It Took Divorce to Make My Marriage Equal
May 12, 2021 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Lyz Lenz in Glamour from September 2020: I was 33, a mother of two, and bone-tired. I didn’t want the laundry and chores to be the rest of my life. I didn’t want to always be drowning in work and childcare and housecleaning and dinner, bearing the brunt of the labor. I’d spent the past two years begging for help with the kids and housework, only to be told that I could just quit my job if it was all too much. “It’s not too much,” I’d said over and over. “It’s just not all my job.” Standing in the dining room, overwhelmed with the weight of my life, I broke. The next day, in couples therapy, I asked for a divorce.

... We’d moved to Cedar Rapids for my husband’s dream job in 2005, and the plan was always that, eventually, we’d move for me. But each year passed and we never did. Once we had kids, even though his job was flexible and his boss was accommodating, I realized it would never be my turn. So I began freelancing like a maniac: sending late-night pitches to editors, conducting interviews while my whining toddler chased me around the park, leaving a trail of fruit snacks in his wake. I’d transcribe interviews and hear the echoes of Curious George in the background of the recordings.

...Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America. Statistically, women do more childcare and more housework, and it’s only getting worse in a pandemic, when all the safety nets we used to fill in the gaps are gone. No more house cleaners or nannies. No more daycare or even normal school. No more aging parents helping us. Nothing but us and the yawning gap in equality between us.

...In the pandemic, this split is shattering American mothers. Among heterosexual couples where both partners work, women are now doing 70% more childcare. With mothers and fathers at home—both of them ostensibly working, if they’re employed, watching children, and supervising online school—women are doing on average 15 hours more work than men.
posted by Bella Donna (67 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read this last year and all I can say is YES.
posted by emjaybee at 10:04 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Previously from Lenz.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:04 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Not every man; not every couple. I wouldn't bother, except she wrote: "Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:18 AM on May 12 [12 favorites]


ughghgh 3 comments in and we're already at #notallmen? I give up
posted by Behemoth, in no. 302-bis, with the Browning at 10:24 AM on May 12 [170 favorites]


This quote from TFA seems particularly relevant to the developing discussion in the comments here:
It’s true that modern men are doing more than they once did, but their efforts do not come close to evening the scales. When they do chip in, they expect not just credit, but lavish praise. And though they have increased their share of household chores, they report doing more than they actually do.
posted by eviemath at 10:30 AM on May 12 [40 favorites]


Not every man; not every couple. I wouldn't bother, except she wrote: "Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."

If you take offense to her hyperbole as a rhetorical device chances are you are the exact person she's complaining about.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:32 AM on May 12 [67 favorites]


My friend had a husband who was much worse than this one: he refused to work and wouldn't even lift a finger to watch the kids while at home and she was out working. When I asked her why she didn't leave him, she said "it's easier just to keep him here. Since I'm doing everything, driving the kids between two homes is one more thing to do." (She did divorce him later when the kids were older.)

This woman is lucky that her husband appears to be cooperative in this way.
posted by Melismata at 10:33 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]


Not that queer partnerships are without their problems, but my god, the baggage and cultural crap that women married to men have to cope with! #arethestraightsok
posted by mkuhnell at 10:42 AM on May 12 [25 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men. They clearly aren't of any practical use, and how can you respect someone who has the mental and physical capacity to do the work of the household, including looking after the kids, for goodness' sake, and not only can't be bothered to do his fair share, but gets angry at the idea of outsourcing the labor they don't want to do? What are they good for?
posted by praemunire at 10:42 AM on May 12 [23 favorites]


Divorces are expensive and can be emotionally grueling. Physically splitting up can be a tremendous upheaval in every way, occasioning a lot of work and expense, and some women won't be able to afford to maintain their own households post-divorce. If you have kids you have to consider the impact on them. I can totally understand why some women choose to just keep soldiering on than take the -- to them -- radical step of divorcing their husbands. Sure, you no longer have to live with a deadbeat partner if you divorce him, but you'll have to keep dealing with him after as a co-parent.
posted by orange swan at 10:56 AM on May 12 [21 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men

I'm sure there's an Awkward Yeti/Heart and Brain comic that explains this.
posted by Melismata at 10:57 AM on May 12


I just don't understand why women want to get married to such men. Figuring out someone is an ass shouldn't be rocket science. But marriage reveals things that are otherwise hidden.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 11:03 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men. They clearly aren't of any practical use, and how can you respect someone who has the mental and physical capacity to do the work of the household, including looking after the kids, for goodness' sake, and not only can't be bothered to do his fair share, but gets angry at the idea of outsourcing the labor they don't want to do? What are they good for?

Lots of divorced dads vent their displeasure at their former spouses by doing such a deliberately half-assed job of childcare that many women don’t have the bandwidth to cope with. (Sending kids home from mandatory visits without homework done, dinner eaten, or baths taken.) Or they’ll use decisions about the kids as a way to get back at the mom, like insisting that the kids attend a “better” school that requires parent participation hours that Someone Without A Big Important Job will need to do.
posted by corey flood at 11:11 AM on May 12 [11 favorites]




In my experience, until you have a child with your partner (hetero relationship or not), you just do not know how it will be. Because there's just So. Much. More. Laundry. Dishes. Shopping. While So. Much. Less. Sleep. Private time. Time in general. So I think it's a crapshoot. My ex was not that guy who did not do his share of childcare and other household tasks. We split up for other reasons. But OMG, it seems like so many American men are that guy and ugh, what a nightmare.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:14 AM on May 12 [20 favorites]


Yeah, parenthood seems to be where a lot of issues crop up. I've known a few women who felt things were fairly even until they had kids (although at least one felt, on reflection, that maybe things hadn't been even, but she had enough time and energy to do a bit extra without even noticing).

