pregnancy and parenthood

What moms can learn from dads

Several blogs and articles recently swept my newsfeed about how studies show that even in today’s attempted egalitarian households, moms are the ones taking the brunt at home. 

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“… when Saturday arrives, new research shows men are often on the couch while women are the ones doing housework with a ‘leisure time’ discrepancy of more than 50 minutes a day on the weekends. The study revealed that women were more likely than men to spend their weekends watching kids or performing housework.”

I think balance is something we all struggle with today, whether both parents work out of the home or one stays at home, and it’s a struggle that comes in waves that we must always prioritize.

I am able to stay home while my husband works. We’re currently operating under the “old-fashioned breadwinner” model, even though, as other findings point out, it’s not as antiquated as one might assume while today’s stay-at-home parents re-define what their homefront roles entail.

I do feel that my husband and I have achieved a mostly healthy balance, for now, because we do value egalitarian roles in parenting even under this “traditional” model. He doesn’t view my contributions at home as any less of a job than what he does all day, and so when he comes home, he doesn’t hesitate to help or acknowledge that I need a break too.

Still, I can relate to some of the things being explored in this study’s findings that despite a “modern” dad, I catch myself being default parent on the weekends.

I’m the one who winds up making meals and snacks for our toddler. I’m the one who plans what activities to do as a family. I’m the one who keeps track of errands and appointments. I’m the one who picks up the toys, washes towels and sheets, cleans sticky surfaces, vacuums messes, sweeps and organizes the garage, picks up the dog poop. Before you think I’m tooting my horn, keep reading.

My husband doesn’t just “sit on the couch” all weekend; he is likely to do the dishes, wash his own clothes, change diapers, and let me “sleep in” while making a pot of hot coffee – but yes, he is way better than I am at carving out that extra “leisure time.”

While my brain is still functioning in “go, go, go mode,” he is able to overlook the knocked over toy bin in the living room and play a round of Xbox. He is more likely to prioritize a hunting trip with his co-workers on Sunday evenings, and make that happen, while Sunday evenings for me signal all the meal planning I have to do.

For a hot second I wanted to pat myself and fellow moms on the back. Then I quickly changed my tune. Wait – why are these articles presenting their findings as if moms are better for working harder, and dads lazier for that “extra 50 minutes of leisure?” I want to be more like the dads in these studies!

The last thing either of us need more of on the weekends is work. For all my fellow stay-at-home parents, we’re longing to do something other than what we do every damn day. For all my career-juggling parents, you’re longing to do something that isn’t categorized as work, whether that’s house-or-job related.

It’s cliche to say, and we hear it all the time, but the dishes can wait. (Although, that is one chore that technically can’t wait in my house because it’s the one chore that drives my husband nuts, and his sanity isn’t worth the lingering crumbs). But it’s a sentiment that can be applied to this common struggle of balance in family life.

Maybe “modern” dads are just better at mentally compartmentalizing work and life, and they recognize that weekends are short and that they need to fill their cups a little bit. Maybe it’s hardly that they’re relaxing because they expect we will handle everything for them, more than it is they’re relaxing because they’re honoring leisure time as valuable, and they’d like it if we joined them.

Maybe all we have to do as women to attain better balance is to do more of what they are doing. I mean seriously, will our households fall apart in those little 50 minutes of extra leisure time? No.

Truthfully, my husband and I are great at executing our individual contributions to the family. But where we differ is that I am admittedly a slacker at prioritizing balance for myself – those fun things that serve no other purpose than to fill my cup. I do them, just not as frequently as I could or should. Not as frequently as he does it.

So it begs the question, what is more beneficial for my family at the end of the day? Asking my husband to work more? Or my husband asking me to rest more?

I think sometimes we try to answer that question by trying to satisfy both. “I’ll rest when this is done.” But, how well is that system working out for us?

Work is never-ending, and if we keep prioritizing work above leisure time because we feel we don’t deserve it if the laundry, dishes, and errands aren’t done, then balance is something we will unfortunately be chasing forever.

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