Monday, November 14, 2011

I Am Not Married to a Unicorn

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.


  1. I married a unicorn, too.

    What strikes me is that while the details are necessarily a bit different, your distribution of responsibilities (and the sort of give and take, "this changed because I'm lactating," etc.) sounds a lot like the set-up I have with my husband. We both "own" tasks. Yet we both prefer to be informal about it; no scheduling or spreadsheets -- but that's just a question of personality.

    It ends up split equally, as far as I'm concerned... and as far as he's concerned, too, I think. Although when I ask him if he thinks it's "fair," he just gives a Gallic shrug and asks why is that important, anyway? He sees it as a particularly anglo-saxon preoccuptation of mine. If he sees something that needs to be done, he does it. If I ask for help, he helps.

    And no, he's not perfect, either, who is? But he's pretty close to perfect when it comes to running a household together (even if he never seems to remember to wipe down the counter and stovetop after doing the dishes... picky? me?)

  2. Anonymous3:46 AM

    How can we fix society if we don't fix the next generation of men through example?

    If feminists don't have children, if feminists don't marry, then nothing will ever change. Society will be unable to move forward. It's easier to change the culture entirely if we start with changing the culture rather than opting out of it.

    (That means I'm a post-modern feminist, I guess! Also liberal feminist. Twisty, instead, is then a radical feminist. )

    p.s. My husband *is* perfect.

  3. Anonymous6:15 AM

    adding... and Blue Milk appears to be a Cultural Feminist in her post

    Personally I think work is work and everybody should do their fair share. I don't think we need to glorify housework and homemaking in order to do that. Housework is work just like every other job on the planet. And that's why I think it's silly that anyone should feel compunctions about paying someone else to do it.

    Also, I like spending time with my kid because I enjoy spending time with my kid, not because it is work. I feel uncomfortable about making the mother a saint just because she spends time child-rearing-- that kind of thing can lead to weird stuff about how women shouldn't be allowed to go into the labor force and should sacrifice themselves entirely for their kids.

  4. My husband is not quite a unicorn. I put my foot down, renegotiated housework, and outsourced as much as I could.

    So we have a 60/40 split in income and 40/60 split in housework in a community property state. I can live with that.

  5. BTW, our housecleaner earns over $20/hour. She is paid by the job and provides her own supplies, but she decides how long she stays.

    She looked into getting other jobs, but told me the pay was too low in retail and factory jobs had both low pay and poor working conditions.

    So she's cleaning homes 2 days a week (3 families in rotation), going to school 2 days a week and taking care of her family 1-2 days a week and spending downtime w/ her family 1-2 days a week. She's happy with her work life balance. I'm happy with the work-life balance she facilitates in our home. Why is that exploitive?

  6. I also married a unicorn...there are a lot more of them these days, I would think. I really like how you wrote down how you split things...I might do this for my post tomorrow!

  7. Clearly we are all a bunch of women married to unicorns. Like Parisenne said, though the details are a bit different, we do something very similar -- a "divide and conquer" method. A few tasks have switched over the years -- my favorite change... I stopped doing kitty litter when I was pregnant (a no-no), and he never asked me to pick it back up again!

    Anybody remember "Joy Luck Club" and the 50/50 marriage? Sometimes "exactly equal" is NOT fair. Sometimes you just have to figure out what works for the two of you -- because you're in this together. It's not a competition.

    I'm a strong feminist, married to a feminist (or is that a unicorn?), and I don't think we got married to see who "wins."

    BTW -- I have plenty of strong women friends and relatives -- some married, some not -- who decided to not have children. Yes, decided -- NOT "oh... you weren't able to have babies... so sad!" And the men in their lives must also be unicorns since they didn't expect their wives to be babymakers.

