The double whammy of the publication of Lean In by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer no longer allowing her employees to work from home has turned up the heat on the perennially simmering household “chore war” pot. I can’t browse my Twitter timeline for more than 30 seconds without reading a tweet about husbands who refuse to empty the dishwasher.
I’m so done with it. An article in The Atlantic continues to beat (what should be) the dead horse of who does what, when, how, and where in Familyville. The writer asks dads to ask themselves a series of questions like:
- Do I do half of the laundry and half of the dishes every day?
- Do I buy half of the clothes and toys?
- Do I write half of the lists and notes?
- Do I wake up in the middle of the night to calm the baby half of the time?
- Do I change half of the diapers?
Such questions are a start, I suppose, but anyone who’s been in a family for, say, 60 seconds knows that the problem embedded in such 50/50 propositions is that they don’t work. Such arrangements remind me of hanging out with our new-parent friends: “I did the last diaper, this one’s yours!” “I got the last sippy cup of apple juice, now it’s your turn!”
Does a 50/50 split mean that if Daddy leaves for a five-day business trip, Mommy gets to check herself into the local Hampton Inn for an equal amount of away-from-home time? If Mommy goes to a two-day conference, does Daddy get 48 hours of baby-free living once she returns? Try selling that concept to the three mini-linebackers who tackle her upon her return, immediately demanding 100 percent (or more), no matter what “deal” has been struck.
Life—and love—simply cannot be split into two perfectly differentiated hermetically sealed halves. One atom of effort always drifts from one side to the other. Keeping records of who did what when is hardly a recipe for a happy home.
So, what to do? Some dads (sorry, guys, but it’s true) are Neanderthalian jerks who feign incompetence when in the presence of a dirty dish. It’s just too easy to pass the buck to the Resident Kitchen Expert, who is used to scraping and rinsing and other forms of rocket science. Living with such a lug would surely test the most saintly of women, and, given enough years, maybe even turn her into a bra-burning feminist in her exasperation with a man who drops his competence at the door along with his polished work shoes.
Good parents tell their kids there is no such thing as “fair,” but squabble like schoolgirls over whose turn it is to change the diaper/empty the litter box/lock the back door. We’ve become a nation of big babies who cry/blog/tweet about having to perform an unjust 51 percent of the labor in our homes and, like all babies, we need to grow up.
Cultural, governmental, or gender-related solutions are obviously bereft of real answers, but, sadly, the people who are most entrenched in this particular battle never look for solutions in the only place they can be found.