Originally published at Two Women Blogging
“Aren’t you lucky! He helps around the house!”
Yup. He helps. Because picking up his laundry, cooking his meals, paying his bills, and raising his child is by rights my job. Of course, my laundry and bills and meals are my job, too. Along with the playdates and the grocery shopping and scheduling babysitters. But he helps! Wow!
“You must have trained him well”.
That’s it. Exactly. I held a chocolate chip cookie in front of his nose, and every time he washed a dish or put away a T-shirt I gave him the cookie, patted him on the head and said “good husband! Good boy!” until he wagged his, um, tail.
“I don’t how he can work and be ritual chair for the synagogue and still manage to come to PTA meetings and do the school drop-off and pick-up”.
Gosh, I wonder if it’s the same way I manage to work, be president of the synagogue, volunteer for a national professional organization and teach one night a month, and still do as many school drop-offs and pick-ups as he does. Oh, no, I don’t go to PTA meetings, it’s true – because they are always scheduled when I have evening office hours. Which means, of course, that I “must really miss being involved in your child’s life”. Right, because I never see her and have no idea what’s she’s doing, since I’ve already betrayed her by allowing her to be raised by strangers. Bad mommy. No cookie for you.
“You make more money than he does and it doesn’t bother him? He’s really supportive”.
Gosh, and I would have said I was the one doing the supporting the year he was unemployed, and the years he was in graduate school earning less than $10,000 per. But Sam was really open to sharing my salary, and bravely accepted the fact that he didn’t have to take an adjunct teaching job in South Nowhere just to pay the rent. He was incredibly understanding when I gave up my job and friends and moved across the country so he could take the job he finally did get. Yup, it’s amazing he could put aside his male ego enough to tolerate all that.
If Sam were writing this, he’d rant about the people who think he’s “babysitting” when he takes care of his own child. He’d tell you that men who can’t be left alone with their infants should be ashamed of their incompetence. He’d repeat the story about our first post-adoption visit with the social worker, the one who asked him what parts of parenting he didn’t participate in. He always says that at first he didn’t even understand the question, and then he got angry at the suggestion that he wouldn’t be a full part of parenting our child. And he’s sincere about all of it. He accepts housework as part of his responsibility, just like it’s part of mine, and he loves to cook as much as he enjoys building fences. He’d also point out the flip side of this assumption – that he’s somehow less a man because he “helps”.
But all of that serious talk might make male privilege visible. It might make women actually think that they don’t have to do all the housework, that their male partners could participate and the world wouldn’t come to an end. And we can’t have that. No making the patriarchy uncomfortable; wouldn’t be prudent. Besides, I have to go do the dishes now. Sam made dinner, and emptied the dishwasher, and fed the dogs while I was writing this. I am lucky; he’s kind and generous and he’s a damn good cook. But don’t tell me he’s helping.