Sunday, November 20, 2011

On Being a Feminist Mother

I've been thinking some more about my "unicorn post" and the response to it. I've been thinking about the various types of feminism (summarized nicely by Nicoleandmaggie). And I've been thinking about the changes motherhood brings to your life, your marriage, and your feminism.

I can't promise that this will be an entirely coherent, well-argued post. But I thought I'd write down some of what I've been thinking about, and see what everyone else thinks.

First of all, it occurred to me that people don't seem to have a problem believing that a married couple without kids has an equal division of labor at home. But once kids enter the scene, it seems to become a lot harder for people to believe that a couple might have a 50-50 split in the home workload. Only one person left a comment on the unicorn post saying that she didn't think I really split the work 50-50 with my husband, but I've heard that opinion plenty of times when I speak up in other places online, along with its cousin, the opinion that my arrangement is so rare as to not merit consideration: to may people, I am ridiculously lucky at best, deluded at worst.

I think some of this is probably due to the fact that it is true that for a lot of women a previously equitable- or at least not unbearable- household chore arrangement breaks down when kids enter the scene. The interesting question there is why is that so? I think the answer is related to the another reason that so many people don't believe me when I say that I have a 50-50 split, namely that the division of labor necessarily changes after kids come on the scene.

I know a lot of couples without kids who split every single chore 50-50. They alternate nights cooking dinner. The person who cooks doesn't have to clean up. They either alternate laundry weeks or do the chore together. Etc., etc. In fact, that was pretty much how my husband and I split things before we had kids. We even set aside a few hours every other weekend to do all of our cleaning. I took care of the car that I brought into the marriage, even though I hated doing it and was constantly forgetting to schedule service visits. We were scrupulously fair- we never discussed this really, it was just how we did things.

Then we had kids. And suddenly, that system made zero sense. I'm sure there are some parents out there who maintain the "split every chore" division of labor post-kids, but that just wasn't going to work for us. As I mentioned in the comment I quoted in my working women weekend reading post, the division of labor had to change, partly because biology assigned certain tasks to me, and partly because the amount of work grew exponentially, and suddenly specialization started to make a lot of sense. It no longer made any sense for me to try to maintain one of the cars, since my husband is much better at it. It takes him less time, and we need all the time we can get. Similarly, it makes more sense for me to keep track of what needs to go to day care every day, initially because that fit well into my routine of gathering up pump parts, etc., and now because I have a system that works.

Even for chores that we're equally good at- like laundry- it makes sense to divide and conquer. One of us will get a load of laundry going while the other one plays with the kids, or tackles some other chore. On any given weekend, I may do most of the laundry, or he may do most of the laundry, or we might serendipitously land on an equal mix- but we've stopped judging the division of labor on a chore-by-chore basis, so it doesn't really matter.

And then, of course, there is the parenting. This is unlike any other chore- for one thing, it isn't really a chore. It is work, yes. But it is also fun, and it is far more rewarding than doing the dishes. And it is also almost impossible to divide along strictly equal lines. Biology has other ideas- and so do your kids. The dishes don't care who washes them. Sometimes, a child very much cares who puts her to bed, or who plays certain games, or- and this is my current downfall- who helps settle her back to sleep when she wakes up in the night. My husband is a fully equal co-parent, not just because that is what is fair, but because that is what he wants, but that doesn't mean that we are 100% interchangeable. Could he do it all if I weren't around? Of course. Will the kids accept that when I am around? Not quietly. And sometimes, quiet is more important to me than fair, so we absorb the inequality in one area and try to balance it out somewhere else.

I can see how someone looking in on all of this would think that there is no way the division of labor is equal. It is almost impossible to judge, even if I wrote an exhaustive list of all of the work that occurs in our household. It is a never-ending negotiation, as the kids' needs change and work demands ebb and flow.

   -- I'll trade you the dishes for 15 minutes of time without a child demanding anything from me
   -- I'll take the car to the shop if you'll drop the kids off tomorrow
   -- I'll go to the store if you'll handle bathtime and snack on your own
   -- I need to stay late to finish up this big release. Can you handle dinner? I'll give you a couple of   hours of time this weekend.