I just can't fathom being told to quit my job if it's all too much, and then getting push back when I went to hire a house cleaner. That's a pretty clear message.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:27 AM on May 12 [9 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to get married to such men.

Marry the man today
Trouble though he may be
Much as he likes to play
Crazy and wild and free
Marry the man today
Rather than sigh in sorrow
Marry the man today
And change his ways tomorrow.
posted by Melismata at 11:32 AM on May 12 [11 favorites]


Lots of divorced dads vent their displeasure at their former spouses by doing such a deliberately half-assed job of childcare that many women don’t have the bandwidth to cope with. (Sending kids home from mandatory visits without homework done, dinner eaten, or baths taken.) Or they’ll use decisions about the kids as a way to get back at the mom, like insisting that the kids attend a “better” school that requires parent participation hours that Someone Without A Big Important Job will need to do.

Yeah, but they're already being lousy parents. At least you don't have to clean up after them once they're out of the house. Most of my divorced women friends do seem to have found housekeeping burdens meaningfully lessened upon divorce, even if there's drama.

But also I was referring to desire for a reason. Many unsatisfactory (for many reasons) marriages stumble on for ugly practical reasons (of all kinds). What makes women keep on thinking, boy, I really want this person in my life? I am really not an inherently tidy person at all, but I can hardly think of a bigger turnoff than some dude sitting around with his feet up on my couch watching TV while our children make messes around him.
posted by praemunire at 11:33 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I've known a few women who felt things were fairly even until they had kids

Also, being fair, if you marry relatively early (say, before 25 or so), you barely know yourself, much less have real insight into your partner or the ways patriarchy will try to roll you. (I do wonder about people who marry after 2-3 years of dating in their 30s, which is a pretty common pattern in my social circles.)
posted by praemunire at 11:36 AM on May 12 [9 favorites]


There's a certain amount of social...shame, I guess I'd call it...for having never gotten married. Your status goes way up as soon as you're Mrs. Him in a lot of ways. You presumably are more likely to have double incomes. Kids are easier to come by if you want 'em. The man probably makes more than you do, statistically speaking. Maybe he's the one bringing in the health insurance. Life may be easier with him as the vegetable on the couch but the money's still coming in, as opposed to being yet another broke single mom hoping he pays his child support.

my god, the baggage and cultural crap that women married to men have to cope with!


Yeah, THIS. The heterosexual gender roles thing is just exhausting.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:36 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


So much of what's been written about the effect of the pandemic on women's work loads has focused on structural issues (which are real and terrible) and not individual men who make the choice every day to let their "partners" suffer this way.

I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men.

I wonder this so much. I get that it's complicated and expensive, but the idea of sharing a home with someone who doesn't respect me enough to do an equal share of the work makes my skin crawl. I think for a lot of women it's accepted as the price you pay to have children? Since so few men will carry their weight, your choices are single parenthood, no parenthood, or parenting with a man-child.
posted by Mavri at 11:51 AM on May 12 [14 favorites]


One of the little ways in which I try to be a good feminist, is by treating as normal the idea that my male colleagues with children have childcare responsibilities. And that these responsibilities stem from having children. Regardless of whether they themselves see it that way or not. I'm sure this does nothing for the housework balance in their homes but at least it helps normalise to everyone in my workplace that men have domestic duties that society expects them to fulfil.

In my own house there are no children and I am the primary breadwinner. This gives us a reverse traditional set up, which is funnily enough easier to make equitable as it has a different kind of societal baggage.
posted by plonkee at 11:53 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]


Mr.Know-it-some: Not every man; not every couple. I wouldn't bother, except she wrote: "Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."

Ugh, dude. Your read of the room is 10 years out of date.
posted by tzikeh at 12:26 PM on May 12 [17 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men. They clearly aren't of any practical use, and how can you respect someone who has the mental and physical capacity to do the work of the household, including looking after the kids, for goodness' sake, and not only can't be bothered to do his fair share, but gets angry at the idea of outsourcing the labor they don't want to do? What are they good for?

Well my husband is in between kind of the ideal and the Lenz situation.

He's always been hands-on supportive of my career ( "I'm going to Helsinki on Tuesday for 4 nights, that ok?" Him "um...sure we'll survive! Go!")

But I would not say that his domestic share has ever hit half. Of course, half of what.

In terms of being there for the kids' physical and emotional well-being, getting them to activities, etc., he is fantastic. The "being there emotionally" probably if I'm honest even better because when my child is, say, frustrated, he will sit with that child for an hour and be in the moment, where I will set that child up on the kitchen table while I do chores.

In terms of the housework...not really. He is a tidy person. But every piece of underwear would have to be dirty before he would clean it. Subway or Freshii 2-3 times a week rather than cook/meal plan. I doubt he would have hired a math tutor when I did, and he wouldn't have researched high school co-op arts programs. Or baby groups!

And yes, before said trip to Helsinki I finished all the laundry, grocery shopped, made a big pot of chili and a big pot of soup for them to heat up, put a chart of homework/activities up and made sure Snack Day was covered. Did I have to do that to be sure my kids were fed? No. Did I have to do that to be sure my kids were fed home food at a decent hour, got the science project in, and I didn't get a Snack Day nastygram? Kinda probably yes.

When my husband goes away on a retreat, he gets up in the morning, packs, and leaves.

