Every couple Rodsky asks at the beginning of the film about the division of labor disagrees about how much the husbands do. One couple both insisted they did 70 percent of the child care. The wives are all good-humored but occasionally there’s an edge to their comments. “Eating the food doesn’t count,” one notes.
Here’s a hint: if someone describes what he does as “help,” it shows that he thinks it’s a generous voluntary impulse, not an essential continuing responsibility. Those who believe their contribution is picking up milk at the store when asked need to realize that the more exhausting part of the job is constantly being aware of when milk is needed, not to mention bread, cereal, cheese, fruit, peanut butter, signed permission slips, dry cleaning, allergy shots, and piano lessons. One husband defends himself by describing his office’s “traditional” culture, which meant that when his wife had a baby on a Friday night, he was back in the office Monday morning. He later notes that a part of that office culture is that most of the men are divorced.
The problem became clear to Rodsky when she and nine other women were supposed to have lunch together after a breast cancer march. All were in dual-career relationships and their husbands were home with the children. In 30 minutes, the women received 30 calls and 46 texts, asking questions like “Where is the gift for the birthday party?” and “Do the kids need to eat lunch?” The women all left for home so they could take care of things, some apologizing for giving their husbands more than they could handle.
Rodsky applies her systems analysis skills to document the differences with a massive spreadsheet. The film has some statistics to back up her assessments, along with commentary from various experts, including Melinda Gates. We also meet some people struggling to create more balance, including Rodsky, her husband, and two couples she is advising. California Congresswoman Katie Porter speaks about her experiences as a single mother to underscore the systemic “family-hostility” of US laws on parental leave, child care, and minimum wage. She pointedly calls out her colleagues, the older white male lawmakers, for assuming their own experiences are the norm. Same-sex couples, with less burden of gender expectations, genially provide a road map for negotiating domestic responsibilities.