21 Comments
Feb 20Liked by Cindy DiTiberio

Oh CINDY! Thank you so much for this post! Your and Eve's story is my story and many, many others, I'm sure. My husband and I raised our kids in the mid-90s to mid-2010s and struggled for years with the division of labor in the household, especially after I cut back my work to be the primary parent. I am with you 100% that the household labor needs to be shared. And I understand your reaction when your husband came in with "can I add a few things?" I can't tell you how often we went round and round about this same tension...his career demands, my pulling to get him to co-parent with me.

But I often wonder whether there may be just a bit of truth in the breadwinner's side of the issue. (Please don't take offense)! I've been trying to tease this apart in my own writing and thinking for decades, and it feels complicated to me. There's lots of things that have to happen for a family to thrive, and one of them is earning money. The parents have to do that. Does it have to be just one partner? No, but as you note, in the absence of high quality affordable child care, that is often the way the math shakes out. Of course I wish that careers were less demanding, that companies offered (or were mandated to provide) more parental leave, that care work was valued and paid. But without those things, we are stuck. So... when partners talk together about all the kinds of work that go into sustaining a family...do we really want to say that the breadwinner's efforts don't have anything to do with that calculus? (Again, I am not saying the status quo patriarchal model is in any way ok!)

Really curious as to what you think. Thanks again for this substack, it is brilliant. xx

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Feb 21Liked by Cindy DiTiberio

That laptop moment made my stomach lurch!

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I actually have two friends who started reading the book, fiddling with the cards, and decided NOT to take it to their husbands because they knew it would go nowhere and they didn't want to have to face down what you faced down in having that conversation. We can have our husbands read Fair Play all day, have them hold the cards in their hands, but as long as they are socialized to believe household management is a wife's/mother's JOB, they won't be able to embody their role in a true partnership. It's really something else. ... I thought about what you said about your ex being one of the "good ones." The "good one" bar is SO LOW. It's like: He... participates! Inconsistently and on his schedule! Cool, cool. ... I think that one of things that never goes away is this default we have that the woman in a hetero marriage keeps track of it all. The man slots himself in when it suits him. I believe Rodsky has addressed this: but the fact that Fair Play itself is almost exclusively first read by the woman in the couple and then presented to the man. Heaven forbid a husband should pick it up independently.

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Thank you for your intimate take on this. I recommend Fair Play often, though so far my husband has only taken on "dishes" and "weekly trash," with mixed success. (And he's also one of the good ones, helping with bath and bedtime whenever possible, asking if he can stop for groceries a few times per year, and he just finished coaching his first basketball season!) He was earning 4-5x my salary when I had our first child, so I made the excruciating decision to stay home despite having just landed my dream job.

A couple years in, I really began to miss the intellectual stimulation, but couldn't fathom job seeking with a newborn and preschooler. And then, of course, I had no help during the pandemic with a 4 and 1 year old at home, and thought I might have to institutionalize myself to get a break (but somehow I plowed through). I began to busy myself by establishing a non-profit, and then for-profit social venture, but those don't make any money to speak of. And now that both the kids are in school full-time, I can't seem to get hired back into the traditional health policy work I loved and left, despite a master's degree and good decade of high-level experience prior to parenting, and, of course, networking my face off. Actually, the networking has been hard to do the last couple months, because the kids have only been in school two full weeks since Dec. 11. Yep, you read that right.

I just joined an advisory board that Eve is also on, where Dr. Misty Heggeness is developing a public dashboard for statistics about the caregiving economy (The Care Board Project). I'm interested to see how quantifying the unpaid labor associated with caregiving generally, and mothering specifically, impacts social and legal matters in the US. I hope your work and the resources you're sharing get more people engaged in this vitally important topic. It's not just a parenting or divorce issue; it's a public health issue, and an important part of our country's changing social and economic status.

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Thank you for sharing about this. I brought fair play to my husband in 2022 and he has been so resistant to it, he has asked questions like “what do you do all day if you aren’t getting all these cards done?” and “why would you expect me to take a ‘whole’ (he meant CPE) card?”

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Thanks so much for this article, I have been looking forward to reading it ever since you hinted months ago that you were going to be writing it.

I am really looking forward to reading Equal Partners, I think it will help my understanding.

I noticed you linked Laura Danger but not the podcast she co-hosts with Krystal Britt, Time To Lean. It is one of my favourite podcasts and applies ideas of domestic labour to a whole range of topics (they are both ADHD-ers so the conversation is delightfully free-wheeling).

I was interested in your line about of course he didn't quit his job during the pandemic because of what it was. I notice that men's work is often prioritised -- the statistics in the pandemic bear this out -- but when women have the EXACT SAME WORK somehow the same values don't apply. Like, imagine if a mother owned a company with employees during the pandemic. Would the facts of her work be enough to prioritise it in the family? Or would she end up shutting up shop? I hope this point makes sense.

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Will you share how emotional labour has changed for you post your divorce? It sometimes seems to me that women still do a lot of the child related emotional labour even after the divorce, and still have household and meal duties, albeit with one less 'dependant'.

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