On having it all

I’ve seen a lot of angst about being a good father/partner, and running a successful career simultaneously. It’s something I wanted to talk about when I first started blogging at Sydney four years ago, but–heh–I’ve been too busy. Here’s a take I saw elsewhere last week:

Can men be great fathers, professionals, lovers, and enjoy their own space all at the same time? No, something has to give–their children lose out, they don’t advance as well as they would like at work, their relationship breaks down, or they get ill or out of shape. I wouldn’t judge which of work, relationship or parenthood career-men should concentrate on at different stages of their career: that’s up to them.

I read somewhere else the other day that the concept that you can have a perfect career and be a role-model dad is clearly false–not to say ‘revolting’. The only way is to delegate the running of your home life to others–housekeepers and nannies. Any successful man has somebody looking after his children for much of the day, and someone to do his laundry too. But then if there’s a nanny, do you actually spend any quality time with your kids? Of course there’s the weekend, but only if you’ve already made it; post-docs and junior faculty who dare to take weekends off (or even go home at a reasonable time) get looked down upon at work, if not positively discriminated against.

So what to do? Should we lower our expectations? That seems like surrender to me.

Why shouldn’t we have it all? I think there are two things you need, but feel free to suggest more. First, you need a thick skin. Bugger what your workmates say about you; prove them wrong. Second, get help at home. I’m lucky enough to have a partner who helps me with the housework, but we also have a fortnightly cleaner. It makes a big difference.

Try it. Isn’t that what we’re born for?

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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52 Responses to On having it all

  1. Richard P. Grant says:
  2. Benoit Bruneau says:

    I feel pretty fortunate that I’m currently not compromising too much either way. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it during my postdoc, when I felt that I needed to be in the lab 24/7…. but I was wrong, I just didn’t know how to manage my time properly. And that’s really the key. I know postdocs who are successfully juggling 4 projects and have time to have fun, while others whine that they’re so busy all the time and only have the one thing to deal with. Same thing with PIs who can’t seem to get it together, while other busier (and more successful) ones have time to spend with their families. I can’t figure out how these people do it on a reasonable amount of sleep, but they do. So manage your time better people, you’ll find that you won’t know what to do with all that extra time. Maybe constantly post comments on blogs?

  3. Kausik Datta says:

    For a moment there, I was about to congratulate you on your new bundle of joy… May I?

  4. steffi suhr says:

    My husband is at home while I’m (trying to) have the career. It’s an interesting experience. I hate not being able to be there for my son very much, though. In general, people don’t understand at all what we are doing.
    (p.s. concerning priorites: currently getting out of shape, and hardly blogging at all)

  5. Richard P. Grant says:

    Heh. Kausik, this post isn’t necessarily about me.
    Steffi, very interesting. Do you say things like “I try to help my husband with the housework?” to colleagues/family/friends?
    Benoit, you’re right insofar as time management goes, but that wasn’t really the crux of this post. Is it fair to say your partner helps you with the housework, or vice versa?

  6. Mike Fowler says:

    Pah – housework, schmouseturd. The missus and I both strive to develop and strengthen our nipper’s immune system by doing as little as possible. We help each other with the housework by not nagging each other about it.
    Nice post though. It’s fun to point out the bleeding obvious simply by turning another’s complaint on its head!

  7. Preeti Mittal says:

    It is really fair to help your partner with household work. My father is the best father, I must say. He excels on his work, is excellent for us (his children) and he helps my mom too.
    Helping each other is the key for everyone in the family to grow.

  8. steffi suhr says:

    @Richard: well… our situation is a little more complicated than normal, I guess. Part of this is due to the fact that I still sometimes need to back up my husband with school stuff and general bureaucracy, since his German is not always good enough (yet).
    But yes, I do actually find myself saying that (“I try to help my husband with the housework”) to people. But what’s maybe more interesting is that, even when I’m standing right there, the mothers of my son’s friends now usually discuss kid-related logistic details with my husband instead of me…

  9. Richard P. Grant says:

    I’m having trouble deciding whether that’s a win or not, Steffi. I think it is.

  10. Nicolas Fanget says:

    I’d say that’s definitely a win. I do all the taking to/from nursery, and got several “oh daddy’s taking you today?” on the bus/underground. Yes daddy is taking him today, like every day.

