Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!!

A couple of weeks ago, as I was writing about nannies and housecleaning, a recurrent theme came up about men. Several writers complained that childcare decisions (and guilt) rested too much on women's shoulders. Also, many women still were unhappy about the unfair distribution of housework. On the subject of male contributions, Todd writes:

I haven't had a chance to finish Flanigan's article, but I'm intrigued by this whole debate. As a man who is recently married to a woman embarking on a high powered legal career, I've done a lot of thinking about how to place myself in regards to traditional gender roles. Personally, I don't have a lot invested in traditional male gender roles. It really made no difference to me if my wife wanted to keep her last name or not. That was her decision.

This whole debate has brought home how much the mundane daily tasks of life, and the men's willingness to assume these tasks, have a broad impact on women's ability to pursue professional goals. It's hard to see a good way to redress this situation on a large scale or through some government intervention, since ultimately these activities take
place in a very private sphere.

On the subject of housecleaning, Kristine writes in:

My husband and I both do laundry, usually in omigosh-there's-no-underwear-
for-anyone-to-wear-tomorrow panic mode. Perhaps I'm too much of a shrew, but it infuriates me that he shrinks things, doesn't pre-treat stains, etc. It's like saying "yeah, you've got those funny feminist ideas, so I'll do the physical work to appease you, but I'll be DAMNED if I'm going to use my precious male brain to actually THINK about laundry." Psychological burden, indeed!

David wrote me a couple of weeks ago, after I threw out the question, "Who does the laundry?" His discussion of housework distribution and care for their daughter in a two career family is interesting. It's not easy.

My wife and I made a concious decision that teaching would be my career as that would afford me more flexible family time and mesh nicely with my wife's career as a real estate agent... Now that wife is at work, I do more cooking, sometimes have to get home earlier or have the toots dropped off at my work, and always be available on weekends. I do almost all childcare on weekends. I can pack the diaper bag just fine, but once the sippy cup is out, I tend to leave it behind. I also do all housework when assigned (I do trash almost nightly, and take it out and bring it in once a week). I am responsible for cleaning the kitchen floor, but do not have an assigned slot to do it in which makes things tricky for me as I am a creature of routine. I usually, but not always, unload the dishwasher. Most importantly, my wife knows that she can ask me to do anything and I will do it. Thus, once or twice a week, I'll do dishes because she wants to give Leonarda a bath. The laundry thing we haven't worked out a new routine yet, so my wife almost always does it, but I'll do loads if I need specific things. We have an HE washer and try to do only full loads so there is a lot of throwing things in with the toots' stuff. I also do a lot of the guy stuff and pick up the living room Thursday nights (the only night that happens).

My wife works three days a week plus weekends in the office, plus some afternoons and evenings (typical real estate hours). However, our financial situation is precarious and we may have to move to a more traditional arrangement if I move to a more traditional job, a decision we will make next year. Two days a week, toots goes to day care (she started at a year old) and one day a week a sitter comes to us.

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