You love your life, you love your spouse and you’re thinking about adding a baby into the mix because you love the idea of having a child with your beloved.
No problem, right?
Right … depending on your gender, something Rebecca Onion addresses so beautifully in her Slate article:
I’m willing to allow that being a mom might strip me of some independence, and the bright little faces of my nieces are a good argument that there would be ample compensation. What I most worry about is that motherhood might make me hate my darling husband. … For a person like me, a feminist with a keen awareness of the generally unfair division of domestic labor, my friends’ irritated gripes, or the findings in books like Arlie Hochschild’s 1989 classic The Second Shift, are little horror stories. “Many women carry into their marriage the distasteful and unwieldy burden of resenting their husbands,” Hochschild wrote. I can see how this would happen to me, and I Do Not Want. tweet
Welcome, Ms. Onion, to the his and her marriage sociologist Jessie Bernard detailed 50 years ago and that is still prevalent today. Ms. Onion worries that motherhood might make her hate her “darling husband,” but what about becoming a mother would do that? Well, a few things, all related to our gendered expectations of who does what better — even among the most enlightened of us. As sociologists Karyn Loscocco and Susan Walzer detail in Gender and the Culture of Heterosexual Marriage in the United States:
The role expectations associated with being a husband or wife intersect with those to which men and women may more generally be accountable. … people tend to be accountable to dominant gender beliefs whether or not they act on them and to treat them as shared cultural knowledge whether or not they endorse them. tweet
Kudos to Ms. Onion for recognizing that. So how does she want to address those gendered realities? With a bit of brilliance, a pre-pregnancy prenup:
Wouldn’t a not-at-all legally binding document, outlining expectations and setting a course for periodic re-examination of the division of labor, alleviate my fears, and prevent aggravation, or fights, or divorce, in the future? … There is a list of things I’d want if we had a kid. I’m a writer with a very flexible schedule—just the kind of mom whose work time gets bitten into when a child care crisis arises. Could I ask for a guarantee that I could have six (seven? eight?) hours a day to myself, for work, no matter how inconvenient that arrangement gets for him? Could I stipulate that he would need to be done with work at 6 or 7 p.m., rather than his current workaholic quitting time of 9:30 or 10—again, no matter what mitigating factors might arise? Could we acknowledge the unfair cultural expectation that allows fathers to take time for leisure, while denying the privilege to mothers, and try to change that in our own lives through planning? Could I ask for him to learn to cook and shop for groceries, so we could split that 11-hour-a-week burden? tweet