Equal Opportunity in the Home?
When men and women both work outside the home to equally earn an income, should they equally share the household work and tend the children?
Growing up in the south at a time when there were definite ‘woman’ jobs and ‘man’ jobs, I saw my mother, a stay-at-home mom. handle all the responsibilities of feeding the family, keeping the house which included laundry, mending and making much of our clothes, and often while working alongside Dad and us kids in the fields. When the family arrived home from working in the fields, she had the meal prepared or quickly prepared it, and after we ate she cleaned the kitchen (with help from us kids) while Dad rested.
I watched as she worked until bedtime and rose the next morning to cook a big breakfast for the family and spend another day working in the garden, preserving hundreds of jars of fruit and vegetables over a summer, doing laundry using a wringer washer and hanging the clothes on a line to dry, and tending all the other household chores that were never ending. Dad was a hard worker and he did work long hours on our small farm, but when the outside work was done, he was done.
The mindset that the house and care of the children are the woman’s job seems to have remained unchanged for many families regardless of the fact that in today’s society most women work outside the home earning half the income. In the homes where this is true the woman works all day then comes home to tend the house and the children while the man, who considers his job complete for the day, lounges in front of the TV or some other form of relaxation, waiting to be served the meal after which he can rest until bedtime. Meanwhile, she cleans the kitchen, finishes on-going chores, helps kids with homework and gets them off to bed. Only then can she fall exhausted into bed for much-needed rest.
I recently spoke with a modern young woman whose husband fit this description until she led him into a heart-to-heart talk about the issue. While I cannot relay her words verbatim, I will give you the gist of the conversation.
Wife: Do you love me?
Husband: Yes, of course I do.
W: Then why is it okay for you to come home from work and relax while I have to come home from work and do all the housework? I’m tired too because I’ve worked all day the same as you, but it’s important for me to keep the house clean for you and my children because I love you. It seems to me that you would help me if you love me.
H: That has nothing to do with love.
W: Of course it does! If you truly love me, why would you want to see me do the chores that have to be done while you relax in front of the TV? Wouldn’t you want me to have time to relax just like you? Do you enjoy seeing me tired from doing all the housework all the time?
H: I guess I never thought about it.
W: Really? Are you even a Christian?
H: Yes, I am. You know I am.
W: Then how can you feel it is fair for me to do two jobs while you do one? As Christians, we are to love one another, to treat each other as we want to be treated, and to honor and prefer one another. It seems that as a Christian you would show your love and concern for your wife’s well-being. I don’t see that concern when I’m responsible for bringing home half the income and then doing all the housework. If we both work together doing the chores when we come home it would go much faster and I would have time to rest just like you.
I’m sure there was more, but you get the idea. It’s baffling to me that one member of the home either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that the other member of the home is cleaning up his messes, washing his clothes and his dishes, tending his children, and cooking his meals while he just does whatever he wants to do. How is that okay? How does that show love for the other person?
My husband helps me with the housework, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, vacuuming, etc. However, he has not always helped. I was a stay-at-home-mom for several years while he worked to provide for his family. During this time, I felt my job was tending the house and the kids and I never expected him to help with those things. Later when I started a career, he still didn’t help me. He came home and sat in front of the TV while I prepared meals, did laundry, and all the other chores that had to be done. One day he started helping do the dishes. He told me that he had looked around and had seen that he had been lazy and could have been helping me all along. Since then he always does his share of the chores around the house.
What do you think about this topic? Do you share the responsibilities of making a living, tending the house and raising the children?