Am I a Feminist in Name Only?
How a gendered society needs to change to become a better society.
Recently, I came across a study showing that as women grow their careers, their household chores actually increase, I realized that this was playing out in my own home as well. This is particularly frustrating as I have spent my whole life advocating for women’s rights and both my husband and I consider ourselves to be feminists.
Let me provide you with a bit of background.
I am in my mid-forties and am married. I have a son and a stepdaughter. My husband and I both work and we make a decent living. We both do chores around the house and have done a great job of teaching our children that they can be anything they want if they are willing to work for it. I recognize that we are lucky by falling within what I call the “forgotten average of American society.”
My career was never planned. I majored in music and didn’t realize that I wanted to pursue something different until after I was through college. I was fortunate to be able to learn my current skill set on the job. Due to my generational positioning (Gen X), I didn’t job hop too often, so I have been able to steadily climb through the ranks. Now, more than 15 years into my current profession, I am in a leadership position at work and “thriving.” I have never strived for success, but only offered steady, reliable, thoughtful work that has resulted in a bit of success.
Contrary to this, my husband is in sales. He’s been through difficult periods during the past 15 years, including the recession of 2008, Covid-19 pandemic, and the supply chain nightmare. There have been job shifts and moves during his career. I have done my best to support the changes by maintaining a steady state financially. Throughout this time, his earning has been lower, higher, and at present, on pace with mine. We rely upon both of our incomes to support our family.
However, his current job has him traveling. A lot. He’s away from our home most weeks from Monday through Thursday. This has landed me with the official titles of primary parent and co-income earner. While I carry the weight of our family’s burdens on my shoulders, my job has also grown and will quickly outpace his (as far as earnings), at the current trajectory.
Factor into this an additional issue. My job also requires some travel. This leaves me, as the primary parent (etc.), with the task of finding coverage for “my parental duties” anytime I need to travel. However, when he travels, he simply tells me his schedule (at the last minute) and packs his bag. He doesn’t worry who will pick up our son, walk the dog, or plan the meals.
So, here we are living in a world where we’re supposed to be co-parenting and co-contributing to our household income, and yet, I am still the one with the childcare and household responsibilities while he’s supposed to go out there and bring home the bacon like it is the 1950s?
I did not write this blog to complain about my husband. He is a great partner and father. He does the laundry, groceries, cooking, and a whole host of other details around the house when he is home.
The real person I am mad at is myself for letting gendered norms take over. How could I let this happen? How do I change it and still maintain a happy marriage?
Well, those answers are not as easy to determine. And my own solution may not be the most important issue here.
What is important is that there are millions of single mothers (or married mothers with unhelpful husbands) out there also trying to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders everyday across our country. And it is not sustainable.
I keep coming back to the basic realization that society NEEDS women to have children. Society NEEDS women in the workforce. The recent pandemic taught us these lessons as we saw what happened when hundreds of thousands of women left the workforce to take care of their children.
So, if society needs us to work and society needs us to have children …. How can society support raising children better? The answer is easy. We need to share the burden of raising children. Society needs to provide year-round, high-quality, free childcare to all citizens. Society needs to reduce the burden on parents, typically mothers, who are saddled with trying to be the primary parent and work a full-time job (or two). And, of course, society should not be forcing women to become mothers when they are not ready.
I know many people who may say that if I am frustrated about something, I should run for office to work to change it. But running for office isn’t for me. I don’t have a large circle of friends, I don’t have extra time in my day, I don’t have extra funds to start a campaign, and I really don’t like attending events or asking for money.
So, what can I do at this point? I can encourage others, I can share my ideas, I can vote, and I can contribute.
It isn’t a quick, easy fix, but as a musician, I can say that it isn’t enough to just play the music. You need an audience. In this case, I am the audience. I am a voter, and I am passionate about what we’re trying to do here: make society better for women. We need women’s ideas. We need women’s voices. We need women to vote. We need women to run.