Friday Miscellany: Notes from the Time Logs, Plus Complaining About Your Spouse in National Publications

I am feeling a bit behind. I did a lot this week, but life is often governed by the match or mismatch between expectations and reality. I think my ambitions for the week did not take into account that I was gone for a conference on Monday, or that I had lots of kid stuff on Thursday (two well child visits — everyone is well! — plus a “special persons” classroom tea. The special person did not have to be mom, which I really, really appreciated, even though it worked to come.). Likewise, I wanted to be well-prepared for the massive number of Best of Both Worlds episodes Sarah and I recorded this week (5!) but that took time too.

For BOBW listeners: after a lot of feedback, we have decided to try doing ads. While creating premium content is appealing (e.g. Patreon), we also recognize that this would take even more time, and we are probably not going to be able to prioritize doing that. Each episode takes only 45 minutes or so, but we prep for our guests and to structure our own conversations. We get a lot of questions and guest suggestions that need to be fielded and vetted. So stay tuned for more on how this all rolls out. We are very excited about the upcoming episodes. Our guests this week were universally fantastic, and I can’t wait to share those stories.

One more thing on a semi-BOBW related topic: A number of people have sent me the op-ed from the New York Times on “what good dads get away with,”. That was published to drum up interest in a new book called All the Rage, which looks at inequities in how male and female parents spend their time. My first reaction: I appreciated the response that ran at The Federalist called “Dear Wives: Publicly Criticizing Your Husband Makes Your Look Terrible.” I also know there is the simple reality that complaints go viral; practical solutions do not. I would say that yes, mothers tend to spend more time on housework and childcare than fathers. Fathers also work more hours for pay, and while society does tend to reward this more than the non-market labor of childcare and housework, it isn’t always more fun. I read another statistic this week that married mothers do more housework than single moms, which seems baffling, but if married moms are more likely to tell themselves the story that they are supposed to gender-represent, well, is this about what needs to be done, or is it something else? I’d also say that if anybody reading this blog feels the split is not equal in her (or his!) household, presumably you didn’t choose to marry and stay married to an @#@-hole, and you can have a civil discussion about this and talk it through. For instance, my husband and I recently had a discussion about our laundry. I felt that this was slowly drifting into my sphere (i.e. I was the one noticing it had piled up and getting it done on weekends) and I was not happy about this. So I told my husband this. He said he would do it. Now at some point in the weekend my clean clothes appear on my side of the bed. Another key thing: I do not decree it be done on, say, Saturday morning. If it happens later, so be it. I am not going to run out of clothes. So far I haven’t felt the need to write an op-ed for the New York Times about this.

Now to the time logs! Last week I spent some time looking at the previous year’s time logs. I started tracking time in April 2015 to see where my time went. But at this point, the logs function as much as a journal as anything else. So many memories came back while looking at those logs. I thought I would remember these things automatically…but I didn’t. I was just looking at an entry about my daughter’s kindergarten play, which featured her belting out a really funny song about Cinderella. I remember she was wearing one of my old dresses and she was not nervous at all. A total pro. She was great. I have not consciously thought about this in a while. But I see it on the time log, and see it was the same week I went to Toronto and SLC and suddenly I even remember my connection in Detroit that went miraculously well (my flight home got delayed in SLC and I remember the ridiculous traffic on the way to my house now.…) A time log places these memories in context, which makes them more complete.

In any case, I highly recommend time-tracking for this reason, among others. Does it matter that I finished reading Ulysses the same week that I recorded the audio book for Off the Clock and sang the Missa Gaia with my church choir? No…but looking at the log I remember these things and start to remember them together, and so that week does not disappear into a memory sinkhole. All time passes, but the documented life feels richer and more full.

In other news: I am a guest on the Sorta Awesome podcast this week. Please check it out!

37 thoughts on “Friday Miscellany: Notes from the Time Logs, Plus Complaining About Your Spouse in National Publications

  1. The Atlantic published an article this week that said women need to stop thanking their husbands for helping out… Seems like no matter what we do – complain about them or praise them – there is no “right” way to talk about our husbands. *shrugs shoulders* I don’t really talk about my husband on social media. It feels like a PR campaign to praise him (he’d rather I tell him to his face v on facebook) and complaining about him on a public form feels equally wrong… I do feel grateful that my husband shares the work of raising a child/maintaining a household. I mostly feel grateful because I grew up in a household with very traditional roles, meaning my mom shouldered nearly all of the domestic tasks. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this and have tried to make things more equal but it never is of course.

