How to change the “Second Shift”


So last week I posted about how I was the primary breadwinner in my family and how it seems to be changing for many other families as well. Women are working and starting to make more money than their husbands. This seems like a wonderful thing in my eyes as I have always strived for my education and career but many women I talk to still battle the issue of “Second Shift” work.

The idea of “Second Shift” work was first discussed by author Arlie Hochschild back in the 80’s. The idea of it is that while more and more women are working outside of the home, they are still doing a majority of the housework and childcare at home. I hear it time and time again from many of my girlfriends and family members – they basically work 24 hours a day and it is utterly exhausting.

Why is this happening? If women are making half of the money or are the primary breadwinner why do we feel we need to do “everything” else or even worse, why do our partners expect us to?

I can honestly say I do not work a full “second shift” job. I love to praise my husband for how he is basically another mother. If I were to die tomorrow my husband could do everything except breastfeed and some things he does even better than me. When I discuss this with my friends they ask “How in the hell did you train your husband to be so great with household chores? Childcare?” and I step back and have to first give credit where credit is due.

My mother-in-law is the first reason my husband is so wonderful and doesn’t expect a “second shift” wife. My mother-in-law was a working mother but more importantly went out of her way to teach her son that he needs to learn to clean, do laundry and contribute around the house as much as his sister did. He was not solely given tasks that were “gender specific” such as shoveling the drive way.

By age 11, my husband knew how to do his own laundry, and cook basic things. His mom did not see this as a lesson in feminism or changing social gender dynamics – it was a necessity. She and her husband were both working and she wanted her kids to be independent and helpful around the house.

Men can do laundry too!
Men can do laundry too!

So that is my first proposition to all mothers out there! If you have sons you must have them learn how to clean and cook and not only do “male” chores. Honestly is laundry really a “female” chore anyway? Everyone wears clothes? Teach them to iron and fold, cook some decent meals.

When I was a Resident Director at a college I was shocked at how many kids (girls and boys) did not know how to perform the most simple chores like laundry. How is this possible when people are working more than ever due to the economy?

The other thing I tell my girlfriends is that I had an honest, open talk before we even got married about what I expected and what my flaws were. I told my husband the truth that I CANNOT COOK. At that time I had only been out of graduate school for a few years living with roommates and the microwave was what I used the most. I did tell him I would try to learn to cook and grill as well. I told him since I would be working I expected him to help clean and cook as well and help with childcare.

I wasn’t really worried about him because I saw how he lived with roommates. He was clean, did his own laundry, and paid his bills. So he would most likely be the same for me. This was what always shocked me. Women who knew their husbands were slobs, and didn’t cook before they moved in and suddenly expected them to change.

If your Man's room looks like this...YOU ARE SCREWED so hire a maid.
If your Man’s room looks like this…YOU ARE SCREWED so hire a maid.

Listen ladies is he was a slob with his roommates he will most likely be one with you. If he was still living with his parents before moving in with you he most likely will not know how to do basic things for himself especially if his mother was still doing it for him. This is the second thing important to helping our future women out. Have your sons live on their own before they move in with a woman or get married. They have to learn how to do their own laundry, pay for groceries, pay bills on time, scrub the toilet.

If we all did these things for all children (boys in particular) we would start to change the idea that women are the only ones to take on the “second shift” and men would not see it as anything different than they have there whole lives. So mothers of boys (myself included) start including your son in laundry and maybe just maybe you will have a daughter-in-law who comes and thanks you in the future.

P.S: Thank you Laurie Sweet – because of you I have an amazing, giving partner who does not subject me to the “Second Shift”

5 comments on “How to change the “Second Shift””

  1. My husband has come a long way, but he is a (self-acknowledged) slob at heart…so much so that when we moved in together, we got a two-bedroom apartment with designated “slob space” (so he could be messy in one area, without destroying the whole place).

  2. Great post! I am a mom to two boys & a third on the way. This was motivation to make sure they acquire these important skills. Although my husband is a great man who works hard, he lacks in the “house chores” department unless reminded or asked often leaving me with the bulk of it.

  3. We’ve already discovered that our son is much more self-suffient than his fellow 3 rd graders. It was taught that he must clean his room, assist with folding laundry, make his own breakfast & lunch, etc. Of course, this is minimal cooking like placing bread in the toaster. He clears the table after each meal. Like you, my husband is very helpful as he was raised by a single, working mom.

  4. Love it!! 🙂 And I can guarantee that my two boys will know how to do everything required to run a house- cooking and cleaning included! And if I had a daughter, I’d be teaching her to use a drill and plunge a toilet 😉 Gone are the days of gender-specific chores!!

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