Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Third Wave

For me, the first wave of friending via Facebook involved science friends from various post-collegiate stages of my life, the second wave was college friends, and the third wave was high school friends. (I have written before that I have decided not to friend current students.)

Reconnecting with high school friends has been great, but a bit of a culture shock for me. I only kept in vague touch with many of them, so I sort of knew who was where and what they were doing, but not in detail.

I suppose that as we progress through academic careers, we end up being surrounded by people who are quite a lot like ourselves in terms of education level, career goals, lifestyle, and so on. Of course we do occasionally interact with people who don't have PhDs, but for the most part (except when I get my hair cut and my teeth cleaned), I don't hear the details of people's non-academic lives like I do from my high school friends via FB.

All of my female friends from high school have full or part-time jobs (none in academe), and as far as I can tell, all of them also cook the family meals and clean the house and do the laundry and take care of the kids. The husbands mow the lawn and occasionally take charge of grilling food. I am sure they do some other household tasks as well, but it is incredible how much my friends work after they are home from work. They are doing all the things our mothers did in addition to having jobs outside the home.

No, I have not been in a deep cave for decades -- I know that this phenomenon has been documented, and the hours that men and women devote to various household tasks have been tallied and analyzed, but reading about it in a study or a news report is somehow different from having the details of these lives in my face(book) every day, from people I know. People I grew up with.

Stuff like this:

Hubby gets back from his fishing trip today. I can just imagine how much laundry I'm going to have to do!!!!!!!

A friend who lives near her commented: At least you won't have to mow the lawn yourself anymore, but you did a great job with it this week!

There is a FB option to "like" things, but I wish there were also an option to "dislike" things. FSP dislikes that her friend is doing hubby's fishy laundry and wonders why hubby doesn't do it. My friend worked all week and took care of a sick kid and drove another kid to and from soccer camp every day and cooked all the meals and so on. She is superwoman. I would have let the lawn grow for a week.

My wish for my friend is that hubby gets back from his trip and says "You have been working so hard all week while I was out with my buddies, why don't you just relax while I do this big pile of laundry and fix us a nice meal?"

In fact, I never comment on these things my high school friends write in FB. I am sure there are many things about my life that my high school friends find appalling and strange and they are too polite to opine about these. But I will say this: however challenging and time consuming my science professor job is, these high school friends seem significantly more exhausted than I am. And no wonder, they have more jobs than I do.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

So is (more) education good for women?

In general, the more education the better...??

Not good if the wife has to depend on the husband. (well, I guess if the hubby is the sole breadwinner, then more stress and the male die sooner....)

zed said...

I have not had the same experience re-connecting with high school friends (I am 38- maybe that matters?), but wow! In our household, where husband is also a junior science prof, with 2 two year olds, our general rule is that we both do chores or watch the kids until the chores are done. So one of us is never lounging, or doing science work, while the other does chores/kid duty. Who does what is pretty flexible, we just know what needs to be done and do it. I might do his fishing laundry, but he would be making dinner. When a big deadline is looming we will offer to let the other do science for a while but this all evens out.

Anonymous said...

Long-time lurker and fan of yours here.

Hhmmm...so you don't do any of the above listed day-to-day things? My grad advisor, also a FSP, *seems* to manage just fine with the day-to-day (her husband's also a MSP)in addition to her work.

Super-woman/mom, I guess.

lizzyshoe said...

I would FB like this post if I could. Very eloquent and true.

ScienceWoman said...

Now imagine being the science professor and having to do all those other things as well. Some of us don't have to imagine it.

Mrs. CH said...

FB does give a glimpse into the lives of others, doesn't it?

I also find some people just post inappropriate things for their status - I have a FB friend that posts when she's angry at her husband (i.e., "I can't believe husband isn't home from work yet - where the hell are you, husband???!!"; or "I have dinner ready, and of course husband isn't home yet...how long do you want me to wait, husband??").

I feel like people should learn not to air their dirty laundry on FB!

Aurora said...

You are lucky to have a husband that supports your career and shares in household tasks without resenting it or finding creative ways to get out of it. Your friends are not so lucky.

Part of your luck maybe the way you handle things. Perhaps you can share your strategies.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated reading this post, as I've noticed this as well.

