Friday, June 13, 2008

Gender roles in marriage

I read this article in the New York Times with great interest, as family and gender is an issue about which I am rather passionate.

Much of what the article touches on is the inequity in the amount of house work two fully employed partners do at home. The results discussed in the article suggest that when both a husband and a wife are employed full time, women still end up spending twice as much time as men on housework. (For same sex couples, this disparity does not exist). It then goes into some of the implications about why that is the case, and it really got me thinking.

Calvin and I try and split things 50/50 as much as possible. But my job (full time grad student, part time instructor) is a lot more flexible than his job is (8-5 in IT). This is especially true in the summer, when I work as a research assistant and am working on my own research- I can pretty much work whenever I want to, so long as it all gets done.

As a result of this flexibility, I end up being the one who takes care of a lot of stuff around the house. Granted, when it is the last 6 weeks of a term, Calvin pretty much takes over all of the household chores (cooking, cleaning and laundry), but that's only 3 months out of the year. The rest of the time, I tend to do more of the cooking and the cleaning- because I'd rather do dishes when he's at work and spend time with him when he's at home than have him wash the dishes when he's home.

Down the line, though, this set pattern could be problematic. We've talked about raising a family, and have decided that if we could afford to have one parent stay home, it would be Calvin. But I'm not sure how well that would work out, since we sometimes have different views of what it means for a chore to be completed. (Case in point: laundry. Calvin "does laundry" and leaves it in the dryer downstairs. I "do laundry" and makes sure to bring it upstairs, and do my best to fold it and put it away in a timely manner.) The whole Calvin staying at home idea was also based on the assumption that I would, after grad school, have greater earning power than him (and we'll see if that actually happens.)

Both of us really want the division of labor to be equitable (and we are continually saying "thank you" when the other person takes care of one of the chores), but sometimes it doesn't really feel that way. But I feel like I don't have much of a right to complain about it, as I don't really have any suggestions for how to make it "equal."

How do you divide the labor in your household? If you could change it, how would you?


EviLFemmeDom said...

I was just wondering about what you think about a womans identity being all wrapped up in her role as wife. Consider the screen names "the future mrs T" or clothing with the same print. It seems like in upper middle class particularily there is this return to the ideals of 1950's america. Do you think it has to do with the war and the economy and the comfort that traditional gender roles provide us? As a queer person I have had to think about what gender roles really meant since I didn't automatically fit into them perfectly. Who's the man? Who opens the door? Who pays?

EviLFemmeDom said...

Love your blog by the way. Found it looking for wedding hairstyles.