Domestically Engineering A Better World

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I've been daunted by it because it's about something so big, systemic and deeply embedded into so many of our psyches that I feared I wouldn't know where to begin.

But I'm finally buckling down to write it because I've decided that if I can somehow be instrumental in turning just one family's thinking on this subject, the endeavor will have been a million times worth the effort.

The topic? A truly fair division of domestic chores in households in which both heads work, "work" including one parent's job of full-time parenting during the other parent's office hours. Because as a parent who's worked outside the home while my children were in daycare and who has also been a full-time stay-at-home parent, I can tell you the latter is no easier than the first. Not remotely.

The reason I feel as strongly as I do about it? Because once upon a time, for a number of factors that are historical, cultural and deeply personal at once, I was one of those women who subconsciously believed that household duties were solely my responsibility no matter what other work I was doing. And that notion was so deeply embedded in my own psyche that I didn't realize how I was both oppressing myself as a human being and stifling the development of autonomy and self confidence in the other members of my family by manifesting that notion daily in the management of my household.

But whatever the historical, cultural and personal reasons so many of us have for generally believing that domestic work is either ours, or someone else's, to shoulder alone, for the sake of this discussion, let's occupy the space of our current and true realities and desires.

Most of us live in a household with others and enjoy the benefits of said household. Most of those households resemble what looks like a family. Most of us want that household to be both a long term sustainable and happy one for all who dwell in it.

Many of us, due to our upbringing and acculturation, have not really stopped to think deeply and critically about not only how inequitable and unjust it is when one person in a household is held solely or primarily responsible for the daily maintenance of it, but consequently also the roles we ourselves play in the furtherance of that inequity and injustice.

That unconsciousness often plays out in a lot of unhelpful and ultimately corrosive passive aggressive behaviors that hurt the direct members of said household in the short term, and then by extension the members of the households they will come to head in the long term.

For women, it's often varying degrees of smiling to scowling sacrifice all toward the end of being recognized and valued for things that we, at our deepest cores, don't really want to be valued for, the main one being the family's Head Beast of Tireless Burden. We want to be able to have time to care for our families, but we also want to have time to enjoy them, as well as other things that enrich our lives and maintain our sanity. And despite what we've had drilled into our heads for, like, ever, we usually don't enjoy people when we're wiping their asses for them at a point in their lives when they are perfectly capable of doing it for themselves.

For men, it's often varying degrees of feigned blissful ignorance to the tiring round-the-clock grind that is domestic engineering. Well, at least until they're asked to contribute, at which point they are painfully aware of what an inconvenience is just one of a list of tasks that never. ever. ends.

In households where one earns a paycheck and the other doesn't, it's often, on both parts, a shallow capitalistic belief coupled with a lack of understanding of economics that only money equals economic contribution, which plays out in the belief that the paycheck earner's work is done when they clock out for the day while the other's work has never begun because, well, they don't work, right?

All three situations are propelled by self-imposed mental prisons and a short term satisfaction of ego and/or comfort, none of which have much to do in creating or maintaining the long term sustainable happiness of a household and each of its individual members.

So while it may give you some short term satisfaction to show everyone, including yourself, how you singlehandedly, tirelessly, and thanklessly engineer the domestics of your household, or to sit back and watch TV with your hand down your pants after dinner feeling that you've somehow lucked yourself out of a few shitty chores, the long term reality is that neither one of you should be happy with that situation because you're both setting everyone back on the evolutionary continuum.

The long term reality is that we ourselves need to realize and actuate, and then further model for our children, that a happy household is one in which each individual, male or female, is fully confident and competent to face the tasks and rigors of daily life on our own. And not one in which contrived binds, affections and connections are made out of deep seated fears and insecurities that we are either worthless if we don't sacrifice ourselves for others or that we are simply not sufficient to fend for ourselves.

So the next time you want to throw your hands up in anger or frustration that someone else isn't helping you carry the burden of household chores, remember it got that way in large part due to the fact that you might have failed in the past. Not to nag, not to whine, and not to passive aggressively complain, but to honestly and earnestly convict yourself of the fact that it takes more than your own efforts to run a household well, and to honestly and earnestly recruit the participation and ownership - not the "help", not the "assistance", not the "favors" - of the members of your household.

And the next time you find yourself watching another member of your household working to keep it a comfortable space of which you enjoy the benefits and feeling privileged in any way not to have to contribute, remember that you're not only taking away from the quality of someone else's life by your disproportionate selfishness, but more importantly that you are robbing yourself of the fullness of your own potential as a human being in the process.

And you're both teaching your children how they're going to live in their own households.

Imagine a future in which none of us believes ourselves too good for, or unequipped for, the requirements of everyday living, and in which we each strengthen our communities exponentially with our confidence and competence.

What a wonderful world that would be and could be. And a totally possible one if we start creating that reality in our households right now.




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