parent opinion

'My post calling out lazy dads was read by women all over the world. Clearly, it needed to be said.'

On September 3rd, American writer Zawn Villines posted an opinion on Facebook about the ‘imbalance of work’ so commonly felt by women in heterosexual relationships. Since then, the post has gone viral and been shared by thousands.

Here, Zawn Villines tells Mamamia why the time was right to call out the antiquated notion that, when it comes to doing the lion’s share of parenting and domestic duties, women should simply ‘grin and bear it.’

Parenthood is hard, exhausting work that takes a toll on women’s bodies and minds.

Postpartum depression rates are high, and it can take up to a year for a woman to recover from giving birth – more if there are complications for which she does not receive adequate treatment. Yet I consistently see the same advice directed at women: Self-care, self-care, self-care.

We never tell women to look to their surroundings, to assess whether they are getting what is fair. And then, when they get depressed after having a baby, we blame it on their hormones.

We need to look to the real culprit, which is a society that doesn’t support women, and which treats any contribution a man makes – however small – as something worthy of celebration.

Too often, parenting advisors, self-styled experts, and friends tell women to just grin and bear it. Men just can’t do better. Men just naturally do a bad job at parenting and housework.

On No Filter, we discuss the burden of emotional labour on women. Post continues below.

This is untrue garbage that props up an abusive, misogynistic system. It allows men to buy leisure time with the lie that they just can’t do better. I think many women know this, and have known this. Yet women are taught to dismiss and ignore their own emotions, their own needs.

We tell women that a man who won’t pull his weight can still be a good husband.

Since my Facebook post, so many women have messaged me telling me that simply having someone else validate what they have long felt has restored a sense of agency and self-esteem. Angry women are empowered women.

Women thought they had to be silent about this issue, but now they feel they can vocalise their righteous indignation.

Read Zawn’s original post below:

On every page I follow, in every parent group I am in, I see the same thing: mothers talking about how exhausted they are, how hurt they are by the imbalance of work in their heterosexual relationships. The problems are all some variation of “I just gave birth/am up half the night breastfeeding. Why do I have to also make dinner and clean while my spouse watches TV?”

The advice is always the same: Be gentle with yourself. You can’t do it all. Parenthood is hard.

Blah blah blah.

I don’t know which of you needs to hear this, but I’ll give you some better advice: Divorce his ass.

This cultural norm where a man buys his free time with his partner’s labour, suffering, and sometimes with the literal destruction of her body is misogyny on steroids.

Men are not innately incompetent or lazy or incapable of doing their fair share. Tell that jackass to get off the golf course, get his ass home, get up in the middle of the night with the baby, and start earning the right to stay married.

And remind him that not all men are this way, and that a dude who doesn’t do his fair share is not exactly a prize. He is replaceable. Lazy men who think you should have to work 168 hours a week while they work 40 are easy to find.

If my spouse can pull his weight while litigating police and prison death cases and dealing with the unending horror of our current legal system, then your Johnny Do Nothing husband can manage to get up with the damn baby and stop blaming your postpartum depression on your woman hormones.

If he gets free time and you don’t, if he gets to sleep and you don’t, if you have to do the grunt work and he doesn’t, guess what. It’s not an accident. He knows exactly what he is doing. Division of labour imbalances in marriage are a form of spousal abuse.

Stop making excuses for shitty men.

ETA: A couple of people have pointed out that this is heteronormative. Of course it is. This is not something that happens by accident. It is a type of oppression perpetrated by men against women. It’s simple misogyny. And our entire culture endorses it.

We tell women that they’re just naturally nurturing, that men just can’t do better. We preach self-care and self-compassion, but when someone practices the self-care of calling out garbage behavior, we tell her her expectations are too high.

Then, when a woman has a husband who does pull his weight, we tell her to be “grateful.”

Friends, you do not have to be grateful for a husband who does an equitable share any more than you have to be grateful for a husband who does not beat you. This should be the bare minimum in a society where women are viewed as full human beings.

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This post was republished to Mamamia with full permission.

Zawn Villines is an American writer, feminist, mother, and activist. You can follow her on her Facebook page or her blog. Read more of her recent work on her website.