    I think it totally makes sense for you guys to have ads on the podcast. You should be getting compensated for the quality programming you deliver!

  2. “married mothers do more housework than single moms” – that statistic isn’t baffling to me! I’m a single mom and, believe it or not, was thinking about this very issue this morning. All the things that need to get done in my house are my responsibility (all the things!). So I need to do them, figure out who’s going to do them, or decide not to do them. Housework isn’t my favorite thing to do so it tends not to get done…and I don’t need to have a discussion with anyone about the fact that it isn’t getting done! [Seriously, this is one of the under-appreciated aspects of single parenthood – you just get to decide what to do or not do, no discussions. :)] There would probably be higher expectations about the housework that needs to be done if I were married or partnered, so if the housework were split equally, those higher expectations could translate to doing more than the minimal amount I do now.

  3. My first reaction: I appreciated the response that ran at The Federalist called “Dear Wives: Publicly Criticizing Your Husband Makes Your Look Terrible.”’
    Seriously, that’s going to be your response to that? I’m luckily not married to one of the men who is not pulling their fair share – but there is a nationwide epidemic of men not pulling their own weight, and when women try to talk about it, they’re told to basically shut up as it just makes them look bad. Disappointed. You can make your decisions about whether or not to talk about your husband in newspapers or magazines, but do you really think it’s right to shame women who make a different decision than you?

    1. a “nationwide epidemic”? I am just not sure about that. I think it’s more of a viralness of posts on social media and in op-eds that make it seem like an epidemic. I would argue that men are doing more and more, as compared to previous generations.

      I didn’t take Laura’s post as shaming a woman for making a different decision. This woman chose to blast this out to the world…and when you do that, I feel we are free to have our opinions about it. It’s not like we’re going into her house, having a private convo, then blasting her for what she said in confidence. I also liked the response from the federalist.

      In my house, if things seem out of whack, I just talk to my husband. Of course, things sometimes need to repeated but that’s not him being a “man not carrying his weight”. That’s being a human being who works extremely hard and sometimes forgets (like I do as well). I also take these opportunities to readjust my expectations…. this goes back to that lean out post that went around before. It’s time for women to stop chasing unrealistic expectations and if people in your life judge you for those choices, dump them. Plain and simple. Friends who judge you? No more friendship. Mother in laws who harass you for not breastfeeding? Tell them to stop. If they don’t, trim that relationship a bit. Other moms who judge your lack of pinterest parties? Ignore them. I have cut multiple people out or had serious conversations with close family and let me be the first to say, life is so much better.

      1. Ok perhaps, epidemic was the wrong term – it’s more endemic than epidemic. Not a sudden change, but a serious lack of change (or very slow change) and more women wanting to say that they’re not OK with it. This is a structural, societal problem, that can’t be solved solely by women telling their partners to step up, but by a cultural shift – which is what articles like the original one are trying to make happen.

  4. I think the Federalist response was catty and dismissive of the point the NYT article and the other articles she mentions. Many of the women who are writing these are working to give voice to a problem many of us face and can’t seem to figure out how to address it. It was very clear in the NYT article that the author and women she’s talking to have tried various ways to address the issue and are not getting the response from their husbands that is necessary. I, for one, feel less alone when I read those and less crazy, which I think at the end of the day is part of the point. Really, how many times are you supposed to have the same conversation that doesn’t change anything before you stop trying? We have huge systemic and culture issues in this country about what we expect from men and women and how we have socialized them to deal with those things and while this is not a flattering way to have the conversation, it is a start.

    Also, on the point of the housework that single moms versus married moms do, I have a lot of thoughts on that as a woman who has “single” parented for 1.5 years while my husband worked in a different city. We have a 6 and a 3 year old. First off, as a single mom, housing is usually smaller. There are inherently less people and thus less stuff and less mouths to feed, etc. And a reduction in expectations. Also, when I am only feeding two children and myself, it can be a freezer meal every night, while that is decidedly not satisfying for my husband. And I know this is my own deal, but the mess of life bothers me more when he sees it.