Do you think it's okay to say something to hint that it doesn't have to be this way? That she doesn't have to do everything while The Man sits on the couch with his beer after he gets home from work? Or would that just be offensive?

Some of them really don't seem happy that life is that way. Don't they have a choice? Or did they lose when they married men who did not naturally think about dividing the work load at home?

chall said...

Ah, oyu have seen the same things as I have. It really irks me. I guess this is a new thing about FB that I never thought of.... the annoying feeling that maybe those things would make me less close to my (female) friends who write things like that.

Not to mention the whole "I'm taking care of the kids and he's out playing" etc...

ah well, it is another world just outside the door. I am just a bit conficted about it. Especially when I remember that out of all the female PhD I graduated with we aren't too many still in science, academia or not.

Average Professor said...

A number of my female friends are entirely non-academic, or are wives of my colleagues (wives who have jobs and/or careers of their own). I have often felt that - as much as faculty members tend to whine about how difficult it is to have "balance" in this job or about all the pressures and so on - most of those other women seem to be under a LOT more pressure than I am.

Some of it is self-induced, for instance, I am comfortable letting my laundry pile up or my grass get long for longer than some other women are. But some of it is because my job, despite its pressures, is super flexible. And a lot of it is because my husband does way more home chores than I do. (I think because of the disparity in our incomes, he subconsciously feels like if I am making more money, he's going to assert his providership through non-monetary contributions.)

Liz said...

SO do you think more equally sharing of household work is more prominent in academic families or is your situation unique but you just don't hear about the household daily lives of your academic friends/colleagues?

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah.

My sister's ex not only expected her to do all the housework as well as work full time outside the house, but was severely bent out of shape that she got paid more than he did!

'Equal partnership', my ass!

cicely

Ms.PhD said...

Great post! LOL!

My pre-PhD FB friends all write about their children. I wonder if it's a good sign that they don't complain about housework.

I am with the person who asked how you and your husband manage your household chores. Me and mine manage okay, but I do sometimes feel like I have to make sure we have food in the house and that I will cook it, or we would both starve. I also feel like I have to be the constant nagger about making sure any kind of cleaning gets done (aside from MrPhD's stinky sports-related laundry, which he is pretty good about doing).

It's amazing how tiring even just the nagging part can be. I would love it if I didn't have to be the motivator for everything, both at work and at home.

Anonymous said...

If women ever are to get out of having the main responsibility, they have to let it go - and preferably not take it in the first place!

Cloud said...

Whenever a young female scientist asks me how to combine career and children, I tell her to choose the father of her children carefully. And I am not joking.

My husband and I have a very equal home life, and I think that makes a huge difference in my happiness as a working mother.

I wish I had advice on how to achieve this equality, but I have to honestly say that my husband just came this way- he expects to do his fair share of the housework and child care and he always has expected that.

One tip I have is that if things seem out of balance to either of you, it often helps to write a chores list and actually rebalance it. Don't forget to put chores like "being in charge of the family schedule" and "making sure all family/friend important days get remembered" on the list. In our household, Hubby does more of the physical labor (I do almost nothing in the yard thanks to my allergies/asthma), but I am the master scheduler and am also in charge of figuring out processes that let us get everything done without feeling like slaves to our house and children (e.g., working out a cleaning schedule, figuring out how we'll do weeknight dinners, etc.) We're both happy with this arrangement because we both think it is fair.

zed said...

Ms PhD- my husband was like that with respect to food and cooking a few years ago. I too hated being the motivator. What helped us was to set up a strict system of alternating who cooks each night. Whoever's turn it was had to cook and make sure ingredients were in the house. Post-kids this has morphed to pre-planning the week's meals together and doing a mega-shop once a week for the week ahead (we still run to the corner store, but not nearly as much).

FEP said...

I would be very careful about the influence of such household dynamics/balance on my children growing up. As parents, we obviously would wish they have happy family life. So it is important to ask ourselves what kind of ideas or expectation we would like them to have as future husbands and wifes.

Anonymous said...

I was just struck by the most fantastic idea!

It brings together Anon 12:12s comment, and FSPs reference in a previous blog about "why women live longer than men", and also FSPs post "Paying for it" about maternity leave (and ensuing comments).

