Friday, 23 April 2010

sharing the load

here's an excellent post and discussion thread at blue milk, which i just caught up with today. it's basically about sharing the workload of housework and childrearing, and the difficulties that tend to arise from that:

I have had two important breakthroughs. Let’s skip the whole idea that one of those breakthroughs might have been achieving true equality as feminist parents with our work and family life. I don’t want to disappoint. Frankly, if becoming a parent (at least in a heterosexual way) isn’t an experience in compromising your feminist principles and seeing just how far you can bend over backwards to accommodate the patriarchy then I don’t know what else it might be.

[...]

I am five years into this working mother thing, and I am still shocked about how unfair the work-family split is – all the work of getting it to happen, getting it to work, and keeping it running smoothly is done by mothers. It seems ridiculous – two people working, two people are parents – the organisational workload should be shared, but that isn’t how it happens. I am torn between fighting to get some equality and conserving my energy to deal with making what actually happens work for me, and especially for the children (which are like the carrot to the donkey for women).

i'd really recommend reading the whole thing, including the shared experiences in comments.

i won't share my own experiences on the matter, since i don't blog anonymously. but after reading this piece, and i know it's strange, but i really came to appreciate my gardener. i mean, i did already appreciate the work he does and his reliability, friendliness and helpfulness.

admitted that this is someone i pay to do stuff for me. yet it's just so relaxing to ask him to do things and have them done in a timely fashion, and with a cheerful manner. no need for constant reminders, no having to put up with him taking as long as possible to do it just to show that he's not subservient to his wife, no huffing and dragging himself around as if it's just so inconvenient to be doing this particular thing, no acting like he's doing me a big favour just by doing something that i shouldn't have needed to ask him to do anyway, no frustration at having the job done sloppily, no bewilderment/frustration that i don't appreciate that he finally got up and did stuff that other men don't do, no arguments, no stress.

not saying that i had to deal with any or all of these, but it just nice to know that they won't be an issue. and mostly i don't even have to ask him to do stuff, he actually works out what needs to be done, checks in with me that it's ok to go ahead, then just quietly gets it done.

in fact, it's the perfect relationship.

8 comments:

Flynn the Cat said...

Wait, is that a teenager or a husband? I was getting confused!

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that is one of the factors that has lead to me deciding not to have children. Not the only one by any means, but it has definitely made me think hard about it.

blue milk said...

Thanks for the link love.

Moz said...

I was bemused at how much I empathised with that... being a childfree male and all. Take some responsibility for your environment, dammit!

Sometimes I fear my relationship is like that... other times I fear we fight too much for control of the house. Part of it is a need to split responsibilities and have clear lines. Living in a share house makes it easier to be obvious, becuase six adults need structure or it all falls apart. So I do wonder if some couples might have more luck with a housework roster of some sort. Two different friends of mine are doing the split work thing - she works MTW, he works WTF and there's outside care the day they both work. That seems to work better, but from the outside I'm sure quite how much better.

Mikaere Curtis said...

OK. I’m a guy.

And I think the men largely described in the posts above are shits of the highest order. Sitting back while the mother of your child(ren) struggles is unforgivable. However…

Here’s my challenge to the women who posted above:

What exactly, of your partner’s behaviour, __really__ surprised you. Srsly !

It seems to me that the common theme was that the mothers considered that their partners would automagikally get onboard with the whole child-rearing thing.

And that they (the male partners) would alter their personal modus operandi such that they would take on an equitable share of the child-rearing responsibilities.

I’ll go a step further: Why were you attracted to your partner in the first place – was it their inherent childrearing capability, or was it their sense of fun ?

I’d say the latter, and this is the thing: Good fun is not the same as Responsible Partner. Not even remotely. Face it, the fun men in your life are primarily out for fun first, and responsibility a very remote second.

And I’ll go one further: the journey to motherhood necesitates hormonal changes such that child-rearing support issues are of primary importance tp her. This is often known as “Nesting”.

However, for a guy, nothing in particular has changed. The wife/partner/girlfriend has different priorities, but for HIM, it’s all BAU (business as usual).

And this is where I think the majority of posters in this thread risked a non-happy outcome.

Some (many?) relationships enable men to be lazy because that is what the man wants, and because that is the path of least resistence for his partner . And when those same relationships bring a newborn into life, the woman wishes that the man would actually step up. However, he has established a history of laziness, so why would he ?

Expecting the above man to have insight into the situation is akin to expecting him to mind-read.

Must be said: I’m not that guy. I have always helped out, right from the beginning. When I get home from work, I say to my wife: “What can I do to help”, and then I do what she asks. Every day.

Mikaere Curtis said...

I meant to say that I was referring to the posts in BM's original discussion thread, but somehow that aspect of my comment was deleted.

stargazer said...

ok, mr curtis, this has been annoying me all day, but i haven't had time to get to it, my attention being elsewhere.

the problem i have with your main comment is that it gave me a sense of "you women, it's your own fault for putting up with male nonsense". and that seems rather ridiculous, given that many of the women commenting at blue milk stated that there had been reasonable sharing of the workload until children came along. so there's absolutely no way that they could predict what was going to happen.

and about men not having the whole "nesting" hormonal thing. so what? they know there's a child on the way, they know things are going to be different. they have a responsibility to figure out what's going to be different and what they need to be doing. one of the commentors talked about leaving books about babies around the house which her partner refused to read. i suppose that's her fault as well.

the thing is, you are so clear that you don't behave in these ways, and you make sure you do your share without having to be asked. so you know it's very possible. yet you seem to be making excuses for other men that don't, in the sense that it's their partners who have somehow trained them to be lazy. i don't accept that for a second.

i think you also missed the point that so many women were making: that they didn't have the energy for the endless arguments that were required for proper sharing to happen. and their frustration that they shouldn't need to be having those arguments in the first place.

Mikaere Curtis said...

yet you seem to be making excuses for other men that don't, in the sense that it's their partners who have somehow trained them to be lazy. i don't accept that for a second.
No, I do not think there is any excuse for being a lazy father. I even said it was "unforgivable" in my opening paragraph.

What I am saying is that the issue of not taking responsibility is one that is likely to have pre-dated having children.

All of the lazy fathers I know were lazy partners before they became fathers.

And understanding this is key because it enables you to get to the crux of the issue (typically, an overdeveloped sense of entitlement on the part of the father). Dealing with the fundamental issue(s) will enable you to deal with the proximate issue (i.e. not taking responsibility).

and about men not having the whole "nesting" hormonal thing. so what?
Simply that while it engenders (pun intended) a focus on domestic tasks in a woman (in my observation, it even affects those where were less than houseproud), it does not affect men. This makes the issue of not taking responsibility even more acute from the woman's perspective.

i think you also missed the point that so many women were making: that they didn't have the energy for the endless arguments that were required for proper sharing to happen. and their frustration that they shouldn't need to be having those arguments in the first place.
No, I totally got it. I just thought they were missing the fundamental cause of the issue (and the source of the frustration). Its a "can't see the wood for the trees" thing.