Worthwhile Reads: Having It All Is Not a “Woman’s Issue”

Having It All: Not a “Woman’s Issue”

As an aside, I have a secret fantasy of gathering a team of men to go to every male-dominated discussion (on specific issues in the law or a certain genre of film or investigative journalism or whatever) and when it’s Q& A time, earnestly ask the male panelists how they balance work and family.

As a not-aside, the harder question is what to do here. I think there are a few solutions, at least for the heteros among us:

First, don’t marry or move in or reproduce with men unless they pull their own weight. Seriously. That might mean you end up alone. That might be a better option.

Second, don’t just let things fall into “natural” patterns. I’ve heard parents give other parents the advice of, “Parenting is hard enough, don’t try to force yourself into particular roles! Just let things work themselves out.” No. Don’t do that. Because letting things work themselves out = mom does most of the work.

Third, dudes, get it together.

Fourth, remember that even our perceptions of how much work we’re doing aren’t always accurate — we see a 70/30 split as being “equal” since it’s more than we’re used to seeing men do. In self-reported studies, men routinely over-estimate the amount of time they spend with their kids and doing housework.

Fifth, if the kid’s father is watching him, that’s not “baby-sitting.” If you wouldn’t go out for a night and leave your baby home alone with your husband, perhaps you’ve married the wrong person. If you wouldn’t go on a business trip for a week and leave your baby home alone with your husband, perhaps you’ve married the wrong person.

Sixth, dudes, get it together. Guilt and shame each other for being shitty dads. Cast judgment on men who don’t help out around the house.

Seventh, men are not useless, nor are they idiots or chimps. They are just as capable of being nurturing and loving and caring and aware as women are, so let’s also give them the chance to demonstrate that. And just don’t accept the ones who pretend to be chimps in order to abdicate responsibility.

Eighth, I don’t really know what else, except all of these discussions are part of the reason why I am extremely hesitant to reproduce.

This list is actually really really convicting. I might actually do a series on it. Having been raised in a patriarchal family, and just in general being a woman and mother in today’s society, I have to say that truly egalitarian parenting is really really hard. And I’m trying, but I’m really not there yet.

And here’s one more:

Anne-Marie Slaughter websplosion: Response roundup on “Having It All”

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Caitlin

    I grew up in an atheist household, and I can tell you that maintaining egalitarian relationships and parenting responsibilities in our society is really challenging, period. It takes a LOT of constant discussion. I think my hubs and I have done pretty well at it, but we talked about it all the time and still do (all three kids are teens).

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

    Thanks for posting this. There’s definitely this automatic expectation that the mother will do all or most of the household and parenting work in my family as well. I remember that when I was in high school and people would give me advice about good majors to go into in college and good career options, it was often phrased as “X is a good major/career option for girls, because you can work part time and still take care of the kids, etc.” basically assuming that I wanted to get married and have kids without asking me. College and career advice to my brother wasn’t phrased this way to my knowledge.

  • Contrarian

    This list is actually really really convicting.

    “Convicting”? You must have been raised evangelical! :P

    • picklefactory

      I would seriously like some commentary on “convicting” from an ex-evangelical.

      • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

        “convicting” just means it makes you feel guilty.

  • machintelligence

    The personal perspective bias is always that *I* do at least 20% more work than *you* do. This bias seems to be gender independent.

  • smrnda

    One thing I would point out is a lot of men whine about media depictions of men as lazy slobs who don’t pull their weight around the house, who aren’t considerate or sensitive and who can’t keep their kids’ names straight.

    What these men aren’t getting is the people behind most of these gags are usually men, and the real joke is ‘hey, look how shitty we can be and still get laid/married!’ Women don’t think it’s funny since the whole arrangement sucks for women.

    I’ve known guys who did bring these issues up, and most of them have told me that guys who really need to hear stuff like this will just not keep a guy around as a friend who is going to criticize the way men are. They don’t want someone whose going to spoil the party I guess, and rather than shame, they can always find some more ‘dude/bro’ friends to get the kind of ‘aw schucks i’m a smuck’ approval.

  • Contrarian

    A lot of women have internalized these ideas, too. My own wife tends to oscillate between two extremes: Anger at me for not helping enough with homekeeping and kids (sometimes legitimately), and guilt for asking me to help out with homekeeping and kids.

  • http://very-important-blog.blogspot.com Rilian

    Someone on that post commented that if you want to only do half of the work at home, then you have to make half of the household income. Well, that’s stupid. If you make 30000$ and your spouse makes 70000, that does not mean that you should 70% of the homework and they should do 30%. As long as you both have the best (in all aspects, not just pay) job you can get, you’re both doing your part money-wise. Decisions to deviate from the default of equally sharing the homework should depend on, like, how hard you actually work at your job. Like, my mom is a college teacher, and my dad used to work in a convenience store. My mom made waay more money, but my dad’s job was waay more stressful.

  • Nurse Bee

    My husband and I have both been rather offended when people refer to him being with the kids as “babysitting” or “daddy daycare.” He is their parent too! It wouldn’t work very well if he couldn’t handle the kids on his own, as I work some weekends, evenings, and holidays.

    Now I do the majority of household work, but I also work 24 hours/week compared to his 40+/hours a week. But he can and will cook a meal and do some things around the house. I wouldn’t have married him if he couldn’t/wouldn’t.

  • Comrade Svilova

    My girlfriend is ex-evangelical, and I’d love to learn more about what being ‘convicted’ means…

  • Contrarian

    Yeah, let’s have a post on evangelical jargon.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    I have a really nasty post on evangelical jargon here…warning, it’s the worst possible light of everything.

    http://theorama.org/forum/showthread.php?346-what-they-say-what-they-mean

  • Carolyn the Red

    My husband is the family cook, grocery shopper, and general food person. He’s planning to work part time for a while (option afforded by having kids at a point he’s very valuable in his work, and the legal obligation for them to allow up to 8 months parental leave).

    I put off kids until I was sure I was not going to be stuck as _the_ parent. I am also more and more convinced that him taking an alternate arrangement for family reasons as a somewhat senior man in technical role is important for more than just us. It’s a statement to everyone he works with. And a precedent set by a man (unfortunately) says more than one set by a woman, I think…

  • lucrezaborgia

    My husband and I don’t have any religious beliefs yet he still continually overestimates how much housework he does. I now leave parts of the house for him to clean and DO NOT TOUCH THEM AT ALL if he does not do them. Another issue is that he can clean really well but his areas of priority are not what I consider to be a priority. Like organizing every nut and bolt in the basement as opposed to cleaning the bathroom or dusting and decluttering the office as opposed to washing and folding laundry!


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