50/50?

Tonight I left Chris at home to feed, play with and put August to bed while I drove out to Oakland to help some friends pack their apartment. I came home to a kitchen that was cleaned (even the stove top sparkled!), bills that were a bit more organized, and some laundry still unfolded in the basket. (He’s wonderful but not perfect.)

Last year a friend of mine interviewed us as a couple about our “roles” for one of her classes. As I answered her questions, I was embarrassed at how traditional my marriage appeared on paper. How much to I clean versus Chris? 85/15.  How much time do I spend in child care compared to Chris? 90/10. Who earns all the money? Christopher. Who drives when we’re both in the car? Christopher. I could go on and on with every cliched women’s role that I accept and man’s role that he accepts, with the exception of his tendency to cook on days when he can get home early enough.

The truth is, we’ve made our decisions based on practicality. Does Chris notice when the toilet is dirty? No. Does he clean it to my specifications? No. Do I like to drive? Ever? No. Is the SAHM life perfectly suited to my personality? Yes (most of the time). Does Chris get home too late to cook August a healthy meal? Usually.

So there it is. We are not as 50/50 as we wish and I’ve had plenty of conversations with girlfriends who feel the same way, despite their full time job or belief in equality. At the end of the day, sometimes it’s just easier to have control of how your child is dressed or how often the shower is scrubbed.

Today I came across this article in Slate considering a recent survey that found dads fudging a little on their commitment to equal sharing of child rearing.  Though many claimed equality in the parenting demands they shared with their spouse, further research showed that the men were a little more hopeful than honest.

The article, “Why Do Dads Lie on Surveys About Fatherhood?” stresses that men as a subculture are still in a transitional period of coming to grips with what it means to work and care for children.  Interestingly enough, that sounds very similar to the struggle women have wrestled with for a few decades. It also describes a tendency in women to “encourage men to take on a task–dressing the kids, for example–but then criticize the way he does it. And when both partners are responsible for children and the household, they both want a say in every family decision–providing many more opportunities for conflict.”

What do you think? Is the sharing of tasks in your household resulting in more conflict? Are you struggling to give your spouse free reign in dressing your kid or keeping the bathroom clean? What does your marriage look like on paper and how do you feel about it?

  • Beverly

    Hi Micha,
    Thanks so much for this post about “equality” in marriages. You have made some very insightful comments about expectations that will help me as I counsel couples preparing for marriage–in fact, I’m going to use your post when I meet with a couple this weekend.

    I think your comments reflect an honest, realistic approach to the marriage relationship. My husband and I learned years ago that communication is crucial to a strong and healthy marriage relationship, but we still have to work at it. And I have realized that if I want the cleaning or other tasks done in a certain way, I need to either be very specific in my instructions or do it myself, and be thankful for my wonderful husband either way.

    It was a joy to visit with you, and I’ll pray for you all as you readjust.

    Blessings,
    Beverly

  • http://littlemissemmylou.blogspot.com Emily C

    Our marriage is very traditional as well. Not because we ever sought out to make it that way, and not because we do not believe in equality in the roles in the home… but it just ended up that way. And we are mostly happy with that.

    I love being a stay-at-home mom. I always wanted to be a mother, first and foremost. I never wanted a career to be my primary goal in life. (Note: But I have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and hope to go back to work eventually. I know I am CAPABLE of a career, but I wanted to have children first, and then when they are a little older, have a career.)

    And my husband does help out with household tasks. When I ask him. And just like your situation, he rarely notices when things need to be cleaned. But he does help out when I ask him to.

    I think it;s more about attitude and respect than anything. It’s more about the approach. My husband does not come home from work and say, “Why aren’t the dishes cleaned? Where’s dinner?” Our roles may be traditional, but we are willing to break those roles if that works best for our family at the time. We have both always said, if I enjoyed working and had a job that would support the family, then my husband would be glad to stay at home. It just so happens that I enjoy doing what I am doing, and he enjoys his job. :) So it works best for our family.

    I kind of rambled… Sorry! But there you have it.

  • Janna

    We’re in a similar situation. Both of us would love to be an at-home parent, but he makes way more money than I did, so I am home with our babies. And since I’m home all day, I do way more laundry, dishes, grocery shopping and picking up than he does. However, on the weekends and evenings, he actually does a lot more cleaning and childcare than I do. In fact, the more I think about it, it’s really not fair. He goes to work all day, then comes home and takes care of the babies and house. I stay home and take care of the babies and house, but then I’m ‘off-duty’ the evenings and weekends. He’s always at the office or ‘working’ at home. I’ll have to think about this some more…

    • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

      Janna, that’s the problem I have. I know my husband deals with a lot of stress and demands at work all day and that he wants to rest as much as I do when he gets home. I struggle with the desire to drop our son or my list of things that need to be done in his lap when he walks in the door and often forget to consider how hard his day might have been. So, yes, it definitely demands more thinking on my part too. My husband sometimes says that if we were both willing to do anything the other asked of us without complaining then maybe we’d be more gracious and thoughtful of how much we ask of each other. An amazing idea.

  • Lauren O’C

    Hello all,

    I just discovered this blog through the recommendation of a friend – and wow, it is a breath of fresh air (the Holy Spirit) for me. My situation is pretty much the exact opposite – I am the working parent and my husband is primarily at home with our two boys. I find that he does more of the work on the ground – meal-preparing, laundry, surface cleaning – and i do more of the household organization – meal planning, finances, scheduling. neither of us does as much cleaning as we should :)

    as everyone has said, communication is key, as is gratitude (never taking things or roles for granted) and flexibility. it also helps that we are both utterly committed to putting our family first and trust that about each other.

    more generally, Micah, thank you for this blog. after just two days of reading, i have been…concretely inspired. already praying more and feeling more committed and bolstered in my vocation as a mom.

    Lauren

    • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

      Hi Lauren. I’m so glad you found Mama:Monk. Thank you for your generous encouragement! You don’t know what it means to me. When my husband came home Friday night I said, “Guess what a new reader said on the blog today?!” I hope to keep seeing you around!


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