I just spent the afternoon listening to the legendary author and feminist Gloria Steinem. Among the topics she addressed was the issue of democratic heterosexual households. She argued that society has convinced us there are “male” qualities and “female” qualities. However, when we realize that the “qualities necessary to raise children – patience, nurturing, attention to detail, empathy” – are HUMAN qualities, we’ll have taken the first step towards a democratic household.
Why don’t many men readily display these qualities? She argues that it’s because they haven’t been given the opportunity to raise children. Which brings me to my story.
My husband and I have what you’d call traditional gender roles. He works outside the home; I work within it. When we’re together on the weekends, I’m still on the clock: making the food, holding the limits, and managing the logistics, as I do during the week. This is both convenient and devaluing to my husband.
I recently decided to step away from my home for 12 hours every Sunday, leaving my husband 100% in charge of the home, the children, and the schedule. I’m launching a couple of projects and wanted time to work on them, but I also knew that I needed to give my kids and husband space to build their own relationship.
Is my husband thrilled about it? The jury’s still out. Is my absence pushing him out of his comfort zone and allowing him to become more organized, patient, and empathetic? Yes. Is he rocking it in his own way? Absolutely.
Switching roles one day a week is helping both of us cultivate qualities that have lain dormant for a long time – qualities that make us more human, more whole. And this is slowly but surely leading to a more equal partnership.
The road to true equality is long, rocky, and treacherous. The archaic claws of tradition and enculturation threaten to pull us back at every turn. But I’m strengthened by the words of Gloria Steinem, who reminds us that “women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal inside it.”