Let me tell you a story about my husband becoming a dad. When we got home from the hospital with our son, he laid him on his changing table for his first diaper at home. My husband hovered, white-knuckled on the edge of the table staring down at our little peanut with a furrowed brow.
“Hon, you look like you’re about to take on the most serious work project of your life,” I amusedly remarked.
“I am,” he replied in all seriousness.
Men, most of them anyway, are great at understanding things in work-related terms. My husband is no exception. As long as he could understand his newborn in terms of feedings, changings, and naps, he was determined to excel. So much so that six months into my son’s life I found myself doing all the work around the house on top of my full-time duties as a stay-at-home mother and my freelance duties as a writer. It hit me one night when I stopped at our front door to tie up the last trash bag and saw my husband and son gleefully babbling away. I wasn’t just giving my hard-working husband time with his son at the end of the day, I was literally taking on all of his responsibilities at home. And I was wiped out.
When I confronted my husband later that night with the simple observation, “You don’t even take out the trash anymore. You do nothing around this house,” he literally blinked in confusion. Then he did what most exhausted working men do: he defensively balked at my comment. It took a few days for him to really think over the past months and realize that what he considered “duties at home” really constituted time with his son. That while diapers needed to be changed, the trash still needed to be taken out. That having a child meant taking on more responsibilities, not trading off new ones for old.
The goal of this story isn’t to shame my husband. It’s to point out the irony inherent in the demand many women have placed on their husbands or male partners to take on equal work in the household. A demand I find rather hysterical. These women never, ever take into account the basic biological fact that men can’t multitask. Their brains aren’t designed for it. Women’s are: Our language centers develop earlier and differently than our male counterparts, which is often why most girls start speaking long before boys utter a word. Our ability to process information and manage multiple tasks is neurologically different from our male counterparts. This is how we have been able to birth and raise multiple children while caring for households, volunteering in our communities, educating our children and yes – even running our own businesses (for thousands of years). Men will never, ever be equal partners at home because they simply aren’t designed to handle that level of responsibility.
My husband has started to remember to take out the trash and do a few other chores around the house. In turn, I don’t expect anything from him beyond those basic things. He works. He needs and deserves time with his son. And he views all of these responsibilities in a scheduled, linear fashion that suits his male brain.
On the other hand, I continue to change diapers, pen a paragraph, resume playtime, start dinner, stop to answer a question, resume dinner to the point that I can change out loads of laundry, make sure my son isn’t falling into the bathtub on his latest exploration before sitting him down to eat dinner one, while dinner two waits for my husband to get home. Because that’s the way I’m designed to work and the best way to keep my household functioning.
The only reason millennial women feel shared household duties are so important is because they’ve been forced by our culture to think like men: Wake, work, child, house, bed. A culture that has forced us into career mode hasn’t just done a huge disservice to families, it’s stripped women of one of our most powerful assets: our abilities to multitask not just work projects, but work, husband, children, home and life.