Here's the idea. Since women live, on average, 5 years longer than men, women should be able to take up to *5 years* maternity leave, and still have equally productive careers to men! Wow! Five years!

This is truly an amazing revelation to me, a woman, who has spent a lot of time agonizing about the unfairness of the 'biological burden' of pregnancy and childcare on women. In truth, since most women take far less than 5 years of maternity leave, women are actually the smarter, more efficient hire to make. Wow again.

Anonymous said...

most of my high school female friends talk about nothing except their kids and their domestic lives (their family vacations, their houses, their husband's jobs, their husband's hobbies...). is it just me or does it seem like they turned into domestic zombies with no lives of their own outside of tending to the needs of their husbands and kids? Over the years I've found that I have less and less to talk about with them...

Kea said...

Yeah, reminds of me my own family, who have also been known to tell me that women are no good at mathematical subjects, on the authority of popular books about bell curves.

And probably many of my colleagues are the same, only it's sometimes hard to tell these days because they know not to say certain things about their wives in the company of FSs, and they can be disturbingly quick to point out that they have jobs to do at home ...

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:08: You've hit exactly on a secret fear of mine, and one of the major reasons I don't have kids.

Cloud said...

@anon 7:31- SOME women have kids and decide to devote their lives to their families.

None of my science friends have done this. Sure, when we're with a group of other parents, we might talk about our kids. But we also talk about our work and our other interests.

Some of my interests have been put on hold since my daughter was born. But not all.

Having kids will not automatically turn you into June Cleaver. It will turn your life upside down and you'll find out what really matters to you, but the things that really matter will still be important and you will find time for them.

Balancing Act said...

So, I took 5 years off between undergrad and grad school, to bear and start raising my two children, is that my 5 year maternity leave? Unfortunately, it is not easy to come back to science after being out of the realm for that long. I've had many comments from other female grad students that think maybe that was the way to do it, though, as they struggle with child-bearing and rearing late/post-grad school.

I wanted to comment mainly that my anchor and I have an interesting split of household chores. It took many years of marriage to come to a happy medium on who does what chores, but I think we are finally good. For instance, we both cook, but he cooks more often than I cook. I do the dishes, always. We used to split this, but then his days the dishes would pile up, which did not help my sanity. However, with my string bean's recent birthday, we have added dishes twice per week to her chores. Kids are in charge of cleaning their own rooms twice per week. I mow and garden. I clean or, if I need, delegate cleaning. MA has a few rooms that I don't even look at that he has to make sure are good. I clean on a schedule, so nothing clean all the time (very flylady-esque, but I had this system long before she was online) -- except when my housecleaner comes. She is truly my sanity saver. I do laundry, because I am a control freak and could not fathom my husband not ruining my clothes -- I've seen him do laundry in his bachelor days. But MA tends to do a lot of the childcare. He is home with the kids more than I am (and he earns about 5 times what I do - the joys of normal jobs versus grad school.) We (mostly I) plan weekly menus and he and string bean do weekly groceries. That's not to say we don't run to the store -- he did just last night because we had no garlic, but it help in budgeting and planning. And, we know who has to cook. He is a better cook than me anyway.

Some of my facebook updates do have to do with my kids; some have to do with work; very many have to do with running. I have no idea what others besides those who leave comments think of my updates. Generally, different people comment depending on if they are work-related, family, or socially-related contacts.

I have no idea if this comment has added anything. Just mentioning how my hubby and I split things. Sometimes I do feel like I do more. But, he does quite a bit more than *most* husbands I know. I don't know that I've described the split very well. He takes care of things that I just don't worry about.

female Science Professor said...

That sounds a lot like how we do things at our house, though not by any particular agreement. Also I have a house cleaner once/month.

dunelady said...

Oh, for a house keeper of my own...

I've noticed the same trend about women just recently. I'm pregnant and I've been reading a pregnancy forum. I'm constantly surprised at the women who are 1 week from their due date, working overtime because they're needed at work, come home to cook dinner for their husband and kids, and then have to put up with husbands whining about how the laundry wasn't done. I can't respond to those threads because all I can think is "why did you bring this upon yourself?".

