A few weeks ago, Blue Milk reposted a post where she responded to a post at I Blame the Patriarchy in which the author Twisty, in the midst of a post supposedly making a plea for mothers to make common cause with her particular brand of radical feminism, says that she, in essence, wants to free us from the oppression of our children. Here is the section that Blue Milk quotes (emphasis is from Blue Milk):
"We are desperate for women to reject the specious narrative that
within the nuclear family we have “choice,” when in fact the “choice”
(regarding motherhood) is between doing one full-time job (stay home and
raise kids) or two full-time jobs (do paid work and also raise kids).*
We are desperate for women to stop buying into the patriarchy-sponsored
message about women’s fulfillment — that is, the notion that you are a
selfish blob of failure, or worse, that you are missing out on life’s
greatest joy, if you don’t martyr yourself to home and family and
totally subsume your identity in the process. We want women to reject
marriage and the nuclear family. We want women to not have kids in the first place."
Go and read Blue Milk's entire post- it is good, and interesting (as her posts usually are), and not at all about what I want to write about.
The thing that struck me when I read that excerpt, and then clicked over and read the entire IBTP post was that according to Twisty, I don't really exist. Or, maybe I exist but am deluded and unaware of my oppression. Whatever- I've made peace with the fact that there are a fair number of feminists out there who think I am greatly oppressed and need my consciousness raised. Who knows? Maybe they are right.
But the person who really doesn't exist in Twisty's post is my husband. Notice how in the quote from her original post up there, I have two choices- I could stay home and raise the kids and take care of the house or I could go to work and still do all the parenting and housework. I got my hopes up when I saw that asterisk. I thought that maybe she was going to allow for the existence of the option that I think I am living- in which I have kids and go to work and split the parenting and housework with my partner, such that while neither of us has anywhere near the free time that we had before we had kids, neither of us is doing two full time jobs. (Unless there are four full time jobs to be had in this scenario. Maybe housework and parenting are both full time jobs? They could be, if you chose to do them that way, I suppose.) Anyway, my hopes were dashed. The asterisk allowed for the option in which I can pay another woman- whom I oppress and pay "only slightly more than you pay for a meal" (yes, that is a direct quote)- to do the work of raising my children. My only response to that is that the IBTP folks eat at much nicer restaurants than I do. I use a day care center, not a nanny, and I still pay them a lot more than I pay for a meal.
I'll leave aside my oft-repeated rant about my frustration with the idea that it is somehow impossible to pay someone to do "women's work" without oppressing her (and my still unanswered question about whether I am oppressing the men who work at my day care center), and just focus on the fact that fathers are entirely missing from Twisty's world view. Apparently, there are NO fathers who pull their fair share of parenting and housework. In fact, it appears that there are no fathers who do even enough parenting/housework to decrease their spouses' burden from two full time jobs.
In short, according to Twisty, my husband does not exist. I am married to a mythical creature. Maybe a unicorn? (If that is the case, I want the kind that poops out chocolate, please. We've eaten all the good chocolate from the Halloween candy and I am once again reduced to raiding the chocolate chips.)
This is obviously nonsense. I am not married to a unicorn. My husband exists. He is human- i.e., not perfect, but he does pull his fair share of work around the house, and he is most definitely an equal parent. I know that this is not common, but I do not think it is so rare that he should be up for some sort of feminist husband prize. (I'd quash that, anyway, because I've been hounding him to stop making jokes about women's supposed inability to handle spatial reasoning. See? I told you. Not perfect. But in his defense, I think he finally understands why he needs to stop making those jokes in front of his daughters.)
As I argued in my recent working women weekend reading post, I think we need to acknowledge that marriages like mine exist, because otherwise we risk portraying the housework inequality issue as some sort of unsolveable problem. It is not. Not at all. In fact the solution is pretty simple. Men just need to start believing that they should do equal amounts of work around the house and spend an equal amount of effort raising their children. Easy!
Yeah, I know. Easy to say, hard to do. My husband and I may both start from the same assumption- that we should
be equals- but working out the details is messy, and does involve the
occasional argument. And, as another post from Blue Milk, and indeed, the responses I get to posts like the one I wrote about our housework logistics (now woefully out of date) remind me, not everyone starts from that same assumption.
So, since there seems to be some interest in knowing the details of what an equal partnership looks like, here are ours:
We both work full time. I think my husband puts in a few more hours on paid work- maybe about 50. I average about 45. However, I make more than him (about 20% more, I think), so take from that... nothing. Different people have different work styles.
Most days, he drops the kids off at day care. I pick them up. Except on Thursdays, when I drop them off (he has an early meeting), and we both pick them up (Pumpkin goes to swim lessons and Petunia comes home with me).
I leave for work earlier, so he does more of the morning routines. If Pumpkin wants her hair braided, though, that is all me. Maybe he should practice on one of the My Little Ponies we have laying around the place.
