“Going to the movies” read the text from my husband. I shook my head. He had told me earlier that he was planning to go to the movies, but it still annoyed me. Logically, he had every right to go. He had led one of our preschool’s clean-up days all morning, the kids and I were out, and he spends a ton of time with them as a stay-at-home dad. And yet, it still felt wrong. Whereas I and many other women would have used the free afternoon to tackle their to-do lists, his first (and probably only) thought was re-watching a movie he had already seen. In the world of 28 million blog posts about why moms should be taking “me time,” he was living the dream.
Of course, this isn’t exactly unusual for a dude. Men – including fathers – are known for asserting their right to “self-care,” as it’s trendily known. Going to the gym, working outside the home, taking Saturday afternoons away – none of these generally seem to strike guilt in the heart of dads the way they do moms. They take the ability to go to the bathroom without small people and not getting climbed on while writing an email for granted.
Except that my husband doesn’t. As a stay-at-home dad, he’s perfectly aware of both the responsibilities involved and endless to-do list. If anything, that actually makes him more likely to feel entitled to take time off. He’s there all of the time and knows I’m certainly competent at taking care of the kids. Why the hell would he feel bad being away?
Admittedly, some of this is his personality. The man doesn’t have a guilt-inducing bone in his body. I cover that area plenty for both of us.
But some of it is definitely male privilege. He just doesn’t feel the weight of making sure all of our shit is in order the way I do as a mom and woman. Despite the fact that he’s the one who stays at home, he’s not the one who will be judged if the house is a mess. He’s not the one who worries our kids aren’t eating healthy enough. (He cooks for us, but he doesn’t actively worry about it.) He’s not the one preoccupied with growing food or driving less or being more green. He cares enough to (mostly) get done what needs to get done, but no more. The to-do list of living with small children doesn’t haunt him the way it does me.
I think that’s why I felt a twinge of anger over that text. I wasn’t angry he was going to the movies. While there were a million things I’d rather he be doing, he totally deserved to go. But the fact that it was a non-decision for him galled me. If it was me, I would have debated it in my head a million times over before his encouragement would have pushed me over. I’m jealous of his level of freedom.
Honestly, I shouldn’t be. Those articles about self-care and me time and taking time for yourself are right. Those things shouldn’t just be a male privilege. But until we move past needing articles reminding us that we’re more than our to-do lists, we won’t have equal parenting or gender equality.
For more thoughts on feminism, see Seven Ways I’m Teaching My Young Sons to be Feminists and Nine Awesome Picture Books with Girls as Main Characters. Be sure to follow me on Facebook!