If there was one time in my marriage when life felt the most unfair, it was during the witching hour. When our children were young and I was working from home, I would relieve our babysitter at 5 p.m. and start to feed and bathe our 3-year-old and 6-month-old and begin various pre-bedtime rituals. By 6 p.m., this thought would be running through my head: If my husband doesn't come home from the office soon to help, I'm going to lose my mind. By 7 p.m., my panic would turn to anger: Do I have to do everything? Each minute before his arrival seemed like an eternity, my task much more onerous than the pressure he was facing to make daily deadlines. Was our parenting arrangement altering my perception of time--and virtually guaranteeing that I'd be pissed off when he got home?
In a word, yes. My conviction that I carried a heavier load was validated by similar complaints from my female friends as well as scholarly books and morning TV shows, all reinforcing what has become a global notion that working women--and working mothers in particular--toil much more than their partners. But what we weren't seeing was that there was a mounting body of evidence that women were not, in fact, workhorse wives picking up their husbands' slack, that there are several variables in the dual-earner equation, debits as well as credits that need to be tallied in order to take a true measure of who does more. So does that mean my sense of injustice and that of so many other women have all been the result of an accounting error? Thankfully, it's not quite so simple.