Efficiency be Damned
OK, it's been less than a month since I was laid off and I can already sense the division of labor shifting in our household. It's not that we've lost our determination or will to equally share it's just more efficient. Yes, I said it; Equally Sharing may be more inefficient. We actually addressed this in our Benefits and Challenges of Sharing Housework essay, but up to this point it has been a theoretical discussion.
Amy and I had a little pow-wow last night addressing the situation. We weren't blaming each other but rather paying attention to how easy it is to assign the necessary tasks to the person who is home more. Sure, I can throw in an extra load of laundry, I'll stop by the grocery store after my bike ride, why don't I get dinner started since I'll be home first. This is all mundane household management stuff and makes perfect sense when we focus on the details of these decisions. However, this might be the classic "can't see the forest for the trees" example. The more distance Amy gets from the daily running of the home the more difficult it is for her to enjoy the time she does have.
For instance, Amy likes to cook. I'm not talking about preparing fancy multi-course meals for the kids but she likes to create a meal when she has the chance. I'm pretty sure Amy has no idea what is in the fridge at the moment. If I were to step back and allow her to make dinner tonight it would be nothing more than a chore. She would have to rush home, take inventory, rush to the store for any needed ingredients, and quickly pull together a meal while carting our daughter along for the ride. I can assure you this would not be fun for Amy.
Just to be clear, I'm not proposing a strict accounting of tasks but rather an equitable division of labor with both parties committed to the lifestyle of being equal partners. I'm happy to pick up the slack when I have the time and will continue to do so, as I'm sure Amy would do as well, but our lifestyle is more important to us than efficiently getting through the day. We both want to enjoy the journey!
One more thing we found interesting after last night's discussion was how Amy's job has apparently gotten more demanding. After years of managing her workload based on the hours she could dedicate to work, all of a sudden she is feeling pressure to work more. We think this is a result of having me available at home. Amy can now accept work assignments on her normally scheduled day off, she can go to early morning meetings while I get the kids off to their activities, and she can bring work home because I'm keeping the household running smoothly.
My plan is to defend against the subtle pressures to cast equality aside just to get through the day. I need to defend my breadwinning time (looking for a job), not against Amy's encroaching but in support of the life I want to live and share. Amy would want nothing less for me.