Monday, February 09, 2004

Who Does the Laundry?

Today’s entry is total journal. No big points. No rants or raves. If you like your blog posts to come to some sort of neat ending or make some larger points about life. Read no further. This is just an ordinary day in the life.

Morning. Got Jonah on the school bus. Played with the little one while doing random tidying and fielding phone calls from mom and my sister. On the way to pick up Jonah, Ian fell asleep in the stroller guaranteeing no nap for the afternoon and a melt down later in the day. I cursed the nap gods.

When I walked into Jonah’s classroom, the kids were engrossed in an art project. They had drawn pictures of themselves with sad and happy faces. Jonah’s teacher showed me his work with amusement. Under his happy face, which was breathing deeply due to several extra noses, he had drawn a picture of his little brother. His brother was a second head on his shoulder. A sweet moment of sibling love sure to end when his brother dismantled his train tracks later in the afternoon.

After lunch of soup and toast, Angela arrived, and I left for the library. Ian wailed. Guilt.

I read Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected Journey to Motherhood. I had skimmed it last summer, but I wanted to look more closely to see if there was anything useful in it. The book is all about Naomi, her birth experience, and the depressing business of combining family and career.

Her flowery writing style made me wince at times. “...Cara, holding her coffee, would feel her eyes fill with tears that, since there was no point in crying, would never quite spill.”

There’s a lot of self pity from someone writing from her “cavernous suburban home.”

And she’s really pissed off at the husbands. About their inability to pack a diaper bag or cut back on their careers or to chip in with the housework. (This was also a theme in the Caitlin Flanagan article that still is not on line.)

Our situation is a little different around here. Due to a gross miscalculation about the length of time it takes to do a dissertation, both Steve and I were home full time with Jonah during his first year, while we wrote. We had a 50/50 split. As a result of Steve’s year at home, he can pack the diaper bag (if you’re not too picky about sippy cups leaking all over the place). He still does the dishes at night (if you’re not too picky about washing the outside of cups) and all the laundry (if you’re not too picky about shrinkage).

But ours was an unusual situation, and with all the poverty that it entailed, I am not sure that I would recommend that road for anyone.

How much is Naomi’s experience with husbands true? Her book is based solely on her own relationship and the marriages of her other upper middle class friends. The husbands are career focused, Type A types who pull in major incomes to buy the cavernous suburban homes. Are all fathers completely inept or just Naomi’s fathers? Have men not evolved since the days of Ricky Ricardo?

Unable to force the men to do more, the women in Naomi’s book resort to the exploitation of nannies. (Also a theme in the Flanagan article who talks of hiring nannies to do the “shit work.” And the central argument of Arlie Hochschild in her recent book, Commercialization of Intimate Life. Briefly discussed here.)

My first thoughts were to advise all my single friends to stay away from careerist husbands. Girls, go for the slackers. They might not make senior partner, but they’ll make your dinner and play with the kids. You might not be able to afford a house in a town with a good school district, but so what. He’s made lasagna for dinner.

OK, this post sort of morphed into a discussion of dads. If I was really a dedicated blogger, I would rewrite the first paragraph and add a snappy conclusion, but I’m not, so I shan’t.

I’m curious. Who does what in your home? Write me. Or write about it in your blog and send me the link.

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