by SHANKARI CHANDRAN
A friend of mine recently told me that her husband refused to do the early morning childrens’ sport run because he said he was the one who made the money for the family. Therefore (according to him) he should not be expected to do onerous domestic duties and his weekend rest and recreation should be prioritised.
I have to say, I wasn’t shocked. I’ve heard this one before (from men and women) and I think what I found most interesting was that he was prepared to articulate this philosophy so clearly and so politically incorrectly.
He didn’t sugar-coat it with a “Darling, would you mind doing the 7am netball again, I’ve just had a really hard week trading over-priced derivatives…”
No, it was a very clear “I hunt, so you must gather, even on the weekends when I’ve hung up my spear and I’m watching the footy.”
I also wondered how many men and (let’s be honest) women share this attitude. Another friend (a stay-at-home mum) told me that she deals with all of her baby’s night-wakings, every single night.
Her rationale is that her husband (a really nice guy – not some chauvinistic Neanderthal), had to go to work and have his wits about him. He had to be able to perform and communicate at a higher level. Therefore his rest was more important than hers and even on the weekends she continued to carry the full domestic load.
I have some issues with that, and not just because driving the car whilst profoundly sleep deprived can be fatal. But I also understand the attitude because I know that I have an impulse to do the same thing. It is possible that I share this attitude whilst also resenting and disagreeing with aspects of it.
I have almost always been the Secondary Earner in our family (and more recently the Non-Earner). And, whether I am earning or not, I have always had an impulse that I don’t understand (or particularly like). I have this primal (or is it Stepford-esque) impulse to let my husband (currently the Only Earner) rest and recover when he comes home. Thankfully he has an impulse to ignore me and he pitches in happily.
I understand and am all for good team work. It requires clearly delineated as well as shared roles. It requires that people play to their strengths, that we support our team members to do their best and that we work well together and alone.
I also understand that the family unit needs certain roles to be fulfilled by one or both parents/carers for the family unit to survive and thrive. The earner or earners need to be supported and enabled to earn, so that the whole family can eat and have Foxtel. I get that.
What I am fascinated by is the notion that the Primary (or Only) earner might be absolved from all non-earning duties by virtue of being the Earner.
Do many Primary or Only Earners feel that they are entitled to come home after work and rest and relax on week nights and weekends? Do many Secondary Earners or Non-Earners share and enable this attitude by assuming (happily or resentfully) the full or greater load of non-earning duties, even when the Earner is hanging out at home?
And perhaps most controversially, does the dynamic change depending on who the Primary or Only Earner is? When polling the playground recently about this topic, I was told about a Working Mum who came home to carry more than what was considered the “fair share” of non-earning duties.
That Working Mum did not feel as entitled to rest and recover as the Working Dad above did. For the dads that stay-at-home or work part-time, I’m just citing playground hearsay.
Shankari Chandran is a recent returner after ten years in London. Formerly a social justice lawyer, Shankari chronicles the day-to-day of her family’s return on her blog.
I’m curious and I’d like to poll the cyber-playground. What do other parents think and what have you experienced about this attitude?