The stress of the he-mom
A working dad discovers that everything working mothers have ever whined about is true.
(Tammy Gardner)
I had a pivotal parenting moment last week. It happened in the dimly-lit underground parking garage of our local supermarket on Monday afternoon. Not particularly glamorous, I know. I had just finished my weekly grocery shop and the plan was to sit in the car for a moment to take a breather before moving on to the next item on my schedule.

Out of the blue, I started crying and rhythmically banging my forehead into the steering wheel. Now I’m not an emotional person at the best of times - my partner Sam tells me I have the emotional depth of a fence post. I like to think of myself as calm and rational, although, inexplicably, I do get vaguely misty in the most schmaltzy movie moments and at children’s plays.

So what was it that reduced me to tears? Oh, just women’s work. Nothing more than the average working mother has to contend with every day without ever receiving monetary compensation or even a perfunctory nod from the rest of society. You see, I’m a he-mom - I’m the “primary parent” while Sam works full-time - and Monday is my busiest day.

All in a Monday’s work

I get everyone up and ready for school and work in the morning, pack their lunches and make their smoothies. Then I’m off to work in town until about 1pm - yes, I do have to earn some money myself.

Ben, 8, finishes school at 2pm and needs to be at his speech and language class at 2.30pm, which is also when Joey, 10, is done with school and needs to be taken to his clarinet lesson by 3pm. Once Joey’s done we fetch Ben from speech and language and drop Joey off at art by 3.45pm. In the hour that he’s at art, I do the weekly grocery shop and get a start on dinner.

I’ve been doing this job for several years now, but for some reason it was only on Monday that I really started to understand from first-hand experience what I’ve heard women, from my own mother to Sam, complain about bitterly for decades. Sometimes it’s just impossible to keep all of the balls you’re juggling in the air and ‘running’ a family becomes too much for a single person to manage, even if it simply involves a list of easy, menial tasks.

The first question that came to mind was: ‘Tell me again why feminism - the only movement to ever seriously challenge the way we, as a society, organise child care and run our households - is no longer relevant? By Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan, I so need another wave of women’s lib!’

After my little Monday incident I’m now more convinced than ever that the way we do things in our patriarchal society is ludicrous. Working mothers, the very people who raise the next generation and really keep the fabric of society together at the family level, bear a totally unfair burden if fathers continue to leave them to do this unpaid and unacknowledged work on their own. You can be as sensitive and sympathetic as you like, but until you’ve actually done the job yourself you won’t really understand what’s involved.

So let’s go dads! Talk to your partner and work out a way to do what is traditionally considered women’s work together. And I don’t mean taking over from your wife or girlfriend on a Friday afternoon every now and then, or even for a whole fortnight, but sharing the workload together with her sustainably and permanently.

Who does what in your household? Is there ‘women’s work’ and ‘man’s work’?

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