve just as easily been this morning.

Darcy: It’s funny. I had never heard anyone talk that way, “My husband won’t let me do that.” When I looked back at my relationship with my husband — we’d been together probably six years before we had kids — there were little things along the way, places where I acted in a deferential way toward him that I don’t think either of us would have tagged in the moment. In retrospect, I saw them. He would probably laugh to hear me say that because I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking up for myself. There were ways in which I took care of him and of us that were more from a housewife era. I had other friends too who would call themselves feminists happily and shout it from the rooftops but found themselves cooking for their husbands all the time and things like that. People do get surprised by how this stuff comes out in heterosexual relationships. I certainly was. Actually, I heard that woman on a podcast, as you said. It was like, oh, wait a second. This is more extreme than we would be, but there are remnants of it still even today.

Zibby: You sprinkle throughout the book, little anecdotes from your own life in addition to all the research. You have a lot in there. I was impressed. Good reporting and everything.

Darcy: Thanks. I spent a long time.

Zibby: I can tell. I can tell you spent a long time. It’s a lot of information. It’s great and really well-organized. You get a lot in there. It’s awesome. Then you have your own story throughout, which I was particularly interested in hearing about, including this one scene where you had gone away or you were out all day with the kids and then you were giving them a bath — you can tell the story.

Darcy: I loved putting this story in the book. This is so illustrative of the way this happens. We were at the beach all day. It was a great day at the beach, but long day. The kids are tired. They haven’t had dinner. We’re driving home. We decide that we’ll make chicken nuggets from the freezer for dinner so they can eat quickly and go to bed. They’re covered in sand. They need baths. This was last summer, so my older daughter was eight. My younger daughter was five. The eight-year-old bathes herself. The five-year-old needed some help. We get into the apartment. I go into the bathroom with my younger daughter to get the sand off her and bathe her.

My husband walks into the kitchen, so I assume he’s going to put the chicken nuggets in, don’t even say anything because we’ve already said this is what they’re going to do. I bathe Tess, my younger daughter, and a few minutes later, come out of the bathroom. My husband is standing in the kitchen drinking a beer. There are no chicken nuggets in the toaster over or even having been gotten out of the freezer. My husband is a hard-working guy. He’s thoughtful. He’s considerate, typically, but he just doesn’t think about the kid’s needs sometimes in ways that are so astounding to me. When I get home and they need to get into bed and have dinner first, I’m not going to do anything until that’s taken care of. This so typifies the way we parent together. He’s not really the one who feels responsible because of what has gone on between us and the norms that have been established without ever talking about them.

Zibby: Wait, what did you do in that kitchen?

Darcy: I walked into the kitchen. I see him standing there having a beer. I wasn’t mad. Because I was working on this book, the book started with a history of us really fighting a lot. These were huge fights between us. Things were tense for a while because I was pretty unhappy with the way things were going in that area. This was almost funny to me, I think because we’d had so many fights about it. I got the nuggets out of the freezer, opened the box, put them in the toaster. He didn’t even flinch. He didn’t say, “Oh, oops.” We didn’t have a fight about it. I don’t even think we talked about it. It was one of those clarifying moments where you’re like, we don’t think the same way in relationship to our children. He adores them. He does stuff for them, but does not think about their care and feeding in the same basic way or at least takes it for granted that someone else is going to take care of it. That’s probably the biggest difference.

Zibby: Do you think part of it is in the communication? It sounds like if you had been like, “Hey, throw those nuggets in the oven,” he would’ve been like, “Okay.”

Darcy: He absolutely would’ve.

Zibby: Is it the point that you were the one who has to be, “Let’s put them in”?

Darcy: I didn’t intentionally not tell him because we had just talked about it. When I get home with two hungry children and it’s bedtime, there’s no way I wouldn’t think to do that immediately.

Zibby: You are a calmer woman than I am. I take back our similar temperaments because I don’t think I would’ve responded in such a chill, observant way to a scene like that.

Darcy: Trust me, we’ve had our moments. I have not always responded in such a chill, observant way. If I’m not there, he’s on it. If I’m there, I think he just takes it for granted that I’m going to take care of it. It is based on a history of me taking care of it, but why was I taking care of it? It’s a dynamic between us that I know a lot of couples fall into.

Zibby: You observed this dynamic and then you decide to throw yourself into all the research on this that you possibly can, the best argument-builder possible?

Darcy: Yes, exactly. I’m really going to find out why we’re still living this way. I started the proposal in 2015. I took a year to write the proposal. I had mixed feelings about doing it. It had been such a contentious thing between us. We had sort of gotten to a better place with it. Do I really want to pursue this and throw this wrench into my marriage? He thought it was a great idea. That made it easy to proceed. Definitely, I was going to really figure out why this was going on.

Zibby: What is the condensed answer to the question? What did you find?