Which...enters into the realm of what's necessary and what's required. Play dates. Bins of outgrown/to be grown into clothing clean and folded and labeled and stored not in the bottom of the closet. Lunch bags without rotting apples in them under the seat in the car. Camp registration dates. Dust on blinds. 1,000 ways to save money like knowing which week The Good Pencil Crayons are on deep discount at Staples each year so you stock up.

Can I blame him? Well...our love and partnership are strong so, no. But do I get tired and resentful sometimes? I do. Just like I'm not only about how productive I am, he's not only about how productive he is.

But it is gendered lines.

Just this weekend I shared with him how exhausted I am of planning and cooking during Ontario Pandemic. I mentioned how packed my Tuesday was - first day of class, full day of work, coop placement parent meeting, getting the tutoring report from my youngest's tutor. He gave me a big hug.

But what he didn't do was offer to cook on Tuesday or take over any of those things. It didn't occur to him. If I'd asked he'd've stepped up (or ordered pizza). But he didn't offer.

It's ok, but that is the difference. I have been trained from birth to be aware of making sure Domestic Things Happen. He notices - once there is no milk.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:34 PM on May 12 [67 favorites]


In my own house there are no children and I am the primary breadwinner. This gives us a reverse traditional set up, which is funnily enough easier to make equitable as it has a different kind of societal baggage.

Are you me? This sounds familiar.

I count myself lucky, because I have quite a few professional women friends who considerably out-earn their male partners, but said partners still don't pull their weight around the house. There's this insidious notion that a man is doing a woman a favour by being in a committed relationship with her, and that anything else is her responsibility. To ask for more would make us "high maintenance" or "nags."

There's a reason all the save-your-marriage self-help books come in lavender softcovers with elegant hot-pink lettering. What our society actually needs is a mass-market paperback called "No, for Real, Your Wife Will Literally Effing Leave You if You Don't Get Off Your Entitled, Do-Nothing Ass, Toby." Maybe with pine-tar scented pages.
posted by armeowda at 12:41 PM on May 12 [37 favorites]


We moved to a town where I didn't want to live and where I had no job prospects because of my ex's high-paying job. I quit trying to get traction in my career to be a homemaker and take care of the kid, hoping that it would be my turn one day. My turn never came, and eventually I did as the author did and left.

I really feel for her, and for every domestic laborer whose efforts aren't appreciated or even acknowledged. It's a no-win situation - you have no choice but to take care of the house and the children because no one else is going to do it, and you are despised - literally despised - for "not working" when you collapse into bed bone tired every single day.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:47 PM on May 12 [9 favorites]


So much of what's been written about the effect of the pandemic on women's work loads has focused on structural issues (which are real and terrible) and not individual men who make the choice every day to let their "partners" suffer this way.

I don't aim to excuse men who are simply selfish assholes, but the former also causes the latter.

I had my first child in Berlin, Germany, where I was encouraged to be present at various meetings with my wife while she was pregnant. While my wife was in labour, I was instructed on the use of a low stool in which I could sit, so that my wife could comfortably sit in my lap while she gave birth. She delivered my son into the bloody hands of the attendant nurses, while I embraced her from behind. We ended up going home that night, but had we decided to stay, I would have had the space to do so. My relationship with my son began the moment he took his first breath.

I had my second child in New York City, where I felt as though my presence was, at best, tolerated in the delivery room. My wife was required to stay in the hospital, and I was not permitted (at least not without paying a huge fee for a room which we could not afford). So she spent the first few nights by her self, in a hospital, struggling to feed her newborn who would not latch. My daughter did not really know who I was until her fourth day.

The messaging around parenting in the US is moms, Moms, MOMS, all the time, and while there I felt like standing up for myself as a father required a constant effort. Luckily I don't give a shit about messaging and I was happy to apply the effort, but I do have some sympathy for men who feel like their role as a father is secondary to that of the mother, and don't know how to break through that. Sometimes men are just assholes, but most of the time there's a lot of interlocking issues that prevent them from addressing the inequality in which they participate.

Germany is by no means a progressive wonderland, but I'm happy to be back. I feel like I can be a father here without people assuming I don't know how to change a diaper, or wondering where the mother is.
posted by Alex404 at 1:06 PM on May 12 [26 favorites]


Not every man; not every couple. I wouldn't bother, except she wrote: "Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."

I'm going to defend this statement, even though I know it's only going to draw the ire of Metafilter on my head, but I actually think it is important to say this, and not in a #notallmen kind of way - if every heterosexual relationship is like this, and all men are like this, it gives a free pass to men to behave in terrible, awful ways. And women put up with it because the prevailing narrative is, this is as good as it gets, you can't expect anything more from men. Women can expect more and should expect more, and there are men out there who truly will share the parenting and housework load.

Here is a blogpost from the blog Wandering Scientist that makes the point better than I can.

As I argued in my recent working women weekend reading post, I think we need to acknowledge that marriages like mine exist, because otherwise we risk portraying the housework inequality issue as some sort of unsolveable problem. It is not. Not at all. In fact the solution is pretty simple. Men just need to start believing that they should do equal amounts of work around the house and spend an equal amount of effort raising their children. Easy!
posted by peacheater at 1:13 PM on May 12 [40 favorites]


Good for you, Ms. Lenz. Good for you.
posted by corvikate at 1:17 PM on May 12


Lots of divorced dads vent their displeasure at their former spouses by doing such a deliberately half-assed job of childcare that many women don’t have the bandwidth to cope with. (Sending kids home from mandatory visits without homework done, dinner eaten, or baths taken.) Or they’ll use decisions about the kids as a way to get back at the mom, like insisting that the kids attend a “better” school that requires parent participation hours that Someone Without A Big Important Job will need to do.