  8. I love you, Cloud, and can I just say it is so nice to read someone who is "right on the internets" for a change!

    My husband does slightly more than his fair share around the house, probably because that's how he was raised. I dated other men who weren't raised that way, and fortunately, I didn't find them attractive long term. ;)

  9. Susan9:54 AM

    Count me in the unicorn-marriage club too. My husband does trash, recycling, leaves, kitchen cleanup after dinner every night (including dishes), laundry (though the folding varies, but he gets it all through the washer and dryer), family photo organization (and much of the taking), organization of kid artwork that's being saved, vacuuming, sometimes bathrooms (we trade this off and on), bills, daycare pickup, drycleaning, car maintenance. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. I do cooking, lunch packing, grocery shopping -- yes, all gendered tasks but I LOVE TO COOK and planning, buying, and cooking food gives me enormous pleasure -- daycare dropoff, I write the checks for our daycare too. I am the one to think about whether our son needs new shoes or clothes, to cut his hair, and to take him to his swim lesson. I do slightly more childcare because I, by choice, work a 4 day week and spend my Fridays together with my son. My husband does not have this choice at his job. Technically, I don't either but I'm a college professor and I just arrange my teaching and meeting schedules this way and manage to get my work done anyhow.

  10. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I found the Blue Milk post incredibly sexist.

    She's bought so much into the sexist male system of values that she now thinks that a woman isn't successful unless she behaves exactly like an archetypal macho man: be all about work, raise no children, do no housework.

    Sad. Very sad.

    Most women feel a biological need to have children. We will make progress when this choice is properly validated and rewarded by society at large and the unicorns helping at home.

    It goes without saying that if a particular woman does not feel that call or chooses not to heed it, for whatever reason, they should also be free to do so, without being judged by society.

  11. We have a very similar split, except my unicorn does at least 95% of the laundry (collecting, sorting, pre-treating, washing, drying, folding; I help put it away sometimes). Also, in addition to the woman we exploit by paying her $30/hour to clean our house every other week, we also exploit a man who mows our lawn and trims our bushes every week, something we started when I was gestating and my unicorn tore his ACL.

    For physical chores, we're close enough to 50/50 that I honestly couldn't say who does more. But all that mental overhead stuff does tend to fall on me -- the social calendar and research and figuring out what is needed sort of stuff, the stuff that my unicorn and I refer to as my "Chief Operating Officer" chores. (Based on our chore distribution, hubby likes to say that he is CEO, but I am COO, CFO, CTO, and Chairman of the Board; it seems sometimes that the children are the shareholders.)

    So yeah, definitely not a mythical creature. At the same time, though, I'm the only one of my friends who has such an equal partner, so it is totally conceivable to me that lots of women out there don't know that they do exist. My friends watch my husband fold laundry and wash dishes and they tell me that I'm very lucky. But I don't think I'm lucky, just picky. I dated guys who weren't like this, and I wouldn't stand for it.

    Or, there's my mother's approach. On her 25th wedding anniversary, she cleaned up the house, sat down next to my dad, and said, "There. All done. The next 25 years of chores are all yours." And she meant it. My father now does laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing, you name it. Not the perfect solution, since she handled everything during the child-rearing years, but it does say something about old dogs and new tricks, which should give hope to all women who appear to NOT be married to unicorns.

  12. I definitely have a unicorn then, since my husband stays at home with our son (while freelancing), does 95% of all the cooking, 80% of all the cleaning, 1/2 of all the budget stuff.

    I take care of all scheduling be it social or otherwise, any vacation (HA! what's that?) planning, 85% of all birthday & holiday gifts and planning.

    We split: grocery shopping/errands, car maintenance, laundry (usually he or she who needs clean underwear first starts the laundry), dishes, and lunches.

    I'd say, actually, that on the whole, my husband does WAY more of the home based stuff than me--and it's been that way since long before we had a kid, including back to when we both worked outside the home.

    He feels very strongly that these things aren't "women's work" they're HOME work. As in, we all live in this home together, this is all stuff that has to get done, just GET IT DONE. Unicorn indeed.

  13. I had no idea there were so many unicorns in the world!

    @Nicoleandmaggie- that Blue Milk post isn't really representative of her other writing. From her other posts, I don't think she thinks that women have special caring qualities. She does write about the fact that we fail to put an economic value on a lot of caring working that is traditionally done by women, but I've never seen her argue that women are uniquely qualified to do that work.