And so on and so forth. Sometimes the trade off is unspoken, or assumed. Sometimes things don't run smoothly, and there are arguments (Dammit, anything I have to do at 2 a.m. counts double!) but we work things out, and in the end we both think we've reached equality.

Maybe it is impossible to understand this without living it. I don't know. There are aspects of motherhood that I struggle to explain even to my husband, and there are aspects of fatherhood that I don't fully grasp. One of the hardest things for me to get my head around after my first child was born was just how much she needed me. Pretty much all the time. I am used to that deep, seemingly unquenchable need now- but I still struggle with it sometimes. It is the reason I sometimes beg for just 15 minutes without a child near me, which is a request my husband respects but does not completely understand, because the kids do not draw on him in the same way. He is both envious of the closeness and not 100% convinced that it isn't something I could just say no to. We try hard to share this load- trading off bedtimes and bath times, having him provide comfort after little owies, etc. But this is one area of our life that is most definitely not equal.

I've been thinking about this aspect a lot lately, because Petunia is weaning. I'm weaning her now because I want (need?) a little more space. It is one of the many paradoxes of motherhood that the only way to get that space is to go through a phase in which she is even more intensely clingy than before. At least in my house, the easiest and least screamy way to wean is to make sure the kid being weaned knows that she can still have mommy when she wants, even if she can't have mommy's milk. So Petunia is spending a lot of time in my arms. Which is sweet. Except maybe at 2 a.m. Or when I'm trying to do something else. My husband, who needs far less sleep than I do, would love to help out in the middle of the night- but Petunia screams if he tries, and that wakes up Pumpkin, and pretty soon we are just one big unhappy sleep deprived family. So I am bearing the brunt of this phase, and he is just trying to compensate where he can. He does a good job compensating, but it is not how either of us would really like it. Petunia, on the other hand, likes this arrangement just fine, and in our approach to parenting, that is what matters most at this age.

The unreasonable and yet somehow absolutely undeniable demands my kids place on me are simultaneously the best and the worst thing about motherhood. I have routinely been pushed to the limits of what I thought I could bear, only to find that I can in fact keep going. I am amazed to find myself thinking "I can't take her clinginess for one more second!" and then instinctively scooping her up and giving her a kiss on the head. Somehow, the space in my life expanded to accommodate the demands of motherhood without crowding out the essence of me. I cannot explain it. During my first year of motherhood, I was sure it was not possible, that I was in fact being subsumed into this new mommy person. But I came out the other side wanting both to devote myself to my kids and to pursue my own goals with full vigor.

Perhaps that is the essence of what it is to be a feminist mother- the realization that your own goals can coexist with your love and absolute devotion to your children. Motherhood can grow your life rather than contracting it.

This post is perhaps even less coherent than I thought it would be. But it is late, and Petunia will no doubt be calling for me before too long, so I think I will leave it there and invite you to tell me what you think in the comments.


  1. Very coherent actually. Thanks for another great post. I'm going to print that second last paragraph as it's gold.

  2. I find this so interesting. The specialisation thing seems to be really common among couples with kids, and it seems like it tends to fall along gender stereotyped roles. It certainly has in my family, and for all the reasons you suggest. Before we had kids I was really keen to learn how to build and fix things, so we would share a lot of jobs. But whereas he now does a fair chunk of the cooking and laundry, and other streotypical 'female' chores, I do none of the 'male' chores, unless you count bills and remembering to take the car in for service. It would make no sense for me to do the other fixy chores since I'm so much slower, and plain bad at those jobs. I'm annoyed by this. I'm not sure if it's because the 'male' chores are inherently more satisfying, as some have suggested (do them when you want, it's a completed project), or if I just feel trapped by my inability to do these male chores. Like dammit, why didn't I learn how to fix things when I was younger?? So maybe all the effort to improve spatial and mechanical reasoning in girls will pay off in the future in terms of less gender stereotyped chores.

  3. @zed, I suspect people fall back to gender roles when they specialize because those are the things they "trained" at when they were younger (thanks to society's sexist reinforcement of what we're supposed to do) and you just don't have time to fight it. I do make an effort to do some of the "male" things (I took the crib apart when we took it down, for instance), but it is hard, because I am slower at them than my husband is.