I cook dinner on weeknights. He cooks dinner on weekends. One of his areas of non-perfection is that he frequently needs to be reminded that our cooking experiences are very different. He generally has as much time as he needs and I watch the kids while he cooks. I generally have 20-30 minutes and must deal with the kids while I cook. Hence the occasional Dinner during Dora post. Although these days, it is more likely to be Yo Gabba Gabba.
I make most weekend lunches, but those are pretty low key, so I don't get many brownie points for this.
Laundry is done by both of us. If I'm completely honest, though, he does more of it. And he is almost always the one who changes the sheets on the beds.
We have a housecleaning service (yet another group of women I oppress!) and since we caved and started having them come every two weeks instead of every four weeks, neither of us does much toilet scrubbing. If anyone does it, though, it is usually me. He is more likely to pull the bed out and sweep up the dust or clean the windows. We split the prep work for the cleaners (i.e., the work of putting all of our stuff away). The girls also help with this, to varying effect.
I handle all communication with the housecleaning service, and I write the checks for them.
The nightly kitchen cleanup is done by whomever finishes with kid bedtimes first. We alternate nights on that- each of us takes a kid each night. However, since I am the required "finisher" for Pumpkin's bedtime right now, Hubby does the dishes most nights. I usually clear the table and do the initial dishwasher loading, though.
We also alternate handling the kids' bathtime.
He almost always unloads the dishwasher and puts away the washed dishes in the morning.
If Petunia wakes up in the middle of the night, I go to her. If Pumpkin wakes up, I elbow and kick Hubby until he wakes up and goes to her. This works out to me doing about 90% of the middle of then night parenting. This sucks, but Petunia is still in the "scream if I see Daddy in the middle of the night" phase, so there isn't much we can do about this. Whenever we argue about workload, though, I pull this out and win the argument. Therefore, we are both looking forward to the end of this phase.
He does almost all of the yard work, since I have allergies and asthma and am quite allergic to grass. I do some weeding from time to time, and plant herbs and veggies, usually with help from the kids.
I do the vast majority of the menu planning. I plan the weekday meals and pester Hubby to plan his weekend meals. I am also the one who figures out how we'll respond to Pumpkin's picky eating and thinks up new things to try feeding the kids.
I usually do the grocery shopping, but since I usually get to do this without the kids, I consider this a bit of a benefit, not a chore.
We split the non-grocery shopping. He does more of the driving to stores and buying stuff, but when I go (usually to Target) I have to take at least one child, so that evens out. I do most of the online buying of stuff, and we do as much of that as we can. (We buy time.)
We split taking the garbage out- usually, it is done by whoever is not doing bath on a Tuesday night. Sometimes he does it early, though, so this skews towards him.
I am definitely the social secretary. Except if rugby is involved.
He is the one who handles our family photos, and he does a quite thorough job of it. We have our own online site, with captions.
We both keep track of what needs to be bought, although this may skew a bit towards me.
He does the bills. I used to do them, but this is one of the things he took over when Pumpkin was a baby and I spent all my free time lactating, and he's kept at it. I know how much money we have, though, and could take over this again without trouble.
Extracurricular activities for the kids are split. He does swim lessons. I arrange the Chinese lessons. We both did bits of the work required for soccer lessons.
I'm totally in charge of remembering when we need to send stuff to day care. He's hopeless at it.
He's totally in charge of remembering when we need to get the cars serviced. I'm hopeless at it. (Before we married, I always had the reminder sticker on my windshield.)
I do almost all of the research on parenting things, but he'll occasionally read a book or article if I give it to him.
We split big projects- we both usually have one project we "own" at any given time. Right now, I own the kindergarten research and he owns dealing with the ants that invade our kitchen after it rains. (Since it keeps raining at just the wrong intervals, preventing us getting an exterminator in to deal with the problem, this is actually a very annoying project for him. I came out ahead, even allowing for the annoying nature of the local school district's website.)
We both wrangle kids on the weekends, but this skews a bit towards me. While I'm wrangling, he's doing chores, though. And we try to do at least one family thing every weekend, just for fun. I don't suppose we should call that kid wrangling. That's quality time.
So... what do you think? Am I oppressed and just deluded? Am I married to a unicorn (and if so, where is my chocolate)? How does this all play out in your house? Have I bored you senseless? Have at it in the comments.
Update: Alyssa at Apple Pie and the Universe and Anandi at The House of Peanut have both written their own posts about this subject, and how the chores are split in their houses. Go read those, too! And if you write one, let me know and I'll add a link here.
Also, Alyssa's post reminded me that I didn't include the very important task of staying home with sick kids in my list. We split that- basically, the person who doesn't have meetings (or has meetings that can be missed or rescheduled) and/or isn't under a deadline, stays home. But we also are very fortunate in that my mom will come be our backup babysitter when a kid gets sick. Thanks to Southwest (and the fact that she is retired), it is easy to fly her over from Phoenix on short notice, and it is cheaper than a day off without pay, which is what we figure we'd eventually end up taking if we use all of our time off on sick kids. We both like to travel too much to not have a vacation! If my mom wasn't able to do this, the sick kid burden would be a lot harder to handle, particularly given Petunia's run of mystery fevers.