The Other Charlotte and I have been posting compulsively on Linda “Get to Work!” Hirshman’s Pity Me op-ed in the Washington Post wondering why stay-at-home mothers got so angry at her American Prospect article telling them they were a bunch of dumb cows who ought to find paying jobs and go on strike at home until their husbands pitched in with half the housework. (Click here, here, and here for comments from TOC and me.)
I decided to click to one of TOC’s links–to Leslie Morgan Steiner’s blog on the Washington Post site. Steiner is one of those militant elite-class moms with full-time jobs and a head full of feminist ideology who thinks the federal government ought to step in with a multi-billion-dollar “quality” day care program. Steiner thinks there’s a “(teeny) grain of truth” in what Hirshman says.
But I immediately became distracted by this Father’s Day post by Steiner’s husband, Perry Steiner. It began like this:
Men have taken their fair share of beatings on this blog, and at times I’ve personally taken a healthy dose.
Wow–what kind of a nag is Leslie Steiner?, I wondered to myself. Riveted, I read on about what it’s like to be married to a feminist ideologue:
It ain’t easy being a working dad either. We struggle with our own problems. In many families, we shoulder the urden of being the primary breadwinner. We work long hours, longer than any previous generation of fathers. Yet we are more involved with our kids’ lives than any previous generation of men. I’ve been to more kids’ sports games than any parent I knew as a kid growing up — and our oldest is only nine. I think it’s great. But we don’t get credit for it. It’s expected.
We do a lot around the house and with our kids that never gets noticed. My own dad thinks I’m Superman because of everything I do that he never did. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t see it the same way.
Leslie and I live in an old house. Stuff breaks all the time. It usually doesn’t get noticed by anyone but me, and no one notices that I’ve fixed it. I can’t tell you how many rainy nights I’ve come home from work, long after dinnertime and the kids have gone to bed, and I remember that I’ve got to take out the trash. No one is even aware that I am out sloshing around, dutifully hauling mountains of trash to the curb. Sometimes I just need a doggie treat.
When Leslie was pregnant with our youngest, she convinced me that some study declared cat poop dangerous to pregnant women, so I got duped into changing the cat litter every week. Our youngest just turned four, and somehow, I still have the job. You can imagine how much I enjoy this every week. It turns into a Sunday night chore, which is when I remember it. When I was changing the litter last Sunday night, Leslie yelled down to the basement to let me know that The Sopranos was about to start. Thanks, honey.
We’re men. We do our best. We’re not selfish. Just clueless.
So far, Perry Steiner’s post has garnered 201 comments. Many of them, from women, read like this:
You want a medal for taking out the trash? For cleaning out the litter box? Whose job should this be, since you’re so clearly miffed and resentful that it’s yours? You want special recognition for going to your kids’ sporting events? What kind of ‘credit’ are you looking for? This is a chore to you, a burden?…
I agree with one thing you wrote: You are clueless. Exactly what did you think you signed on for when you became a husband and a dad?
Oh my, life in a militant feminist household.
But there were some comments like this one, from a wife:
We may complain about the guys but deep down we still love you all. I hate to admit it, but some of the problem with this subject is that a lot of women want things done their way. If the cooking were left to my husband, we would only eat 3 different things. So, I’m not happy with the amount of cooking I do. I realize that he isn’t refusing or expecting me to do it all, he just isn’t doing it MY way. It’s not fair to expect him to be me.
And like this one, from a husband:
In my house, we never take the other for granted.
If I cook dinner, the wife thanks me for cooking. If she cleans up, I thank her for cleaning. If I empty the dishwasher, she thanks me for doing it. If she makes the kids’ lunches for the next day, I thank her for doing it. If she breaks something, I thank her. When I fix it, she thanks me. It’s simple.
And this one, from another husband:
Good grief, man! Stand up for yourself! Would you say to your kids, ‘Sorry I don’t live up to your Mom’s expectations of what a father and husband should be, but I’m stupid.’ Saying to the entire Internet that you and all men (by the way, I really resent inclusion in your group) are ‘clueless’ amounts to the same thing.
It all made me glad to be a conservative woman married to a conservative guy. Since I believe the sexes are intrinsically different, I know that my husband and I have radically different minimum standards of gracious living.
My husband, too, would cook exactly the same two or three different dishes every single night if he were in charge of the cooking. We’d eat standing up right from the pot on the stove–because it saves a lot of dirty dishes, plus we wouldn’t have to wipe off the table afterwards. Cloth napkins? Candles? Fresh flowers? Forget ’em. Clean sheets and towels? Oh, maybe every six months or so. And why bother making the bed–because you just get into it again a few hours later? And how often do you really need to vacuum?
So, I could nag, nag, nag for us to split the housework (my idea of what needs to be done, of course) down the middle, giving my husband a “healthy dose” of verbal “beatings.” I could be resentful and miserable and make him resentful and miserable, too.
Or I could be grateful for the many things he does do for me–such as when I broke my wrist last fall, and he raced to the emergency room to be at my side for the ten full hours I spent lying on a gurney. And I could be grateful for his own gratitude for “making a beautiful home for me,” as he tells me nearly every day.
Yes, I do all the cooking, all the laundry, and most of the washing up. But I’m a woman, and these are the things I care about. He’s a man, and I don’t expect him to do anything but appreciate what I do. So–I could turn my house into an ideological battlefield like the Steiner household. But I’m awfully glad that I’m a conservative, so I don’t have to.