I get a lot of messages from mothers through my blog page, and the question I am asked the most is, “How can I get my husband to do more?” The part of these questions that bugs me the most is the fact that they almost never come from the husband. In fact, I’ve never had a father message me and say, “Hey, Clint: How can I be more involved as a husband and father?” I suppose that’s the topic for another post. I received these messages from moms pretty regularly before the pandemic. But now, I easily get twice as many.
Over the past 10 months, they have almost all been the same. A mother describes how she and her husband are both working from home. And yet, her husband hides away in some office in the house, the door shut, while the mother works in the living room, helping the kids with assignments, or finding Zoom links, or making sure they are staying on pace, all while struggling to keep up with the duties of her job. And I’ll just say it: That’s crap. That is a huge steaming pile of garbage.
If you can’t see how this is not an equal distribution of labor, let me explain it to you. I don’t care who makes more money. I don’t care who has the more stressful job, or who has the most education. In fact, I don’t care if one of you doesn’t work.
The reality is, most families are saddled with educating their children from home, in addition to their work and home obligations. The workload of raising a family has gone up exponentially in the past 10 months, and there is no reason that additional obligation should fall on one parent, in a two parent household. (Single parents are the real MVPs as always.) If that’s been the case since March of 2020, and you haven’t taken a moment to really look around, and take an account of what’s going on in your home, you are wearing blinders. If you have been blocking out the school arguments, and the frustrated tone from your spouse, or ignored her when she asked you to pitch in more — and you have been doing that for almost a year — that’s unacceptable.
At this point, if you are hiding away in some upstairs office, while your spouse is taking on the full blast of pandemic homeschooling, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Honestly, we are past the point in the pandemic of adjustment. We are past the point where families are trying to get their feet planted, and figure out the expectations of their local school. We have been living with this virus for close to a year. It seems clear that many school districts will be keeping kids home for at least a few more months, maybe even through the rest of the school year, so chances are it’s not going to go back to normal any time soon. And moms shouldn’t have to bear the bulk of the responsibility for one minute more.
So, my fellow dads, now is the time to change. Take a moment and look at what you are doing. Take a moment and discuss with your spouse how the labor of educating your children can be better distributed. Do it right now.
Listen, I’m not just some dude who isn’t living it. Each day, our whole family sits downstairs. My wife helps her online students from the kitchen table. Our youngest sits next to me on the sofa. Our older two sit at desks, one in the living room, and the other next to the kitchen bar.
Each morning, my wife and I game plan. We talk about our meetings, when we need someone to cover, and when we can be watching the kids. We juggle it; we make it work as a team. We communicate with our bosses, letting them know that we might have to flex our hours some. At times, I’m helping my kids all afternoon and working in the evening, so my wife can teach a math class. My wife does the same for me. None of it is ideal, but neither is living through a pandemic. But the most important part is this: we are doing it together.
We are each taking a piece of it, and it’s not perfect, but it is equitable. Yes, we are stressed. Yes we are tired, and yes we’d love to get our kids back in school, and the world spinning the way it used to. But no one knows exactly when that will happen, and so we are taking this thing on together — because that’s partnership. If you’re not being a partner, you’re being a garbage human. Know better, and do better.