  4. Anonymous6:55 AM

    i enjoyed the post. made sense to me. reminds me very much of my own situation with my husband.

  5. The post made total sense. I think I handle far more of the household chores (including stereotypically male chores such as exterior home maintenance, assembling bikes, yardwork and hanging Christmas lights, but I tend the children while doing so). My husband works far longer hours than I do (without far more money as we're esentially equal...he just has a different kind of job). I get quite (silently) angry when he works all weekend and I still have to do weekend chores while managing the kids all on my own and then he gets a day off in the middle of the week when we have childcare arranged, but when I sit back and realize what he accomplishes with that day off in the middle of the week (kids' doctor appointments, scheduling refrigerator delivery, auto maintenance, etc), I am happy that we have that flexibility.

    So, we're basically equal, but the timing issue does leave both of us with very little time together without kids and very little time to ourselves. We're still in the parenting red zone though, so in 5 years, it will all be a memory, right? Right?

  6. I personally don't think it's necessary to split hairs over division of labor to get to 50/50. The cool thing about marriage is that it's a partnership, and what matters to me is that both people are contributing and content with their system. My husband and I split everything based on our own personal feelings toward chores. We both hate laundry, so we split it fairly evenly. I hate unloading the dishwasher, so he does more of that than I do. Cars to me are a necessary evil, so he takes care of most things relating to the cars, sometimes even filling up the gas for me. But I find a certain zen in scrubbing things, so that's all me.

    We do hire a cleaning service and I have no qualms about doing so. To me it's economics. They do the work faster and more cheaply than I would do.

    Is someone somewhere judging me because some of the work I do around the house falls in the traditional realm of the wife and because I have the advantage of being able to afford a cleaning service? Probably. Do I care? Not a lick.

  7. Yes, indeed! Building a household is not a zero-sum game, with or without kids. Your point about kids contracting available time makes loads of sense.

  8. Post kids, I think people start to realize that what you're after isn't an equal division of labor, it is a *fair* division. Which is what you're describing here. Thing is, equal is pretty easy to judge from the outside. Fair can be very very personal - and tends to incorporate how much sleep each individual needs - and often doesn't look all that equal to those outside of the relationship.

  9. It made total sense. Like August said, marriage isn't an exact 50/50 split of things. It's about working together to achieve things, not bean counting. As long as both parties are happy with the arrangement, then I think people should just STFU about what goes on in other homes and relationship.

  10. Well, to be fair, I did put the details of my home arrangement out there and invite comment. It isn't so much that I mind people commenting, it is that I want people to accept that I an capable of determining "fair"- and that "fair" is attainable, and "fair" is enough to allow women to be both mothers and careerists.

  11. Great post. Amen what you said in the comments: "I suspect people fall back to gender roles when they specialize because those are the things they "trained" at when they were younger (thanks to society's sexist reinforcement of what we're supposed to do) and you just don't have time to fight it."

    So I really do have to thank my parents, and my dad in particular, for setting examples of "fairness" at home, and for ultimately helping me choose a wonderful, feministy partner.

  12. how the hell did you get life to expand to fit mom and you in a single identity? I'm still struggling with that and my kids are way older than yours!

  13. @feMOMhist- that's the hardest part, isn't it? I have no idea how I did it. Or maybe I do- this blog was a big part of it. The oversharing and navel gazing was all for a greater purpose.... Seriously, writing my thoughts down and sharing them with a supportive community helped me find my way.

    Anyway, I'm still a work in progress. But I'm definitely more comfortable in my own skin now than I was earlier, and comfortable with the trade offs of my life. There's probably an entire post in the details....

  14. I LOVE this post, Cloud.

    @feMOMhist: The blogging also helped me immensely. Really, anything that allows a new mom to reflect on the frustration and loss of identity is probably helpful. I saw a therapist for a while, mostly due to PPD, and that helped as well. But it's so important to give yourself the time and space - away from the kiddos, work, husband - to just reflect.

