Jenny Razor, a high school English teacher at Omaha Public Schools, wrote this blog for momaha.
A few months ago I heard a surprising story on NPR claiming that marriages in which the duties of the household were evenly divided had a higher divorce rate than those with a more traditional structure. (Read more about the a Norwegian study here.)
This was a little jarring to me considering my husband and I have such an arrangement.
I immediately began to think of the reasons why this might be.
It wasn’t long before I knew.
Since my husband and I are teachers at the same school, we have the same schedule. We also understand each other’s need for time to work on grading or planning. So, our situation is the epitome of the “balanced” household. So much so, that on any time off school — such as Spring Break and summer — we have gotten in the habit of dividing days in half. I work in the morning while my husband is with our son and then we switch. It’s a great arrangement that works to balance both of our needs.
One week I asked my husband to be in charge of our 2-year-old son more than usual due to meetings and commitments I had made. I found myself apologizing for asking, but he shrugged and said he didn’t mind. At first, I thought he was just saying that, because, well, he had no other choice. But, I also worried that he was secretly resenting it.
Later that week I noticed that Anthony really didn’t mind. I realized that was in contrast with the way I was thinking about the time I had spent with our son. I focused on the hours, not the experience.
Not that I wasn’t enjoying the one on one time with our son, but I would also think to myself, “well, I had 3.5 hours with Braxton this afternoon, so Anthony has to give me 3.5 hours tomorrow.”
I kept a balance sheet in my head.
It became clear to me that this could be one of the reasons that problems arose in the “even” households — one spouse was keeping track, as if it could even be measured in minutes spent or tasks completed.
I missed the big picture.
I was so focused on ensuring the balance was being met that I missed the dance. I didn’t realize that if it felt lopsided sometimes, it would balance out eventually.
After my realization I immediately changed my ways, but truthfully, it is part of my personality to count, measure and think about my life in chunks of time. I think it comes from being a teacher and having my life compartmentalized that way.
But, what I try to do now is instead of measuring the time I have put in and expecting the same in return, I try to do the opposite. I keep track of the time I have been given by my husband to complete my tasks and try to make sure I give him the same in return. I hold myself accountable for the balance, not him.
Because, truthfully, without even thinking about it, he was already doing the same for me.
Jenny works with her husband, Anthony, who is a history teacher. The couple has a 2-year-old son, Braxton.