The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article, Why Mom's Time is Different Than Dad's Time, by Jennifer Senior, the author of a soon-to-be published book, "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood." Her article references a study that indicates that men and women -- husbands and wives -- work roughly the same number of hours per week. Men work more paid hours and women work more unpaid hours, but at the end of the week, everyone has punched the clock for a similar amount of time.
Yet, says Senior, women are still cranky about this because they believe men don't do their share of the household tasks. She makes no mention of the idea that women should pick up more paid hours to compensate, or to allow their husbands to work less. Nope, it's just about hubby working more so that the wife feels better.
How about instead, women say, "Gee, honey look at this! We're both working equally hard!"?
Senior notes that women's work is difficult because it requires multitasking. We have to do things that have to be done now. "Complicating matters,"she writes, "mothers assume a disproportionate number of time-sensitive domestic tasks, whether it's getting their toddlers dressed for school or their 12-year-olds off to swim practice."
But I think some of this time pressure is overdone. Getting a toddler dressed is a pain in the neck, but no toddler ever died from going to pre-school in pajama pants or mismatched socks. In fact, my 5-year-old is wearing mismatched socks today, as he does 90 percent of the time. His kindergarten teacher hasn't commented. In fact, I doubt she notices because she has 23 other kindergarten children to worry about.
While I would love for my husband to take over additional household tasks, I only work 20 paid hours per week, so it's just downright logical that I take on the bulk of the household tasks. If I worked more hours, he'd take on my household tasks.
If it's making me too stressed out, the solution isn't to dump more stress on my husband (who probably puts in 50-60 hours of paid work per week). It's for me to realize that keeping score and trying to categorize tasks is adding to the stress instead of alleviating it.
I think commentary like Senior's can contribute to what may be a false perception of unfairness on the part of some women. Worse, they could conclude that the answer is to make things more unfair for men. Everyone is working. Let's just be nice to each other.