6/16/08

What the F NYT?

Did anyone see this article on the cover of the New York Times Magazine yesterday?

What were they thinking?

Poor unsuspecting (liberal, latte-drinking, Obama-voting) moms and dads woke up yesterday -FATHER'S DAY- to their beloved Sunday New York Times. And we were met with an (at least slightly) unsettling article about the ranges of ways parents attempt to share the daily work of raising children, keeping a house, and running a family. The usual "second-shift" statistics were included as well as a few choice examples of parents who completely split all childcare and housework 50/50. For real.

And at least one liberal, latte-drinking, Obama-voting mom who has less than complete co-parenting wound up looking askance at her own dear husband and seriously thinking about debating the current division of household chores. ON FATHER'S DAY.

What the F were you thinking, NYT? (And no, I did not bring it up yesterday.)

Personally, I would prefer to spend Father's Day without pondering feminism's effect, or lack thereof, on the relative amount of housework done by mothers and fathers.  

Of course, true feminism is all about choices (IMO): all women should have the choice to be stay-at-home moms/homemakers, work at the highest levels of corporate America and everything in between. And these days, we almost DO have that choice.  But each choice comes at a price.

The most interesting point of the article to me was the discussion of how so many feminists who go into marriage and motherhood hoping to share the load equally STILL wind up doing so much more of the housework and childcare. This is the hard part, the sticky part, for me. I chose to stay home for Zoe's first 18 months, and work very part time after that, for many, many reasons. My mom stayed home with me till I went to school and I really valued that. I nursed Zoe for 14 months and though we gave her a bottle at least once a week, you couldn't pay me enough to pump 5 times a day and forgo what I feel to be one of the highlights of my life:  nursing.  I had the more flexible career (As a Pilates instructor, I can easily work part time, while CG's position as an academic is inherently BEYOND full time). I was sort of in between careers (When I got pregnant, I stopped dancing which was the primary focus of my twenties and early thirties). I studied child development and psychology in college and have always been interested in working with children and applying some of what I learned.  

I have always, always wanted to be a mother.

But this article points out some deeper questions: how did all those things come to pass? Why is that I never went down the academic path that CG did (and I once aspired to)? Why did we both assume this is how it would be?  Why was I always more interested in creating a work/life balance than making some huge mark on the world?  Why was my one true goal in life "to be a mother"?

I have no answers and I'm NOT UNHAPPY with our choices and decisions. I feel so blessed that I was able to spend the first year and a half completely, totally with Zoe. Many women would kill to do it and I was able to.  And many would (should!) probably kill for my husband.  CG does a ton of work around our house and though I do more of the traditionally female housework (shopping, cooking, laundry, tidying, thank you notes) and he the traditionally male stuff (yard work, grilling, paying bills, fixing/installing things, maintaining computers), the division was all based on skill and interest and we work hard to share the childcare when he's home.

One important point that the article failed to mention: the couples who both work and stagger their work schedules in order to maximize the time each parent has with the kids don't talk about how this effects their marriage. I could easily see Pilates clients at night and weekends when CG is home with Zoe. But we wouldn't see each other AT ALL and I know our marriage would suffer.  We would both have full careers, a relationship with our child, and a lot more money but at what price?

I have no easy answers and no good way to finish this post.

2 comments:

My Buddy Mimi said...

I read the article too and had the same thought about the effects of staggered schedules on marriage. I have been sick for a couple of days though, and I just couldn't get enough energy up to get upset or even write anything coherent about it.

Joanna said...

I saw that article as well and thought that it was odd timing with Father's Day and all. It took me about six months to get over the anger I had after I had my baby girl that so much of everything fell on my shoulders. My husband is wonderful and does all he can to support and help (including picking up the kitchen every once in awhile) but so much still fell on me because I was the mommy. I would never trade the job, but I did not have a complete picture of the full scope of things before I gave birth. We are just about to have a second baby and I am wondering if it will feel the same this time around.

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