Yeah, but they're already being lousy parents. At least you don't have to clean up after them once they're out of the house. Most of my divorced women friends do seem to have found housekeeping burdens meaningfully lessened upon divorce, even if there's drama.


Ah, I realize that I didn’t make myself very clear. I have seen various situations where the dad is a perfectly reasonable dad within the confines of having a female partner to do most of the work, but then after the divorce they go out of their way to do a bad job at child care as a way of getting back at their ex. One friend has told me that it would have been easier to stay married to the guy than have to deal with things like “no homework got done for the entire week at dad’s house, now mom has to be the bad guy who plays catch-up during her week, on top of being the only person enforcing things like bedtime and basic nutrition.”
posted by corey flood at 1:21 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


if every heterosexual relationship is like this, and all men are like this, it gives a free pass to men to behave in terrible, awful ways. And women put up with it because the prevailing narrative is, this is as good as it gets, you can't expect anything more from men.

I concur heartily with the premise that women have a right to expect more. When I was single, my first tip-off that a guy was a lazy jerk was hearing him say, "Men can't help it, we're just not wired to be nurturing/clean/thoughtful/functioning adults. Bla bla bla evo psych bla bla bla..." As if I were wired for any of that shit, either, Ron. As if I'd be saying it was exhausting if I had a knack for it.

I just don't share your extremely charitable read of the #NotAllMen comment that dropped so distractingly early in the thread.

Here is why:

Men have already told all of us women that Not All Men Are Like This. Repeatedly. Men at all points along the spectrum of Like This to Not At All Like This. Indeed, it always seems to come up when we mention that this is a problem in society overall. Which is, to me, kind of a tell that the man saying it is actually very much Like This, because he is making it women's responsibility to deal with the problem. Surely if we just held men to a higher standard, with all that second-class social capital we've got?

Maybe instead of lecturing women that Not All Men Are Like This, men could spend that effort teaching each other that it's within their grasp to be better?
posted by armeowda at 1:40 PM on May 12 [46 favorites]


Lenz doesn't write about her husband as any source of human contact -- not a lover, a friend, a jerk, or a nightmare. He's just a source of work and obligations. The kids are too at this age, of course, but eventually they will pull their own weight. This marriage was dead in the water in a way that fixing the workload would eventually just not have repaired.

There's a certain amount of social...shame, I guess I'd call it...for having never gotten married. Your status goes way up as soon as you're Mrs. Him in a lot of ways. You presumably are more likely to have double incomes...

Yeah, I assumed I would get married someday, and this ended up not happening. It sucks to not be taken seriously by some people and not to have had so many sources of stability and pleasure, but I am not really sorry anymore, now that the pandemic has frayed everything.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:47 PM on May 12 [19 favorites]


Lots of divorced dads vent their displeasure at their former spouses by doing such a deliberately half-assed job of childcare that many women don’t have the bandwidth to cope with.

My sister is going through this. When they were together he was useless. Now that she's trying to escape, he's actively hindering her. As long as she was a stay at home mom with no resources or independence, he waffled between a bump on the couch to the capability of an 8 year old executive assistant. Now, he cancels plans w the kid last minute to make her deal with the fallout. He makes wild demands 5 minutes before coming to pick the kid up, if he even does pick the kid up. Doesn't pass along info from school. Purposefully causing rifts between my sister and our mom, who is in charge of zoom-schooling, etc etc etc. It goes on forever.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:50 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Agree that often this doesn't fully present until post-kids. The second kid in particular; the first I could have absorbed but the second...the second kid didn't cause our split so much as shine the massive high beams on everything that had become terrible. sockermom's comment here about the gravity of heteronormativity, the inevitable drift toward the man in the relationship, is extremely apt.

But yes, Lenz's story is entirely too familiar and I divorced for similar reasons when my second was just 16 months old. "Overwhelmed with the weight of my life" gets it in one. I broke when I realized that my life was actually easier when he was gone on one of his many business trips because he wasn't there making so much additional work for me, and I could say this honestly even though I was caring for the house, the yard, the pets, the children, pumping milk for the baby, getting up three times a night to breastfeed, shoveling the front walk multiple times a day during one of the snowiest winters in memory, PLUS doing my actual fulltime job + a long commute, and every night I stepped over his still-unpacked suitcase from where he'd dropped it in the middle of the living room floor three weeks earlier. I got divorced to get some fucking free time, some actual brain space, a home environment and a bank account and a life that felt safe and secure and predictable. Even though I still have to do everything plus the stuff he did do, my share of the burden magically dropped dramatically, literally overnight. You bet your ass I have real equality now.

There's this insidious notion that a man is doing a woman a favour by being in a committed relationship with her, and that anything else is her responsibility. To ask for more would make us "high maintenance" or "nags."

Yes, this reminds me so much of the attitude very well articulated by the author of She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes in the Sink. I've shown it to many men since it came out and virtually all of them who've been divorced recognized themselves in an instant, the way the glass by the sink (or whatever it represented in their relationship) was nothing more to them than an opportunity to play devil's advocate with their wife until she came around to seeing and understanding their side of the argument.
posted by anderjen at 1:58 PM on May 12 [21 favorites]


As other folks have noted earlier, getting a divorce can be too expensive for some people. But it’s also just a lot of damn work. And if you’re already doing too much work and too much childcare and too much house work, sometimes you just don’t have it in you to do all the necessary additional work to divorce someone.