  11. Tom Webb says:

    Richard – a very effective little ruse! Makes the point as well as anything I’ve read that much (most?) of the remaining gender bias in science is down to attitudes.
    On the more general point of work-life balance, I agree with Benoit that the perception that science has to be 24/7 is partly to blame – the culture of presenteeism is damaging to individuals, and in addition is not even conducive to interesting science. Of course, in research it’s hard to switch off, and at some critical points long hours are needed. But working effectively is more important than just occupying a desk, and getting away from work is an important part of the creative process. Some of the people I occasionally socialise with who talk most about the long hours they put in are going nowhere, whereas some of the highest flyers I know are actually extremely disciplined in sticking to reasonable working hours.
    I have therefore taken the decision that I will risk being in the ‘low hours-going nowhere’ category, rather than gamble everything on ‘long hours-high flyer’!

  12. Benoit Bruneau says:

    “Is it fair to say your partner helps you with the housework, or vice versa?”
    Yes, it is essential. We both work (in the same lab), so we’re really a team for everything. No doubt it would be impossible otherwise. I mix the cocktails, incidentally.

  13. Tom Webb says:

    Benoit – mine’s a bloody mary, thanks!
    I agree that the only way to survive when both of you work (my partner is also in academia) is through teamwork. Our occasional ‘disagreements’ tend to arise when we (unconsciously, I think) divide the work to be done along typical gender lines (e.g. this weekend, the hours I spent digging out (or attempting to) a tree-stump, I counted as ‘housework’!)
    But it does seem to be just about possible to hold down a couple of jobs, have a functioning house, and (most importantly) eat well, if we both pitch in. What happens to this delicate balance when offspring #1 turns up this winter, remains to be seen…

  14. Richard P. Grant says:

    @Nicolas: we have a long, long way to go. In educating both sexes.
    Thanks Tom. I can’t imagine any paper would publish a letter in the form I quoted above, yet there it was (gender-switched) without a trace of irony in the Standard (and from a woman).
    Benoit, pointless anecdote for you, while you’re mixing cocktails. Both my Pawns are agitating for guitar lessons, and Jenny says she’d teach them. So I told the Younger Pawn (10 going on 23) that she’d have to be very nice to Jenny. YP turned to her without breaking a beat and said “Shall I make you a martini?”
    I’m so proud.

  15. Heather Etchevers says:

    Ah, making comments IS getting easier.
    Richard, I sort of don’t get your point. You’re setting up a straw man by supposing that the Standard receives letters like the one you devised, and doesn’t print them? Why don’t you (as representative of caring men) write a letter exactly like that, where you bemoan the difficulty of being a great dad and recognized as such, and keeping professional respect both for yourself and from your colleagues, because of the difficulties in managing your time?
    “Sometimes I get stressed, but I wouldn’t trade my responsibilities for anything,” says Etchevers. She enjoys being a mom.” (from that Science article referenced by Frank above). Yes, Galit Lahav’s forum article is very (too?) focused on her gender. I’d have rather she attempted to make it more inclusive, also; it’s a little like “what’s it like to be an Israeli expat in the U.S.” and how an Indonesian expat might have to transliterate to get something out of it. You’ll see that someone replied immediately “what about the fathers?” But she is upfront about writing from an extremely personal perspective, and I think there are good take-home messages.
    Just to nit-pick, don’t they have editors over there? “Think back to your first week as a new principle investigator….” followed immediately by “This principle has an important second part.”
    Well, that’s petty.
    Her drawers image jives really well though with my recent image (thanks to moving, certainly, and the spectre of it looming all last year) of having boxes – compartments – for the different parts of my life. Sometimes you do just have to put a lid on and open a different box. Only you can set the priorities for when that is necessary.
    Damn, but I put the screwdrivers in which box again?
    Benoit or the younger Miss Grant are welcome to compete in mixing me a drink.

