Something I was reading the other day made reference to this article discussing a Norwegian study finding a higher divorce rate among married couples who shared housework, when compared to couples with clearly delineated traditional gender roles. In other words, the implication is that when the woman does everything around the house, and the man is the breadwinner, the divorce rate drops. There is nothing in here about gay and lesbian couples, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on that. And in any event, I know junk science when I see it, so I’m not putting too much stock in this report anyway. The article itself cautions that correlation does not necessarily equate causation, and that the supposed predisposition to divorce arises from different, although perhaps related, factors, such as a tendency to view marriage less as a sacred union, which in turn would make divorce more likely (so the theory goes).
While I’m still not sold, I find this interesting, because I have been reading a lot of blogs lately by religious women from traditional families who seem to be claiming exactly the same thing: that the household, and marriages, run more smoothly when the woman stays home and does all the housework, and the man is the primary or sole source of family income. These women don’t need a Norwegian study to tell them this, because, well, God says so.
To be fair, the Norwegian study doesn’t seem to say anything specifically about child-rearing duties, as opposed to plain old housework. But what the study and the religious blogs seem to have in common is this basic idea: that when peace and order follows when separate responsibilities are well-defined and accepted in the household. The inverse theory is that when both spouses make an effort to split both work outside the home and work inside the home evenly, life is bound to get chaotic due to misperceptions over how much work the other spouse is doing and miscommunications over who should be doing what.
I do know one thing is for sure: shared parenting (and by implication, shared responsibility for family income), is not the foolproof, simple solution. I know this, because my husband and I are both full-time working professionals (he’s in IT and I’m an attorney), and in theory, we also bear equal responsibility for our children and keeping up the house. And it is absolutely chaotic, and stressful, and the source of lots of arguments and grief for both of us.
This is where you expect me to say that I hold a grudge against my husband because I feel like I’m doing most of the work at home and with the kids. Surprise! In our house, it’s the other way around. He has been pleading with me to get home at a reasonable hour (like 7:00 instead of 9:00) so that I can help him at least clean up after dinner and get the kids bathed and in bed. It is really, really hard for him to do it almost every night without me. And I should know — because in the morning, from about 6:30 on, I am all by myself, getting the kids dressed and myself caffeinated and out the door to do the daycare shuffle before work.
So maybe in a sense that counts as equal, or at least the definition of “shared parenting” you hear thrown around. Maybe life would be easier if one of us (“You!” sings the chorus of traditional mom bloggers) did stay home with the kids full-time while the other one focused solely on breadwinning. But then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that this solution is too simple of a theory to bear out in actual practice. At least 100% of the time. But shared parenting also is not a 100%, foolproof guarantee that everything — the house, the kids, the marriage — is going to be ok. So maybe the true answer is this: just figure out what works for you and your family.
Right now, it is 9:30 p.m., my two-year-old is crawling all over me instead of in bed, the kitchen is still a mess, and my blog post is WAY overdue. Why? The husband texted me while I was still at work at 5:00. He asked if I would please come home early tonight, because today was terrible at work and the evening was sure to be exhausting.
So I did what I had to do: I put off the blog for a couple hours so I could be home early. At 8:00.