Today millions of women are honoring ‘A Day Without a Woman,’ a nationwide strike being held on International Woman’s Day. Organizers of the strike hope to “highlight the economic power and significance” of women, as well as to call “attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face.”
Those are lofty and important goals. We know that women continue to earn less than men even when performing the same jobs, and we know that women put in several more hours of housework each week, even when they have full-time jobs like their partners. In fact, even when their partners do not have jobs, employed women still do more housework than their unemployed spouses.
Women also perform more hours of ‘emotional care-keeping,’ meaning they are the ones who send out thank-you cards, they are the ones who buy presents for their child’s teachers, the ones who remember which relative is allergic to gluten, the ones who make sure to send flowers to their mother-in-law on Mother’s Day.
Now, don’t think that I am down on men. In fact, just the opposite. As the mom of three boys, I am a feminist not just because I want to empower and liberate women, but because I want to empower men and boys as well. I believe that we do men a great disservice when we don’t allow them to take on active roles in the home, and we do our kids a great disservice as well.
Women, I know what you are thinking: “I would love my partner to do more around the house! But I can only nag him so long before I finally break down and just do it myself.”
Here are 5 things I think women do to help create more equality in their household:
1) Seek to acquit, not convict. Instead of looking to “convict” your spouse for failing you, set an intention to look for ways to “acquit” him. Make a goal each morning to look for 3 positive ways that your partner contributes to your household each day. Maybe it’s that he took out the trash, got the kids’ teeth brushed, or made a pot of coffee. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to be irritated if he throws his dirty clothes on the floor, but it means that you will be committed to viewing a more complete perspective of his behavior.
2) Brag about your ‘hidden’ work. The problem with emotional caretaking is that much of it is hidden. Therefore, it is hard to calculate and hard for your partner to notice and appreciate. Furthermore, it is hard for the WORLD to notice and appreciate. So, I really want women to start bragging about themselves. (I know the word brag is off-putting to many people, but I don’t think there is anything negative about being vocal about your achievements, and more importantly about your soulful work.) So, if you just spent a few hours baking a gluten-friendly batch of cookies for your kid’s school, or you just led a food donation drive in your neighborhood, get on social media and let the world know. The beauty of this is that when you do so, you not only reap the benefits of a positive mood-boost, but you also inspire others to follow suit.
3) Refuse to ‘just do it’ for your partner. Do you resent the fact that you always have to buy your mother-in-law flowers for Mother’s Day? Maybe you’re tired of always being in charge of buying holiday gifts for the relatives. Sit down with your partner and clearly and calmly explain that you need his help with these tasks moving forward. Give some advice (“She likes tulips”) or (“We generally spend around $50 on the cousins”), and then step back. Let him succeed or fail according to his own plans. I know what you’re thinking—what’s going to happen when he doesn’t buy the flowers? Won’t it be all my fault? No, not at all. It’s not on your plate anymore. You have to be brave enough and bold enough to decide that “no means no.” You have the right to take a break. Your partner can’t ever step up if you aren’t ever willing to give up the reins.
4) Make a “woman” chamber in your house. You’ve heard of a ‘man cave,’ no doubt, but I also encourage women to create a ‘woman chamber,’ such as in an unused nook of the house or even in their closet. String up some twinkly lights, get soft cushions to sit on, burn some incense, and have music, poetry books and a journal on hand. The idea is to create a space that is totally yours. A place where you can’t see a pile of dirty dishes or a discarded sock. A place where your mind can be still. Open. Yours. Retreat there whenever you need a break, but commit to taking this spiritual break at least a few times a break. Self-care is not selfish. It’s your right and your necessity.
5) Check your energy. If your work is coming from a place of bitterness or anger (“Guess I get stuck doing the laundry again”), it’s going to be joyless. You will emanate vibrations of simmering rage and irritation, which your partner will then feel and reflect back to you. It’s a vicious cycle that can destroy your marriage. He feels like he can’t win and that nothing he does is good enough, and you feel like he never helps and is useless around the house. I encourage you to check in with your energy whenever you are performing tasks around the house. I don’t think you have to whistle a merry tune as you are cleaning a toilet (though it would probably make it more fun), but I do think that you can ensure that your work comes from an open-hearted space and a present, conscious mind.
For example, rather than mindlessly making dinner, think of it as an act of service for your partner that you are doing to nourish him, body and soul. When he feels this energy of whole-hearted giving, he will be inspired to match this frequency. He will feel that you are holding him in a place of grace and worthiness, rather than in a place of “never good enough” and his actions will reflect this newfound position of honor in your heart.
Remember, I am not asking you to be your partner’s slave, but rather to simply make sure that you are coming from a place of love and openness. Your partner will feel the difference, and more importantly you will.
Here’s to women everywhere, and their service in the workplace, as well as their service in the home. Here’s to the billions of cookies baked. The
billions of boo-boos soothed. The billions of simmering soups, warm cups of tea, fresh flowers, fluffed pillows, and birthday cards. The billions of women who try to do it all, and then go to bed feeling like it just wasn’t enough. Today is a day to tell these women: It was enough. You are enough. Your work has value. And we as a nation have a responsibility to give that value praise and acknowledgment. A day without a woman would be a terrible day indeed.