The level of exhaustion a mom experiences tends to have a direct relationship with how valued care work is in her home. Having a partner who understands the demands of managing children and the domestic space often means that he or she is more willing to chip in, either by handling lunches and dentist appointments, or by making sure Mom is afforded some downtime. Having a partner who moves through life under the misconception that nothing could be as challenging as work done outside the home often means less help and less downtime for moms. Sometimes, this state of unreality is informed by a romantic notion of what it’s like to spend one’s day doing care work. Other times it’s the product of willful ignorance. Either way, moms, who study after study tells us are more exhausted than dads, tend to suffer for it.
In a better world, a recent viral Facebook post on the importance of making sure that wives and mothers get some rest, would be the cloying musings of a dad trying to prove how woke he is. In this world, sadly, it’s a necessary reminder of the demands of care work and, more important, that moms are people, too.
Writing on Facebook on Dec. 17, Christian entrepreneur Dale Partridge took aim at men who think that earning money is more important than taking care of the home and therefore entitles them to more rest on the weekend. The post has since received more than 93,000 likes and 56,000 shares.
Of course, this little piece of #DaleyWisdom isn’t exactly patriarchy-free. Partridge still presents himself as the master of the house, albeit a benevolent one, whom God told to “protect” his wife from “strain.” This will certainly seem foreign, likely even off-putting, to those of us whose faith, or absence of faith, makes us uncomfortable with the idea that one should make sure moms get a break because of divine decree. But the reality is that the power of the paycheck often replaces the power of the almighty in more secular and religiously egalitarian homes, empowering many breadwinning men to believe that they should call the shots (sometimes subconsciously) on who gets to relax and when, much like their religious counterparts do.
Also, there is some value to presenting the crazy idea that women also need rest in a religious context. The whole notion of a Sabbath, or heavenly ordained day of rest, has ignored the realities of child care and domestic work from the very beginning. As Judith Shulevitz wrote in the Forward last year (for a series that I edited):
There is, however, one kind of laborer for whom the Sabbath has never promised respite, and that’s the housewife. She’s infamously omitted from the list in Deuteronomy: “you shall not do any work—you, your son or you daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements.” The biblical Hebrew here uses the singular masculine form of “you,” which is “atta.” There’s neither an “at,” the female “you,” nor mention of “your wife.”
Personally, I’ve long struggled with the tension of wanting to observe some kind of weekly Shabbat, or a set time to slow down and connect, and the domestic labor such “rest” would entail. The irony of Shabbat is that the more one commits to infusing the day with a work-free, sacred ambience, the more schlepping around is required beforehand. And even for the true balabustas among us who manage to clean the house and cook a four-course meal after everyone else goes to sleep, there are still children to mind when the big day comes. While the Christian Sabbath is not as restrictive as the Jewish one, it’s still good, and maybe even a little radical, to see a prominent Christian point out that wives deserve a little piece of the day-of-rest action, too.
Do I wish the closing days of 2016 brought us slightly less obvious, and seemingly anachronistic, revelations? Absolutely. But considering the year behind us and what we might have up ahead of us, I’ll take it.