  16. Richard P. Grant says:

    (hmm I still had two login screens for my own damned blog).
    Heather, I don’t think so, but I see why you thought that. I’m not primarily bemoaning the attitude towards men as primary care-givers or housekeepers. I’m not actually interested (for the purposes of this particular discussion) in that. The way I wrote this wasn’t the best (I was actually quite rushed and tired) and the first few comments have driven the discussion that way.
    No, the object of my scorn is the commenter (and indeed the paper) for being such reactionaries. I attempted to point out how ridiculous it is by saying something similar about men.
    And Ms Grant will be ready with the Stoli when you arrive 🙂

  17. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Heather, if you can secure an invitation down to Marseille I will mix you that drink. Shameless I know.
    OK Richard, now I get it. Yes, most of the time this set of arguments is not used about men, but I think it does often apply, depending on how “old-fashioned” the female partner is in her role. We’re totally (almost) equal in our roles, but I know many couples where the man is doing his manly job while mom is at home tending the kids.
    What about gay couples with kids (hey, I’m in San Francisco, there’s a lot of those here)?

  18. Richard P. Grant says:

    Yes Benoit, definitely. But I’m very leery of pushing the ‘blame’ back onto ‘old-fashioned’ females that way.
    I’m reminded, now I think about it, of a scene in When the boat comes in (where’s Cath when we need her?) where there’s this bloke pushing a pram and there’s these kids dancing around singing “His daddy is his mummy.”

  19. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Well that was clumsily written: I’m not suggesting that the “blame” is on the woman; I realize whatever I write risks being misconstrued, so I’ll keep it brief. Point is, some families or individuals prefer, or choose, or are forced into (because of convenience or other reasons) a more traditional arrangement of working man and stay at home woman. That’s all. I should have a lawyer check my posts….
    And for those Americans reading; the theme of the man at home (“role-reversal”) is the subject of at least two subplots on mainstream TV (Parenthood and Desperate Housewives). In both cases the man is in great angst about his situation, and occasionally ridiculed. Europeans: is this an American phenomenon?

  20. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Richard, interesting that you assumed from my comment that it is women saying this, because that’s accurate!
    In my self selected and biased experience, women tend to coo over the little one (he’s a bit of a charmer!) but assume that we are on a day out, whereas men tend to pretend not to notice him but assume I’m the main carer. Exceptions are Mediterranean/Asian/tourist men who coo. Definitely strong cultural differences in my experience.

  21. Richard P. Grant says:

    Benoit, yes. And in such conditions it can be unfair to expect an equal sharing of housework, and it can seem that the man in such a relationship is being unfeminist (which would be a wrong appraisal). I think… I think if one partner is loafing around while the other is working (paid or otherwise!) then there’s a problem. Else, no: it’s all about choice, after all.
    Heh, yes Nicolas. My experience is that it would be the women saying such things. Interesting cultural observation, that. (Oh, and Australian men are never the primary carers. Big, hulking Pacific Islanders however; yeah, I’ve seen them pushing prams).

  22. Heather Etchevers says:

    @Benoit: You’re on. Actually I should contact you offline as my family and I will be in SF in December, perhaps we could meet for third-party drinks.
    Interesting about Nicolas’ observations on who coos. And everyone’s, on who assumes by default the housekeeping roles. It’s not just cleaning (I’ve learned to happily delegate and afford it, over the years) but meal planning and preparation, and just the responsibility of thinking about the family unit and its functioning. This role could probably gain in prestige if it were considered from a pure project management perspective.
    I try to tell myself that, but there’s stuff that just no one likes to do. I’m also very lucky in my partner, but when there are a lot of things no one wants to do, it does sometimes lead to conflict. We both pull our weight and make sure to acknowledge it frequently, that’s pretty useful. Like having an exercise partner, such reinforcement keeps you from getting soft and sloppy.
    (I would suggest no one attempt to link to the easiest found YouTube video with the soundtrack of Carol Channing performing that song, or at least watch it until a couple of minutes in; it’s probably not the thing we should be encouraging from a serious science-based website.)
    @Richard – I think the paper is just going for the easy sell. They know a bunch of (certainly) ad-targeted women will read that and approve. Not Pulitzer material, for sure. Don’t even take a look at so-called “parenting” magazines in the pediatrician’s waiting room; they give me cold shivers in their blatant sexism.

