Mike Reynolds was in the middle of congratulating himself for doing some household chores on his wife’s birthday when he realized that his very mindset was detrimental to his marriage.
Reynolds is the voice behind the blog Puzzling Posts on which he shares his experiences raising two little girls with his wife, and promoting feminism every step of the way. But even as he teaches his daughters about equality, he finds himself falling prey to some of the old ways of thinking.
To his credit, he’s enlightened enough to notice.
The other day, he caught himself “helping” his wife by making his kids lunches and the Facebook post he shared about his own outdated mindset is getting noticed.
“But the simple fact that I thought of making lunches as ‘helping’ reminded me of how unfairly labour can be distributed in the household…If you find yourself thinking this way, fix it right away. Don’t let it linger.”
He scolds himself for the “privilege” inherent in thinking in those terms.
“Imagine the privilege, or lack of understanding, to be able to refer to doing work around the house as ‘helping.’”
Reynolds knows that in a truly equal partnership, one doesn’t help by lessening their spouse’s load, because if one person has a larger load, things were never equal to begin with.
“Making lunches, washing dishes, sweeping up dirt, folding laundry, picking up LEGO, signing tests, writing book order cheques, remembering it’s hot lunch day, getting money for popcorn day, feeding the cat, cleaning the kitty litter isn’t ‘helping out,’ it’s ‘equitably splitting labour.’”
Scary Mommy had a chat with Reynolds and he tells us, “It was not the first time Andrea and I had chatted about this. We mostly try and talk about the things around the house that are frustrating as they come up.”
The self-awareness in Mike’s post shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s encountered him online before.
His blog is dedicated to “Exploring, and hopefully changing, ideas around what it means to be one of many dads to daughters.” He’s also started a line of shirts promoting feminism and a dad’s role in it.
But even someone with all the best intentions can sometimes find themselves falling into the same patterns he’s trying to break away from. Mike knows the best way to combat such a mindset is to be honest about it, and to confront it.
“This was a good reminder for myself that thinking you do a lot around the house isn’t the same as actually doing a lot around the house. Maybe you do do a lot but just thinking you do doesn’t make it so. So talk about it. And if you feel like you are actually the one who does the majority of these small but significant pieces of labour, talk about that too.”
Reynolds initially wrote about “helping” his wife by picking up the slack on her birthday, as part of celebrating the day. But it seems to me that whether he helps with the sandwiches or not, a self-aware husband fighting for gender equality and against his own shortcomings is quite the gift already.