I think a lot of the problem rests on the shoulders of the women themselves. It's a control thing, I think. It's nice to be needed and to be the only one who can whip up dinner for six in half an hour. I know this because I've had to learn not to laugh my husband out of the kitchen. Sure, he cuts up vegetables more slowly and less efficiently (and often more dangerously) than I would. It's hard not to step in and say "oh, just let me do that sweetie". I'm fairly sure my mother and mother in law both regard their kitchens as their own personal territory. Maybe a generation or two ago this was a sign of female independence?

I've been known to sigh and wish for a wife of my own at times. Too bad I don't swing that way...

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Oh, this is such a wonderful post! I have been thinking the exact. same. thing. in recent weeks about some of my high school and college friends.

Many of my college friends have three, four, or even five children (I am not yet 30!), and while not all of them work, I find it fascinating to read their posts: "I've got a 104 fever and am throwing up, but I have the best Hubby in the world because he just changed a diaper." Or "X is hoping to miss rush hour so she can start the laundry and get dinner on the table before Hubby gets home."

It's exhausting! I feel like a rockstar if I get the dishes in the dishwasher every two days. I can't imagine taking care of the whole family on top of everything else!

Anonymous said...

it is widely accepted as a cultural belief that revolving your entire life around your work to the exclusion of everything else is ultimately unhealthy in the long run. But what about if you revolve your entire life around your immediate family (children and husband) to the exclusion of everything else - does anyone consider THIS to be unhealthy? judging by the sheer number of friends in my peer group who are doing just this (similar to what Anon@5:08 described), it doesn't seem to raise any eyebrows.

Dr. Bad Ass said...

Oh, yes, the high school FB friends and their religion/politics/lives that are SO completely different from mine. I just keep my metaphorical mouth shut FREQUENTLY.

Anonymous said...

In my NZ experience most working women with families (including science professors) just add tasks such as childcare, interacting with the family, cleaning and cooking on top of their paid work. It becomes cumulative. Sometimes if they are well paid, they get someone to clean once a week or fortnight. It makes life very tough if there isn't a supportive family network to help out.

In our house we mostly share. However, cleaning is my lowest priority and quite honestly, by my parents and in laws standards, our house is dirty. Honestly, I don't really care. I can live with dust, and a floor that's not really shiny. I'd rather have my sanity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. For my part, I do definitely do more of the chores than does my husband. Cleaning and laundry particularly, but also cooking - though I love cooking so don't mind that too much. However, two male colleagues of mine do more of the cleaning than do their wives (all are 2-income earners, with and without children). We sometimes commiserate on the most effective spouse-nagging strategies. :p

In the end, it all seems to be a matter of filth tolerance levels. When there's an unbalance in how much each partner tolerates mess, it will lead to some amount of stress one way or another.

I do think that in 90% of the cases the female has a lower tolerance for mess, probably due to the way that males vs. females are raised and subsequently spend their bachelor/ette years...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, are men generally messier/dirtier than women? Or do they just not feel that they will be judged about their cleanliness as much?

And the same question goes for lots of other household duties where men traditionally slack-off, e.g. sending appropriate cards/flowers/etc to relatives and friends, cooking nice meals, decorating.

These duties have traditionally been the responsibility of women, so when they aren't done (or aren't done well), I think women feel much more judged, so we feel more responsible.

With my hubby, we try to each do the jobs that we each care about/notice more. For example he takes care of the cars more, and the TV (haha), and the grill, and I take care of the bathrooms and kithen more. Also, he seems far less detail-oriented than I, so sometimes he'll do the more coarse cleaning and chores, and I'll follow up with the details (like pillow fluffing and stainless steel shining.)

Anonymous said...

I've also noticed it's common for men to *think* they do an equal or larger amount of housework than their spouse when in actuality they do much less.

Anonymous said...

I'm a college dropout, earnings in the top 20% of the TOP 1% in the nation (Prof can do the math!). My husband cooks, b/c he likes eating things that aren't burned. I now own 4 companies, and am semi-retired at 46 (meaning I run every day, and work once in awhile).

Ignorance and lack of education are not one and the same, but I do understand and appreciate your thoughts.

My frustration comes from friends and neighbors who can't afford to do ANYTHING fun! I can hire people to clean for me, but I can't hire friends to take a month off in September and hang out with me in Barcelona. What good is education if you're just stranded in a slightly different world than the "housewives." You're still basically stranded....