  15. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Every time I read one of these recent Wandering Scientist posts I go and do something like laundry or dishes (DH says I don't need to feel guilty, but that's just because he's so wonderful). FTR, my husband does the bulk of the traditionally-female chores and has been doing more and more of them as he gets older and more experienced at them. If he weren't doing them, we would be paying someone to do them. We mostly outsource traditionally-male chores except DH has been doing the lawn mowing for the past year or so because he doesn't mow down our blueberry plants (which makes him sad) or charge us more than the agreed-upon rate (which makes me angry). He also does the bulk of the computer stuff (and I do the bulk of the money stuff).

    We do a lot of chores together.

    In terms of my identity of a feminist mother... I've never really thought about it. I have such a strong identity of me as me... and things like "midwesterner" or "economist" overshadow my identity as wife, mother, or even teacher. I have a hard time identifying myself using constructs based on my relationship to other people. I don't really think of me as a mother or a wife, even though I am. I guess I think of my specific relationship-- married to DH, not a wife... taking care of DS, not a mother. These are things I do but not things I am.

    I've been getting away from an identity as "mathematician" but can still converse in that language. I might even be able to still pass. But the econ is now much stronger.

    Technically I'm a feminist, but I'm not trained in feminism and it seems like such a part of me that it's not even an overlay like midwesternism. I don't think about it. I don't do things because I'm a feminist like I do things because I'm a midwesterner-- I'm a feminist because I do things and think things that feminists do. A certain brand of feminist just happens to be right about things in my mind, and if that label didn't exist I would still hold the same beliefs.

  16. I didn't post on the unicorn post, but was surprised that you only had one sort of disagreeing comment. I guess the barrage of comments in agreement (or proudly championing that they too, are married to unicorns) put me off commenting.

    Now, I'm not in your life so I certainly don't know what's fair or even or not or who even cares anyways. But the sort of justification for housework splitting and how "awesome" everyone's spouses are just remind me of the self-congratulatory posts I tend to see elsewhere on people's children and how their child is special or extra intelligent (we all have above average children, right?) or that issues with behavior or fitting in are just about how super-intelligent the kid is. Now, you do a good job of at least not blogging all this utter BS about super children. So I'm not sure why we need to get into the dredge of "my husband is amazing and we split everything 50/50". Who cares?! And again, it's like I mean to doubt you, but you've posted SEVERAL times recently about not getting exercise in because of your kids. And I have to wonder that in a household where your husband can stay late and not be missed for dinner but you can't get a workout in, something's wrong. Now that doesn't necessarily mean you haven't split everything evenly, or that your husband isn't doing his fair share, I just think if we focus on this score card of chores we're missing the overall big lesson. Plus I think people have a tendency to justify decisions they've made post decision. So of course we've all married unicorns. If we agreed to something, and it wasn't working out the way we wanted, that's a lot harder to admit.

  17. Anonymous2:19 PM


    As someone who actually has a pretty awesome life in every single aspect... (Though I could stand to do more chores. Also the weather sometimes sucks.)

    One of my pet peeves is folks who complain about other people being awesome.

    I hate it when folks say no kids are gifted. I hate it when folks say people with my degree make too much money. I hate it when other people try to push successful people down. Oh no, you can't POSSIBLY be happy. You're one of those bitches who is always bragging about her perfect kids, her perfect spouse, her great skills. I bet you bring homemade goods to children's events just to make other mothers feel bad. You need to have imposter's syndrome and be miserable like every other woman on this planet.

    I reject that.

    I refuse to apologize for being awesome.

    And I don't think Cloud or anybody else who didn't marry a douche needs to apologize either.

    I say this as someone who generally enjoys your blog, but whose pet peeve you hit on. Why be a hater? There's PLENTY of posts with women complaining about how their lives suck and they do nothing about it. You can read about them on the New York Times with enormous frequency. Why slam down a rare post in which women are happy about their family chore break-down? It can be done, even if we're not usually allowed to talk about it because our voices are drowned out by women complaining because that's all we're allowed to do. It can be done and that's what we all should be working towards. Lifting folks up, not tearing them down.

  18. @FrauTech- I'd say read the last couple paragraphs of the post that followed the unicorn post to get a summary of why I think any of this matters.

