"There is no delight in owning anything unshared." - Seneca

June 13, 2008

In Sunday's New York Times Magazine there was a parenting article (When Mom and Dad Share It All by Lisa Belkin) that's getting a lot of play on the blogs this week. In a nutshell, the piece rehashes the familiar housework-imbalance stats: women, even working mothers, generally spend two hours on household chores for every one hour spent by men, and that ratio remains consistent when looking at childcare (which is split into its own category, separate from housework).

The article then goes on to profile a couple of families who have tried to change this, and talks about how they have succeeded or failed to various degrees.

In response to what I posted yesterday (about outsourcing some work so you can free up time to spend "quality time" (notice the quotes) with your child(ren), or perhaps so you can just get everything done that you want to get done without losing your mind), a friend who is a stay-at-home mom wrote "Multitasking is what being a mom is all about - regardless of whether you work or not." Given how much balance their is in their family and their marriage, her comment surprised me -- not because I disagree, but I was surprised at how she phrased it: I immediately wondered why she had not said "Multitasking is what being a parent is all about"

I know I'm the dad at my house. My husband watches our son while I'm working at night and on weekends, he puts away the dishes, does the laundry, changes the sheets, cooks dinner, vacuums, and, in general, makes sure the house is more-or-less acceptably tidy. Earlier this week he cleaned the tub before giving E his bath, and took me to task for not noticing how gross it had become (the bathrooms and loading the dishwasher are my only two assigned tasks. Plus my own laundry). I'm very guilty of being the parent who comes home and wants it to be baby-play time instead of trying to balance spending time with my son with doing some routine household chore. I want to give him my complete and undivided attention for the hour or two we have together before he goes to bed.

Balance in a relationship is a tricky thing. Gender roles, social norms, and personal preference all play a part in making sure that everyone is happy with which way the teeter-totter is pointing (is that too weird? The Teeter-totter thing?). I'm wondering if a sociologist would say that I'd rather be home with my son and doing dishes and cleaning baseboards because society has conditioned me to believe that this is my role. If s/he did, I'd say "Sorry, not true. Its not society. I never wanted to do any of this stuff before my son was born."

Honestly? I think its the hormones.

(Two other links that are mentioned in the article: Equally Shared Parenting, Third Path Institute)