    1. I don’t mean to be flippant about divorce, but what is the long-term trajectory of a relationship where the same discussion is had taking issue with the division of household labor year over year, decade over decade? I suppose that eventually it escalates from discussion to therapy, but if that doesn’t work?

      I ask because I witness some couples where after kids enter the scene the female partner has grown resentful and bitter and it just seems to go on, never ending. She becomes not only a mother to the kids, but a mother to her husband. On the other side, of course, are couples who figure it out and seem to enjoy their married with kids lifestyle, overall. There seem to be more natural boundaries and autonamy of everyone involved.

  5. Looking forward to upcoming episodes of BoBw! Especially as episode 100 nears… can we expect something special?! 🙂

    1. @Ellie- not so much for #100 – but we are definitely planning a second anniversary episode in August. (since there are 52 per year and we released 3 on the first day our #100 doesn’t exactly match the anniversary).

  6. I’m really disappointed in what you say here about that NYT piece. In addition to what you describe as “women complaining,” it included actual data on the average breakdown of domestic labor between heterosexual couples and how that has (and hasn’t) changed over time. Data shows that women do more housework and childcare work than men *even when the mother and father have equally demanding jobs outside the home*! This is tied to larger cultural and social forces – it does NOT boil down to individual women just feeling sorry for themselves when all they need to do is tell their husbands to do more, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

  7. A lot of the work that women do is …. optional.

    Maintaining a beautiful home (rather than just a cleanish one) is optional. Elaborate homemade meals are mostly optional. Socializing and all the work that goes with it is optional. Looking good is optional. These things can make life richer and better, but doing all of them all the time is (obviously) a lot. “Society” is always going to tell you to do more (and buy more, and be thinner) but part of being a person is separating external pressures from one’s own desires.

    Recently I had a conversation with a friend who told me she spends 45 minutes a day preparing snacks for her child to take to day care. But the day care provides snacks: various iterations of fruit, yogurt, veggies with sun butter (and, okay, sometimes cheerios). My friend explained that every other child brings elaborate snacks from home and she doesn’t want her kid being the only one who gets the “boring” snacks the day care provides. This is exactly the sort of task, multiplied over and over again, that leads to people feeling overwhelmed even if they have a partner and a good job and a reasonable amount of help. The “Good Dads” in the NYT article would probably decide to let their kid eat the day care snack. (In fact, it would probably never occur to them to do it any other way, and they wouldn’t expend any mind space on this subject.)

    1. I don’t disagree that this is the case sometimes, but I don’t think it is as often as is mentioned, and I certainly think the lack of male help is more common than women taking on optional tasks. I’m tired of the suggestion that women “do less” instead of men doing more. The examples the NYT author mentioned were things like getting the kids to brush their teeth–this is pretty necessary, and while you could let the kids deal with the consequences of not brushing their teeth, it most likely would be a lot more work to deal with those consequences than the work of getting them to do it. Work like making extra dentist appointments, bringing them to the appointments, and dealing with the mom-shaming that will accompany such appointments because you didn’t make your kids brush their teeth.

  8. I have to say that I disagree with you (and The Federalist) on the NYT piece. I actually think that your example about laundry and your husband is a good example of what the author is saying: You had to notice and call your husband to account rather than him owning and maintaining the responsibility on his own. However undramatic and easy that was to do, you still had to see it, own it, and tell him to fix it. That seems to support the author’s argument that there is an deep, underlying societal expectation that women will just do the work that won’t otherwise get done. I feel and see this in my life, and am tired of having to be the one to correct it — why don’t men try harder?

    The data that I found most alarming (but not shocking) is the part about low-value work in mixed gender groups in the workplace: “In a series of lab studies, the economists Lise Vesterlund, Linda Babcock and Maria Recalde and the organizational behaviorist Laurie Weingart found that in coed groups, women are 50 percent more likely than men to volunteer to take on work that no one else wants to do. But in all-male groups, the men volunteer just as readily.” YIKES.

