Finally! After a bit of persuading, my wonderful husband Brian (whom I have mentioned in several of my previous posts) has written a post for this blog.
This funny and honest piece is actually about an issue we have had since the beginning of our marriage and was triggered by a very recent, very emotional fight.We never had a chance to resolve the fight because he had to hop on a plane for Uganda that same day and I was left feeling pretty hopeless about the issue. But after reading this, I feel like after so many years of arguing about this specific topic, he finally “gets” my perspective. I hope you read this and enjoy it as much as I did and for couples in the same situation, I hope it sparks some good and fruitful discussions.
Throughout our fourteen years of marriage, we have had a number of recurring battles over various issues. One issue in particular, however, has arguably resulted in some of the most contentious skirmishes: that is, the division of labour in the home. Usually, neither of us come out of these battles unscathed. Sometimes the wounds feel near mortal, but we eventually get over them and move on with our busy schedules. (Or more accurately, file them away until piles of unfolded laundry triggers another melee.)
Recently, we had one of these (loud) conversations and as usual, it ended unsatisfactorily. Me feeling like my contributions in the home were not recognized or appreciated, and Doris feeling like I had no clue.
Soon after, I just happened to be
fleeing leaving the continent, so I had 40+ hours of travelling to reflect. Through the magic of Facebook algorithms, I came across this article on Today’s Parent called Till Chores Do Us Part. It’s quite a long article, but hey, I had 40 hours. The author might as well have been writing specifically about our marriage.
In a nutshell, the article states that modern husbands have picked up a larger share of household chores and are doing more than previous generations. Yes! We clean more and we spend more time with the kids. My point exactly.
When you boil it down to cumulative hours spent working (in or out of the home), it works out to be comparable. And I have always insisted that if things become unfair, Doris simply needs to tell me what I could do to help her. Similarly, the author writes, “my husband insists he’d happily do more if it meant I could pull back (and be less not-so-quietly resentful). I just have to ask. Ah, yes, the “Just tell me what to do!” defence—like nails on a chalkboard to female household managers everywhere.”
Herein lies the disparity. Generally speaking, the responsibility to manage the household has continued to fall on the wife’s shoulders. I can easily admit this is the case in our home. Doris, on top of her own full-time job, is the master scheduler/organizer in our home. She manages her calendar, my calendar, and the kids increasingly busy schedules, making sure that everything runs as it should. This probably has always been the case, but it became explicit when I was working part-time for church. Logging in 40+ hours/week for my regular job, with an additional 10 hours/week of commuting, on top of part-time duties at church meant that I needed a lot of help with scheduling. So I went where I was told to go, met with who I was told to meet with and did whatever I was asked to do around the house. But, even after my part-time duties ended, I have continued to rely on Doris to manage my life and our family’s life.
I have happily abdicated this mental work to my wife, not realizing the additional burden it has put on her. The above comic (from blogger Emma) describes the situation well. To frame it in business terms, wives are not only expected to be the project leader/manager (which is a full-time job in itself), but also to execute the work. So even though the actual division of household duties may be reaching parity, it is this “mental work” that remains inequitable.
I had no clue. So this blog post is my attempt to start the conversation. In what ways can husbands practically share in this invisible, difficult-to-quantify mental work? How can we take on some of the burden?
Doris, tell me what to do and I’ll do it… Just kidding.
Let’s work together – I’ll schedule a meeting.