  23. Eva Amsen says:

    Who helps whom with housework is a matter of petty detail when you’ve been doing it all by yourself for the past decade or so. Supposedly it’s a “career choice” to be a stereotypical “career woman” or “workaholic”, or, at the other extreme “pathetic” and something to feel sorry for, but there are tons of people who jetlaggedly crawl straight from a week-long conference sleep to the supermarket and the stove because nobody else is even around to fuss over the distinction between helping or being helped with shopping and cooking.
    I’m not complaining – at least not now (but don’t talk to me when my body clock says “3 AM” and I’m navigating Sainsbury’s to restock the whole fridge.) – but I did feel the need to point out that everyone here seems to be assuming that there are two or three options: woman “helps” man, man “helps” woman, and same-gender situations, when all I see is a bunch of spoiled people who – no matter how you put it – don’t always have to do everything themselves. And I’m “lucky” in this context to not have kids, but surely there are single parents trying to hold up a career. You won’t hear from them, of course, because when would they have time to read blogs.

  24. Richard Wintle says:

    Woo, Eva, don’t hold it in now… 😉

  25. Eva Amsen says:

    See, that right there is kind of diminishing that it’s even an issue. I’m honestly fine with doing everything myself, but I (and others like me) never get credit for doing 100% of housework on top of work-work, whereas in discussions like this people are fighting for a fair share of close to 50% of the housework.
    And the funny thing is, if I did live with someone, and did the same amount of housework I do now, or even just a tiny bit less, it would be horrible and I would be doing “too much”. People would be all, “What, they’re ONLY ever putting the garbage out and you have to do EVERYTHING ELSE?” but now I’d be happy with someone else taking over even as much as the garbage duties!

  26. Richard P. Grant says:

    If you did live with someone you could instead argue about the inherent sexism in the relationship, which is what this post is about (who helps who with the housework being off to the side somewhere).

  27. Eva Amsen says:

    I probably wouldn’t care so much, having taken housewifery for granted.

  28. Richard P. Grant says:

    You’re a woman. You would say that.

  29. Eva Amsen says:

    Oh, I see your point.

  30. Jennifer Rohn says:

    I saw the original letter in the Standard, and my first thought was: I have seen hundreds of similar letters (and articles) stating as a fact that women can’t be good mothers, workers and lovers at the same time, that “something has got to give” and that they “can’t have it all” (when written by a man) or “we can’t have it all” (when written by a woman). But I have never once seen a similar sentiment expressed about a man. This angers me, for reasons that I suspect are obvious. The insult is two-fold: it implies that only a woman can be the primary caregiver, and it also supposes that only women should.

  31. Eva Amsen says:

    I actually know a single dad – not a scientist, but works multiple jobs and works both days and evenings – who does it all, without complaining or showing off. And I’ve had to defend him when people said that it was “weird” that he was the one to take care of his kid instead of the mother, and point out that if the kid DID live with the mother, everyone wouldn’t have said he was lacking as a parent and felt sorry for the mom! So I guess I can see the sexism thing in single households, too.

  32. Kristi Vogel says:

    I empathize with Eva completely, as I’m in the same situation. One of the reasons that I didn’t buy an older house is that I couldn’t be around for renovations or repairs; even with a new house, it can be difficult to arrange routine maintenance for the AC, appliances, etc. I do all the cleaning, yardwork, and minor repairs myself, which is very different from the approach of almost all my colleagues.
    On the whole I’m very understanding and not resentful about working extra hours or taking on extra duties, to help colleagues with children who need to be picked up from daycare at a certain time, or with elderly parents who need to go to medical appointments or whatever. All I expect in return – which in my experience is apparently expecting TOO MUCH – is that said colleagues do NOT question me about my time away from work, whether I have a cleaning/yardwork person, whether I eat out at restaurants, did I take a vacation, etc.

  33. Jennifer Rohn says:

    Eva, that wasn’t exactly my point. My point was not that some fathers can’t be or aren’t good caregivers. of course they can and are. My point is that we live in a world where it goes without saying that fathers automatically can have it all: they are allowed to work and have kids without anyone looking askance at them and saying that their children are suffering. Why should children be “harmed” any less if the man is working and the woman is staying home?
    And this is relevant for science. Nobody blinks when a male scientist’s wife has a kid. But when a female scientist does, people tut and say, oh, she’s endangering her career.

