A couple weeks ago, I posted a picture on my blog’s Facebook page discussing our family’s new normal of homeschooling while working from home. The point of the post was to show how it felt to me like work and family and school all got put into a blender. But according to the comments, my new normal was very different from others.
I was surprised by how many women mentioned that their husbands are now working from home, but not helping with homeschooling at all. One woman said her husband goes into the bedroom and locks the door. She also works full time from home, but is expected to homeschool all five of their children alone while keeping up with her own job. And I will be honest, I was shocked by some of these comments.
I suppose I assumed that it was 2020 and this new school-and-work thing would be distributed equally among the sexes. But I suppose that was naive, and a new poll done by The New York Times only confirms what I witnessed in my comments section.
Homeschooling, the new parental chore brought about by coronavirus lockdowns, is being handled disproportionately by women. However, fathers do not totally agree. According to the Times’ poll, nearly half of fathers with children under 12 report spending more time on it than their spouse — but just three percent of women say their spouse is doing more. Eighty percent of mothers say they spend more time on homeschooling than their husbands.
Now keep in mind that this was a poll, not a study. Parents were not observed by social scientists, nor were they expected to keep a log of how much time they spent doing homeschool with their children. This information was gathered by asking a very simple question to 2,200 Americans in April: “Who is spending more time home-schooling your children or helping them with distance learning?”
Now, when I look at this study, and look at the feedback I personally received from my Facebook post, I cannot help but see a disparity. Yet I don’t know if I want to go into a tirade against men, because looking at this poll, the real concern seems to be a misunderstanding of who is actually doing what.
I’d like to say that it was bold of 43% of men to say that they are doing more than their spouse when it comes to homeschooling. I personally will admit that my wife is doing more. However, our situations are as such: I work two jobs, one at a university and another writing articles like the one you are reading right now. My wife works at our children’s school, and her work has gone from 40 hours a week, to probably 10 to 15 hours a week. Frankly, she has more time available to help.
But what I will also say is that when my job moved to a work-from-home situation, I freaked out and did something pretty crappy. I locked myself in a room and tried to get a handle on moving my job online, all while being paranoid that I was going to get fired. My wife took on homeschooling all three of our children herself. A week or so in, I heard her about to crack downstairs, and I pulled her aside and asked what was wrong. She looked at me like I’d had my head up my butt this whole time, and said she couldn’t do all of this herself.
And it was right then that I realized I’d been being a jackass, who was distracted by all the changes and neglecting my family because I was so worried about my job. That night we made a game plan about how we were going to make homeschooling work. I would manage our 13-year-old son who didn’t need as much hands on help, just someone to hold him accountable. Mel took our two younger daughters who needed more one-on-one attention, but didn’t have as much work. In the late afternoons, once things settled for me, I would finish up with our two daughters (if needed) while my wife managed her work responsibilities.
I will be the first to say that this is not equal. My wife does more than me, but she also has more available time, while I have more working hours than she does. And in many homes, it never will be equal. But what I want to stress here is the importance of planning, and working cooperatively, with your spouse to make sure that everyone is heard, assumptions are not made as to who has more to do, and that the new chore of homeschooling our children while working from home is in balance.
Listen, friends: Take the time to openly discuss homeschooling with your spouse, come to a compromise, and find any way you can to pitch in. This is how marriage ought to work, regardless of COVID 19.