    1. @Lindsey – I’m not sure about seeing it and owning it in my case. I wasn’t doing it all the time at all. If I didn’t do it, he would do it. I just recognized I had a tendency to do it when I saw it on Saturday morning, but there’s absolutely no reason it needed to be done then. So part of this was us confirming together that he would be responsible for it, and then me not stepping in and doing it first.

  9. I have so many thoughts on this subject. My first thought is that some of what is hardest about this is that it is a mix of the systemic and the personal. I agree that the problem at this point is well defined. I am fatigued by the number of rants that all say essentially the same thing. I feel like we need to focus on solutions both on the personal and policy front.

    One the personal front this is hard. My husband and I accidentally fell into a very equal partnership that was shaped by my medical training and his underemployment due to the great recession…The recession was terrible for our bank account and great for our family life and marriage because it helped set up our very equal parenting arrangement. There was literally no work for my husband to do and I was working 80 hours a week. But not all families can start parenthood on the brink of worldwide economic collapse and so being intentional about your partnership is so critical. Right now that does mean asking for what you need from your partner and expecting them to do the same.

    Systemically, yes, changes need to happen. I am just not sure we are going to accomplish those changes by restating the problem in angry terms over and over again. It just makes us (women) sound whiny. Instead we need to propose and demand solutions (better maternity and paternity leave anyone?). Ann Marie Slaughter recently said, the next women’s movement is a men’s movement and she has a point. It has to be okay for men to have the same choices as women in the work place for real equality at home to happen.

  10. While I am definitely in the camp of finding these “viral rants” repetitive and boring, the Federalist response was SO completely dismissive and honestly just rubbed me the wrong way (maybe because she was criticizing Michelle Obama?). You had Gemma Hartley on your podcast and if I recall correctly, her husband was aware of the article she wrote and supported her work, right? I highly doubt anyone is getting something published in the NYT behind their husband’s back, and if they are, there are deeper problems in the marriage than “complaining”. I’m sure they DO sit down and talk with their husbands before and after penning the articles and I also assume some of the over-the-top woe-is-me is tongue-in-cheek for dramatic effect. But overall women continue to write about these issues because they continue to BE issues for many of them, judging by how many people can relate. The solution is not shaming and telling women to shut up. While ranting articles don’t seem to solve anything, personal and systemic solutions CAN grow out of bringing something into the public consciousness and starting the conversation.

  11. I think the Federalist author is missing the point and tone of the NYTimes Opinion piece. I interpreted the NYTimes editorial including the anecdote in the beginning to be relatable. “Look, I believe in equality and yet somehow even I’m pulling more than 50% of the weight in my marriage.” I think the Federalist and NY Times opinions actually have the same point–i.e., encouraging couples to speak to one another about certain inequities (that do in fact exist in the majority of loving relationships).

  12. I have to be honest with you Laura, this is the sort of stuff that makes me want to stop reading the blog and unsubscribe to the podcast.
    Just becuase you don’t experience something in your marriage/household doesn’t mean other women who do are all just too stupid or socially brain washed to have conversations with their husbands.

    My husband works more hours, but I make more money. He’s outside the house a lot on weekends but has plenty of weekday time to himself while I work 9-5 and take care of our children on either end of that. And no, he is not an a@@hole, he’s a man raised by a mother who hovered over his father and siblings and was never made to raise a finger. I will not go into all the details, but generating some sort of reasonable split of tasks has been challenging over the years. Yes, there have been plenty of conversation, ongoing discussion, all the fun stuff that make me feel like the house hold manager. And sometimes it works, at least for a bit. But it’s greatly frustrating.

    I’m glad your husband is more helpful, I’m assuming having domestic help makes some difference as well. I just really wish you weren’t quite so dismissive of other women and their struggles.

    1. I used to love the blog, books and podcasts but increasingly the tone and lack of any social and environmental awareness is making it hard to listen and read.
      I am rarely here now and will now leave the podcast too.

    2. I agree. These things are not always as simple as having a conversation and then things instantly improve, like your experience with the laundry, Laura. If it were truly that easy, this wouldn’t be an issue for so many marriages! It’s not that women don’t communicate well and complain too much rather than speaking to their spouses about it directly. That may be the problem for some, but certainly not all.