  34. Richard P. Grant says:

    (because it bears repeating)

    Nobody blinks when a male scientist’s wife has a kid. But when a female scientist does, people tut and say, oh, she’s endangering her career.

    and/or “You’re harming the children”.

  35. Tom Webb says:

    Lots of good points being made here. To show that progress in addressing these issues remains very, very slow, there’s a feature we put together 3 years ago on ‘gender in ecology’, for the British Ecological Society, available here, if anyone’s interested: https://files.me.com/tom.webb/i40lu1

  36. Nicolas Fanget says:

    I believe that in some countries (Scandinavian unsurprisingly) maternity/paternity leave is 6 months for each parent, to be taken either in whole chunks or spread over a certain period of time (can’t recall exactly). I think that is a brilliant idea that allows both mothers to get back to work quickly and fathers to spend more time with their kid.
    It also spreads the load more evenly across businesses, so that male-heavy industries (construction) would now shoulder more of the financial burden currently carried by female-heavy industries (erm, publishing?). It also removes the worry that comes with trusting your child to a nursery when they are under 12 months. Nurseries round here take babies from 3 months old, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for the kid and parents.
    That doesn’t solve the problems of single parents (or single people! can you get your cat to help Eva? 🙂 ), but at least makes life a bit fairer for quite a few people. As long as the maternity leave and return to work aren’t made easier, women will always be at a disadvantage, that’s a biological fact.

  37. Heather Etchevers says:

    I know a single mom group leader who has to live in a terrible suburb of Paris because it is all she can afford on her single salary, with two teenagers. The boy regularly got mugged until he finally had his jaw broken. She arranged with a colleague for him to be officially domiciled with her, so as to go to school in a reasonable area of the city. The girl got into a private school in Paris on merit, and seems to be doing alright as well. (I don’t remember the living situation for her.) The mom continues to publish – not enough for the tastes of some – in EMBO J and other estimable rags. I don’t know how she kept thinking all those years.
    No, this admirable colleague does not read or comment on blogs.
    Every time I thought my life as a de facto single mom last year and for various periods in the six years preceding was difficult, I would think of this woman. The link in Richard’s followup comment #2 above is a good one in the sense that it has a couple sound pieces of advice in amidst the female slant. One is, to let some things not be perfect, but just good enough. I suspect, Eva, that your standard for housework or food shopping is closer to perfect than to good enough. You can make do if you have to with dishes stacked in the sink on the day of a big experiment or eating instant noodles. Families can, too, actually, but they up the stakes as far as expectations are concerned – starting with one’s own expectations for oneself. “A good wouldn’t do that.” Well, they would and do, and the world does not come to an end.
    My point, I think, is that it’s important for measures to be in place for parents to spend time with their children, for people to be with their partners or other family members or purebred horses in their barn or fellow antique car collectors, and still all be considered successful professionals. “Alternate lifestyle” shouldn’t just be empty words – diversity of outlooks outside the workplace leads to different ways of problem-solving in the workplace, to everyone’s benefit.
    Sorry I kind of wrote a blog post in your comments, Richard. It got away from me.

  38. Richard P. Grant says:

    Well, you don’t have your own anymore so I make it a point to care for waifs and strays.

  39. Eva Amsen says:

    “I suspect, Eva, that your standard for housework or food shopping is closer to perfect than to good enough.”
    No, it’s really not. I’m messy. I really hate housework, so avoid it, but there is a point when somebody needs to do the dishes because all the pots and pans are used, and somebody needs to do laundry or buy food or pull out weeds or vacuum, and that somebody is just always me, even when I really don’t have time.
    My other anecdotal comment was a belated additional reply to Richard, actually, but maybe I misunderstood the idea after all. Hm, not sure anymore.

