During her 2018 book tour for Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama admitted that as women, we actually can’t “have it all,” at least not all at once.
And while some women may have felt relief from the pressure of trying (and oftentimes failing) to have it all, others were likely confused. We’ve been told for decades by our parents and by society that we’d be able to simultaneously have a family, a successful career, a well-kept home, etc.
But while having it all is nice to think about in theory, it hasn’t panned out quite the way we grew up believing it would. If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that the bulk of the housework, childcare, and planning/organization typically falls to women. And this is in spite of women making strides in the professional realm as well.
So why is there such a stark imbalance?
Did Baby Boomers Equip Their Sons To Be Married To Successful Women?
A Reddit post from r/TwoXChromosomes claims that Baby Boomers may have accidentally raised their sons to be “man-children” while raising their daughters to be career-oriented women.
The post was based on a tweet from @jfitzgeraldmd that read, “Baby boomers did a pretty good job teaching their millennial daughters that they could be anything they wanted to be and a pretty terrible job of preparing their sons for what that would mean for them as husbands and fathers.”
Equally applicable to Gen X as to millennials, the concept basically states that older generations didn’t sufficiently prepare their sons to take on more responsibilities within the home as more women entered the workforce and therefore had less time and energy to handle the domestic duties on their own.
This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement, however. There are certainly men who’ve stepped up to the plate and become team players alongside their partners. In regards to my own husband, we both do household work, we both take care of our child, and I’m eternally grateful my husband’s parents raised a capable, caring, thoughtful human.
However, reading through the responses, it seems many women haven’t had the same experience.
Redditors Chime In
“Over the past 100 years we’ve completely changed the life expectations for women and what it means to be a woman and we’ve done little to nothing to change the expectations of men or what it means to be a man,” one user wrote. “Some of that work is starting but it’s long overdue.”
This concept was illustrated by a single mom who wrote, “[I] keep trying to find a guy to date who doesn’t seem like one extra dependent … but [I’m] still single seven years later. If a man can’t bring as much as he takes, and yes that means cleaning up after himself, why would I want to add that to my already full plate?! I already juggle work and kids! Come back when you have adulting skills and are ready to do half the work.”
Another user commented how her dad is guilty as charged. “My dad certainly fits this model, though my brother miraculously never followed suit,” they wrote. “Brother and his wife now have two kids, and my dad is simply beside himself witnessing how hands-on my brother is as a father. Constant little comments like, ‘in my day, dads were expected to go back to work right away,’ and my personal favorite, ‘in my day, dads didn’t change diapers!'”
Another commenter shared a Gloria Steinem quote that resonated with many: “Though we have the courage to raise our daughters more like our sons, we’ve rarely had the courage to raise our sons like our daughters.”
What Can Be Done?
Nowadays, it’s more common for families to instruct their sons to become more aware of their emotions and feelings, teach them how to cook and clean, and even allow them to play with toys traditionally aimed toward girls, helping prepare them for a future when they’ll to take on more responsibilities around the home.
However, we still hold out hope for the less responsible male partners of Gen X and millennial women to start lending more of a helping hand. Weaponized incompetence is becoming a more widely-recognized phenomenon, and an increasing number of women have begun to set boundaries when they encounter it.
Still, as one frustrated Redditor pointed out, “The onus of educating late Gen X to early Gen Z men is now falling on their female peers, to everyone’s frustration. And despite the rational discourse being presented, there’s still a faction of them who refuse to listen and consider a woman’s POV on the topic of women, because poor behavior was modeled for them early on.”