Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Honey-Do-List

When I find myself talking about ESP in a social gathering, I often hear women share their strategies for getting the men in their lives to do a decent amount of housework. Simply stated, they say "I just tell him what needs to be done because he would never notice on his own."

Are there really any human beings who volunteer to do chores that they know someone else will either do or ask them to do later anyway? Tradition says that women own the running of the house and men take direction from them. I would suggest that men will only take charge of tasks when women stop doing the managing.

Everyone needs reminding sometimes, of course, but men are as capable as women when it comes to running a household on their own. Think about single men without partners - do all of them rely on someone else (their parents, their friends) to remind them things need to be done? Doesn't a man remember to do his own laundry, pick up dry-cleaning, get his hair cut or call his mother on her birthday before he decides to marry? I won't deny that the vast majority of the remembering and assigning is done by women, but I think this is a cultural thing rather than an in inborn male deficiency. Understanding and addressing this subtle inequality is really at the essence of equally shared parenting.

Men may have their own style of remembering that is counterintuitive to a woman's way. Not to generalize, but maybe men handle responsibilities more on the fly than with extensive planning and checklists. Or maybe they prioritize things differently, often foregoing some duties that actually don't even need doing at all (but women would deem crucial).

People need to be given the space and freedom to do things their own way. After a couple decides together that a specific task needs to be done, and then together assigns that task to the man, it is best for the woman to get out of the way - no reminding, no nagging, no checking up, no wringing of hands. If the man senses that the woman is still subconsciously holding onto the task, he doesn't need to fully accept ownership. If he senses that his partner has moved on to other things and trusts him to do what he agreed was his to do, he can truly own the task.

The 'honey-do' list is an example of quasi-equality that really leaves the woman in charge. If both partners gave each other 'honey do' lists, I suppose this would be a different story, but how often do you hear of a man presenting his wife with a list of things to accomplish? With the classic 'honey-do' list, the woman is directing the man; this is not a true partnership. I agree that the list helps to outline the tasks that lie ahead, and that it can be useful if a man requests such a list, and that it can even be the beginning of equalizing household tasks in a home where the man really isn't pulling his weight at all. But for couples who want to move beyond surface equalizing to true equality, the 'honey-do' list has got to go.


Blogger Amanda Shankle-Knowlton said...

Thank you for articulating that so well. Even though both of us do a great deal around the house and caring for the baby, the act of delegating tasks *is* stressful and that's why I feel like I'm doing more than he is. My husband has ADD, so the reminders are actually necessary, but we are trying to find a website or other system to handle the delegating of duties and give gentle reminders until completed. Has anyone else used anything like that?

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree. IMO the problem is that a lot of women want to be in charge of the household and don't want to let go of things. They are the ones who are clinging to the idea that the home is the women's domain. I've heard a lot women say things like "if the house is disorganized/not clean/etc. it reflects poorly on the wife." But it's women who thing that, not men.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your well presented argument also. Unfortunately for me, when I let go of managing the tasks needing done and left it up to my husband, we developed a first time ever mouse-problem. In our culture, it truly does reflect on the women when a house is messy, poorly decorated, etc and so many men do not know or care about common household management. So, I'm using my energy to raise my son and daughter to both be equally knowledgeable on the fine points of keeping a nice home!

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm married to a man from another culture. That he does anything AT ALL is a wonder to my in-laws (and not in a positive way!). I think I am stuck with the honey-do list for the foreseeable future. However, there are certain small tasks that he has fully committed to and completely takes care of. It took years to get here. I'm not kidding. Years. You can't simply not clean the toilet (esp w/young children) and claim "she won't let go of this" or "her standards are too high." Alas.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Liftoff Lady said...

I guess I'm the odd duck. I've never been a very good housekeeper and my husband, who lived alone for quite a while, developed the skills that I never did. He's much more likely to clean up around the house and to notice things that I don't. I think since our baby was born he's started doing less housework because our son takes up a lot of time, and I've picked up a bit of it, but he probably still does more than I do.

9:59 PM  

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