I have discussions with working moms quite frequently related to the competing values of pursuing a career and being a mom. There seems to be a tremendous amount of pressure and sometimes guilt associated with trying to juggle their responsibilities. One mom of preschoolers recently confided: “Being a mom is just different than being a dad. At least with a baby it is. . . . I guess in an ideal world there’s a 50/50 split of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, bedtime story telling, baths, boo-boo kissing, etc. But is that really true for families you know? When I check with my friends, my husband seems to be more involved than the average, but I’m still the primary homemaker.” When I asked what she meant by the term “homemaker” she said: “I don’t know another word for it. It’s all the work that happens at home. Someone has to do the job.”
We could pause here and address the pressures of single parenting. But that’s another blog, for another time. Right now, I am wondering how many married moms sometimes feel like a single parent when it comes to homemaking? Okay, that’s probably a dramatic comparison, and maybe it is unrealistic to try to find a 50/50 solution. I also understand that some personalities in a relationship may be just more naturally wired to assume the homemaking roles. At least that’s the excuse I used when my kids were preschoolers. I did improve slightly with the parenting duties when they moved through the elementary years and into their teens. But if homemaking is “all the work that happens at home,” then maybe we should be more creative in how we share the responsibilities.
I made the mistake of getting a list of homemaker responsibilities from this mom. This was the partial list she sent:
“Planning play dates, picking a preschool, arranging for childcare, going to the pediatrician, tracking development, grocery shopping, getting pictures taken and sent to grandparents, filling out the baby book, recording memories, disciplining, reading discipline books, changing diapers, buying baby clothes, making baby food, preparing meals, making sure we’ve always got the epi pen, potty training, giving baths, knowing the nap schedule, interpreting baby-talk, coming up with fun and educational games, teaching manners, networking with other moms (parents), planning birthday parties, going to other kids birthday parties, packing the diaper bag, changing batteries in the toys, laundry, laundry and more laundry. . . . As kids get older, it’s also figuring out what sports and activities to sign up for, finding the best piano teacher, discovering the right baseball league, going to teacher conferences, PTA, driving to practice, going to games, recitals and shows, helping with homework, researching books and movies before they read them or go see them, keeping up with their friends—it all seems overwhelming.”
She is not suggesting that her husband will not help with her homemaker responsibilities. She is just implying that she feels primarily responsible.
If you are a dad reading this, what I’m about to ask you to do could be dangerous.
Look at the list above and attempt to write a percentage of your involvement next to some of the homemaking responsibilities. (For example, what percentage of the laundry or grocery shopping do you do?)
Am I suggesting that you should do 50 percent of the laundry or diaper-changing? Not necessarily. But maybe you should pick a few of items on the list and increase your level of involvement. Bump that 10 percent to 20 percent. Or better yet, do 75 percent of the laundry. Contrary to what some may say, it won’t make you a wimpy, spineless man if you increase your homemaking skills. It could be a positive step for your family and marriage if you took some of the pressure off mom.