Dear Wives, We Want to Help and We Want You to Be Able to Relax
I want to share with you my views about gender roles.
One may assume that in the Garden of Eden, Adam took out the fruit rinds, and Eve ironed their fig leaves. It seems that throughout most of history, men and women have been boxed into performing specific tasks. It’s not that women and men are superior at these jobs, but for some reason, these jobs have stereotypically been ingrained in most of our heads, and only in an alternate universe would the husband be doing the laundry and the wife take out the garbage.
Although I grew up in an atypical household, as my mother passed away from breast cancer when I was nine, I nonetheless, still had these stereotypes ingrained in me. I believe society and pop culture plays a large role in this, as most tv shows and movies often depict these stereotypical behaviors and leave little room for deviation from these “norms.” When people spend their time at home witnessing this, and then compounding it through the media, it is hard to shake off.
As a husband and a father of two, I believe that regardless of gender, people should do what is needed in the house. If we need laundry done, I do laundry. If we need cleaning done, I clean. If we need cooking done, I order takeout (I can cook a few things, don’t worry). It is important for husband and wife to communicate, and work together to take care of the necessary errands.
As with just about all things in marriage, in distributing these household chores, it is critical to communicate with your spouse and make sure that you both feel the situation is fair. As time goes on, the allocation of these household tasks becomes routine and there are jobs my wife and I enjoy doing more than others. I have no problem cleaning the dishes, taking out the garbage, and cleaning up the toys at the end of the day. Although I am willing to help, my wife typically is the one to fold the laundry, vacuum the carpet, and bathe our son. I have done those things as well, but we are at the point where we don’t have to communicate as much about tasks we each will do when the time comes.
Equally as important as communication is self-care. Although I know there are always things to be done around the house, I always try to find time for myself to relax. For example, some nights I will choose to play guitar even though there are toys all over the place and lunch hasn’t been made for my son. I am able to relax by reminding myself that it is important to take time to do the things that I am passionate about and by telling myself that everything will get done. My kid has always gone to daycare with lunch. Sometimes it will be ready at night, and sometimes we get it ready in the morning; either way, it will get done. Every day there are hundreds, if not thousands of decisions we have to make about parenting. Some days I am able to do what is needed before relaxing, and other days, I need to relax before finishing whatever needs to get done.
My wife does take the time to relax, but is certainly thinking about the to-do list that continues to get longer and not shorter. I try to encourage her to know that everything will get done, whether today, tomorrow, or some time in the near future. Our kids never skip a meal, our bills will get paid, and the laundry will get done. I know it is important to empathize and listen when she is stressed out, and simply saying “things will get done, don’t worry about it” won’t exactly cut it. It requires a balance of listening, and making a game plan of when things will get done so that she can take that needed break right now.
It is also important to note that there are certain things here and there that don’t need to get done. If we don’t clean up the toys one night (as has been the case many times), we will survive. I would rather relax with a mess around me than not have time to decompress after a busy day. As parents, we are constantly being pulled in different directions, and don’t often have those minutes to unwind. I think a key to a healthy marriage is to be able to have time together, and for each person to be able to have time alone, not worrying about the chores that will never stop piling up. It is also important to understand that the gender roles that society has molded are not a guidebook for parenting and housekeeping, and we must communicate and take time to create fair compromises with our spouses.
Editor’s Note: This piece was written in collaboration with Mabel + Moxie — you can check out “the mom perspective” on household duties here.