  40. Åsa Karlström says:

    Nicolas> In Sweden there is 13 or 14 months of maternaty/paternity leave, of which 3 months are for the dad only*. The rest is to be allocated as the parents see fit (most of that turns into mothers staying home) but since these months of leave are possible to stretch until the child is 6 years old (or 7, can’t recall now), there is a flexibility.
    and the father can take time off in the beginning, together with the mother, for a week or so, which at least here in the US where I am is unheard of…
    I think the key thing with all this sharing principle is that you can try and tackle the “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. I mean, it’s hard to go to work and then come back and fix things at the house. Likewise, it’s not a walk in the park to home with a toddler all day and then fix things… if you share and mix responsibilities the likeyhood of seeing that increases, imho.
    That said, I don’t have any children so this is purely based on babysitting for others and living in a household with lots of things to do 🙂
    *there are studies showing that many dads take these months during summer and/or hunting season but not all, and overall the outtake of fathers being at home with child is way over than you’d find elsewhere. Mainly, I’d think, because it is legislated…
    and mothers who want to move back into work fast are not looked upon that faverably. But most of all, I would like to point out that day care is very hard to find for children under 1 year or 1,5… Just to say that the option of going back to work might be a bit harder than one would think.
    [I’m not really sure on why I point out the flaws and current problems since I really think it is a sweet system… but I guess I want to make a more neuanced praise of the wonders of my home country ;)]

  41. Kristi Vogel says:

    @ Heather: You can make do if you have to with dishes stacked in the sink on the day of a big experiment or eating instant noodles
    My housework standards are nowhere near perfect, and I agree that letting the dishes pile up once in awhile is not the end of the world, for a single person or for a family with young children. However, the “eating instant noodles” thing is non-negotiable, AFAIC, and my closest friends here (both independent faculty-level scientists in different fields, and with two small children) would support me in this. How can any of us, single or married with children, in research or teaching or publishing/science communication, expect to stay healthy and alert, and do our jobs, without a proper diet and, for that matter, sufficient exercise? Sure, maybe you can manage it while you’re young, but a) why should you have to, and b) what happens when you get to be middle-aged?
    If I succumbed to the easy American slide into convenience foods and little exercise, I’d soon develop type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease. Those are preventable illnesses that would severely affect my ability to do my job well, and from a cold financial standpoint, would also cost my employer a lot of money, not just in sick days (and I’ve only taken one of those, to have surgery, in ten years of employment with this university). There are many long days at work when instant noodles or fast food would be the easiest option in the evening, but I’m just not going there.
    I think the insistence on a work-life balance is my favorite characteristic of GenY (or whatever you want to call people currently in their twenties or so). And I’ve seen many more men take paternity leave lately (paid or unpaid, student or postdoc or faculty); I think it’s a great trend. In the context of professional (medical/dental) school teaching, we can easily shift around (and have done so) for several weeks to cover for maternity and paternity leave.

  42. Richard P. Grant says:

    Just for the record, I’m not so fussed with the “insistence on work-life balance”. I’m more interested in insisting on a male-female balance—of opportunity and attitude, that is.
    (Heh. We’re big in CHE.)

  43. Heather Etchevers says:

    Okay, so how’s this for provocative?
    The balance of priorities in “things that have to get done in life” has more in common between women, and more in common between men, than between women and men.
    And there’s of course a great deal of spread within each group. Bob would demolish me.
    Two women wrote:
    somebody needs to do the dishes because all the pots and pans are used, and somebody needs to do laundry or buy food or pull out weeds or vacuum, and that somebody is just always me”
    “However, the “eating instant noodles” thing is non-negotiable, AFAIC, and my closest friends here (both independent faculty-level scientists in different fields, and with two small children) would support me in this.”
    This is just a question of priorities. Yes, of course when there are two people living together, they can share the unpleasant tasks of life. But my partner’s tolerance for the taxes not being done or the so-called grass being long and straggly or the dirty dishes in the sink is lower than mine, so he bites the bullet; my tolerance for no clothes in the closet or the ring in the bathtub or bad food is lower than his, so I bite it, too. Thus, we always end up doing the same sort of tasks, and are not always aware of what the other person has taken on, because each has the impression they are not being helped in the ones they did assume, that actually no one wants to do. Since the other tasks would have been put off until later, anyhow, you don’t notice not really having to do them. Human nature, I’m afraid.
    All Eva and Kristi are saying is that their priorities place having some clean dishes in the cupboard and edible food higher than certain other unpleasant tasks of life. On occasion, being in the lab can trump them. Yes, when you are on your own, you do have to do all of them. Most of us have been there. However, you do at least set your own priorities with more liberty, than when you need to negotiate with your partner, society at large, and your own expectations of what you “should” do first depending on the role you’ve assumed at that moment. [1]
    I’m not saying that such liberty does not come at a cost, but that the grass-is-greener phenomenon weighs in: for the gender-driven internalized idea of “what is really important and must get done first”, for the idea that sharing the chores is actually a division of labor rather than a distribution, and for the idea that freedom to assume some chores and ignore or put off others is idyllic.

