mothers, fathers and the myth of equal partnership
This blog references mothers and fathers in a heteronormative, cisgendered context, as it pulls on information from Darcy Lockman’s research and book.
A couple of weeks ago we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Darcy Lockman, Ph.D., author of All The Rage: Mothers, Fathers and the Myth of Equal Partnership for the Hot + Brave Podcast (which can be found here). It was a brilliant talk.
The experience of inequality in relationships is something that we hear all the time from our students, community and alumni. It can be a difficult topic to navigate for many mothers who feel that their husband is a good person and a good father. It’s hard for them to acknowledge that their husband can be both of those things, but not an equal partner. Understanding the difference can be a launching point for relieving the shame and guilt so many mothers feel around their frustration and rage.
the relationship between parenting vs. the work of parenting
The roles and responsibilities of parenthood can typically be put into two categories: the relationship of parenting or the work of parenting.
What we are seeing more and more are fathers being praised for being more engaged in the relationship of fatherhood, which is wonderful. Fathers, more than ever, are spending more time with their children. But while the relationship aspect of fatherhood has been improving over time, the work of fatherhood has primarily stayed stagnant.
entering into motherhood believing it will be equal
It is still mothers who are doing the majority of the work of parenthood. Mothers are responsible for making sure everyone is fed (and knowing which kid will eat what), buying shoes in the right size, completing school forms on time, signing kids up for summer camp, RSVPing to birthday parties, etc. This list could go on forever, and for many mothers it does. It feels like a never-ending cycle of trudging through to-do lists without ever getting to lean into the fun relational aspects of being a parent. Mothers are so busy making sure the house is running that they don’t get to enjoy a lot of “quality” time with their kids.
Mothers are exhausted, frustrated and disappointed. They are entering into partnerships believing that things will be equal, that the person they love so much and want to start a family with is going to share equal responsibility for their children. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.
the ‘second shift’
When women started in the workforce, their husbands’ level of responsibility at home didn’t adjust to accommodate that both parents would be working outside of the home. Rather, mothers started working 40 hours a week outside of the home and earning money while still maintaining all of their responsibilities and duties at home. This idea that working mothers leave their employment at the end of the day and go home to another job (parenting) is called “The Second Shift” coined by Arlie Hochschild.
According to “All The Rage,” women who work outside of the home are still doing 65% of the child-rearing responsibilities, versus 35% for their male partners. But because modern fathers are “doing more than their fathers did,” mothers feel pressure to just be grateful.
shame and lack of gratitude
Part of what makes this anger difficult to articulate is that mothers’ experiences versus what they are “supposed” to feel are at odds. So many women are left feeling frustrated that they aren’t grateful for every little thing their husband does because he isn’t doing nearly as much as she does.
Oftentimes when men hear their wives complaining about how little they do, it feels like an attack on them, like their wives think they do nothing. But that is not what most women are saying. The point they are trying to make is:
“We are doing more and it feels unfair. We don’t want to be saddled with all the responsibility. We want it to be equal.”
But it’s difficult to get that point across when fathers feel shamed as soon as the topic comes up.
tackling the problem together
This is why All The Rage can be such a powerful book for couples to read together. It takes the blame out of the equation and just gives the information as it is. The reality is that mothers are doing more work than fathers, whether they are working in the home or outside of it. There are multiple factors contributing to why this is happening. Darcy does a great job of presenting the information in a way that allows couples to begin to talk about it.
All the Rage is a good book for anyone who feels rage about inequity in their relationship.
So if you find yourself feeling rage about anything to do with inequity in your relationship please read All the Rage, ideally WITH your partner. You won’t regret it.
Do you feel the parenting responsibilities are distributed equally in your relationship? Feel free to share in the comments.
mothers, fathers and the myth of equal partnership
Click here to sign up to have the Hot + Brave blog land in your inbox every week!
FREE ONLINE MINI-COURSE
BLISS IN BUSINESS RETREAT
Your future is created by what you do today — that's why we created a completely FREE mindset mini-course to help doulas and birth workers find bliss in their business!