Friday, August 10, 2007

Is Dad "BABYSITTING" tonight?

The other day I as I was getting my hair done, I was talking to the lady who was in the hairdresser's station next to mine. We had figured out that we both had children around the same age - - mine are 6 and 3, hers 8 and 4. She also happens to be a mom who, like me, works full time. We were discussing some of the difficulties in balancing family life with work life. At some point, I mentioned that I have to occasionally travel for my job. I explained that it is only usually for a few nights, and then, it is only about every other month. Often when I tell people this, I get a variant of the same response: "Who takes care of the kids while you're gone?" I always answer, "well, their dad, of course!" This response tends to really impress people. This particular occasion was no different. My new acquaintance was surprised to find out that my husband is totally responsible for getting the kids ready and to school each morning, picking them up after school, cooking meals, giving baths, doing stories and bedtime. . .the whole nine yards. . .when I am traveling. She just shook her head and said, "if I had to be gone like that, my husband would take the kids to my mom's house."

When I get these type of responses from people, I am always just a bit baffled. Is the expectation for fathers these days really that low? With more and more women working outside the home, I can't even imagine being in a marriage where it wasn't an equal partnership. Chris and I have an accepted rhythm of what each of our responsibilities are around the house: I take care of the grocery shopping, most of the cooking, the finances, taking care of the flowers outside, and most of the cleaning. Chris takes care of mowing and trimming, and most of the laundry and ironing. That's right - - I said my husband does most of the laundry and ironing. Chris attributes the time he spent working in a dry cleaners in high school and college for his top-notch ironing skills - - and he actually doesn't mind doing it. I have only to hang my clothes that I want to wear to work the next day on the ironing board, and they are pressed and ready to go before we go to bed that night. When most women I know hear this, they think that is just incredible. I DO appreciate that he does this - - I really do (especially because I hate ironing) but I don't get why it is such a huge deal to have a husband who actually helps out around the house. Don't we both work full time hours?

In the same vein, it seems that most people don't think much of it when the husband has to travel for work and the wife is left at home to take care of the house and kids. Why then, are women who have to travel for work looked upon by many so unfavorably? When men have to travel for their jobs, people say, "oh - poor you for having to travel and be away from home." When women have to travel for work, people say, "you should be home with your kids" (OK -they often don't say it, but you can tell they're thinking it.) If the woman takes care of the house and kids while her husband is gone, she is just doing her job - it is expected. If the man takes care of the house and kids while his wife is gone, he is deemed practically a saint. Don't get me wrong, I think my husband is great - - and he really is a wonderful dad - I would never want it to seem like I am trying to take something away from him. I just wonder why, here in the 21st century, are such antiquated gender biases still so inherent in our culture?


papadale said...

We have often been amazed with the ability of your hubby to perform all the feats of amazement around the house that he does. It makes us proud that he and his brothers are as at ease in a domestic role as they are in their professional careers. I, personally tried to bring them up right, I just don't know where I went wrong. This brings up point #2, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY SON, AND WHEN WILL HE BE ALLOWED TO VISIT HIS HOME PLANET AGAIN?

Julianne said...

This is my favorite entry yet. We Hale wives seem to be a pretty lucky bunch (you know it pains me to say it but it's true).

Karen said...

I can identify with this too. Every time I go on travel, everyone asks "what will you do with Freya?" It just seems silly and a little diappointing that people don't think a dad can handle it.

Although, I must admit that while he can handle every home routine with her, it scares him to take her out to a restaurant by himself...he doesn't feel competent enough in juggling her and her paraphenalia to be seen in public *laugh*