Dads — Equality Is Up to You

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Senj, Kroatien. All rights © Ante Hamersmit

We will never achieve equality if only moms are telling only their daughters, You can be anything you want to be when you grow up. Yes. Every generation this becomes more true. But it will never be universal if the workplace changes but the homefront never does.

Dads must tell their sons, You need to do half the household management and half the housework. They need to model it. Our shared cultural values need to reflect that a “real man” pulls his weight at home. Every man has to balance his professional ambition with his family obligations — just the way women have since the 60s.

Otherwise, we’re just collectively telling women, you can *also* take on a full-time job.

Feminism requires equal opportunity for women in the workplace. And it requires equal responsibility and initiative of men in the household.

But feminism isn’t women having two full-time jobs — the full-time responsibility of managing the homefront and building a career around an often underpaid job. Feminism is men doing their share at home — even if that means making professional compromises and even full-on sacrifices.

Feminism is not 200%. Feminism has to be 50/50.

Every relationship is different. Some couples will be 60/40 or 70/30. But it’s not good enough to add opportunities for women without subtracting obligations.

We can’t achieve our highest professional potential if we’re 100% responsible for the homefront.

Whether you like the label of feminism or not, if you want your daughters to grow up to be their fullest selves, to not have their personal and professional ambitions whittled down, you have to do more than tell them they can be anything they want to be. You have to do more than get them through school and into vocational training or college or grad school.

Dads — if you want your daughters to be equal in this world you have to model equality at home for your sons. They have to see you folding laundry and doing dishes. They have to see you knowing what to add to the grocery list because you also have a mental inventory of what’s running low throughout the house. They need to go grocery shopping with you and see you scroll through your mental Rolodex. They need to see you take initiative about getting meals planned, prepped, fruits and vegetables washed, cooked and cleaned up. They need to watch you strategizing about finances and managing your time before work and the precious few hours you have in the evening as a family.

Women will always be fighting an internalized system in their heterosexual relationships if boys grow up in homes where their mommies do all or the majority of the housework and household management.

Dads — you have to do your 50% in the home if your sons are going to grow up to have girlfriends and wives and partners who do their 50% of the bread-winning.

The goal of feminism was never for women to be able to have equality in the workforce while still doing 100% of the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning and planning at home.

It’s not enough to tell little girls they can be just like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Kamala Harris when they grow up. We also have to tell little boys that being a great father and supportive husband, like Marty Ginsburg and Doug Emhoff, is noble, admirable — masculine.

And remember — if you’re an adult, don’t use the word “help.” You’re not helping her with “her” responsibilities. You’re pulling your own damn weight. This is the same hidden dagger as calling parenting ‘babysitting’ when dads “pitch in” and do what moms are expected to. They’re not temporarily relieving their female partners of their full-time maternal obligation; they’re fulfilling their paternal obligation.

Don’t ask her if she needs “help” in lieu of keeping tabs on dishes, laundry, lightbulbs, trash, grocery shopping, etc. yourself. YOU need to know what needs to be done too. She is not your project manager. Scan the horizon and take initiative. It’s not her responsibility to give you a honey-do list which too many men then turn around and complain about. If you resent your partner for being a “nag” ask yourself what it is she’s nagging you about. Chances are, it’s things she shouldn’t have to ask you to do.

Sometimes, rather than start a fight, women will say, Could you help me with ____? Because it’s nicer than, Will you fucking do your Goddamned share around here for once?? But gentlemen, it’s your responsibility to prevent this point of no return. Don’t neglect your 50%. Don’t take advantage of her desire to keep the peace. Don’t coast until she snaps.*

The emotional labor of having to explain the division of household labor compounds the stress.

That’s not to say that couples won’t disagree and argue about personal preferences like how tidy or how relaxed the household should be. That is an interpersonal conversation without absolute right or wrong answers. You have to navigate that as a couple.

But the absolutes? Food? Dishes? Laundry? Knowing when the bills are due and paying them on time? You have to eat to survive. And in this society, we have to maintain a modicum of hygiene. These basics are constant and they’re non-negotiable.

Women are constantly advocating for ourselves in the world and in the workforce. Please don’t make us have to politically advocate for ourselves at home with you too. We’re tired after work too.

Unless you have mutually agreed that one person delegates, both parties need to take initiative and stay on top of everything that needs to be done in this shared life you’re doing together.

Put music or a podcast on. Divide the chores in the way that makes the most sense for your schedules, your relationship and your preferences where you can. Collaborate on things you can do together.

No one loves chores. But not everyone can afford to outsource them. Don’t assume the woman you love is your de facto maid, chef, personal assistant and child chauffer.

We want to add to our professional options. And that means you have to add to your household responsibilities.

Let’s do this together.

*But honestly, men who aren’t pulling their own weight deserve an explosion. Grow up.

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