    I've got more thoughts about why I think it is important to at least acknowledge the possibility that marriages like mine might exist- i.e., why I think this matters. But I think I'll leave those for another post. It boils down to "if your theory doesn't explain the lived experience of a sizable group of women, then your theory is probably wrong, and risks becoming irrelevant." Also, it is unnecessarily frightening for young women.

    @Anonymous- I think the post that annoyed you was the one from Twisty, not Blue Milk- she just quoted it so that she could argue against it.

  14. My husband is not naturally a unicorn. He's working on his horn. All of these blogs that I read about feminist issues and work/life balance have been incredibly helpful for me to articulate the lack of equality in our relationship so that we've been able to discuss and work on this stuff, without it being defensive. And he is definitely trying. But, I do find that I have to constantly manage the balance and the fairness in our relationship because little gems like "just tell me what you want me to do" pop out of his mouth - which I loathe, because if I have to constantly tell him what needs to be done, that means that I am the manager of everything.

    At the moment, our break down is that I handle mornings, including lunch packing, he makes dinners, clean up after meals is about 70/30 me, we split grocery shopping, we split shopping for kid stuff although if he does it generally its because I have noticed what we need and told him.

    He handles bills, and kids medical appointments (although I book the appointments). We each take a kid at bedtime. He does all household repairs, and 85% of yardwork. I do most of the weekend child wrangling. Chores are split pretty evenly (we exploit a cleaner, so there is not much in the way of heavy cleaning that needs to be done).

    So, I would say that things are quite fair BUT, only because I stay on top of making sure they are fair and making sure we have on-going conversations about it. It's not the default and it hasn't always been this way.

  15. Anonymous2:53 PM

    @Cloud-- the anti-working-mom rhetoric on a couple of the Get Rich Slowly posts this past week was incredibly annoying. I hate the way people try to make it seem like it's so *obvious* that you shouldn't have kids if you're not going to stay with them 24/7 until they turn 21... or something like that.

    Here (especially the second page of comments):

    and here:

    I'm never really sure what to do when confronted with that kind of comment because it can get to be a time suck ("someone on the internet is wrong!") but on the other hand, if we let those comments stand, then a huge group of people believe that's the social and cultural norm and it influences society.

    Also I feel a little guilty because at the beginning of one of those arguments I did not realize I was having a battle of wits with an unarmed person. It wasn't until she started invoking Dr. Laura that I realized that maybe she was outclassed in the thinking department (yes, I state here and now that anybody who quotes Dr. Laura on family issues and believes it just isn't very bright/educated). On the other hand, shouldn't we use our superior abilities to counter (untrue) claims that doing anything other than having a SAHM damages our children? Does that justify being mean in response?

    Is it still bullying if the other person started out by trying to hurt people?

    Mostly I was able to politely disagree, but when the person started out with offensive and inflammatory language, not so much.

  16. Last night, I started to write a comment about how I *didn't* marry a unicorn. But this morning (when I'm not quite so tired), I'm willing to cut him a bit more slack.

    In our house - he is a doctor in training (~2 more years to go!) So, he's out of the house for work a minimum of 50 hours a week, does maybe another 5 to 6 hours of private study per week (again minimum), and works 1 in 3 weekends (on average) with week-long bouts of being on call every 6 to 8 weeks. Scarily, it could be worse - he picked a 'lifestyle friendly' speciality. I work 16hours a week and would like to do more - next year I plan to up my hours to a 38 to 40hr fortnight.

    We have a weekly cleaner to do all the dusting, vaccuming, kitchen & bathroom cleaning (who still comes when we're on holiday to big jobs like wiping out all the drawers in the kitchen and applying leather protector to our couch.) We also have a lawnmower guy and my parents do the rest of our gardening (including most outdoor maintenance like changing sprinkler heads etc.) They like the garden too much to let it fall into the state of disrepair it would achieve if it was up to us.

    Anyway - he does the dishes during the week (I almost always cook because I'm home before he is, whether I'm working or not), He does bath time if he's home in time (sometimes) and used to do bedtime (until Moo started refusing to let him put her to bed.) He does swimming lessons on the weekend (I go if he's working or if he's worked a night shift, I drive him because of the risks of fatigue and driving. Thankfully, this is not often). He does travel research on flights and accommodation for his work trips (that Moo & I usually go on too). He will do other tasks as requested.

