Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lots of moneymaking, what about homemaking?

Last week I read this article and it really got me thinking. On one hand, it's nice to hear that men are adding financial advantage to the list of benefits when they marry (we already knew that marriage is likely to lengthen their life-span, etc.). But there was one quote in particular that stood out to me:
 "We've seen a historical shift in the marriage bargain since the mid-20th century," said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who has studied marriage extensively. "The old bargain was that the husband earned the money and the wife took care of the home. The new bargain is that both work, and they pool their incomes."

This sounds great: more money means more financial stability and more shared decision-making for married couples. But a little voice in the back of my head couldn't help asking: "Who is taking care of the home in the new bargain?" That important task seemed to disappear out of the equation in Mr. Cherlin's explanation.

The answer seems obvious: couples in this scenario are doing so well that they must be hiring out many of the tasks necessary around the home, right? This isn't always the case, as evidenced by columnist Petula Dvorak's reaction to this reasearch. Women in general still do more around the home than men, and are still usually taking the lead in determining what needs to be done. I find it very sad that women are reporting feeling unhappy despite being (as a whole) better educated and better employed than in years past.

She follows up this column with additional discouraging news about some parents who at some point in their career are paying to work, due to the high cost of childcare. I doubt these families are hiring out household tasks if they are working so hard just to make ends meet.

And here I read about one working mother's quest to identify the leisure time in her life. Brigid Schulte states, "I never feel I do any one thing particularly well." because she always has so much on her plate. Clearly Mom is still doing a whole lot in addition to bringing home all this extra bacon; although I also acknowledge there are many men who are stepping up to do their share of parenting and home making, whether their spouses earn an income or not.
Now I know that there are plenty of families out there to whom these statistics and observations don't apply, but it frightens me to think about how difficult it is for women and mothers to balance everything expected from them and still retain a sense of fulfillment and an opportunity for leisure time that feels refreshing and rejuvenative, unlike waiting for a tow truck on the side of the road for two hours.

I don't have any answers, or even suggestions. I'm trying to do what works for me any my family for the present, but our needs will change in future years, and I can only hope I will be able to figure out how to handle the changes while still hanging on to some quality of home life and leisure time for myself and my family.


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