Are you a working mom, a stay at home mom, or a part-time working mom? Do you co-parent or are you the lead parent? Do any of these factors come into play when your household distributes and assigns the tasks that keep things going? Oh, you know; laundry, cleaning, mowing the lawn, house maintenance, grocery shopping, and cooking.
Being the analytic and quantitative thinker that I am the most fair and equitable way to divide household labor would be to determine what percentage of hours each parent works. You both work full-time, easy, the labor is divided 50/50. You work 24 hours your husband works 40…easy, you are responsible for 60 percent of the tasks, your husband, 40. If you don’t co-parent and you are the lead parent your responsibilities should be weighted accordingly, since you have less free time. If your husband is the lead parent you should have extra time to pick up some of the slack around the house.
Does my formula ever actually come into fruition…not often! I know it certainly doesn’t in my house! Why though? What factors drive the inequalities in the division of household labor? Is it some classic, underlying gender stereotype that women should cook, clean, do the laundry, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, do the holiday shopping, and organize the family social calendar, because those tasks seem more feminine than mowing the lawn? Last time I checked everyone likes to eat and wear clean clothes, there is nothing overtly feminine about that.
As women are we doing our children a disservice by perpetuating this unbalanced existence? What other choice do we have? I can yell, scream, talk calmly and analyze my valid points until the cows come home, but ultimately my husband will never organize, cook and host Thanksgiving dinner. Nope, he will watch football and drink beer and stuff himself with turkey cooked by the women in his life.
Is there a better way to address the inequalities in household labor? I hope so and I will remain optimistic. There is a man I run into on my Sunday trips to Stop and Shop who gives me hope. He has a cart full of groceries, a baby strapped to the front of him in a baby carrier, a toddler in the front of the shopping cart and a 5 or 6-year-old walking beside him. I like to think that his wife is home mowing the lawn, or getting a pedicure, or sleeping in, or at the gym. I know that there are families who have mastered an equitable distribution of labor and I will continue to strive for mine. As I’m wrapping up this blog post, the pile of laundry that has been at the bottom of the stairs all day is now folded, sitting on our bed. Hmmm, maybe you can teach an aging husband new tricks!