Jennifer Senior has just published a new book — All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. The book seeks to answer the question why. Why is it that, when the annual American Time Use Survey says men and women finally work about the same number of hours each week, women still feel overwhelmed by the demands of home? If men and women now work the same number of hours, isn’t it safe to expect they spend the same number of hours at home? And, if they do, why do women still feel they’re doing more of the family and household work than men?
Senior’s conclusion is that women and men just don’t experience time the same way. Mothers and fathers are not in sync with how household chores and raising a family could be divvied up in a more equitable manner than it’s being done in most American households.
In a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) discussion of the book, Senior mentions the tale of a woman who claimed she just didn’t care that her husband was nice enough to do the dinner dishes while she put the kids to bed. She knew families where the man did even less so why did she feel the need to complain?
This woman’s complaint was based on the fact that dishes don’t talk back. While her husband was mindlessly doing the dishes in the peace, tranquility, and solitude of an empty kitchen, with no deadline to get the dishes clean, she was upstairs still trying to beat the clock to bedtime while juggling kids, bath time, pajamas, complaints, questions, resistance, and perhaps even homework and school clothes for tomorrow.
Yes, she spent an hour at home putting the kids to bed while he spent an hour at home doing the dishes but the experience of that hour at home was not the same for the two. This woman would gladly, gratefully, do the dishes if hubby traded places and put the kids to bed some of the time.
An hour at home does not equal an hour at home when one spouse, usually the wife, spends it multitasking and trying to juggle little people and their schedules along with her own and her spouse’s, while the other spouse, usually the husband, enjoys uninterrupted solitude in front of the TV.
The WSJ article even describes a conversation with author Adam Mansbach, who made a name for himself with his best-selling book on toddler tyranny at bedtime: Go the F--- to Sleep. He was generous enough to acknowledge that he rarely puts the kids to bed. Bedtime is a mom problem in his household.
- “American Time Use Survey.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor. n.d. Web. Feb 7, 2014.
- Senior, Jennifer. “Why Mom’s Time Is Different From Dad’s Time.” The Wall Street Journal/ Life & Culture. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Jan 24, 2014. Web. Feb 7, 2014.