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Balancing the Diapers – Now that Women Make More, Equality is Overrated

Balancing the Diapers – Now that Women Make More, Equality is Overrated

For the last 5 years, I’ve made more money than my husband.  In the beginning it amused me; considering how much I had heard about women making less in general than men, it was a private victory to know that I was the “primary earner” in our house.   When we did our taxes this weekend I chuckled a bit when my husband signed under “spouse.”

But it became something bigger to me when we had our first child.  The fact that I earned more began to grate on me, especially as I kept our daughter at home with me as I worked.  Suddenly, I was working two jobs at the same time – a full time mother and a full time editor, working through the naps, sending emails mid feeding, muting myself on conference calls so no one could hear the crying (usually her, occasionally me). 

By the time my husband arrived home from the office, I would be ready to walk away from them both.  It was his turn, and I should be off duty.  Any additional diaper, bottle or spit up clean up was a huge offense to me — I had done it all day and it was his turn.  After all, not only was I with her all day, but I was the one earning most of money.

More women than ever are out-earning their husbands
, but now that women are the breadwinners, they are being persuaded that they should carry more of the household chores as well

Certainly, it was this same righteousness that allowed businessmen of the fifties to return from the office, kick off their shoes and throw back a martini. When Ali Edwards, a 33-year-old Oregonian with her own scrapbook design business, started to make more than eight times what her state senator husband made, her expectations shifted. “I’d say, ‘I make the money, why do I have to do all this?’ It was my end-of-the-rope card, the most hurtful thing I could say.”

Now that mothers have increasingly become more powerful in the workplace, how do they not resent their husbands for not becoming cozy homemakers in return? The first step may be, ironically, to stop striving for equality. Much has been made of today’s 50/50 marriage — husband and wife striving to perform the demanding tasks of work and family in equal measure — but Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study Center and co-author of Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strenghten Your Marriage, says that “once you start keeping track of how many diapers are changed by which parent, your relationship and your energy are being squandered because it will always be about disappointment.” Not all high-earning women feel this sense of entitlement; in fact, many feel guilt at not being able to be as active of parents as they’d like to be because their jobs are so demanding. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics says about one woman in four now earns more money than her husband, a quick survey of my female friends revealed six out of ten who did, yet all of these women considered themselves more involved than the men in the running of their families.

When men were the primary earners, it was expected that their wives would be happy as the caregivers.  A father that spent a little time with a child was an anomoly.  A dad who changed a diaper was the stuff of cartoons and family sitcoms.

But now that the women are bringing in more of the money, priorities have shifted.  To be able to juggle a career and still do the larger share of the child rearing is seens as a badge of honor.  Suddenly, equality is overrated.  Wanting a balance is seen as “bean counting” and its petty to pay attention to who is doing how much.

Is it just a coincidence that the more women earn, the less earning money matters, and the more focus society now wants to spend on rasing a family? 

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68 comments

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3:24AM PDT on Mar 17, 2010

The statistics cited in this article refer to a small segment of society. The majority of women that I see in NYC every day, make less and are paid less than the men they work with.

The underlying issue is that corporate jobs do not support having a family or a personal life, for that matter. For men or women. The time (usually involving travel) people need to commit to high level jobs that pay well, is disproportionately huge in the US. Economics today are such that both people in a marriage must work to support a family, which begs the question: who is there raising the family? And what is the point, really, of having children if no one is home to raise them?
I am a feminist, but really, corporate policies do not give adequate parental leave, nor do they provide enough flexibility for families (or singles). People are expected to perform like machines and give their all at work and are too exhauested to even question it. And options are few, anyway.

11:43PM PST on Feb 27, 2010

Sure, in an ideal marriage both partners give it their all and don't worry about the other not contributing enough. For most partnerships, however, this isn't the case. In the real world, those who fail to demand equality will never have it.

1:25PM PST on Feb 23, 2010

To be a parent is a bit tiring. There needs to be a balance between work and family and tasks between husband and wife. No one person should stay home to take care of the child.

1:26PM PST on Feb 22, 2010

Both to manage

10:33PM PST on Feb 21, 2010

Shouldn't the children's needs come first without all the squabbling about money & who does what?

8:24PM PST on Feb 21, 2010

Considering how much the definition of "family" is starting to shift it may be time for a shift in the "who earns more?" and "who does more child raising?" areas of our lives as well.

11:32AM PST on Feb 21, 2010

Good post!

1:51PM PST on Feb 20, 2010

I think society should take a greater responsibility for the children, after all they're the future. That means adequate financial compensation for long enough time after birth (whether mother or father or partner who stays with the child) and affordable quality daycare, not for the whole day though for young children. It should also be possible to work half-time, and maybe parents to young children should get a compensation for doing it.

This debate should differ between child care and household chores. The latter should be divided equally, primarily depending of hours worked but still it's up to every couple to decide what's best for them.
The former both parents need to participate in, no matter what. That is in the child's best interest, to get a bond to both parents and feel prioritised before work and hobbies.

Also, children need boundaries and discipline, and it is up to the home to teach and enforce that life isn't always the way one would like it. People shouldn't get children just to get children, they should get them only if they cherish them and are prepared to sacrifice time on them.

I think it's okay to choose not to have children, or a family, or to bring up children in a single home or in a same-sex relationship or with more than two parents. No matter the choice, the children should always come first, not only in the family but in society also. And I say that as someone who plan on never having a child (at least not biological). It's called communit

2:21PM PST on Feb 19, 2010

Its not anything to do with sexism or keeping women down who still earn more. My wife earns twice what I do and I do the chores at home and raise the family. The women who still do the chores even though they make more, do so because they may want to, because they may feel as though they have become distanced from their kids and work. My wife hardly sees the kids most days and I do. This makes her want to spend time with them, doing anything from taking them to the bathroom or changing their diapers and feeding them. Not because it is expected of her but because she wants to. I am not being sexist or pushing her this way as it is what she wants,.

7:37AM PST on Feb 19, 2010

I have just read all the intelligent arguments fore and against I am just a guy who works from home our children are gone the wife works because she wants I do the ironing because after 18 yrs in the army I do it better when she is working I cook when she is off she cooks she makes the dinner and tea and she does the washing she is my wife and I am her husband its that simple we love doing things for each other she uses the washing machine because i really cant get my head round the washes the only thing it doesn't do is fly and i am not taking that chance. Love each other love your children and remember they wont be children long

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