Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In is once again sparking the debate over whether or not women can “have it all.” As a mother of four (yes four!) children and a marketing agency owner, I endure the neverending mental roller coaster all working mothers do, asking myself “Am I doing this FOR my family or at the expense of my family?” I live this debate every day.
Historically, men have “had it all.” No one ever faults a man for working “to provide for his family” and being a father. No one has ever questioned if a man can do both. This, of course, is because historically there was someone to make his entire life “go” by taking care of his home, his children and everything else.
However as women increase their contributions to the finances, and ease the burden on men, why are we not seeing an equal and expected rise in the number of their male counterparts in the domestic arena to ease the burden of women? I often marvel at the fact that no one seems to be focusing on how to tip that scale. Why have we failed to ask the men to step forward domestically in this feminist debate? Our continuing to focus ONLY on the women’s roles is an act of inequality in itself that defies the very movement that always boasts real progress. Instead of just focusing on women in the workplace, we need to discuss the missing half of the equation: men in the home.
I am incredibly tired of watching women scramble to do it all because they are trying to prove that they are deserving of having it all. Many women have fallen into “the trap” – they have added professional responsibilities to their plate without expecting contributions in the domestic arena. Women are scolded for having nannies, or housekeepers or “help” yet no one points out that these women are hiring outside resources to do what her partner could be stepping up to help doing. While there are volumes of books like Sheryl’s dedicated to how women are evolving, there has been little to NO discussion on how men’s roles need to change in tandem.
One of the major reasons I am able to “have it all” is because I have a husband that has stepped up to support a modern woman. He has helped filled the gaps in our family – making us an evolved and complete family unit. Much to my traditional father’s shock, my husband will come home from work and help with homework, fold laundry on the weekends, run a vacuum, or go on a field trip, etc. My three business partners represent the same modern man – they go from C-level executives to housekeeper, dinner chef, tooth fairy, bath-giver, boo-boo fixer, etc. to support their working wives and make sure their children have everything they need; creating families that have it all, because both partners are taking equal responsibility in the goal of the modern feminist movement.
These modern men should be appreciated – but at the same time, this is not a miracle – it is how it SHOULD be. The question is not “can women have it all?” but “how do the sexes work together to create families that have it all?” Women are taking on “men’s jobs” of financially providing; it only makes sense that men step up and take on some of the “women’s jobs” to continue to have the same resources at home. Feminism is just as much about the evolving man as it is the woman.
There has been absolutely no progress for the feminist movement if we still have higher expectations for women than men, or demand more from women to justify their having it all. In fact, the way this feminist movement is going we are just recreating the same problem in a different form. Instead of continuing to criticize the modern women or debate how they spend their days, perhaps it’s time we talk about TRUE equality through the equal participation of their male counterparts not only in the workplace but at home. If not, we continue to perpetuate the same unbalanced expectations of women – just a new version of the same inequality.