    We do our fruit & vegetable shopping as a family at our local farmers market on a Saturday.

    I remember stuff to do with my family and I'll make the effort to send presents etc to our niece & nephew on his of the family. I also call his mother occasionally for a chat and email over photos and videos from my phone. These are things I consider fun. Everything else to do with his family is his to organise. I may make suggestions, but I do not remind or do. He does the life & income insurance.

    I do pretty much everything else - including what I feel is the real work of creating systems and doing the thinking and forward planning that allows us to maximise family time at the weekend so we can all do 'fun stuff' together. I think his lack of appreciation for the *forward thinking* I do is what annoys me most. It's really the invisible work that enables our fun.

    I think his lack of appreciation for quite a bit of this is personality rather than gender. I'm a control-freak list maker. He's got a laid-back, exponential work-curve approach to life. (I have female friends like this too). In general, I feel it's a good partnership. I make sure stuff gets done, he helps me chill out a bit. But sometimes, when he's done a job and hasn't followed my system (and as a result we've paid bills twice or my black pants are covered with white towel fluff), I do get very, very annoyed.

    But then again, I've never done one of our touch rugby ref duties and he's done many - so I guess it's swings & roundabouts.

  17. We definitely don't have an even housework balance right now, but that doesn't mean we haven't in the past or won't again in the future. What we firmly hold to is an equal work balance--for all the hours I'm working (kids, household, career) he's working too (kids, career, charity). Honestly, neither of us does much housework and since we hold to limited outside childcare before age 2, I spend significantly more time with the kids.
    I suppose I'm oppressed but it comes down to priorities. If I think a task is important (sweeping the floor when it gets crunchy, starting a company that will hopefully replace both our incomes in 5 years) I do it and he appreciates the result. If he thinks it is important (taking care of the cars, serving weekly at a soup kitchen) he does it and I appreciate the result. I can't do everything and neither can he but together we accomplish the goals we've set for ourselves and our family.

  18. the milliner6:22 PM

    Great comments and I have to say ITA with @nicoleandmaggie on this: "How can we fix society if we don't fix the next generation of men through example?"

    Though my mom did more of the child rearing work, my parents had a pretty equal split in responsibilities/duties. Definitely not always the norm in the 70's or for someone of my father's generation. My dad cooked dinner every week night, participated equally in household chores, and definitely pulled his weight in driving my brother and I to activities, amongst other things.

    My father's equal participation in family life and household responsibilities had far greater impact on me than any discussion I've ever had (or heard) on the subject.

    So, needless to say, this is what I expected/expect in my own relationship.

    For DH and I, it's a work in progress. DH definitely has values aligned with other unicorns (i.e. it's shared work, not women's work). But I think we're working out the kinks in how to manage the equalizing of the load since DS was born.

    DH's parents split up when he was young and he lived with his dad. Which meant he saw his Dad do all of the household duites. And quite frankly, he and his brothers also had to participate. Or, as DH likes to say "If we wanted to stop eating blood sausage, I had to learn how to cook".

    Oh boy...surpassed the max characters: 4096. Splitting comment in two...

  19. the milliner6:23 PM

    For our current split:
    We both work about 40 hours outside the home.

    Kid stuff:
    - I do drop off & pick up at daycare (we have one car and DH works downtown so logistics are difficult...we are in the process of working something out where we share the car and the drop off duties)
    -The parent who does not walk the dog in the am does kid wrangling, breakfast and getting ready for the day (though truthfully, I usually have to remind DH to get DS dressed while I'm out with the dog)
    -Weekend wrangling is split between us, skewing more often toward me
    -We split time off when DS is sick 50/50
    -I book all medical and dental appointments for DS.
    -I tend to do most of the kid related research, but, as @zenmoo points out, I think this is more of a personality, rather than a gender thing. Our personality types are the same as @zenmoo describes

    -Me: vacuuming, clutter control, managing finances,
    -DH: bathrooms, garbage/recycling, majority of the cooking

    Dishes, kitchen clean up & unloading the dishwasher are split equally. As are menu planning and grocery shopping (often done all together on the weekend). We split dog walking, but it skews more in DH's favour since DS was born.

