Today, my 2 daughters and I worked together to shovel all the snow off our driveway while my husband was writing a paper for a class. I also took care of bringing in the giant trashcans and recycling bins that were sitting on the curb from this morning’s trash pick-up.
This is gender equality in marriage.
You know what else is equality? Last night, my husband cooked dinner for our family. He scrubbed potatoes and carefully chopped fresh zucchini. He drizzled them with olive oil and tossed them with salt and pepper before roasting them in the oven. My husband did this while I worked on my online business, one of the several streams of revenue that helps meet our family’s needs.
When Equal Division of Labor Doesn’t Cut It
We started our marriage by trying to delineate between “his jobs” and “her jobs” and dividing them as equally as possible. We tried so hard to do it in a way that promotes gender equality, and you know what we got? Frustrated.
We struggled to find the exact perfect “balance” that would help us both feel equal in our roles and tasks. And yet, the more we talked it out (and let’s be honest, fought it out), the more confused we became.
Then one day, we realized that our attempts at gender equality were causing more disconnection than connection in our marriage.
And that’s when we discovered a different approach: being on the same team.
After 16 years together, 13 years of marriage, 4 houses, 2 kids, and several degrees and jobs, our division of tasks has changed more times than we can count.
Because it’s not really about who does what, or even about it being perfectly balanced and equally distributed. It’s about us being on the same team.
What Equality Really Looks Like
When my husband’s mom was dying in the hospital, I didn’t ask him to take out the trash because it’s a man’s job, nor did I ask him to take care of the kids because that’s the politically correct thing to do, I just supported him. I told him, “I’ll do your household tasks AND mine right now so you can be 100% present with your mom in her final days.”
When I left for 2 days to go on a retreat that was all about pursuing my dreams and passions, he took care of our kids. And when they both got sick while I was away, did he call me to come home and take over? No, he said, “I’ve got this. I’m their dad. You enjoy your time. I’m cheering you on.”
Sometimes I take out the trash or get the oil changed in my car. Sometimes he does. We’re on the same team.
Sometimes he cooks dinner and changes diapers and brushes little girls’ hair. Sometimes I do. We’re on the same team.
Something that drives me crazy about gender equality is that it’s become more of a point of contention than a tool for progress. It’s way too easy to judge other people and assume they’re not treating things “equally.” But when we do that, we’re missing the point.
I have friends who CHOOSE for the husband to work outside the home and earn the income and for the wife to stay home and care for the kids and the house. Are they practicing gender equality? Heck yes, they are. They talked and prayed and dreamed together and, as a team, decided to do it that way. The roles each of them plays are equally important. They can value, cherish, and appreciate each other in those roles.
I have friends who CHOOSE for the wife to work and earn an income and the husband to stay home and care for the kids and the house. Are they practicing some super-charged form of gender equality? Not at all. They’re on the same team. They also talked and prayed and dreamed together and decided to do it that way.
I have friends who have chosen all KINDS of ways to divide roles and earn income and care for children and pursue their dreams as a TEAM.
What’s the Right Way
Is there a “right way” to do it that best represents gender equality? Nope.
Because gender equality is not really about roles and division of labor at all. It’s about value.
When a husband and wife approach their lives from a “same team” mentality, they are intentionally valuing each other equally. That means they can choose who does what and how they work together and it can shift and change as their needs change in each new season of life.
And THAT is what gender equality is all about.
So the next time you see a mom who stays home with her kids or a Dad mowing the lawn, emanating “traditional values,” don’t assume they’re not exhibiting gender equality.
They could be practicing gender equality at its absolute best: the ability to work together as equally valuable members of the same team.
This is gender equality in marriage.
Want to get on the same page with your spouse? Grab a copy of the free Weekly Marriage Check-In!
Like this post? You may also enjoy…