    I actually didn't call my husband a unicorn. I said I am NOT married to a unicorn- I am married to a human being, who is not perfect but with whom I have an equitable split when it comes to household work. I was rebutting a post that seemed to argue that motherhood and a challenging career are incompatible. I rebut that sort of thing because I almost fell for that line of thinking when I was younger, and that would have been a great shame for me personally. I love being a mother and I love having my career.

    On the specifics- my husband struggles to find time to work out, too. I'd say we are about equal in our success in solving that problem- which means we're both a bit out of shape. My husband can miss dinner easier than I can (he IS missed, though) because he does mornings and I do after work. So I can skip out the door for an early meeting much more easily than he can.

    And the point of this post was sort of that the scorecard method of assigning fairness doesn't work- but it is what I always seem to have to do to back up my claim that my husband and I split things equally, because so many people struggle to believe that simple statement.

  19. Anonymous3:08 PM

    A link:

  20. I loved this post! I often wonder how our chore-division will change in some hypothetical future when we have kids. I already feel like going to bed with the dishes done and the trash taken out is a big victory, and there are just two of us and an undersized dog!

    It's interesting the specializations people have - it seems so much the product of upbringing. My husband is the child of a single mom and was raised by a consortium of female family members and has very little know-how about traditional male chores (but he's a great cook!) I came from a family with two daughters, and in the absence of brothers to do the "boy chores" I learned to mow the lawn, change motor oil and spark plugs, insulate the attic, clean the well as all the girl stuff.

    PS I just found your blog this week and spent WAYYYY too much time going through the archives!

  21. @Cloud - Oh, I didn't mean people commenting on your last post (since you did ask for comments). I just meant that people are in each others business way too much in general.

    It's a pet peeve of mine when people get a tiny glimpse of someone's life and then feels the need to pass judgement about how they are oppressed/sheltered/etc. because they do things differently. For example, if a woman cooks dinner every night then obviously she's perpetuating the negative stereotype of a housewife and her husband is a sexist pig.

    Hey, IMAGINE if the woman actually LIKES to cook? Who cares if that's along typical gender roles or not?

    Gah!!! This gets me all riled up.

  22. For me the path's been kind of different but oddly we're coming to a similar place. My DH _always_ had problems with chores from very shortly after we were married. It was a huge argument between us for years and I nearly divorced him over it. As well as went through phases where our home was a disaster as I tried to outwait him.

    I finally decided, in therapy, that I really did value the relationship over the equality on the chores front. I made the choice from a position of very similar economic power (I was making less than he was, but not a whole lot less.) I didn't feel, after the work I did on it, that it was coming from a place where I was unaware that I had choices.

    My DH has always supported me in other ways, really deep and important ones, but not the work at home.

    I was aware of the impact it would have on my freelancing and so on. But I guess it hit that zone of fairness in was truly ok with me, as a gift to him, knowing he gives me other gifts.

    Once we had kids, he was more helpful but still not fully there.

    Then one day my 4 year old son turned to him and said "oh mummy will clean that up." And...since then he's done way more of the chores, approaching half when he's not swamped with work.

    Kids do push you in various ways. I don't recommend my particular path but I offer it as part of the discussion.

  23. Great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. There are just some things that cannot be equal when it comes to motherhood. Being a mother has really redefined my understanding of what it means to be a feminist.

  24. Thank you all for the comments. I'm glad the post made sense, and I'm gratified that it is resonating with so many people. I almost didn't push "post" last night. I'm glad I did!

    @Nicoleandmaggie, when I was pregnant with baby #2 I did almost nothing around the house. Really. I rested on the sofa and kept telling myself I'd get my energy back someday. So, in light of your post today, I'm totally with your husband. No need to feel guilty. You're growing another human being, and that is hard work even if it is unconscious. (FWIW, I don't think you should feel bad even if you weren't pregnant, because clearly your arrangement works for you and your husband, and that's what matters most.)

    Oh, and I like that link!

    @Alethea- welcome. I'm glad my archives were interesting! I go back and read them sometimes, to remind myself of how things were when Pumpkin was Petunia's age and the like... but it is nice to hear someone else reads them, too!