    Quite frankly, there is so much to do that I'm no longer looking too closely at how 'equal' our workload is. I'm just looking at our amount of true free time and trying to ensure that this is about equal. That being said, there is a tendancy for DH to have fun 'alone' jobs (walking the dog), where as the less fun and 'do while you have the kid with you' jobs tend to fall in my area. From my perspective, we need a bit more balance in this area.

    Add on top of that the fact that I tend to like detailled plans and organizing, while DH's style is more off the cuff and less exacting than mine is. I find this much more challenging to deal with than gender issues.

    And then, just for fun, there are DH's health issues which crop up often enough to make a difference. There are times when I want to push DH harder to contribute more or to help me divide up the tasks more equally. And other times where I think he's at his maximum. And the hard part is that I have no idea if his health issues have affected his maximum. I didn't know him before his transplant. so no comparison. Of course, we have talked about it a bit. But he's generally of the mindset that his health issues should not be taken into consideration for things like division of labour at home. I'm not so convinced.

    And finally, I'm always a bit annoyed when other people (usually women) will say 'oh, you're so lucky' when they find out that DH does most of the cooking. I'm annoyed because in most cases, I'm sure they mean that I'm so lucky that he does it, not that I'm so lucky that he's a fantastic cook - which he is. I agree I'm lucky for the latter (and I totally appreciate it), but as for being lucky that he does it...uh no. He's pulling his weight, and it happens to be in this area.

    We each have hobbies & tasks that go against gender stereotypes in our house (as well as those that go with gender stereotypes). But it's purely by coincidence. DH cooks and knits. I do fix it stuff. DH is very proud to tell friends that I have an anvil.

  20. @Nicoleandmaggie, I have to confess that when confronted in real life with comments similar to the ones on those posts, I tend to just smile, nod, and try to escape the conversation. I understand (and agree with) your point about it being important to challenge this thinking... but I get tired of having the argument, particularly with people who will never change their mind.

    Online, I'll have the argument if it is in a location where I am "known"- I figure that is the situation where I am most likely to have an impact. In other places, I might leave one or two comments, but then I'll go away, clear my cache and forbid myself to go back there and argue any more!

    I don't know how we've gotten so screwed up that mothers feel they have to justify themselves no matter what they do. Someone has probably researched this. If they haven't, maybe someone could suggest to Twisty that this would be a more useful line of inquiry.... Um, yeah. That probably wouldn't go down well.

    I'm loving reading about everyone's unicorns, or unicorns in the making.

    One thing I want to say- I don't think you should feel bad for having a less equal division of household labor if that is what works for your marriage/partnership. I think the thing that matters is that both partners view each other as equal, and settle on a work arrangement that works for the entire family. When I was out of work, for instance, I did more work around the house and did far more of the shopping. That just made sense. It didn't change the fundamentally equal nature of my marriage, and it certainly didn't make me oppressed. At least not in my view. Twisty would no doubt disagree!

  21. Yes, I'm also married to a unicorn. In fact that's the first thing that attracted me to your blog, Cloud. Especially on the internet, there seem to be so few women with husbands like mine. My unicorn sounds like Parisienne Mais Presque's- If he sees something that needs to be done, he does it. We're both pretty organic in how we divide things up, as in there are no spreadsheets. He tends to do more of the chores, and I tend to do more of the kid things. Our main system for maintaining fairness is to monitor our free time, not our chore time. We try to make sure we each have equal time for paid work + goofing off, and don't worry about the details of the other stuff.

    I do tend to shoulder almost all of the mental effort of keeping track of what the boys need/should be doing/parenting type things, but then he keeps on top of our social life, such that it is, and all kinds of house things that I would just delay if left on my own. We are a good team because I tend to have big picture ideas, and he tends to be good at implementation.

  22. my unicorn is so rare that his uni's magazine did an article about him bringing the offspring to his uni. I used to joke that people acted like was some combo of jesus/mary poppins. at first it pissed me off that he got so many props for doing what I do, when no one comments on my fabulous achievements. His pet peeve is that people always described him as being "like" a mother. He liked to note "no this IS what a father does!"