Darcy: The condensed answer is patriarchy. We grow up in a society that teaches us that men’s desires and aspirations and comfort is more important than women’s. There’s no way to grow up in our society and not internalize that, even in a time that’s more feminist than fifty years ago or thirty years ago or twenty years ago. It’s all around. There’s little stuff in the book to illustrate that. Even if you’re raised in a home where your parents act like equals — I feel like I was. In the seventies and eighties, my dad did a ton. My mom went back to school when I was in third grade. He was really left responsible for quite a lot. It’s not like I grew up in some Leave It to Beaverhouse. All around you, you see men in power. You see men elevated. There’s a story in the book about statues — not a story. Most of the historical statues in the US are men. What do little girls see growing up? I remember looking at change for the first time and asking who the presidents were. Obviously, they’re all men. I don’t know how you don’t internalize the idea that you are the second sex, that you come second. I don’t think you realize it. It’s juxtaposed against this idea of equality that we hold, not everybody, but that a lot of people hold just to be evident.

Zibby: There was always this part of my thinking with all this who should do what in their marriage and is society getting it right or getting it wrong — you said, “Sometimes, I think that women are just hard-wired to be parents,” to mother more. Why is there all this focus all the time on the things that the guys aren’t doing? Maybe they’re not as good at it. I am totally happy to admit that I am not as skilled in some areas as perhaps most men, spatial relations or all the stereotypical things that come from somewhere. I am not going to be able to pick up a toolbox and know what to do with it. I feel like maybe men pick up a diaper bag in the same way that I hold a toolbox and they’re like, “I don’t know. You can show me. You can try to teach me how to do this.” I wonder, is it biological?

Darcy: Yes.

Zibby: But then you have in your book, this whole section with Elliot who says no way. What do you think? What did you make of the research?

Darcy: Parenting skills are learned. They’re not innate. I interviewed anthropologists and primatologists. There’s no jury that is out on this. These skills are learned. You could learn to use the toolbox. Your husband could learn to use a diaper bag. If we believe that these things are innate, we’re going to be less inclined to pursue them fully. There is a lot of misconception that women are just innately better at this. In fact, both males and females have evolved to be involved parents. Evolution is hardly my area of expertise. Going back to nonhuman primates, there are hormonal changes even in male — I’m not going to get the species right — but monkeys.

Zibby: Neurobiological experiences as babies gestate.

Darcy: Right, exactly. Women’s bodies change during pregnancy, obviously. Hormones are affected and all this stuff. What I didn’t know — I don’t know if this is more common knowledge than I realize — is that men’s hormones also change when they’re spending time with a pregnant partner. If you get a woman pregnant and never see her again — it’s a one-night stand — your hormones don’t change because there’s no feedback loop that would make that so. Spending time with a pregnant partner raises a man’s level of progesterone, prolactin. The same pregnancy-related hormones that spike in women also spike in men, not to the same degree. Sarah Hrdy, who’s a really renowned anthropologist and primatologist, talks about this in her bookMother Nature, about how primates evolved to be involved parents, both male and female. This idea that only women change during pregnancy and childbirth isn’t true. Men are also primed hormonally to parent.

Zibby: You had said somewhere that only three or five percent of all male species —

Darcy: — of mammals.

Zibby: — of mammals actually take care of their young after they’re born.

Darcy: Only three to five percent of mammals. It’s primates, both human and nonhuman, and then wolves. There’s some mice. It’s in the book. I don’t remember exactly the information. Only three to five percent of male mammals do anything post-insemination.

Zibby: I found that surprising.

Darcy: I didn’t find it surprising only because I had no knowledge of that. Fish are really involved parents as fathers, as are birds.

Zibby: Really?

Darcy: Yes. In fact, there’s some birds where the males do most of the parenting, including sharing sitting on the eggs.

Zibby: All of this is learned. It’s cultural patriarchy from the statues all around us. What are we supposed to do now?

Darcy: The people I talked to who were navigating this more successfully were on top of it. My husband and I went into parenting just taking it for granted that we were going to share things equally. He would say the same thing. We never talked about what that was actually going to look like. Then I just ended up taking most stuff on. I don’t know if it was because there was a vacuum where he wasn’t taking stuff on. Part of it is just me assuming that women are going to do this stuff. Then we never course corrected because we never said, “Wow. We’re really sexist.” We needed to sit down and say, “We’re really sexist. This isn’t working.” It wasn’t for me. It wasn’t working for him because I was mad at him quite a lot, which is no way to live.

