In a lot of ways, in terms of working and taking care of our home and our son, my wife and I have something relatively close to a 50/50 arrangement.
However, in one critical way, I have not been holding up my end of the bargain. I have not stepped up to take on 50% of the emotional load. (Please follow that link for a GREAT visual explanation).
Let me explain.
For a long time, I’ve been a highly-involved dad who does a good amount of the housework. Part of this is my disposition. Part of it is my wife’s career, which sometimes involves long hours and weeks away from home. Part of it is my career, which allows to frequently work from home. Part of it is my wife’s personality- Amy wouldn’t have married a guy who didn’t share her priorities. And part of it is that we really talked these issues out both as we were getting married, and as we were preparing to become parents.
Time studies show that dads today do three times the childcare and twice the housework than a generation ago. The stereotype of the dad who comes home from work and then plops on the couch to be waited on is thankfully becoming far less common in real life.
While I do 50ish% of the shopping, cooking, errands and childcare (but just 20% of the laundry), I admit I don’t do a lot of the planning. That falls to my wife. The emotional load and mental burden of being the one to plan and arrange for the running of a household is no joke- and it almost always falls on our spouses. This emotional load means that wives/moms feel the constant low-level stress of having to be on top of everything- the family calendar, pediatrician appointments, in-law visits, Christmas gifts, etc.
We’re supposed to be partners, not the helper parent under the supervision of our spouse, who, by default, has to be on top of it all.
Here’s what I mean.
One time, I was at a department store and I saw a sale on several items of clothing Nick probably needed for the winter. However, I didn’t know what he was growing out of, what he needed, and what size pants, shoes and jackets he was now wearing. I had to call Amy. Of course, she knew all these things, and was able to bail me out. But she shouldn’t have had to. I should have been keeping track of these things right along with her. I should have been taking on half of the emotional load.
This year, my resolution is to take on more of this emotional load. For example:
- It’s good I do a lot of the food shopping. I resolve to better keep track of what foods we are running low so the grocery list isn’t just for Amy to create.
- It’s good that I take our son, Nick, to his sports, doctor’s appointments and after-school activities. I resolve to do more of scheduling these events.
I’m sure we can all think of a few things we can do to take on more of the emotional load. Sharing the load lightens it for our spouses and contributes to having a happier household. It also can be a broadening experience for men, better connecting us to the needs of our family. And, of course, we are more than capable of taking on our fair share of the emotional load.
What do you think about this topic? Do you have an ideas on how to apply this in your life? Please discuss in the comments, and feel free to share out this article!