      One thing I like about Gretchen Rubin, is that she realizes people are different and that not everyone thinks like her and has the same communication style and values as she does. She truly sees beyond herself. But Laura makes the mistake of pulling one single example from her own life and letting that speak for everyone else’s experience. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about Laura’s experiences, but acknowledging that other people’s situations might be different is the smart thing to do.

    3. Totally agree. I continue to listen but there is a lack of empathy and a very upper middle class privileged view on many topics.

  13. The answer to societal change is not complaining ; it is taking action. Voting, funding the right candidates and becoming activists are the best tactics we have to enact real change, like longer paid maternity leave. (I am heartened by new legislators like AOC.) We also need to reject outdated gender stereotypes when faced with them by family and friends and call them out. Anyone who tells me I’m not thin enough or Pinterest-worthy has felt my wrath.

    Women didn’t gain the right to vote, for example, by writing articles about how crap their husbands are at chores…it was a ton of activism and individual personal sacrifices that made that happen.

    Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

  14. I felt that my husband wasn’t pulling equal weight when my kids were very young. We argued about it constantly – one of his points was that he did much more than most men (which is true but irrelevant IMO – I bring in more money than most women so its only fair he should do more than ré housework than most men).

    In my case i “solved” it by having a miscarriage with massive loss of blood necessitating a lengthy recovery period followed by suicidal post natal depression. After a few months of him having to do everything with zero support from me we are now thankfully back to normal and I’m feeling much better. But there is one massive change – he now does his share, probably more than his share, with zero prompting from me. He is just as likely as I to notice what needs to be done and just do it without complaining.

    All the arguments and conversations in the world didnt work before, but a couple of months of him having to do it all opened his eyes to the invisible labour and he just does it now.

    Not a solution I would recommend, but maybe if mothers went away for a week without preparing everything in advance, their partners would figure it out.

    1. I am so sorry that you experienced that. I am impressed that you can see the silver lining.

      My story is not nearly as difficult or scary, but my husband was alone with my kids a lot (for whole weekends and over night many times per week) when I was a medical student and resident, and I agree that having a husband who has to get it all done alone is a more equal partner for having that experience.

  15. Thanks for the inspiration on the keeping the timelog! I’m going to restart again keeping a time log during finals week! I think I started two other times and just stopped. But your explanations on the reason of keeping a time log are good. Here’s to the third time!

  16. While I see your point, Laura, I do wonder if you see the irony of all of your complaining posts about other people complaining (and in this one, quoting another article, also complaining!). I truly admire your work and this is your blog and of course you are entitled to your own rant, but I would love to see it inspire something more constructive.

    On the podcast, Sarah has made the point that things don’t necessarily need to be divided exactly equally, but that both partners should be satisfied with the division. I find this satisfaction aspect to be valuable insight that is not easily captured by the actual numbers of how many hours each member of a couple spends on housework or child related duties. If your husband is willing, I would be interested to hear his views on how you two negotiate household division of labor. Or if any other couples were open to sharing, I think it could be an interesting topic to feature on BoBW sometime.

  17. I actually liked the Federalist article. I actually see the nation-wide complaining about the husband problem as related to complaining publicly on a smaller scale — for example, sometimes (not all the time) social time with friends will turn into general kvetching about husbands, this sort of competition to see who’s husband does the most annoying thing (leaving toothpaste in the sink, leaving dirty dishes, etc.). While I think thanking husbands for “babysitting” their kids or holding them to this sort of lower standard for being a good dad is also ridiculous (and probably not even fair to dads and husbands) and I understand wanting to point out societal problems, I’m not sure these public put-downs are always appropriate or even lead to a solution beyond venting.

  18. I think there is a wide spectrum between “my husband is awful and doesn’t do anything” and “I asked my husband to do something and things immediately improved.” There is also a lot of nuance throughout this spectrum and there are many different experiences and different approaches. Civil conversations don’t always work, even with progressive men who are trying. I also don’t think it’s as easy as telling women to do less–while there are some women scrubbing the floors on their hands and knees until it shines, more often it seems to me that women are picking up the slack because if they didn’t it would make their lives much more difficult.

    I am also generally frustrated that the solutions fall on the woman–have the civil conversation, continue to remind the husband (but don’t nag), do less, let things go, etc. But then also deal with the fallout (not always minor) of whatever doesn’t get done.

