Enough with the myth of the "do-nothing dad"

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I'm lucky to have a husband who doesn't generally require nagging (usually, I'm the one who forgets to replace the TP roll). But that's not why I found myself shaking my head as I read this Harper's Bazaar essay ("Women Aren't Nags—We're Just Fed Up").

In it, the writer, Gemma Hartley, examines the idea of "emotional labor" -- all of the extra research and thinking that she, as a woman, does in order to make good decisions for her family. I applaud her honesty, but my beef? Every couple has one person who cares more about certain tasks than the other. By gendering the problem...she's gendering the problem! 

Hartley tells this story: She asked her husband to look into a deep cleaning service for their family. Had she done the research herself she would have called and vetted five different companies. He calls one place. It's too expensive, so he just cleans the toilet himself. End result: Clean toilet. I get that the guy doesn't deserve some big gold man star just for sharing the housework. But Hartley stews in resentment to the tune of 2000 words.

Admittedly, she reminds me...of me, circa 2008, making homemade baby food back when our first son was born. This was a task that I often did late at night after work, and only after ascertaining which health food store was open until 10pm and also carried organic pears. I flat-out refused to ask my husband to help. Why? Because he would point out that I was being crazy and that I could simply buy pre-made organic baby food at the supermarket around the corner.

Here's what I learned only years later: I loved making that baby food! Loved the cooking, loved fondling the pears to pick just the right ones, loved showing my love with food (still do...see the "grass" pastry bag attachment I bought this summer for the icing on my 6 year old's Minecraft cake....Minecraft...cake...THAT is love). But back to the baby food. Rather than bemoaning the fact that my husband didn't step up to do this task exactly the way I wanted to, I should have just asked him to do 15 other things so that I could enjoy my late-night pear-making. It took me a while, but I started to do just that. And guess what? He's good at stuff. And more than that, he enjoys it.

I know, I know, you don't want to have to ask. That's what Hartley says too. 

Instead of complaining, you have two choices:

1) See the pleasure in the thing you're insisting on doing yourself.


2) Just freaking ASK. Whether it's at work, or at home, more often than not, people can't read your mind and they really do want to share in the labor of these jobs. They may even grow to enjoy them once they've gotten the chance. (Even changing a dirty diaper ends with the reward of an appreciative clean-baby grin.) As for you? You get to reap the benefits of being a woman who understands her limits, priorities, and needs.

Nothing's more feminist than that.