jessie

Can Dad Boil the Water?

Leslie Kaufman's article in The New York Times, entitled "Mom Puts Family Back on the Table," left me so confused. Cannabalistic title aside, her solution to the basic work-cook conundrum was baffling. She details how, despite working full time and not getting home until 7:30pm most nights, she is able to put a healthy and varied menu on the table for her family. The solution? Spending her Sunday planning, shopping, and preparing. Also her babysitter pitches in.

 

I can relate to the desire to sit down with family each night. It was a priority in my house growing up, which I appreciated then and now. My dad worked long hours and traveled frequently. But dinner was a priority and he was always there, either in person or on speakerphone--seriously. I think it is a great credit to both my parents that I never thought of my father as absent or any less of a daily influence, despite his professional commitments. Planning those nightly dinners together has a lot to do with that I think.

 

So I get sacrificing to make dinner happen. What I don't get is why Kaufman's recipe for success never once suggests anything a partner can do to help. Kaufman does the shopping and food prep on Sundays and in the mornings before work so that when she gets home she can throw dinner in the oven and everyone can eat 15 minutes later. I have no idea if her husband works, or what other demands are on his time, but he seems to make it home in time for dinner regularly enough to demand greater variety in the meals, so his work schedule can't be too overwhelming.

 

Of course, Kaufman's husband may pick up the slack in other ways and this is just the deal they've worked out. Fine. But I think in most households huge, labor-intensive tasks, like putting dinner on the table every night aren't realistically the sole responsibility of any working parent. More importantly, I think the greater battles of pay equity and equal advancement cannot be approached before domestic duties are shared. I'm not sure how to get dads in the kitchen, but I'm pretty sure neglecting to include them in the "solution" is not the first step.

1 Comments

KHernan881

Jessie,
 I agree with your reading of this article.  My gut feeling was the same, i.e. why is she trying to be it all and why should she have to attempt to be it all?
I read a post about this same article on "The Juggle."  The writer read it differently which was interesting to me.  She read into it an attempt to hold onto some aspect of being a traditional wife and mom while living the life of a working-mom.  She wrote about how working moms often try to hold onto one aspect of their mothering jobs as their own no matter how much pressure is on them to delegate it to others.
The question is, then, is this need to hold onto the one thing that is most important to us as mothers an outward concession that juggling and having it all is, in fact, a super human expectation?  Afterall, choosing the one thing that we'll do no matter what necessarily means that there are other things that are lower on the priority list.
 Do we have to cook homemade lunches for our kids?  Is giving them frozen pizza a failure?  I don't think it is.  In fact one of my two kids pretty much subsists on pizza and chicken nuggets (not McNuggets, mind you).  Why would this be failure for some and not for others?  I don't have the answer to this question.  I frankly don't understand the need to hold onto one task as specifically assigned as the proper role for the female parent.  I say, let's all chip in to make the working-family model work. 
At the same time, I can understand the "need" and the "guilt" and the "desire" to do everything and be everything.  Maybe I've resigned to accepting my limitations, or failures, depending on your point of view.

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