After my split, I remember meeting several new women at some event and having two separate women telling me I was brave for leaving my husband and they wished that they could do that. But the effort seemed too hard.

The worst night, after my separation, I thought I was going to die. Literally. So I just lay in bed all night with my teeth chattering, having chills, because I decided that if I was going to die I was just going to have to die. I was the one who left; I didn’t get to go back to the family apartment and ask my husband to hold me because I thought I was going to die. That’s what you get to do if you stay, not if you leave.

All of us are imperfect; Life is a trade-off. I understand why lots of people choose to stay in bad relationships. Leaving mine was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was also, ultimately, one of the best things I have ever done for myself. But I didn’t know when I left what was ahead of me. There was a lot more shit and suffering ahead of me before I got to the good stuff. Luckily, there was good stuff ahead. But that’s not guaranteed.

I understand why people want to cohabitate while raising children, assuming especially that there is equal parenting or equal – ish parenting and householding going on. But I don’t think I know how to be my authentic self while living with someone else. I’ve never had that modeled for me. I hope that exists, I’ve just never experienced it or seen it.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:03 PM on May 12 [20 favorites]


I think men need to listen more than talk and accept that when they talk they might be wrong. This is true all the time, but especially when discussing gender imbalances in relationships. Also, I don't feel like Googling this now, but there have been studies that men vastly overestimate how much domestic labor they do. Quite frankly, when men say they do their share, I think of those studies. Finally, conversations do not have to feel welcoming to you for them to be necessary and important. Listen, don't react defensively, and don't center yourself.
posted by Mavri at 2:51 PM on May 12 [50 favorites]


No one gets a prize for not harassing someone, but being a good spouse and parent is work. And I can tell you that as a husband who's at least trying to be both, reading a statement like "It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America" does hurt.

If the idea that strangers on the internet are accusing you of being a bad husband is making you feel defensive, I encourage you to sit with that discomfort instead of continuing to defend it. On preview: what Mavri said, with the addendum that the overestimation study is cited in TFA.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 2:55 PM on May 12 [22 favorites]


No one gets a prize for not harassing someone, but being a good spouse and parent is work. And I can tell you that as a husband who's at least trying to be both, reading a statement like "It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America" does hurt. I don't expect praise for being an equal partner, but I don't like being told by someone who doesn't know me that I'm failing my spouse.

It's hyperbole in expression of a feeling. It's like how when a group of women get together because their male partners are doing stupid things and say "all men suck". They don't literally mean all men suck, it's just an expression of their frustration. Instead of being hurt, try to use it it as a reminder to look inward and think about the times where you've done wrong and/or could do better.

Of course maybe my voice isn't helping and I should be quiet, but I rather suspect that it's important that men participate in exactly these conversations.

The problem is that men aren't ever in this situation. You and I don't have reference points. So our opinions are, to be frank, pretty bad because they're probably based on a lot of bad assumptions. Every time you think you've seen the rock bottom of sexism I guarantee there's a woman out there that can show you another man digging a shovel. So what are we men supposed to do? Listen to their concerns, actively back them up, and be the best people we can be.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:56 PM on May 12 [22 favorites]


I didn't like that comment either, but is it fair to call it #notallmen?

It’s literally what the comment said...
posted by obfuscation at 2:58 PM on May 12 [31 favorites]


Men at all points along the spectrum of Like This to Not At All Like This.

Yes. There is a line. "Not all men" are on one side and "all the other men" are on the other. But who draws the line? Is it women? Is it all the other men? No, it's the 'good' men. And they draw the line where it suits them.

Hannah Gadsby, talking about misogyny, explained this act of drawing the line. Her analysis holds true for domestic inequality too. Here's her excerpt - 1.32min. And here's her entire speech - 8.12min.
posted by Thella at 3:03 PM on May 12 [21 favorites]


from what I understand #notallmen is about #metoo and sexual harassment/assault, which I think is very important to separate from the misogyny common to heterosexual relationships.

I welcome a citation for this. My source says it's an all-purpose reference to a popular derailing tactic among men who self-identify as One of the Good Ones and who don't want to acknowledge how the status quo has benefited them.

Obviously men should participate in these conversations -- but not just expecting women to do all the work of listening, educating, ego-reinflating, and bridge-building. The whole point is that heterosexual partnerships were already all about men's comfort and convenience.

TL;DR: yeah, I think it's safe to file a comment that says "not every man" under "not all men."
posted by armeowda at 3:24 PM on May 12 [28 favorites]


The messaging around parenting in the US is moms, Moms, MOMS, all the time

Hell, there's an example right in the middle of the piece:
"I didn’t get to write the bulk of that book until I landed a residency that would give me the break I needed. While I was gone, my son had walking pneumonia and fell and cut his lip at the Children’s Museum. My family told me I was being selfish. I needed to be with my children."
She's an adult woman and her own damn family is telling her she's a Bad Person for not being with her kid 24/7/365.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:07 PM on May 12 [12 favorites]


One of the things I take from this is that divorce should be easier and cheaper, and there should be a better social net for divorced people and particularly divorced mothers. Imagine if there was immediate access to good quality social housing -- that would be a good place to start.

