Women do not need knights in shining armor. Some help with getting the kids bathed and in bed or opening that jar of jam? Yes, please. But we are not categorically in distress. We are humans with brains in running tights, high heels, doctor's coats, that sweater from high school, pencil skirts, pant suits, and chucks (preferably pink, in my case) paired with skinny jeans. We come in all shapes and sizes and tones and textures. We're very capable people. Just like all you wonderful men. Difference is, you don't have to constantly prove your worth.
This has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not men should hold the door for women. You want to hold the door for us? Great. We'll take the help. In fact, we want more of it. This is not about pitting Wonder Woman against Knight in Shining Armor. Both are myths. Everyone needs help.
And yet, it is hard not to feel unglued, overwhelmed and in distress, even, when the scales are unevenly tipped. This study shows that across the board and across the globe, women and girls bear the brunt of child rearing and home related tasks. This is true even for working women (in the US). And this is because house work and child rearing have been and are still considered by many to be exclusively women's work. Thus women have not been expected or pushed to do anything else, meaning women themselves perhaps have not even thought themselves capable of work outside their "realm," and men have not thought it their responsibility to help raise their own children or to wash their own boxers. I see this changing, but there is still work to be done.
This also has absolutely nothing to do with slamming stay at home mothers for being and wanting to be stay at home mothers. I am one. I have stayed home for the last eight years raising my three kids. And, for the record, it is a job. Isn't it odd that childcare workers and nannies are considered to be working but mothers are not? One is paid, the other is not; so I guess that shows you just how much we value the green stuff in our society, how money is the measure of worth. But regardless, stay at home parenting is work and it is hard. It is not hard in the sense that only a select few people can do it, but it is hard physically, emotionally and mentally. It is downright grueling some days. As a stay at home parent, you absorb your kids' endless energy. The questions, the talking, the fighting, the bickering, the constant asking for snacks; after 12 hours of that you might be a little numb, too. I've heard it said again and again that people are tired of hearing stay at home mothers complain. But maybe these mothers are so starved for help from their partners that they feel no other way to be heard than to try and convince anyone who will listen of just how much a helping hand would be appreciated. Stay at home mothers are not—I don't think—trying to regale anyone with stories of how awesome they are. They are simply saying: I'm tired and little Jack won't stop biting my nipple and I haven't pooped alone in 3 years, so can you please make dinner tonight while I go sit in the car for half an hour?
Isn't that kind of the point of a partnership? You do this, I"ll do that. You do lunches, laundry and bring in the money, I'll birth the babies, balance the checkbook, make the dinners and do carpool.
That list will look different for everyone. Besides birthing the babies, all of that is interchangeable. But until men begin to see all of that as part of his responsibility too, women will get caught in the cycle of their lives being tied to domestic work and domestic work only, over and over and over. I am grateful I have been able to be at home with my kids. I've loved it, in fact. But not only are they getting older and two of them are in school five days a week, I don't think anyone would want to stay in the same job their entire lives. Everyone could use a bit of diversification.
To all the men already doing the dishes and wearing the baby and doing the 3am feed, and to all the women blazing new trails and stepping out of their mom uniform and into the workplace after a decade at home, rock on. To all the men still playing video games while your wife cooks dinner and helps with homework and bathes the one that is all sticky from God knows what, please, get off your ass and make the meatballs.
We don't need you to be a knight in shining armor, we just need you to not try to not be so oblivious.