Staying on top of it and paying attention to one’s implicit biases is the key to not letting things get too out of control. A woman I talked to who is doing this well made a spreadsheet with her husband. They sat down and said who’s going to do what. They divided it. That was something that people who study workplaces will also say. Woman also end up taking on most of the drudgework at work. There have been studies that look at this. The question is asked, how do we de-bias people in the workplace? One of the women who did one of these studies was talking. She said, “You don’t have to de-bias anyone. Just make a list. Split stuff up. Don’t ask for volunteers. Don’t assign people to tasks.” Women volunteer more. Women are assigned to this kind of work more. You have to go about it in a really micromanage-y way and say, “Here’s everything. Here’s how it’s going to break down.” If you know how sexism has been internalized for you and your spouse inevitably, you can deal with this from the get-go.

Zibby: Interesting. Good to know. You also have your daughter Tess saying, there’s a scene where you say, “Kids are more important than grown-ups.” Then you have a whole section on viewing all the kids with so much power in the family. Tell me a little more about that.

Darcy: One of the concepts that I read about in doing my research was intensive mothering. We are so, as a culture right now, focused on being really involved parents in a certain way. Especially mothers, there’s a lot of pressure to be putting your own needs second to your kids all the time. Clearly, they need to be fed and clothed and hugged. Their needs do come first. I wouldn’t say my kids are in charge, but our lives are arranged around their schedules — they don’t have schedules — but around their needs. They sense that. Then they get a real, I don’t want to say an inflated sense of their own importance because kids need to feel important, certainly, to develop healthfully emotionally, but there is something that feels a little bit too compulsive about it for, especially, mothers these days. This isn’t to blame women for it. It’s just in the culture. How do you not do that when all around you it’s what everybody is doing? How do you not do that and not feel like a bad parent? Her saying that, I don’t remember if I responded to that by saying, “No. Actually, we’re all important.” She wouldn’t have bought it because again, our lives are arranged around her needs.

Zibby: That’s funny. You are a practicing psychotherapist as well as a writer. On your website, you say that you offer a ten-session workshop for expecting couples called Bringing Baby Home which has “been shown to improve relationship satisfaction and decrease the chance of divorce.” Tell me about this. What are a couple bullets from this workshop that any relationship can use?

Darcy: John and Julie Gottman are the therapists who’ve pioneered this method. They’ve come up with it. It grew from their work with couples and families. They created this workshop and then looked at it empirically. They had people do it. They had control groups and people who had done it and hadn’t done it. They studied their marriages. There’s all this empirical work that shows that people who’ve done these pre-parenting workshops, things go better. The divorce rate — it’s in the first five years of the kid’s life, I don’t think they have data that goes beyond that — it was significantly lower in couples who had taken the workshop.

Zibby: Isn’t it also true though — I don’t mean to cut you off — people who are going to go in and take a workshop on this might care more than the people who don’t?

Darcy: I don’t know how they recruited their subjects.

Zibby: Maybe it was a blend?

Darcy: I’m not going to remember. That’s a really good point. For the book and for my practice I went and got trained in the method. If you’re a clinician, you can get trained in it. You go to these things. I went to this workshop in Virginia. They mostly work out of Seattle, so a lot of their stuff’s on the West Coast. I couldn’t believe it. There were people from around the world at this workshop. There were people from Thailand, Australia. It was really amazing. It’s actually gotten a really good reputation among clinicians. One of the things that it emphasizes and one of the reasons I think it’s so successful is that it talks about how important father involvement is.

If you go to Lamaze class, which is really the only thing people typically do before giving birth — most people do some sort of childbirth education class — the father’s kind of an important partner, but everyone knows he’s second in childbirth, obviously. This workshop emphasizes the importance of fathers in the early weeks, months, and years of caring for a baby because our cultural, conventional wisdom pushes us in the other direction. The workshop emphasizes communication and father involvement. It’s usually taught in two-day format in a big workshop. I’ve offered it in my office because I haven’t done the workshops yet. My husband, who’s also a psychologist, and I have been thinking about trying to do some just because the results are so impressive.

Zibby: That’s important. What do you have coming next? Are you going to do another book? What do you want to do next?

Darcy: I’d love to write another book. I don’t have any ideas right now. I’m not working on anything. This was so fun. Doing all the research was awesome. I got to spend a year basically just reading all this stuff that was super interesting and articles and books and interviewing people. It was really fun.

Zibby: Anything I need researched now, I am going to send to you. If I have an idea that I can’t research, you are going to be my expert research resource, just so you know.

Darcy: Some gripping question that you have. I need a gripping question.

Zibby: Some gripping question, maybe related to motherhood.

Darcy: I don’t know any gripping questions right now. I need one. I miss working on it. It’s like postpartum.

Zibby: Do you have any parting advice to aspiring authors?

Darcy: More to nonfiction writers. Fiction is totally different. My advice would be find a gripping question. You really live with a book for the time that you’re working on it. I was really immersed in this stuff. To maintain your enthusiasm and your ability to push ahead, you really have to be fascinated with what you’re doing and what you’re learning about. That’s my advice.

Zibby: Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I really appreciate it.

Darcy: Thank you. This was really fun.