Thursday, October 28, 2010

Man of the House


The Dutch pride themselves on being egalitarian in a way that would make the majority of Americans cringe, or at least those Americans who are against gay marriage, building a "mosque on Ground Zero", immigration, extension of welfare benefits, and health care reform. Or at the very least, health care that makes sense. Which is to say, health care by any other system except the one that was in place as of the beginning of this year. You could say that the Dutch are more American than Americans are, in that respect...

This page (pdf) offers some insight into how Dutch families operate, on a grand scale. On the whole things are very family-friendly here: paternity leave is offered at most places of employ, and part-time jobs are common and abundant (they also mean that companies don't have to pay full-time wages), making it relatively easy to balance work-family-life matters.

Alas, the page is terribly skimpy on the details that matter most to cohabitational calm: who scoops the poop--who does the dishes--who stuffs the stof? I.e.: what's the actual division of labor when it comes to scooping litter boxes and cleaning up (kitty and kiddy) puke?

The pamphlet cited above--and, judging by the numbers of moms with kids at the Albert Heijn on my (rare) days off--suggests that most of the housework is still done by women, since women are the ones taking these part-time jobs and balancing work and kids and all that. At least, on average: if you were to ask me, I'd have to say that most of the housework is being done by the men.

This is mostly because my boyfriend does all of the housekeeping at his apartment; I do help out but as I'm only there on the weekends, that mostly means I just do the laundry and pick up the cups that he leaves all over the apartment. Prior to my moving out, the cleaning was split more evenly, but he did and still does most of the cooking (he is the better cook and has more demanding tastebuds). But this is also true of his other married friends--most of the men I know work at home (or are transitioning to this) and take care of the kids and make dinner.

If this is an issue, though, it's a private one, not indicative of societal disaster or the moral collapse of the Netherlands. There doesn't seem to be any protests on the men who are being theoretically emasculated, nor do the women seem to very much care who does the housekeeping. And that's true equality.

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