On Mother’s Day, parenting blogger Ellen Seidman wrote a celebratory post about all the things moms notice and fix on a daily basis, from a lack of matching socks or dwindling stock of peanut butter to “laundry detergent, bleach, stain spray, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, bathroom soap, hand sanitizer, bathroom cleaner, floor cleaner, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner [insert products critical to cleanliness].”
“We mothers deserve props for our seeing superpowers,” she wrote. “This is not to disparage my beloved. Hells to the no! Although perhaps I feel ever so slightly smug that I am the person who stays on top of such stuff, this isn’t about him. This is about me, and my uncanny ability to see things.”
It was refreshing and uplifting to see a woman willing and able to applaud her own work, and the work of other moms, without tearing down anyone else—namely, her husband.
Unfortunately, it was also a rather rare response, and one not everyone was able to accept. In response to Seidman’s post, Pacific Standard writer Lisa Wade wrote that while Seidman didn’t want to politicize this “ability to see things,” she did: “The data suggests that it is not an accident that it is she and not her husband that does this vital and brain-engrossing job. Nor is it an accident that it is a job that gets almost no recognition and entirely no pay. It’s work women disproportionately do all over America.”
But is Wade really giving dads proper credit? Sure, a lot of fathers out there don’t do the same share of domestic housework that moms do. If that disproportionality also indicated that all the fathers out there are sitting in front of the television every waking moment, doing nothing to contribute to the health and flourishing of their homes, I’d be mad, too. But it’s very difficult to believe this is actually the case, because while I do notice many basic housework or domestic chores that may slip my husband’s notice, he’s the one who notices:
- when the grass needs to be cut
- when the sidewalk needs to be shoveled
- when the gutter needs to be cleaned
- when the shower drain is clogged
- when the disposal isn’t working
- when the tires are low
- when the gas tank is almost empty
- when the oil needs to be changed
- when the bills need to be paid
- when we could or should consolidate or pay off a loan
- when a door handle, cabinet, gate, or other household item is broken
- when the computer has a glitch or needs to be repaired
- when our phones are scratched, broken, or need to be replaced
I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting (because, remember, he notices the things I don’t). In addition to this, he works longer hours than me (usually 10 hours a day plus occasional weekends), commutes (while I don’t), and is willing to do household stuff whenever I ask him.
Men Do the Dirty Jobs, Often Without Thanks
My husband may not be identical to yours. Every man is different. But division of labor has always been a fundamental part of functioning households, and is what helps things get done. Ask any single mom out there, and she will tell you how difficult it is do everything—the money-earning, the household maintenance, the domestic duties, and the child-rearing—all on one’s own. Since my husband’s in the military, I’ve had little tastes of this reality, and it’s terrifying.
Men take on many jobs the rest of us forget to acknowledge or honor. As Camille Paglia once noted for Time magazine, “It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.”
Also, these men don’t demand thanks at nearly the velocity or frequency I often see from women. We want to be thanked and acknowledged for everything we do—and it’s not necessarily wrong for us to do so. But alongside our demand for thanks, we often negate the grueling, dangerous, demanding work that men so often take on.
When I thank my husband for the work he does around the home, he often laughs. “It’s my job,” he says. “Why would I expect you to thank me for doing my job?” When I thank him for his military service, he responds similarly. But that willingness to help, to serve, to put himself at a disadvantage or risk in order to keep his family happy, healthy, and safe—these are things I want, and need, to thank him for.
While “I am the person who notices,” so is he. This Father’s Day, I want to make sure he—and all the other loving fathers out there—don’t go unnoticed by the women in their lives.
So thank you: to the husbands and fathers who come home from full-time jobs and mow their lawns, take out the trash, repair the car, fix the broken washing machine, walk the dog, and play with the kids. Thank you to the men who babysit so their wives can have a nice night out, or read books to their children before bed. Thank you to the dads who go to every baseball game and ballet recital, who work extra hours to make sure there’s dinner on the table, who don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet but make sure the gas tank is always full and the bills are always paid.
Thank you for noticing, for loving, for serving. We notice you, and we are thankful.