Married millennial moms: please stop doing it all
It’s been increasingly popular lately in the Internetosphere to talk about how women’s disproportionately large share of household and childraising duties at home hinder their career and personal development, in contrast to their male spouses.
Dinner, vacuuming, and bedtimes be taking up massively more of ladies’ time, is the common sentiment.
I think it began post #metoo as a rather petulant op-ed by a darling feminist writer here on Medium (which I don’t care to link to because I think it’s mostly sexist theoretical pseudo-academic garbage). But now memes like this are passed along by men and women alike as a statement of fact:
I don’t want to talk about whether or not this is true in reality, or what the data says (it’s all quite subjective). I personally feel quite torn on the subject, because in my experience, I’ve found there are a lot of moving pieces. Which is why I want to talk about why this might be the reality for many women — and what women themselves could be doing to perpetuate the problem.
I want to talk directly to the mothers in monogamous heterosexual partnerships who tend to level this complaint. And I feel like I can: it’s my demographic.
I want to talk to the ladies about how we women can perhaps help ourselves, so we can all have more of what we’re supposed to be aiming for: equity.
The Prime Nesting Directive
It was a rarely but potently used running joke in my household: dad could rebuild a car engine and construct a house, but he couldn’t figure out how to unload the dishwasher.
Mom and dad would both giggle, because this was all part of their synchronous and mutually designed dance. Dad kept us in cars and gadgets and a 40 acre homestead on a shoestring budget with handcraftiness, and mom maintained a comfortable home and garden. Both maintained incomes, of course. And it worked for them, really well.
But for all the beauty of that synchronous dance, there were some…convoluted steps.
Of course dad was capable of running the dishwasher. He wasn’t, however, confident in his ability to run it to his wife’s satisfaction. “Do NOT run the dishwasher with the heated dry option!” she would scold us. And there were many rules — wooden handled things never go in the dishwasher; occasional pieces of plastic weren’t dishwasher safe; then there was the organization of how it should be loaded, not to mention the biggest obstacle of all: WHERE TO PUT IT ALL AWAY??!
My dad simply did the math. The risk of failure was too high. It outweighed the potential benefits of doing it well. So he simply abstained. Same with laundry and the vacuum (not that he couldn’t run a mean shop vac).
Mom manifested dad’s incompetence by default. The system she’d created to care for the household had become a gauntlet.
This is a subtle but potent thing that women do. Women develop a specific methodology for homemaking, which is a unique blend of modern solutions and traditions from her mother and grandmother, and become quite rooted in it. This is the way we’ve developed, because it’s the best way.
But it’s a system designed by one, for one. It’s a system designed to make anyone other than its creator fail. And it’s a system which took exactly no input from other potential users.
And you can see how, in a relationship with segmented (and even) role distribution like mom and dad’s, this is both understandable and relatively harmless, if not comedic. But you can also see how in a relationship which requires more blended roles to achieve equilibrium, this methodology could spell disaster.
I don’t know if this is behavior that manifests itself around me a lot because I’m in the midwest, or if it’s quite universal, but I do know that I’ve lived long enough to see it carry across generations.
I see my millennial peers doing pretty much exactly the same thing as our mother’s generation.
And I have to tell you: on mom, by this point, it’s funny. On my peers…it’s just ugly.
New Mom Fortress Syndrome
Here’s the rub:
Compound this tendency — let’s call it the Prime Nesting Directive — with the swirling mass of gadgets and choices surrounding modern new motherhood, and we have a nearly impenetrable fortress of mom-mandated systems.
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