What Working Moms Really Need Are Wives


Men’s lives aren’t plagued with—or, hell, defined by—the daunting task of successfully balancing their professional and personal lives. They don’t call themselves “working dads” or fret about “having it all.” For them, a career and a family is a given. Good, old fashioned sexism aside—why? What do they have that we don’t? The answer: a wife.

One of the more constructive aspects of the seemingly endless and increasingly exhausting debate of “having it all” (ugh, a phrase as overused, annoying, and ready for retirement as “threw up in my mouth”) is that it started a conversation about what needs to happen in order to enable women to be good mothers and good employees. Policy change is a good start, and something that Anne-Marie Slaughter is championing in a recent piece for The Atlantic, suggesting that:

What mothers need…is an entire national infrastructure of care, every bit as important as the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, broadband, parks and public works.

Slaughter suggests mandated paid maternity leave, government-funded, high-quality day care and health care as a start. And while she’s totally right, waiting for a bureaucracy to make incredibly radical changes—that are very progressive and spend-y—doesn’t really work as a game plan for women who are currently in the thick of it. So what can we do in the meantime? We can start with ourselves.

For some reason, “having it all” has become synonymous with “doing it all.” Women have been socialized into thinking that being a wife and a mother means cooking all the meals and doing all the shopping and packing all the lunches and helping with all the homework and making all the crafts and doing all the laundry. Of course we would find balancing a career with those other demands nearly impossible. Meanwhile, men don’t grow up with baby dolls and toy kitchens so they aren’t raised to place unreasonable expectations on themselves when it comes having a job and running a household. And more often than not, the guys who are the most successful at work are the ones who have wives—and not necessarily stay-at-home ones either—taking care of the kids and cooking dinner.

In order for equality in the workplace, we need to start with equality in the home. Part of that is letting go of micromanaging shit and just let your husband/partner do stuff around the house that you normally would, even if you think that he won’t do it right. He’ll learn, eventually. And even if he doesn’t, who cares? As long as everyone is alive, he’s doing it right. (Basically.) Let your husband be your wife.

On Mother’s Day, The New York Times published a 24-hour diary of congresswoman Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in which she recorded her exhausting work schedule, and how she balanced it out with raising her three children. What was evident is that much of her success at work can be attributed to her husband Steve:

When I ran for Congress and gave birth to Shelby, our third child, I knew that there was no way I could come home from D.C. every week and spend the entire weekend sorting laundry, washing laundry, folding laundry and putting away laundry while arguing about how much of it Steve and the kids could have done while I was away. Steve resisted at first, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because it gave me some of my most precious commodity: time. During the week, Steve handles almost all driving of kids to sports (all three play on a travel team), ballet, math tutor, etc.

As Slaughter herself says, “women’s work” is actually “human work, work that embodies and expresses the love and connections to others that make us human in the first place.”

How to Make the U.S. a Better Place for Caregivers [The Atlantic]

How Debbie Wasserman Schultz Does It [NYT]

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