  23. It looks like I am one of the only SAH mums here and so my situation is very different to everyone elses, but it wouldn't be fair any other way.

    Hubby is away around 12 hours a day and at least one night every week. On top of that there is international travel at least 2 times a month. I haven't figured out how to work and get kids to and from school (they don't go to school locally) without a sitter so far, so for the moment I don't. So I pretty much do all the housework and child care.

    Hubby does relatively little now, unlike when we lived in Itlay where he did half of the saturday house work and all the gardening. Now there is no garden, and the house is microscopic and takes 10 minutes to vaccum or dust, which I do when everyone is out for the day. I do the school runs, take the kids to the pool , and the shopping. Hubby still does the book-keeping and all other paper work.

    I can not complain about this set up, seeing i have so much free time, alone, but i worry i might be reinforcing stereotypes with the kids. I don't want them to think that our present family situation should be emulated by either of them when they are adults.

  24. I wrote a really long comment last night, but then deleted because of my many caveats. But paola's comment especially, & cloud's recent comment has prompted me to persevere, despite my online-social-anxiety-ness. I hope the following makes sense. It's intended to respectfully second the many great ideas posted above, not to argue with them.

    I, too, am a mostly sah mom. I work some freelance from home & a brief shift outside the house. I too have the unicorn marriage--a great conceit, by the way. I have a lot of caveats about my own & my husband's various lacks of ambition, my skillset that's fairly non-compensated-y in our society, my friend whose work-life balance is really different than mine but how we both love & value our kids, lives, free-time, & feelings of accomplishment the same. Also, I have the caveat of currently struggling with fairness as a concept in dealing with my 8yo, who is deeply mired right now in tallying up so much of his life & comparing it to, not just some ideal of fairness, but to how he feels we treat his 5yo sister. I am spending a lot of time trying to show him the ways that fairness is a long haul proposition--they don't always need the same things at the same time or in the same ways--& not a scorecard.

    Mainly what I want to say, though, is that I am--though I don't work a full-time job with reasonable financial compensation, & though I married a man & have kids, & though I had a biological clock that ticked so loud once I hit thirty that strangers could hear it--I am a feminist. I actually think that a true radical feminist is much more radical than the quoted silliness of "should not have kids" implies. I think perhaps the true radical feminist fights the idea that there is some finite amount of Truth or Value or Respect; the true radical fights the idea that someone else's peace of mind or happiness or balance threatens others'. The true radical acknowledges that men & women can both want to be absorbed in their lifes' works, that a life's work can change over time, & that people who live very differently can still share the common goal of wanting to build happy homes for their households, no matter if those households are kid-laden, kid-free, married or single, communal or independent, urban or rural. My husband & I are so very, very lucky to have the choices we have in front of us--they aren't unlimited, but they are awfully diverse. Why should I browbeat anyone who makes different choices? Shouldn't I try to help others have at least the variety of choice I have, & shouldn't I hope that we all work towards a world where access to childcare & work & clean air & water & reasonable health care make choices easier for all of us? At this point in my life, if it's not improving everyone's access to education or health care, I kind of want to laugh & say, "Really? You think we have this kind of time?"

    So, that's--disturbingly--an even shorter version of what I thought about posting last night. The discussion here has been wonderful to read. I love reading about all the divisions of labor because I'm nosy like that, but it's heartening to read about all these different ways of solving the problems of sharing a household with more than one person because it reminds me that when things change up on us, as they invariably do, there are more ways of looking for solutions out there than I may realize.

    Thank you all for being out there in the world & willing to share your thoughts. (Plus, the unicorn thing really is hilarious.)

  25. I started writing a comment, and it got way too long, so I just turned it into a post at my blog. Thanks for the food for thought, Cloud, and everyone else :)

  26. Lisa C.7:49 PM

    love the post, Cloud. I have a unicorn husband, too- actually he has been picking up and doing even more than half the house duties recently as I've had a crazy semester & other things come up. He's incredibly attentive & receptive & will do more if I ask (im not shy).

