In resonse to this from Erin
Fathers and mothers have different roles, absolutely. I think that one of the earliest steps to the confusion of these roles was that mothers voluntarily gave up their God-given gift of breastfeeding. Anyone (male, female, adult child, relative or total stranger) can give a baby a bottle. Bottle feeding was the earliest stage of the scientification of motherhood. Mothers no longed learned their craft from other mothers, and eventually came to rely upon 'scientific' methods for everything from infant feeding to toilet training and a whole lot more. The care of the infant and the child was there upon turned over to others besides the mother, leaving her to be simply a servant to the chores of the household. Her unique role was lost.
Don't get me wrong - I do recognize that for some rare circumstances, artificial infant feeding is a necessity and that the research into preparing adequate substitute foods has saved many lives. But in general, the first step to turning child care away from the mother starts with the baby bottle. The popes, throughout history, have always encouraged Catholic mothers to nurse their infants themselves if it were at all possible. (Father William Virtue did his dissertation on Catholic motherhood, it is a fascinating read and I wonder how much more he would have put in there if the TOTB had been more fully developed).
Fathers start taking on mothering when they feed the baby with a bottle. This has been going on for at least 80 years of which I am aware (I have both fiction and non-fiction from the 1920s where this is commonplace). Fathers started to encroach on motherhood by taking on first the 'fun' stuff - and eventually mothers reasoned that if they can do the fun stuff they should also do the drudgery stuff.
Fathers can nurture babies and children in some pretty unique ways that mothers can't. My dh was an excellent burp the baby guy, and he walked fussy babies so that I could get in a shower or a few bites to eat. My husband took all our children to work with him at various times - he has taught all of them how to handle one set of tools while I taught them to handle others. Both the boys and the girls have been taught to cook and to care for themselves and their environment. I don't think that it's unreasonable to expect that both men and women should be able to care for themselves in case of need.
Most jobs have a fair degree of drudgery involved. My days at work I spend much of my time doing the same basic physical exam on one woman after another. It would be pretty boring if I couldn't engage them in conversation and do some health teaching. Sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, chasing a toddler out of the cupboards for the nth time, doing 7 loads of laundry, those are pretty exhausting and boring.
The big differences between paid employment outside the home and being a stay at home mom are pretty big. Two that come to mind are:
1) the concept of PAID! Our culture doesn't value the unpaid work done by anyone, be it the volunteers at church or the work of moms.
2) the opportunity to interact with adults. as a kid, I would see moms talking to each other over the back fence as they were hanging laundry - 3 dozen diapers a day and so on. the interaction was built in to the way things were done, but now we don't hang laundry and most households have no one at home daytimes