My husband, David, knows how to cook and bake. Well kind of. He can cook eggs any way, his chicken schnitzel is crispy and juicy and he makes the best pie I have ever tasted. He also likes to eat, so when I go away and leave him alone with the children, for the evening, a couple of days or a week I know he and the children will eat.
I don’t know what they will eat, if the house will be clean or when (or if!) the children will go to bed. Somehow, he muddles his way through it all while I am away, the children always have a great time while Mommy is gone and the house is still standing when I return.
Does my husband concern himself with any of this when he goes away? Does he worry if the children will eat a balanced diet, whether or not they will bathe or if they will sleep more than a few hours each night?
I know that in my case the quick and easy answer is no. Without even doing a survey (a simple one or even one that follows the Scientific Method) I am quite sure that the answer is usually no for most families. And this irks me.
When my parents grew up, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, most fathers went out to work in the morning and most mothers stayed at home to run the house and take care of the children. One could logically conclude that the majority of fathers at that time couldn’t put a balanced meal together, didn’t know how to do a load of laundry or turn on a vacuum cleaner.
When I grew up, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a far larger number of women went off to work in the morning, including my mother, but the responsibility to run the household and care for the children still far skewed towards the mother. My father was incapable of even making a piece of toast, cutting up vegetables or heating up leftovers. I still don’t think my father knows where the power button is on the washing machine though I will give him credit that he does know his way around a mop, broom, vacuum cleaner and bathroom sponges.
The women’s movement was strong in the 1970’s, and many women strived to have it all. They wanted to be leaders in business, entrepreneurs and executives but also have a family. They wanted the ultimate – to find that perfect work-family balance. Many of these women of the 1970’s had families and raised daughters to have the confidence to strive to have it all.
But do we? While it is quite commonplace today that most households are double income, I believe that the majority of the household duties still fall on the mother. While of course there are exceptions and there are some incredible fathers who balance a demanding job and run the household, they are in the minority.
Most women today, who have a career and family, don’t have it all. As I write this post, for example, in the early evening, I am home alone with my three children. My son is watching television, my 7-year-old daughter is playing quietly with her toys and my baby girl is crying and wants to be held and entertained. I still have to cook dinner and put a load of laundry in the machine and somehow I need to write and post my blog and do some other work as I do my best to earn a living. David is an active, caring and doting father and does his fair share around the house, but at the end of the day the children’s and the house’s well-being are my responsibility.
So the answer to the question is simple: do we, women in 2017, have it all? Absolutely not and we will never find that perfect work-family balance. We will do our best to try, as women always do. We will raise our daughters to aim high and dream big. For now, I will carry the baby in the Ergobaby while I make dinner, change the channel on the TV to keep the other two children happy and press publish on this post. It’s the best I can do.