    @Shandra- thanks for posting. You'd never know it from my recent spate of posts, but I actually think that it is almost impossible to look into someone else's partnership and judge it. It is the whole package, not any single bit, and there are a lot of things that people keep private. The bit about your husband changing his ways when he noticed that his son was noticing, though... that was awesome.

  25. Anonymous3:43 AM

    Oh, I dunno, if I were in my husband's shoes I would feel pretty resentful. Maybe not now with the pregnancy and extra sleep, but in general. Just because a wife doesn't feel resentful doesn't make it right for a husband to kick up his feet and watch tv all evening while she takes care of everything else. Without that guilt I would probably end up doing exactly that
    (the kicking up of feet rather than the taking care of everything). He also has a career and hobbies.

  26. I think this is an very coherent post (and just the kind of help I need when I am, once again, trying to discuss and re-negotiate these matters with my not-quite-unicorn husband).

    Some of the comments reminded me of this:“…I am countering my fault lines, trying to understand what at heart I know is true- that we all have priorities, and they are in what we do, they are in the choices we make, and no one else can see our family life in its day to day evolution to understand the trade offs we find desirable.” [Bryden-Brown, Sarah (2011-09-21). Welcome To My World (Kindle Locations 342-344). Kindle Edition.]

  27. One of the few advantages of having kids late is that your identity is already formed. My friends who had kids in their 20s or even 30s somtimes struggle to regain their identities after extended time away from work, not that work has to your sole source of identity..anyway, I always think of myself as human first and some of my interests are stereotypically female and some are not.

    I think the biggest hardship with kids/chores is that prior to kids, we had more free time. Now it's really about specialization as you mentioned and many women feel that they just clean/cook/organize or multi-task better. Although I am not super neat or organized, somehow I am "better" at many stereotypically female stuff and no longer can delegate or wait for things to get done. I think that's common for many women, although I also think many bring it upon themselves and have super high standards.

    Anyway, kudos to you for even trying to maintain a fair division of labor and mostly succeeding! My biggest pet peeve with many female / mother blogs/magazines is that they suggest getting kids to pitch in and organizing self better etc.. but often forget to even advise women to get their husbands to do more!

  28. @nicoleandmaggie - if I could "Like" or "+1" your comment about crappy guilt/impostor's syndrome, I would.

    I also see @FrauTech's comment as another one of those "It's not ladylike to brag" statements I was always getting growing up. (Possibly due to the Asian culture, too, but most definitely because I'm female.)

    Personally, I think we should be teaching our girls to stand up and say what they're awesome at or proud of. That sort of confidence is what gets you great jobs, better pay, and all sorts of other opportunities.

    I realize "I have an awesome husband" isn't exactly a feminist statement or likely to score me a great job, but I think it comes part and parcel with having the confidence in all areas of life to speak out about what I'm good at, and what I'm thankful for, proud of, etc.

    When I posted on my blog about this, I had several of my well-educated, awesome friends tell me they *specifically* looked for these qualities in a man. Which *is* a feminist statement, and a great reminder for us moms re: raising the next generation.

  29. the milliner8:26 PM

    Late to the party, but I read this post and comments as they came...just haven't had time to comment myself due to a huge deliverable this week at work that was occupying all of my free time and head space.

    This post definitely resonated with me - all of it. But especially this part:

    "But I came out the other side wanting both to devote myself to my kids and to pursue my own goals with full vigor.

    Perhaps that is the essence of what it is to be a feminist mother- the realization that your own goals can coexist with your love and absolute devotion to your children. Motherhood can grow your life rather than contracting it."

    This is exactly how I feel, and yet, I find that many people (with or without kids) seem to often want to pigeon hole you into one role/focus or another. It seems unfathomable to many that these two things (motherhood & career) aren't mutually exclusive. I don't get that.

    Also, I have to say, that I really like hearing people's detailed breakdowns of how they split chores and responsibilities. I certainly don't have conversations about this subject with friends IRL in such detail.

