My marriage is genuinely very equal in nearly every way. We both work, we both put the same amount of effort into homeschooling our kid. We both make dinner, do dishes, do the laundry, clean the house. We both take kids and pets to appointments. We are both diligent about reading before bedtime, about attending class meetings, about volunteering for field trips. We ask one another about our days and really mean it. We stop what we’re doing and listen to one another talk. But there’s one area where we are like every other hetero couple that I know: not a holiday goes by in which my husband is the one to pick out the holiday gifts.
I will give him a tiny sliver of credit: if I ask him to pick gifts for specific people, he’s all about it, but only if I’ve asked him. He’s also excellent at getting gifts for me, which is a quality I truly appreciate in anyone. We do split picking out gifts for our son in theory, but the reality is that I get 3-4 of them and he’s on the hook for 1 or 2 that he happens to see while out in the world doing whatever it is that Aquarian husbands do.
As someone who has spent years upon years, days upon days, hours upon hours thinking about emotional labor in relationships and insisting that my husband do things simply so I don’t have to, even if it’s often easier for me to just do it, this really… burns me up.
And I’m not the only one! Nearly every woman I know who is partnered with a man finds that she is always, always the one doing the holiday shopping. And it’s not like we have that much more time on our hands, or that we have magical insight into our children that our male spouses simply do not (if the latter is the case, you might have bigger problems that this post isn’t going to solve). In terms of time, every mom I know is busy juggling her schedule and life, the lives and schedules of her kids, and the emotional needs of their partners, siblings, acquaintances, neighbors, and the person they just met at the grocery store who “just had a feeling” that she’d be open to spending 30 minutes of her day listening to every health problem they’ve developed in the last year or two.
In relationships where the male partner works out of the home and the female does not, I have a very difficult time believing that the vast majority of male partners have more intense days than their female counterparts. I say this as someone who has worked from home when my male partner worked outside the home, who briefly did not work at all while my husband worked outside the home, and who has also worked out of the home when my male partner wasn’t working and stayed home with our son. When I worked out of the home I spent significantly less time actually working and significantly more time talking to my co-workers, reading things on the internet, and trying to train doctors to actually call my husband first and not me since, you know, I was so busy working outside the home.
I don’t know exactly what has broken in our culture and has made us all believe women are just the best gift shoppers and that they happily take this mantle, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say it probably has at least a little bit to do with antiquated ideas about traditional gender roles that simply don’t apply to most families where the parents are under 45. I mean, maybe they don’t apply for families where the parents are over 45 either, but my friend circle of parents is mostly made of people who are ages 30-45 so that’s what I’m working with.
So, if that’s the reason… what can we do about it?