    Its funny because in some ways my father was a unicorn- didn't do half the house stuff but was very active in kid duties (he got us ready for school in the morning- something i still remember fondly) and still does dishes every single night (and housecleans on weekends w mom!). When dating & looking for "mates" well, I guess I was looking for someone like my Dad who felt that there were no woman duties but rather housework, to be shared among partners.

  27. It is awesome to read these comments. Thanks for posting, everyone. Also, I added an update in the post- Alyssa and Anandi wrote posts on the same topic, which are both good reading.

    @feMOMhist- it is a bit annoying how much praise the men get for doing what is only fair... but I've gotten past that now, and can even handle being told I'm lucky to have such a good husband without flinching- much. He is a good husband, and I am lucky to have found him. And he's lucky to have found me. But that has nothing to do with housework. Like many of the people commenting here- I wouldn't have married someone who didn't pull his share of the work.

    @Paola, @Eta- thanks for adding the SAHM perspective. I definitely think that you can be a feminist as a SAHM, and can have an equal marriage. It must be frustrating to have people assume incorrect things about you and your marriage just because of how you've arranged your work/home balance. If you were independently wealthy and chose not to work, would people think the same thing? No. So they should watch their assumptions.

  28. I know I'm fortunate with my husband in that he's a great cook and willing to do chores, but I think he's far from that "ideal". I think that even in many "balanced" relationships, I've noticed that after kids, chores still sort of fall along gender lines, especially in terms of managing the family schedule. If the husband is pitching in, he still often "needs" the wife to remember things and she usually handles the niceties like gift giving, thank you notes, event planning, RSVPs etc..The woman also usually does the cooking which also involves meal-planning and grocery shopping (or at least oversight of the grocery list). This may or may not be a burden but I find it very stressful to be the organizer along with my full time job.

    As for staying home, I think it would be much easier for me but at the same time I do worry that my sons would start thinking housework is woman's work. It's hard to teach otherwise if the husband is working at the paid job and doing less in the house.

  29. I'm married to unicorn, too! And hoping to raise two more. I completely agree w/ nicoleandmaggie about raising the next generation of feminist men, and the idea that leading by example is key. My parents had a conventionally gendered set up in some ways, but not in others - my mom always did want she wanted to, and maintained her independence - that had huge influences on me. Right now, our household situation is weird because my husband commutes so I can't say we divvy things up 50/50 (I'm alone with the kids for large chunks of time, when obviously I'm doing everything, but then he comes home and it's very different). True partnership is his natural inclination, but it's also true that I don't put up with a lot of crap. Even with the best of unicorns, it's sometimes necessary to point out structural inequalities and keep working at it. (But of course that's true for me too just in different ways.)

    I think the whole feminist argument that women shouldn't have children is like telling them they shouldn't have sex. It's pointless and ludicrous. People chose not to have kids, great, but generally speaking people are not going to stop procreating; for most human beings as animals it is an instinct, like the instinct to eat or have sex. Period. So the point is to figure out how to go about in the most humane way possible.

  30. Sorry, Cloud. Hate to break it to you, but you're still doing much more. You're doing most of the primary parenting, which includes the all-important (but largely ignored) "tracking" of all the crap that needs to be done. (I also predict it will just be "easier" for you to continue to do most of it, despite your unicorn mate). You're doing most of the day-to-day while your husband does the occasional work (cooking weekend dinners and non-daily yard work without concurrent child-awareness duty). The very idea that your husband has the luxury of being "hopeless" at part of the program while you could take over whatever he does (except the yardwork) if you had to bears this out, IMHO.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, not that you shouldn't have had children. I had them too (I always wanted kids despite being feminist to the core). I also did the housework. But I struck a deal with my husband--I'd be the responsible one, but he'd be unquestioningly supportive and uncritical, and would follow directions. It worked out fine.

    We live in a patriarchy. It hurts everyone. We pick our battles and make our bubbles to live in so we can have some measure of happiness. But that doesn't mean that paying attention to fairness is unimportant or petty.

  31. Anonymous6:13 PM

    I haven't posted about the chore break-down in our house because DH does the majority, *including* the keeping track of things. I mainly handle the money, except DH does the taxes.