(Also, I'm assuming this is US based, but I'm constantly shocked how regressive divorce law is in the UK.)
posted by EllaEm at 4:18 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


Every #NotAllMen comment should be deleted. Are all men selfish, sexist, lazy jerks? Nope. But maybe you could just hold it in and let the truth of the article, a truth that many women live, especially during the Pandemic, when women are experiencing severe financial losses way out of proportion to men. #NotAllMen comments make it about men, and sometimes it's not about men feeling uncomfortable with being called out for behavior that is quite typical. Take a breath, take a moment to consider the experiences of a lot of women.
posted by theora55 at 4:36 PM on May 12 [29 favorites]


Lenz doesn't write about her husband as any source of human contact -- not a lover, a friend, a jerk, or a nightmare. He's just a source of work and obligations. The kids are too at this age, of course, but eventually they will pull their own weight. This marriage was dead in the water in a way that fixing the workload would eventually just not have repaired.

He's a source of work and obligations by virtue of his behavior. Which contributed to a loss of emotional connection, I'm sure. Your phrasing sort of seems to blame her for being frustrated he wasn't an equal partner. I am reminded of a metafilter poster who years ago had a big angsty comment about how he lost his partner in crime once they had kids, and she stopped dropping everything to give him attention and satisfy his needs. This was before the big emotional labor thread but I think most women recognized that she was likely performing 95% of the childcare and household labor because of his non-participation, and she had no energy left to give him what he expected. But he blamed her and filed for divorce.
posted by JenMarie at 4:37 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


*barges in* ALRIGHT LADIES I'M GONNA NEED YOU TO SPECIFY YOU DON'T MEAN ME WHEN TALKING ABOUT MEN. *PROPS FOOT UP ON DESK* LISTEN HERE, I AM ONE OF THE GOOD ONES AND I AM A FEMINIST AND I NEED YOU TO RECOGNIZE THAT. PLEASE PUT "EXCEPT THIS GUY AND ALSO THIS ONE OTHER GUY HE KNOWS" IN ALL COMMENTS. *BREATHES ON NAILS, RUBS THEM AGAINST SHIRT* IT'S NOT EASY BEING A PROGRESSIVE FEMINIST LIKE ME AND I EXPECT YOUR KUDOS IMMINENTLY.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:50 PM on May 12 [70 favorites]


I do a lot more housework than my wife does, but I think that's because her standards are a lot lower for the order and cleanliness of our home than most women. I am pretty sure that I still do less housework than many women; cleanliness standards in my experience are socially enforced by women and I face no social consequences for the state of our home. On balance I wish that our home was cleaner and in better order, but collectively I believe that we are doing what we can do. This is just part of the package and I mostly greatly enjoy the ways in which she resists performing femininity. So I have lowered my standards; having a clean and tidy home is a secondary priority for us as a couple.

Like the glass on the counter is a good example. I do all the dishes, including loading and unloading the dishwasher. But I do them first thing in the morning and again right before bed, or possibly right before dinner. In between, the dishes linger on and near the sink and even around the house-part of my process is walking around and collecting anything that has not made it back to the kitchen. So no dish ever makes it a full day without getting cleaned, but there are usually visible dirty dishes in the kitchen and usually some scattered around the house. That's not ideal to me but it is acceptable to me (my wife would let them stack up for days left to her own devices) but obviously it would not be acceptable to many, many women. And it wouldn't just be that, it would be a similar effect across lots of different chores: I do 95% of the laundry, but it happens on the weekend and dirty clothes can certainly get disorderly by a given Friday before they are gathered and washed and put away. These are just examples; I also do all the grocery shopping, half the cooking, all the daily pet care, almost all the actual cleaning, etc., but maybe lots of it wouldn't meet the standard. So the cumulative effect could be that all of these chores that I actually do in my actual life would be a source of stress and arguments in many relationships. And that sounds pretty bad to me! I am a man who brings a lot of positive, nontraditional masculinity to a relationship. I have choices, and one thing that I'm looking for in a partner is a nontraditional relationship with femininity. If you need the glass to go in the dishwasher, I can absolutely do that. If you need that and x and y and z and and and, maybe it's not a great fit.
posted by Kwine at 5:57 PM on May 12


Kwine, I don't think your comment is welcome here.
posted by thelonius at 6:16 PM on May 12 [19 favorites]


It's not clear that it was inevitable that her income would be lower and less stable - throughout the relationship, they made choices, or defaulted to options, that favored his career over hers, and I thought that was pretty clear in the article.

His career got a boost from relocating, and having another adult involved in chores and childcare (for children that presumably they both wanted). Her career got put on hold for the move that turned out to be permanent, and then children (that presumably they both wanted), and redirected to a less-stable remote form. And when it did start to take off, it got as much childcare as she could organize and pay for, and begrudging and evidently minimal assistance with chores.
posted by mersen at 6:21 PM on May 12 [12 favorites]


The article pretty clearly states the plan was to move for her career at some point.

God. If I had a nickel for every wife who's turn got delayed indefinitely.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:26 PM on May 12 [30 favorites]


I got divorced and made sure my ex-husband got a nice fat settlement so that his new wife will hang around to look after him.

The toughest part about the divorce was making sure that my children didn't get caught in the cross-fire. Thank heavens we had moved a few years prior interstate to be with my mother, because that way he could not pull the stunt of requiring me to stay in a city where I had no family support.

But hell yes, I have so much less work now. And if my kids are slobs - that is on them and I am NOT picking up anyone's dirty dishes or clothes and you can find your own shoes and homework and get yourself down to the bus stop. If my children complain that the house isn't tidy or the shower leaks - fix it yourself. If you are embarrassed when your friends visit - maybe clean up the place before you invite them in.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:28 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


It's not about whether you load the dishwasher. It's about whether your domestic situation supports and grows your career ambitions or whether your career ambitions are grinding to a halt in the face of the reality of parenting young children. (Especially in a pandemic.)

