Further Adventures in Gender Parity

It's been pretty straightforward in the 10+ years B and I have been together (including the almost 8 we've been married.)* We split things 50/50 and try to be fair. She does half the working, I do half the cooking and cleaning. We have some exceptions - I do 100% of the dishes (well, actually, maybe 90%) and she does stuff I can't be bothered with like dusting. I clean the bathroom. She cleans the kitchen. Etc. I've spent six years gainfully semi-employed as a graduate student, teaching and bringing in grants as I can, while she's been gainfully half-employed as a university staff member, spending the other half of her time working on her beasties. We've been broke as a couple of jokes but rich in those ineffable things like time, sleep, and cheap alcohol.**

With Plan C (latest nickname: Squirmbot 2000) in the house, it's been interesting. We're still splitting things 50/50 as much as we can: B has the boobs, I run the supplemental formula feedings, she ends up on soothing duty a little more, I go on all the grocery runs, we split diaper duty. The thing is, I can't believe anyone can do this if they had, you know, REAL JOBS. If I had to "go back to work" it would be a complete bloody disaster. You really can't do anything else when you're baby-minding; even if you're not actually feeding them at that exact moment, you have to be really vigilant. Furthermore, Squirmbot is already at the point that she knows when people aren't paying attention to her. I have her on my arm right now, trying to write this blog post, and every time I spend more than about four seconds looking at the monitor, she starts complaining. Vocally.

My point? Ultimately, it reminds me again of the historicity of the nuclear family. You could only pull off the "mom, dad, baby, dad works, mom baby-minds" thing if you had hired help. It makes a huge amount of sense to me that family units were extended for almost all of history; you need those other people, the traditionally female core (and, I suppose, corps) of "reproductive labor" like aunts, mothers, mothers-in-law, etc., to make this process viable without the mother diving off the nearest cliff after two weeks.

I have never been more happy to be able to be home than I am right now; we need a 50/50 split of domestic labor right now. This isn't our ongoing feminist trip, this is just survival.

* Not to shamelessly brag or anything. Not to toot my own marital horn.
** Cheap alcohol IS SO "ineffable." Back off.


noncoupable said...

I totally agree on the extended family thing. It exists in most Asian countries still. In Europe, they have extended maternity *and* paternity leave (6-12 and 2-3 months, respectively). I don't get the U.S.

becky said...

i love you right now.

becky said...

maybe that came out weird. i love that you GET this. you are (i think) in the minority of men who understand any part of what you have written, and becky is super lucky (and smart) to have baby-made with you. i mean, my husband is great and did all that he could and more to help me keep from diving off a cliff while he was working and jack was a wee screamer, but i don't really think he ever fully understood what you have just summed up in one little post.

hardcori said...

It makes sense why the times we were a nation of stay at home moms while dad works didn't work out so well, and the women are still rebelling!

Brown said...

I applaud your comfort in sharing your epiphany. I'm sure you can totally appreciate single, full-time working parents. (in the event you didn't before)

I come from a collective, (family-centric) culture, unlike the individualistic (career-driven) one in America and although I don't have children personally, I come from a large family and am an uncle 7 times over. I was raised around a plethora of family members and to continue tradition, help where I can with new additions. Babies are wonderful blessings, but as you know, they certainly are not easy. I cannot imagine how people without help do not go absolutely insane.