    1 Example for instant noodles: I really cook for my family. If I am on my own for eg. a week, I binge on junk food the first days, just because I am free to not think about it. Then it all equalizes and I cook for myself again. I do consider eating well a priority, but feeding other people well is a much higher priority, and occasionally it is constraining. I constrain myself and I have a choice to prioritize other things, but I don’t take it.

  44. Nicolas Fanget says:

    What Heather wrote.

  45. Richard P. Grant says:

    I’m not sure I agree. You have some anecdotes from two self-selected women here. I mean, I guess you could say I ‘prioritize’ having clean underpants and shirts (sometimes ironed), and eating well; I just haven’t put it in those terms.
    This too, for example:

    The balance of priorities in “things that have to get done in life” has more in common between women, and more in common between men, than between women and men.

    I think is untrue. I’m pretty sure that the differences in most if not all so-called ‘gender differences’ (non-physical that is) are greater within the sex groupings than between them (delta intra > delta inter, if you like).

  46. Kristi Vogel says:

    @ Richard: I’m more interested in insisting on a male-female balance—of opportunity and attitude, that is
    I see. I will respectfully bow out of the discussion then, as my situation doesn’t address this. One more piece of observational anecdata, though – working couples (with or without children at home) seem to be more likely to hire someone to take care of the more onerous household and yardwork chores, than are single people in the same career positions. In general, people here are able (financially) to own larger houses and yards (which require more onerous cleaning and maintenance) than in other parts of the US and in Europe, so that may be a regional anecdatum. I have enough trouble keeping a 1500 sq. ft. house and garage clean – certainly couldn’t maintain the more typical 3500+ sq. ft. house.

  47. Eva Amsen says:

    I wouldn’t say I prioritize dishes (and the like). I leave them until I run out of pots or utensils. That’s often close to a week…[hangs head in shame]. Laundry is the same: I leave it until I run out of clothes. It kind of depends on the season: I have more summer clothes than winter clothes, so do less laundry in summer! I have ironed exactly one item once in the past half year.
    In fact, if I described my cleaning habits anonymously, people’d probably guess I was male…

  48. Richard P. Grant says:

    (It’s OK Kristi, it’s like herding bloody cats here 🙂 )
    In fact, if I described my cleaning habits anonymously, people’d probably guess I was male…
    THERE! Right THERE! That’s what I’m talking about!

  49. Eva Amsen says:

    Heh. That’s why I added it.

  50. Åsa Karlström says:

    My beef with it all was when the single [PhD students] were assumed to be able to stay late to fix things since they didn’t have anyone waiting for them to come home. I understand that if you need to pick up children from day care or what not, you are not “free with your time”. What makes me annoyed is as said here in the thread that it is somehow not OK for me to do something else outside of lab and prioritize that, unless it is spouse/children…
    As we decided in the lab that time, “the singles really needed some time outside of the lab if they were to have any outside interactions with people” ^^
    …and I’m sorry Richard, you wanted to keep it male-female balance… For that I’d say “the more you share chores adn responsibilities, the more likely I think it is that it’s “fair” in distribution”.
    That comes from someone who had a table with stars and crosses on the fridge door for a while though, to measure the “garbage/laundry/vaccum/dishes/grocery shopping/cooking” distribution for a month (or more)…. if nothing else, to see if the “feeling” was the same as “reality”. And yes, I hate vaccuming and dusting! 😉

  51. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Here we are discussing seriously the discrimination that occurs, mainly against women, in the pampered west. Meanwhile, women are still treated like property in many places of the world: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/19/women-slavery-half-the-sky
    Although we are far from complete equality, after reading this I’d say we’re on the right track. Hopefully we can keep improving always faster, and help out over there too.

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