It's Sunday at 2pm. You have a presentation on Monday that you'd like to go over. Your wife has a pitch to write for a magazine article.

1. Who is making dinner?

2. Who is calculating that Tuesday is Pink Shirt Day and washing the pink shirts?

3. Billy, a child in your child's class and son to the PTA Chair, has peanut allergies and is coming over for a playdate.
a) Who arranged the playdate?
b) Who knows he has an allergy?
c) Who removes the M&Ms from the counter so his mom doesn't freak out upon entry
d) based on your family's performance in a-c, who is going to get the mission-critical information from Billy's mom that Grade One Teacher A teaches all the kids to read while Grade One Teacher B sends 10 kids to remedial reading every year.
e) should the information in d) be received, who will know how to approach the principal to get your child into Teacher A's class?

4. Monday morning, your child goes to daycare and throws up at 10:30. Whose phone rings first? Whose work gets cancelled as a result?
posted by warriorqueen at 7:01 PM on May 12 [68 favorites]


Of course maybe my voice isn't helping and I should be quiet, but I rather suspect that it's important that men participate in exactly these conversations.

[Emphasis added]

In which conversations, exactly?

In the conversations, such as this one, about how women in heterosexual relationships feel and how it affects them when their male partners don't contribute equally? Nah, your participation is not at all needed in these conversations.

In conversations sharing tips with other men about how to do housework and child care work, and encouraging other men to do more and to have higher expectations for men in general? Yes, your participation is absolutely crucial in those conversations. That is not this present conversation, however.
posted by eviemath at 7:57 PM on May 12 [30 favorites]


Your phrasing sort of seems to blame her for being frustrated he wasn't an equal partner.

No no, definitely not what I meant -- I meant that even if he suddenly tried to fix everything, or if they'd won a lottery and had all the help they needed, the damage was done by the way he had let it happen.

Other articles that she's written make it clear that she comes from an evangelical background and married young, which suggests that he did too and therefore that he was probably not raised with any tools for forging a real partnership or even independent living.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:20 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


"Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."

In my experience with my female friends who say a version of this, it is not so much as they have investigated every single heterosexual couple in America and found that everyone has this problem, it is that they are seeking solidarity and support for what it is that they are experiencing. I think it's reasonable to give them that without picking apart what they are saying. Whether I personally agree with this statement is really irrelevant to why it's being said.
posted by Toddles at 9:52 PM on May 12 [19 favorites]


Perhaps I missed the subtlety, but it sounded like a literal statement to me. And as peacheater explained much better than I could, this rhetoric is counterproductive.

The only reason it's counterproductive is because some (#notall) men will latch onto it to deflect from the huge problems the rest of the article is talking about. Why, out of an entire article about a disproportionate burden on women, would you focus on a sentence you think is unfair to men?
posted by Mavri at 5:45 AM on May 13 [29 favorites]


My parents built themselves a house, after kids were grown and gone. My father subdivided a room to make an office for himself, with a door and a window. My mother got the end of the hallway, next to the back door, where a small table would just fit. I don't know whether the lack of a second office was a mutual failure of imagination, or if Dad reasoned his way out and Mom decided it wasn't worth fighting for. This was a house with guest rooms (used under 1x/month) and a formal dining room (2x/year).

I see some of my peers' homes organized the same way: Mom's space is public/family space, and attempts to annex a room or closet (and/or time to spend in those private spaces) meet resistance and fail.
posted by mersen at 6:01 AM on May 13 [15 favorites]


"Ours was not a new story. It’s the story of every heterosexual couple in America."

Also worth considering that the cultural forces outside of their marriage are pushing in a particular direction. I consider my marriage to be pretty equal but everyone outside of us has questions about our childcare situation, etc that they direct to me. It's assumed I will decide many things about our child's future, how his bedroom is set up, which clothes he wears, etc. All the time I see people trying to change the way they think about these things and address us equally but it's hard to reset yourself mentally in this culture. So yes I think EVERY heterosexual couple in America will find themselves swimming against this current, if they choose to.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:07 AM on May 13 [21 favorites]


Mom's space is public/family space

Yup.

Also worth considering that the cultural forces outside of their marriage are pushing in a particular direction.

Yup. The only way we have ever gotten a school/daycare/camp to call my husband first when a child is sick was to literally flip our cell numbers on the forms.

Although we've made great leaps from our parents' generation, my sons still see me carrying more of the domestic load, especially as it pertains to their personal needs. Guess which parent worries about this?

In that sense I actually do think divorce with joint custody is one swift answer, because then the weeks that the dad has custody at least the kids know to go to him.

deconstructing the culture that encourages women to pick up any and all slack

I think this is starting to get to it a bit. Men who think that doing laundry and the dishes is the point are certainly taking steps but still missing the point of this piece. And even the word slack is suspect.

Lenz got two book deals. Her husband's work was flexible according to the piece. She still had to fight for the time to do what she had been creating space for him to do for years - work.

A save-the-marriage move here wasn't to do some loads of laundry, although that might have helped.

It was to restructure the family. It was to negotiate a 4-day workweek and do childcare from dinner Thursday to Sunday morning to give Lenz at least 2 full days at her job, PLUS do more (or coordinate more) of the chores. To take on all the responsibility for planning meals and cooking and cleaning up for two years. To downsize in order to afford renting an office, or upsize to afford an au pair...like there are a million solutions if the spouse is ready to change their life. But when the man is like "I support you as long as nothing fundamentally changes in my life" - that's not equality.

