Who’s Doing More Work Around Here?Joel Stein
Before we had a kid, Cassandra and I used to fight about one thing: Whether I had sex with her enough. I don’t remember if it was me who wanted to do it more, or if it was her, or if it was the website we submitted our videos too.
Now we fight over who is doing more work around the house.
Lots of couples with young kids argue over this, as they strain to balance long office hours with the constant needs of a child. Our fights, however, are more impressive since we’re both home all day. Laszlo is so over-parented he’ll not only cry if both of us leave the house, he’ll cry if just one of us leaves the room. Also, he’s kind of a wimp.
Yet we argue like we’re both double shifting at the plant. Last Monday, the fight got so hurtful that Cassandra went to sleep in Laszlo’s bed with him. I don’t know if you’ve ever slept with a two-year old, but it’s very akin to not sleeping. She was back in an hour. But she had made her point: We were definitely not having sex.
Part of the problem is that we’ve never formally discussed what each of us is responsible for. Which is a ridiculous way to run a relationship. It would like be getting a job and being told you’re in charge of “getting along.” Our idiotic wedding vows were about love and honesty and making each other laugh. They should have specified how many pee diapers and how many poopy diapers we each had to change. I can watch Will Ferrell movies if I want to laugh. Food runs through Laszlo like he’s an episode of VeggieTales.
I have long subscribed to the axiom that I should do 75 percent of the work. Because only if each person believes that, is there a possibility of an even split. I mention this 75 Percent Rule because it sounds like just the kind of thing that will lead to a lucrative series of business lectures.
Neither Cassandra nor I, who were raised in the 1970s, ever thought we’d become these people. We thought both halves of the couple would be out of the house at jobs building robots to fight wars in galaxies far, far away. And yet we’re having fights that our parents had.
It wasn’t until the morning after our fight, when we each decided to make up but instead started fighting again, that I realized that the problem isn’t that I feel like I’m doing too much. I’m well aware that the only people whose jobs require less work than mine are the entire population of Greece.
The real problem is that we both feel underappreciated. I have a job where I get fan mail, invites to swanky parties and an award from The New York Association of Black Journalists. Cassandra gets a kid who says, “No kisses, Mommy! Wipe it off!” And yes, I tried the same tactic as reverse psychology, but it didn’t get her to sleep with me more. Maybe the problem was that I replaced the word “kisses” with something a lot dirtier. And that I also used the word “Mommy.”
I’m particularly insensitive to the efforts that Cassandra makes. Partly that’s because I believe that women tend to do a lot of work that’s completely unnecessary, like cleaning when they’re having company and cleaning when they’re not having company. And partly because it’s hard for me to think that spending time with a child you love is work, compared to sitting at a desk and writing mean jokes about that child.
Meanwhile, I write and report on weekends, and unlike Cassandra don’t have a boss that always demands everything right now. I can do what I want when I want. My life is more like Laszlo’s than Cassandra’s.
So to keep it that way, I’m going to act a lot more grateful: giving her massages, saying what a great mom she is, telling her she needs a break while I take Laszlo to do whatever she tells me Laszlo likes to do. Because that sounds a lot easier than actually doing more of the work. Plus, I read that might lead to more sex.