    And I find it gives a great perspective...not to compare my relationship to others', but for me to challenge myself about my own thoughts about my relationship and the equality we have (or have not) within it. Hearing others' experiences helps me evaluate if perhaps I am being too demanding or overly driving for perfection (which is what I more likely default to) from my relationship or if perhaps I need to pursue / address something more deeply within my relationship.

    It really is an endless negotiation, especially when you have small kids. Which, now that I'm typing this, is probably why this is hard for DH and myself. We both are not fond of negotiating, so during this phase where there seems to be so much negotiation in terms of who does what and when, it's no wonder that we're often drained by the process. I realise that negotiation and compromise are part of any relationship. But it just seems so intense right now.

    [Ha. Watching a repeat of 30 Rock as I type this and Liz Lemon says 'If there's anyone who can figure out how to have a career and family, it's me.' Gotta love Tina Fey]

  30. I'm loving this discussion, but I feel a bit outside of it since I am staying at home right now. Prior to having a baby, husband and I both worked long hours and shared much of the housework. The balance often shifted a bit towards me because of a difference in "standards." Husband would plead exhaustion and say he would do the dishes tomorrow, but it would bother me, so I'd end doing them before bed.

    Anyway, making the choice (together) for me to stay at home means that equality is totally thrown out the window, and finding fairness is challenging. My work at home is not all that hard, but it is never-ending, and I spend any free time writing. I rarely get to put my feet up at the end of a "shift." Husband works long hours at an emotionally demanding job, and he is the bread-winner. It is fair that it should be a priority that he get good sleep and have a break at the end of the day. He still needs to make some small contributions to our home, but how do we figure out what is fair? I usually emphasize that he spend time with BabyC or take the dog for a walk, since building/maintaining those relationships is important to us. It would be nice if he would make dinner on his day off every once in a while, too. It is something we are working on. It does create an imbalance in our relationship and is currently one of the major down-sides to staying home for me. I also wonder and worry what kind of example it sets for our daughter, since we are following such traditional gender roles in our household now.

  31. @Alice- my mom stayed home with me and my sister until we were in school, and we both turned out to be feminists with strong careers. I think that perhaps having you stay at home will make it a little harder to raise BabyC to see that gender roles aren't absolute, but it certainly isn't impossible.

    As for your husband doing housework, etc... I am obviously not qualified to comment, since our arrangement is so different. But I will say that I know that some stay at home dads online have posted that they consider their job to be taking care of the kids, not cleaning the house, and therefore their wives still do some housework. Also, when my husband and I were splitting a month working/caring for our new baby after Pumpkin was born, we had a rule that the person staying home the next day got to get the better sleep- we figured a day with the baby was harder than either of our jobs. That was in the early days, though, and Pumpkin was an INTENSE little baby!

    Good luck finding the balance that works for you....

  32. @nicoleandmaggie- Wasn't meant to be a personal attack or hating on anyone's particular way of life. On the contrary I was trying to suggest a feminist need not focus on her particular split of chores with her spouse. That it's about whatever works for her: the SAHM who does 80% or the DINK who does 0% included. I felt the post focused too much on how husbands are awesome. Instead I feel that people like you and Cloud and the many feminists in the blogosphere are awesome. Also your response made me feel a little unwelcome and margianalized, not sure if that was your intention.

  33. @FrauTech- I completely misread your earlier comment! Thank you for coming back and clarifying. I don't know if @Nicoleandmaggie misread it, too, or if you just hit a nerve- but you are of course welcome here. I don't mind people who disagree with me- I welcome it, as long as they are willing to debate! And it is nice that you think I'm awesome. :)

    I think you may have sort of missed the point of my original post, which could be because I made assumptions about the starting point of my readers, which is always a bad idea. My post came from reading both mom bloggers that moan about how their husbands don't do their fair share, and from reading a few feminist blogs that essentially assume that no husband ever does any work.

    So anyway, my point was that my husband isn't some awesome super guy. I think he and I are about equally awesome, really- we're both working parents, doing what needs to be done. But if you listen to the mainstream media, and even to some vocal feminists, husbands like mine are unicorns- i.e., mythical creatures.

    I'm probably still explaining it poorly, but I hope you can kind of see the point. It wasn't to brag about my husband. It was simply to say "He's here. Stop pretending men like him don't exist."


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