I’m not so angry these days as I was a couple weeks ago. For one thing, I’ve been doing my best to be sure that I have the time I need to write — and sleep. (Alas that the Critter seems not to be sleeping as much as he ought to be, specifically napping, because his sleeplessness generally means no afternoon writing time for me. But I digress.) For another thing, my husband and I have been trying to find ways to share the psychic burden.
The psychic burden has been pretty much mine to carry. Who makes sure that birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day on both sides of the family get recognized (however pitifully)? Who makes sure that the preschool paperwork gets filled in and delivered on time? Who makes sure that the entire fracking family goes to see the dentist (the parents, occasionally; the Critter, regularly)? Me, me, and me — and of course, the list goes on.
Social scientists have long known about the housework gap between husbands and wives, as described in Arlie Hochschild’s book The Second Shift. Lately there have been many stories in the media saying this trend is changing. One study went so far as to say men’s growing contributions to household tasks are “substantially lessening the burden on women.”
I’m skeptical. Most of these studies focus on the obvious daily household and childcare responsibilities, but they leave out something very important. Are dads actually taking on their share of the thinking and planning of family life, or are they simply taking orders from mom? How much are these dads really lessening our “burden?”
Here are a few of the ways that Beckett and I are trying to share “the thinking and planning of family life.”
1. Hold a regular weekly meeting.
In the past, we’ve held grand, once-a-year summit meetings. More recently, we’ve started to meet on Sunday evenings. The meetings are brief, but they include plenty of room for us to discuss topics from the most quotidian to the most heartfelt. As it stands now, the basic agenda for each meeting is as follows:
- Check in on our budget.
- Check in on our calendar and plans for the upcoming week.
- Discuss the things — big and small — we want to accomplish in the upcoming week.
- Discuss any parenting issues that have come up.
Thus far the biggest problem with these meetings is that they aren’t all that engaging. Methinks that some chocolate and/or wine could easily solve that problem.
2. Use Google docs.
The problem with my to-do lists is that they are my to-do lists, even though many of the tasks listed are things that my husband and I need to take care of together. We’ve started keeping our meeting notes in a file on Google docs, so that our list of the things we’ve agreed to take care of is visible to both of us. This file is also a place to note any topics that need to be discussed at our next meeting.
3. Use a bulletin board or other visual aide to make plans and wishes “manifest.”
I learned about Rachel at Clean’s Manifestation Board from Michelle at The Parent Vortex. The idea is to picture “what we want to attract in to our lives,” as Rachel puts it. It reminds me of Erin Goodman’s Seasonal Inspiration Board. We have not yet implemented our own version of a manifestation/inspiration board, but I like the idea so much that I want to pass it on. I suppose it’s not so much about sharing the psychic burden as it is about ensuring that everyone’s deepest desires (as well as perhaps some practical and/or frivolous ones) are known to all. But I especially like that the everyone in this case could easily include the Critter. What would he like to picture on our board?
What are some ways that you and your partner share “the thinking and planning of family life”?