And yeah, it is structural and cultural and personal all together.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:19 AM on May 13 [32 favorites]


This woman's story is so very common among divorced mothers--life getting drastically easier once they're living apart and sharing custody. I don't even have kids and when I got divorced I discovered to my surprise that I had literally been doing everything except putting salt in the water softener and changing the ceiling light bulbs. I now have a partner who lives down the street from me and I keep thinking that it would be an ideal arrangement for parents, too. I mean yes, the cost of two households--but you're going to have that if you divorce anyway. It would certainly make it a lot clearer who was actually doing what.
posted by HotToddy at 7:48 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]


I just don't understand why women want to stay married to such men. They clearly aren't of any practical use, and how can you respect someone who has the mental and physical capacity to do the work of the household, including looking after the kids, for goodness' sake, and not only can't be bothered to do his fair share, but gets angry at the idea of outsourcing the labor they don't want to do? What are they good for?

If it is the case most/all men are like this, or that at the very least it is a matter of degree rather than kind, then what options do they have?

If they're heterosexual women who want to be in a monogamous relationship with a man and have children with him (not everyone sure but awfully common!), and at the very least the majority of their options are like this, then what? Replace this imperfect relationship with another one that might not be any better and now their childcare is more complicated.

Others have said this already but the nature of modern living means that you will probably not have a good sense of whether any particular man will behave like this without children because there just isn't very much absolutely mandatory, non-deferrable, non-delegable domestic labour in a household with no children.

Even in our household, where during the current unpleasantness, three meals a day are prepared, cooked, and cleaned up after, there is probably only an hour of domestic labour between us a day. It would be way less if we didn't both enjoy cooking, more if someone wasn't paid to come and do the other-than-kitchen cleaning on a regular basis. I imagine that very many dual professional incomes, no kids couples are more or less the same. One might well be in this situation as a woman, notice that you are doing half an hour each a day and think, "well this is equal, this works and will continue to work when we have children". Even if the split is actually not equal but 60/40 or 75/25, the total amount of work just isn't that much so it's easy to overlook or to accept.

Children aren't just vastly more labour, they're vastly more "must-happen-now" labour that has to happen at a particular time. So who does the extra two hours of labour a day? Suddenly a 75/25 split isn't just an extra 15 minutes a day, but an extra 45 (an a disparity which is even bigger of course). Even worse, if it turns out that the 15 or 30 minutes they were doing before wasn't just the highest fraction but the highest absolute amount they were really willing to do.
posted by atrazine at 10:14 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]


HOLY SHIT THIS WOMAN WROTE OUT THE STORY OF MY EXACT LIFE. Being a divorced mom with a co-parent who shares custody means I get all of the joys and satisfactions of motherhood with literally none of the downsides: I have plenty of free time to pursue my passions, I have a reliable parenting partner to share the drudgery-adjacent aspects, and I don't have to deal with my personal patriarchy-enforcer within the walls of my home. It's so great it feels like I'm cheating.

Prior to the pandemic I used to spend all my days - yes, all - grabbing random moms by their shoulders at the grocery store or the PTA, saying, "But, my dear, you MUST try divorce. It is the only way to live!"

The caveat is, of course, that one must divorce the right kind of guy. It's no use divorcing someone who will cause endless drama, dodge child support, and faffs away leaving you saddled with 99% custody. (Well, it's of *some*use to be rid of such an asshole, I suppose, but you know what I mean.) The most fortunate of us have the pleasure of divorcing someone who may be a nasty piece of work as a husband, but who will step up to be functional, co-operative and solvent co-parent for the children's benefit.

Ladies, if you find such a man, you must never let him go. You must use alllllll of your wiles to

Step 1. Catch him

Step 2: Have children

Step 3: DIVORCE HIM

Step 4: Profit!

It is truly the life hack that leads all the rest. You're welcome.
posted by MiraK at 10:49 AM on May 13 [31 favorites]


If you need the glass to go in the dishwasher, I can absolutely do that.

You do realize in the article "She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes in the Sink" the guy points out repeatedly that it was not about the dishes, right?
posted by schroedinger at 11:34 AM on May 13 [7 favorites]


I am reminded of a metafilter poster who years ago had a big angsty comment about how he lost his partner in crime once they had kids, and she stopped dropping everything to give him attention and satisfy his needs.

I remember that comment, and that's an extremely uncharitible read of the situation. IIRC, she wouldn't let him help because she had to do everything herself, and even controlled his access to the children. And a healthy marriage is when couples make time for each other, as well as the children.
posted by Melismata at 11:55 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Please, everyone - when you see a #notallmen comment, particularly in the beginning of a post, flag it so the mods can consider removing it. I consider it a huge derail. Even in this thread, it was admitted this comment was in reference to #notallmen and was posted with that knowledge. I believe Mefi mods should always consider this offensive, and grounds for deletion. I've been seeing this kind of comment here for 20-some years and its time to start wiping it away so as to not derail the convo for the umpteenth time.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:59 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


I definitely did flag it within minutes of its posting. I do not know why it was not removed.
posted by mosst at 9:01 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Mod note: A few deleted, some responses left standing. Acknowledging that the earlier comment which majorly derailed this thread should have been deleted. Moving forward, those of you who have taken plenty of space in this space need to hold off on commenting any further. If you don't agree with the points made in the piece, no need to make this thread about yourself.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 12:30 PM on May 15


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