Lazy Dads or Mr. Moms? Show Seeks Answer

He sits at home on the couch, feet up, watching the game and drinking a beer while his wife is cleaning the house, cooking and wrangling with the kids. When left alone to care for the family, he is totally clueless — and things go haywire.

He's the hapless — one might even say lazy — dad, and post-Archie Bunker and "Mr. Mom," he continues to play leading roles in movies, TV shows and ads. (Think Ray in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Homer in "The Simpsons" and Jim in "According to Jim.")

He's also still alive and well in the real world, though his numbers are dwindling.

The trend of Mom doing more than Dad remains so prevalent that a new book came out this spring called "The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework" (search), and a reality show called "Meet Mister Mom" (search) premieres Tuesday night — in which fathers are left in charge while their wives are away and wind up realizing just how much their other halves do.

"Women are still doing much more than men are, even in households where women are bringing in half the income," said Joshua Coleman, the marriage therapist and clinical psychologist who wrote "The Lazy Husband."

"They still, when they come home, do more parenting and housework than men do, so from the wives' perspective, their husbands are lazy," he continued.

A Department of Labor study found last year that working women do twice as much parenting and housework as working men. And recent Parenting magazine (search) surveys have revealed that mothers are usually the ones to get up with their children in the middle of the night, discipline the kids and do the cooking.

"Dads don't do as much, even if they think they do," said James Bruce, creator and executive producer of "Meet Mister Mom," which premieres on NBC Tuesday night. "A dad who thinks he does 60 percent of the work is probably really doing 20."

But as an increasing number of women are entering and staying in the workforce, even after they become parents, men are doing more chores and fathering than they did 30 years ago.

"Fathers in dual-earner couples are actually spending more time with their children and on housework than ever before," said Vincent DiCaro, public affairs manager for the National Fatherhood Initiative (search), a fatherhood rights advocacy group.

He cited a recent study by the Families and Work Institute finding that since 1977, fathers have increased their time spent with the kids by .8 hours a day and time spent doing housework by 42 minutes a day.

Still, some say there's more equilibrium to be had — which is why Coleman wrote "The Lazy Husband."

"I wrote the book for women for two reasons — one, men don't think there's a problem, so they're not going to be motivated, and also men don't read self-help books," he said. "The goal is to help women bring men more to the bargaining table, and not have them carry so much of the load."

He suggests that wives lower their standards for what to expect from their husbands in terms of how the children should be raised and how the house should look, because that will make men feel more accepted and in turn, they'll be more likely to help out.

"In cases where women have super high standards, men tend to walk away," said Coleman. "Men tend to do more housework when they feel liked and cared about by their wives than when they don't."

He also advised women not to micromanage their husbands and to encourage effective communication about dividing up the chores.

Frequently, it's not that fathers aren't doing anything around the house — they're just doing the things they think of as more traditionally "male," like yardwork, car repairs and paying the bills.

"Men don't tend to think that ‘That's my area,'" said Josh Lerman, senior editor at Parenting magazine. "There is still a lot of stereotypical breaking up of tasks along gender lines."

Often, men — and women, for that matter — are simply repeating the patterns they saw in their own parents while growing up.

"If dads are still not doing their fair share of the work at home, they're carrying that baggage they learned as kids," said Libby Gill, author of "Stay-at-Home Dads." "What message are they sending their children? That's the critical thing parents need to be thinking about."

But for those men willing to be a little more enlightened about how they help out, the benefits can be "dramatic," Coleman said.

Children are found to do better socially when they spend more time doing housework with their fathers; men who do a larger share of the chores have wives who are more interested in sex; and wives whose husbands pull their weight are less depressed, less likely to fantasize about divorce and physically healthier.

"Those homes where the couples are able to figure out a reasonable arrangement fare much better than those homes where it's a chronic source of resentment," said Coleman.

And when they put their minds to it, dads really can do a good job of running a household.

The fathers on "Meet Mister Mom" faced the challenges they were given — from organizing a sleepover for their children to cooking dinner for the neighbors — head-on, even though they felt stressed and overwhelmed.

"These dads really stepped up to the plate because there's a game element to the show," Bruce said.

The program — which features a competition between two different dads-in-charge each week over a period of seven days — wasn't without its comical, hapless-dad moments, of course, or what Bruce calls "fish-out-of-water, difficult situations."

In one episode, a father cooking for his wife's friends thinks he's doing a great job but in fact makes a terrible meal — and so the ladies call out for pizza. In another, the dad goes shopping for underwear for his 13-year-old daughter and can only bring himself to buy her oversized, overly modest "Granny" underpants.

As funny and tiring as the TV Mister Moms' adventures are, what they get out of it seems to support what Coleman has found: Involved fathers often mean happier homes.

"There was bonding with the kids and an appreciation for their wives — the realization that Mom does it all," Bruce said. "At the end, it really drew the family together."