The Gender Imbalance Re-envisioned

This weekend James and the boys and I drove the hour long trip to James’ parents house so that James could help his mom and dad cater a wedding. James has banquet serving experience from his years in Santa Barbara giving him as many stories about movie stars at events as he does ideas for wine pairings. So his mom’s catering business benefits from his experience. He set up serving tables and ordered the cake lady around and created centerpieces for forgotten tables and arranged the food and joked with the guests and made sure the bride had a linen napkin to wipe her frosting-ed fingers with and in general made everyone believe that he is the most capable person you’ve ever met.

As they were setting up the wedding, the boys and I came over to the reception site and observed. I spread a blanket on the grass under a tree and watched James move around the tables and twinkly lights with purpose and confidence. The fact that James is capable is no news to me. He is infinitely better suited for running our house and raising our kids and makes it look very easy. And I sat on the blanket eating a lunch he had packed for me and the boys to eat, knowing it would be nearing lunch time while we were out. This fact had not crossed my brain until I had two clinging kids mobbing me with requests for food and James whipped out lunch.

The thing that surprised me a little while I sat there was that we are progressive in more ways than just the working mom, stay-at-home-dad genre. In the stereotypical roles, you have the bumbling dad who needs to be told what to do and the uber-capable mom who runs the ship. I don’t think either of us fits that role entirely but truth be told, I’m more like the bumbling dad than I am the uber-mom. I forget to bring diapers and I leave my wallet at home; I am an excellent secondary caregiver.

I think that James and I are good at recognizing ways to help each other and complement each other in really remarkable ways when it comes to raising children. But in much the same way as I’m sure many of you working parents occasionally realize, I realized that I could be doing more. Just because James is capable does not mean I am off the hook. Just because he always has his wallet and the boys’ blankets and knows where the keys are, does not mean I shouldn’t get better at doing those things as well. Because he has to be good at them to cover over my space-cadet-ism. I don’t want that to be all on him. And if we are breaking down stereotypes in our gender roles, it’s not progressive to just trade one role for another. We have to participate in a partnership. Some days I am good at keeping up on my end, others, not so much.

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