Disclaimer: This post is referring to the traditional roles of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker. Single parents, two-income families, etc. are a different matter that I'm not going to try to account for here.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. There are so many women out there who think their husbands have it easy because they don't have to stay home with the kids all day every day. They get to go to work for 8 hours, and then come home and put their feet up while their wife still has to make dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed, etc.
While I do believe it's true that most men don't understand how challenging it is to be in that role, I don't agree that they have it easier than us.
First of all, it really is a stereotype that when a man comes home, he just watches sports, plays video games, or whatever and doesn't pitch in to do any work. Even if they don't generally help clean the house or whatever, a lot of men are still doing a lot of stuff when they get home. Most of them are expected to fix things that break, mow the lawn, etc. There are a lot of them out there who coach their kids' soccer games and help with homework.
But, even if he did just rest in the evening while his wife continued to work, does that mean she worked more than him that day?
Let's be honest with each other here. Think about the time your husband is gone at work. Are you /really/ working that whole time? How much time do you spend reading books, hanging out at playdates, talking on the phone, watching TV, blogging, surfing the 'net, etc.?
Most of our guys go out there and work when they're at work. They're not hanging out at the water cooler shootin' the breeze. A lot of them do very physically challenging jobs. Many of them are doing very mentally challenging work. They have to deal with co-workers, bosses, meetings, paperwork, and all kinds of stress.
And, speaking of stress, how much pressure they must feel to know that their family is counting on them all the time. They have to keep productivity up if they want to keep their jobs. They have to worry about whether they're going to get a raise, how they're going to fund their children's college tuition, what they need to have saved up in case they lose their job. They have to be constantly striving to do better, improve their skills, etc. in order to get a raise or a promotion that will help them support their families better.
I'm not really trying to get on a soapbox here, because this particular box is way too high for me. I'm at least as guilty or more so than most of the people reading this. The biggest reason I'm saying all this is because I feel guilty. I spend way too much time on the internet, reading books, etc. After a load of laundry or washing a sink full of dishes, my back hurts and I feel tired and stressed. So I go and sit down for a little while. I'll grab a sandwich or something and sit at the computer to read blogs because I might as well be doing something while I'm eating. Of course, long after the last crumbs have settled on the plate, I'm still hunched over my computer, typing replies and laughing at my friends' jokes.
Maybe some of you really do work most of the day and your husbands really are lazy; just doing the minimum at work and sitting on the couch after they get home. But I can tell you that's definitely not the case over here, and I doubt if it's the case in most of the rest of your lives either.
My husband works /hard/. He is under constant stress at work, trying to solve difficult problems and get things to work. He is often asked by coworkers and his boss to help them solve problems as well. When there are deadlines at work, he has to work extra hours - sometimes a lot of extra hours. This isn't a 9-5 and then you're done. He has to get the work done before he's done.
It's true that a woman's work is never done. When you've just emptied the dishwasher and the last spoon is in the drawer, the kids come and make a sandwich and it starts all over again. You vacuum and the next time you turn around, there are more crumbs on the floor. It's frustrating that nothing you do ever stays done. But is a man's work ever done either? Yes, he finished that project and closed the file. He never has to do that one again. But there's a new one waiting. It's true that housework is mundane. But is that really worse than always having to come up with new solutions, always having to figure out new problems?
There's always a huge uproar if a man says that the money is /his/ money because he's the one who made it and the check is in his name. But I hear a lot of women say that they do a little job here and there, sell Avon, baby-sit, or whatever, so they can have their own money. Isn't that just as bad?
And in my house, my husband doesn't sit down and relax when he gets home from work. He always has projects he's working on. Right now, he's moving his office to the basement, helping me move my office and library to the basement, and cleaning out the garage so I can park in it again. Yes, when he gets home, I still have to make dinner, clean up, help the kids with homework and chores and baths and bed. But a lot of the time he's at work, I'm avoiding doing what I should be. Is it really fair to read blogs while he's working, and then expect him to help me make dinner or vacuum when he gets home?
Oprah, Dr. Phil, et al. do these shows where they make the husband take over for the wife for the day. She gets to go to the spa for the day because she just really deserves a break because of all the hard work she's done. The husband is shown as a bumbling mess because he can't keep everything together, get the kids everywhere on time, make dinner, change diapers, etc. At the end, he admits that he really didn't understand before just how hard it was to do her job.
I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but I really think if we switched places for the day, we'd learn our lesson just as much as our husbands would learn theirs. What if the husband was sent to the golf course for the day while the wife had to do his job? She'd be just as overwhelmed and just as humbled as he would be in her place. But that's just so not PC to say.