One of the first pieces of feminist writing I ever read was the legendary essay “I Want a Wife” by Judy Brady. It made a big impression on me as a girl just out of high school, particularly the parts about housework. I imagined my future marriage to be naturally and effortlessly egalitarian, with me and my devoted husband laughing and rubbing shoulders as we stood together elbow-deep in dish suds. Yeah.
Then came real life.
It takes a whole lot of work to keep the little nonprofit organization known as a family in working order, and I’ve done enough of that work now to appreciate how hard it is to get it done at all, let alone worry about how fair the distribution is between partners. I appreciate what my husband contributes to our little economy, and I appreciate what my parents did to run theirs. But I will admit that when I’m feeling run down, overwhelmed, and under-appreciated, the quiet narrative in my head starts to repeat all the things I do to keep us fed, clothed, and clean and it starts to feel like I am “A Wife.” During one of these times my husband suggested we play a little game called ChoreWars. It’s a role-playing video game where your character earns points each time you do a chore in real life. We could play each other for real-life prizes! And see who comes out on top in the competition for biggest contributor. I’m not into video games and remembering to check in with my ChoreWars alter-ego seemed like just another thing to add to my already long to-do list, so I turned him down. But it might be fun, and sometimes I think I’ll take him up on it after all.
But part of the reason I didn’t say yes to ChoreWars is that I don’t really want to know the game’s answer to the question of who does more. I don’t think comparing is very useful. We both work hard. We both care a lot about making our family life good. I don’t think the key to my happiness as a wife is keeping a spreadsheet with my and my partner’s hours worked and dollars earned or saved. Or winning a video game. (Although that might feel good…..) I don’t really have any wisdom on what makes for happiness in this area but I am curious. Not about how you split the work with your partner if you live with one, but about how happy you are with the split. So please let us know how you feel.