Washington Post


by Anne-Marie Slaughter / June 19, 2015

Working mothers today are the targets of an entire industry of books, magazines and advice columns on how to balance work and family, complete with competing studies as to whether couples in which husbands help more with housework have more or less sex. Forget the rarified world of the chief executives who need to travel frequently and make themselves available constantly for clients or crises; a far larger group of women simply want to advance in their careers at a steady pace — at least keeping up with the men in their offices — without feeling overwhelmed by dueling demands at home.

But all that counsel only goes so far: Even when their husbands fully share the housework and child care, it doesn’t help reduce the stress that so many women say results from the equivalent of two full-time jobs. The biggest problem is that Mom remains “the designated worrier” in most households, as Judith Shulevitz wrote on Mother’s Day. “Mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items.” The psychological toll of always being responsible can knock a woman “partway or clean off a career path.”

There’s a simple fix for that anxiety, though: Don’t just ask men to do more work at home. Put them in charge.

Men seem ready. We know from a Pew study on modern parenthood in 2013 and a study by the Families and Work Institute a year later on “the new male mystique” that men and women now feel roughly the same level of work-family stress when they have children at home. Nearly the same percentage — 52 percent of mothers and 48 percent of fathers, according to the Pew survey — said that “they would prefer to be home with their children but they have to work because they need the income.” Would men resist becoming lead parents if it meant their wives could bring in more money and they could spend more time with their children?

Real equality, for our partners and for us, hangs in the balance. This Father’s Day, let’s take a hard look at ourselves and our expectations, and give it up for Dad.


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