David had just given our daughter medication to help her deal with a cold, and, quite abruptly, she announced that he was “more like the mom” and I was “the dad.” Wait, what? How can our kids (of all people!) be hypnotized by the rigid gender dichotomy that our family undermines by our very existence?
It’s not even as though we follow roles that break down in quite the way of “traditional” mom/dad couples. My job’s hours are pretty flexible, so I have lots of time to spend with the family. I do my share of the laundry and generally clean up after dinner. David does the cooking. And when it comes to caring for them when they’re sick—which, after all, triggered the mom/dad comment—it’s a pretty even deal.
I admit the home workload isn’t strictly a 50/50 proposition. David’s design business is part-time at this point, and he does more around the house than I do. But our roles are flexible and nongendered enough that calling us Mom and Dad is just weird.
It’s also true that our neighborhood is very gender-progressive. Our next door neighbors both work full-time, but the dad’s home a lot more, does more than half the cooking, and is forever busy around the house. On the next block is a dad who mainly works from home while mom goes off to her full-time engineering job. Another mom is a high-level nurse practitioner whose husband is an ice sculptor. And so on. In sum, there is no shortage of gender-role busting all around us. Why isn’t all that enough to steer our kids away from such reductive ways of thinking?
Because even those important, living examples of role flexibility are still overwhelmed by the morass of gender traditionalism swirling around them.
Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage case before the Court, hears arguments [this] morning. Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky want the Court to look into a crystal ball and imagine that a ruling for marriage equality will lead to the erosion of marriage, an increase in single parenthood, and even, according to a group that styles itself “100 Scholars of Marriage,” a dramatic spike in the number of abortions. But the couples challenging the laws insist the Court look at them and at the many other families affected by the law’s refusal to grant them the rights and obligations—and the dignity—marriage creates. Expect the Court to side with those experiencing real problems in the here and now.