I remember Grandpa-in-law changing baby’s diaper once, early on in his new Grandpa-hood. He bumbled charmingly through it, fumbling with diaper as baby stared up at him wide-eyed and wondering. When baby was freshly wrapped, Grandpa looked up and said with a mixture of pride and embarrassment, “That’s the first diaper I’ve ever changed.” He and Grandma-in-law had raised three kids without him ever changing a diaper.
I don’t remember my own father cleaning the house. Ever. I don’t remember him grocery shopping either, and my mom worked full time. I do remember him mowing the lawn with great pride, but that’s about all the home-care I remember. The laundry fell entirely to my mom too. No wonder mom was tired.
Thank God the times have changed. Not only do men do more than twice as much of the mundane housework as they did in 1965, they are spending vastly more time with their kids too. So are moms. Working moms spend more time with their kids now than stay-at-home moms spent with their kids in 1965. (Evidence to support my kid-time-deficit-can-be-a-good
We can make it easier for our men to be full partners. Just as snarky comments can still throw us into a tailspin of guilt (“But don’t you worry about someone else raising your kids while you’re at work?”) They do the same to him. My husband stayed home with our kids full time for six years when they were infants and toddlers. One particularly Neanderthal colleague at work once asked my husband at a dinner party how it felt to be a “kept man”. Asshole. Sorry, it still makes me angry.
Yes, there is still a societal thing that says it is somehow less-than-manly to do the laundry. It’s there, and our men have to fight it to be full-partners with us.
How can we help? First, ask. Ask your man to be a full partner. Tell him how much it would mean to you. Sit down and talk about the hours in the day, how many you work and how many he works, and what needs to be done at home. Split up the responsibilities according to availability, skill set and inclination. Secondly, thank your man for what he does around the house, just as you hope he’ll thank you. Nobody likes to clean the bathroom, when one of you does, wouldn’t it be nice if the other said, “Thanks honey”? Also, refrain from correcting him if he’s doing it differently than you would. Who cares how the towels are folded? And finally, don’t make fun of his efforts out in public. Don’t laugh about his cooking or diaper changing or burnt lasagna in front of other people. If you do, you’ll be making sure that he never attempts it again. Public shaming is vastly much worse for men than it is for women (Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters).
Full partners. If you’ve got one, thank him and thank your lucky stars. If you don’t, take some time this weekend and sit down for a loving conversation. Ask him for help. Tell him you’re tired, the house isn’t running as smoothly as you’d like, and you need his strength to help you fix it. I once told my husband to look at doing laundry as foreplay because if it was done when we went to bed, I would be that much more relaxed. He does the vast majority of the laundry in our house now. It’s worked well for both of us.
The ideal is a relay race – a continual baton hand-off from one to the other as you run through your life as a team.
How lucky our sons. How lucky our daughters. Not only do they get more time with both mom and dad, they get to grow up in a more balanced house, and when the time comes for them to build their own home, sharing responsibilities won’t be such a new thing. It’ll just be common sense.
Full life, Mamma. For everyone.