My 4-year-old is asking for apple juice, all we have is margarita mix and I have two deadlines and 400 e-mails to attend to before I can make it to the market. As for my husband? I believe Raj hasn't seen the inside of a grocery store since he worked at one back in high school. Stocking the fridge is my task, as well as getting our son to school, scheduling his speech-therapy appointments, making dinner … I wouldn't mind if raising our child was my sole job, but it's not. My husband and I both work full time, and though he's definitely a modern, "hands-on" dad, I'm still juggling most things kid-related.
Still, Raj is more dedicated than any father I know. He stayed at home for the first year of our son's life while I worked, and has been present every step of the way—from changing diapers to teaching our son classic Bollywood dance moves (an endless source of amusement). It's clear that, like a growing number of his male peers, he sees parenting and career as equal priorities. I'm lucky my husband embraces fatherhood with a zeal and devotion unheard of among previous generations, but I still have to wonder why, when men are far more involved in child rearing than ever before—and even talking about it to one another—women are still left carrying the bulk of the load?
Though men may now mirror their mothers more than their fathers when it comes to parenting, they still only spend about seven hours a week caring for their kids, while their spouses put in twice as many hours. No wonder I'm so tired, and my husband is still unclear about where we keep the Thomas trains or which days we attend swim class. Our son knows exactly who to go to when he's lost his favorite Babar book (mom) or wants to play a backbreaking game of airplane (dad).
It's difficult to know if the parenting roles we've slipped into are simply hardwired (i.e., a product of our biological makeup) or if we've been conditioned by too many "Leave It to Beaver" episodes. (Did June ever leave that kitchen?) I do know that when Raj is at work, it's nearly impossible for him to switch gears. To him, checking on summer-camp availability from the office would seem as incongruous as shouting "Go Lakers!" at a Yankees game.
Admittedly, part of this dynamic is my fault. I should delegate more; but even that seems like one more time-consuming task that would undoubtedly require follow-up nagging. Besides, taking on more than I can handle somehow validates that I'm a good mom and makes up for all that time I spend at work away from my son. The other reason for taking on so much? I fear that if I left 50 percent of everything up to Raj, our son would be eating Popsicles and Cheez-Its for breakfast and showing up at school an hour late wearing his ripped dinosaur pajamas. It's unfair, because nothing horrible has ever really happened when I've left them alone (aside from a few weekend marathons in front of the TV), but it's clear from talking to female friends and co-workers that I'm not the only one who suffers these ungrounded yet disturbing visions.
I'd be lying if I said our uneven parenting roles didn't create tension in our household. But in cooler moments, I do see that Raj is trying, too. He and I, like so many new parents, are feeling our way here. There is no real template on how to be a good stay-at-home-dad, or how to govern equally, so we're making it up as we go. While there's definitely room for improvement, I feel we're on the right track. We may not perfect this ideal of 50/50 child rearing in the next 14 years, but maybe our son will when his chance at parenting rolls around. That's the hope, anyway—and that his kids never run out of apple juice.