    1. Totally agree. I’m not saying I’m leaving the podcast and blog, but I think your post dismissed the matter too quickly. Though I don’t agree with shaming one’s spouse on national publications, I think resistance is actually a thing – probably the very one that forces women to find solutions to make do with the situation they have (i.e. Reminding, not nagging, letting go…), while finding it all very frustrating.

  19. I’ll add one thing to all the other commenters who find your take on this really irritating.
    “yes, mothers tend to spend more time on housework and childcare than fathers. Fathers also work more hours for pay” Isn’t that the point? I would work more hours for pay if I could, but I can’t because I have to do housework. The unequal burden in my home has absolutely been a factor in my lack of career advancement since having children. And my husband isn’t an a@@hole, he’s just not very good at this. Not all of us are married to MBAs. He says he’ll do things, but forgets and/or does a mediocre job. I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m just being a perfectionist or a gatekeeper or whatever, my standards are super low. He has full responsibility for getting our school-aged kids to school in the morning, and they’ve had 50+ tardies this year. He takes full responsibility for putting the older kids to bed at night (I’m caring for the baby), and they stay up way too late (go to bed between 9:30 and 10; they get up at 6:30 – ages 3, 7, 9) and they never brush their teeth unless I shout a reminder. He’s supposed to be responsible for cleaning the cat boxes, but this rarely actually happens and the cats often go elsewhere in the house as a result. He’s supposed to do the dishes after dinner, since I do all the cooking and such, but he often forgets and I have a huge mess to clean up later the next day. We’ve been negotiating all this for many years. If you’re bored reading about it, imaging how much more boring it is to live!

  20. Glad to see so much discussion about these articles! I read both last night. Complaining about spouses is an unfortunate hobby that many of us engage in, and I know that it really is offensive to my spouse. He is an amazing, wonderful, supportive partner and capable father….and yet both of us agree that I shoulder more of the childcare/housework/emotional labor….and this has led to repetitive uncomfortable conversations despite us being conscientious people. I think it is an important national conversation that needs to happen- backed up with rigorous research. The Federalist author retweeted an article stating that paid family leave is putting national economic priorities ahead of women’s preferences (because 80% of us want to be SAHMs)…so I read her opinion piece cautiously.
    Several thoughts:
    1) Parenting young children is relentless, and time starved people end up quibbling over who took 10min longer to use the bathroom (i.e. scroll through social media). The problem here is that we need more adult time- period. You can note that I’m leaving a blog comment at 9:30am- so I won’t complain that I have no personal time 🙂
    2) When I worked more hours outside the home, my husband did more housework/childcare. If we add domestic work + paid work together, we’d be more equal. Issue here is that sometimes I WANT to work more, but because my work is “flexible” I’m left covering a lot of the kid stuff.
    3) I’ve observed that the person who has the higher paying job seems to have more power to get out of housework, and this is corroborated in rigorously conducted research studies. This is disappointing, as there is a real gender wage gap.

    I don’t have the answers and the conversations will continue in my house, so that we continue to work towards a more happy existence.

    In sum, I think this is a very important conversation, and I believe Laura thinks it is too- that’s why she has dedicated her career to empowering women to pursue big jobs and still have fun too. But how can we most effectively communicate inequities with men in our lives and in the public? Its not surprising that demeaning them is not received well. Perhaps we need to take the approach of Anne Marie Slaughter’s husband- that we really need to empower men and stop the caricatures of the bumbling idiot who puts the kids’ clothes on backwards.

  21. I truly don’t understand how married moms do more housework than single moms. I’m a “single” mom while my husband is deployed 6 months out of the year, and that is not the case for us; the work is still there and my kids are too young to do it. I notice an immediate relief when my husband comes home because I suddenly have more leisure time when he is helping out.

    Both the NYT & Federalist articles made solid points; I agree w/ the Federalist that publicly criticizing your spouse is blatantly disrespectful. The author of the NYT could have made her point without making her husband look like a clueless fool, but it also made her article more relatable. I agree with some of the other commenters that you’re a bit dismissive of the problem, Laura, though this is your blog and you’re entitled to your own opinions! Your solution of having a civil discussion with your husband works for you- and I’m glad it does!-but it doesn’t really address the diverse array of nuances of so many working parent couples.

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