    What can I say, I'm an evil economist and I take advantage of my sweet engineer. Every time I come back to this thread I feel like I need to be folding laundry or something. (We tend to do chores in stages as we notice it... DH is better at noticing. We'll also do things together, which is as it should be.)

    Also, when DS was tiny I changed maybe 10 diapers total. Not my job. I took care of inputs, DH and mother's helpers took care of output (I was only very rarely alone with the baby).

  32. Sorry, @Cara, you're completely wrong about how things play out in my family. Don't take the fact that I am the one who blogs about this stuff to indicate that I am the one who keeps track of what needs doing. We share that- I, for instance, have no idea what bills are due right now or whether or not the kids need new socks. We write our weekend to do lists together, usually on Friday night over beers after the kids are in bed. And don't assume my list was anywhere near complete. An exhaustive listing of all chores in our family would be pretty dull reading, so I picked out the highlights while trying to represent the balance that exists. I guess I failed at that, at least for you.

    The only thing I said he is hopeless at is the tracking of what we need to send to day care. He could take that over if he had to. He'd suck at it for awhile, but he'd figure it out. Just like I could take over the car stuff if I had to. I sucked at it when I had to do it (because I was single), but my car remained road-worthy.

    And I don't get why you think I'm doing the primary parenting. I'm doing the parenting that is assigned by biology- i.e., I'm still nursing the toddler, and until she weans I'm stuck with the middle of the night crap. But he changes as many diapers as I do, and he tries very hard to find ways to get me more sleep. He gets up at the crack of dawn with the kids both weekend days, for instance, so that I can sleep in. He does 40% of the bedtimes- the extra 10% I do (because the 4.5 year old wants me to tell her a short story before she goes to sleep) is more than balanced by the fact that he almost always does the dishes. He does 50% of the bathtimes. He cares for the kids while I do stuff sometimes, and vice versa. I do slightly more kid wrangling on the weekend, but that is balanced by the fact that he does a lot of other chores on the weekend- yardwork needs daylight, and we only have daylight during the hours we're home on the weekends.

    I do the weekday cooking because I do day care pick up and get home early enough to do it. The flip side of that is that I don't generally have to get the kids' teeth brushed and their sunscreen on. I don't get the kids dressed, which means I don't deal with the drama the 4.5 year old kicks up every other day about her outfit. These are not trivial tasks, and if you think they are, then you either don't have kids or you've been very lucky in this respect with your kids.

    Why do people have such a hard time believing my self-assessment of the breakdown of work in our household? Why can't you believe that maybe I'm smart enough to do that math? We have a 50-50 split. I shouldn't have to prove that, but I do, and anytime I try to, someone always comes along to try to prove me wrong. Sorry, I'm more of an expert on what's going on in my house than you are.

    I never said we didn't live in a patriarchy. I never said that we shouldn't pay attention to fairness. I just called out a post that I thought was ignorant and frankly harmful to the cause of getting to a fairer society, since it completely discounted the most likely solution to the problem it was decrying, focusing instead on a draconian, unrealistic solution.

    And I don't live in a bubble. That is a pretty insulting thing to say. You're welcome to argue with me- I encourage it. I'll argue back, but I'll try to stay respectful. In return, please try not to insult me. And I'll be more receptive to arguments that don't start off with the assumption that I am either lying or deluded.

    This is a harsher comment than I'll usually write. But I'm sick to death of people telling me that the life I live is not possible, or that I'm deluded and not living how I think I am.

  33. @ Jac: "because little gems like "just tell me what you want me to do" pop out of his mouth - which I loathe, because if I have to constantly tell him what needs to be done, that means that I am the manager of everything." YES! That is my DH too. "Write me a list" I get so frustrated... why can't he just look around and see what needs to be done?? I also like what eta wrote about radical feminism. I love my husband dearly and he is wonderful in many ways, but goshdarnit he makes me crazy sometimes. I know it has a lot to do with his upbringing (his mother STILL DOES EVERYTHING while his dad DOES NOTHING literally... no job... UGH it infuriates me but it's their choice). Whereas I was raised by a single dad. My DH and I are working on it... we've been together for 5.5 years, we'll get there. Sorry to be so late to the conversation here cuz I really liked reading it all.


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