Hello Rabbi and Susan Lapin,
Thank you for all your useful teachings, which I enjoy on a daily basis.
I have another marriage question for you. It is interesting to me that while many women are, rightly or wrongly, the main breadwinners in their homes, they still continue to do more household tasks than their husbands do.
Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?
We’re delighted that you find our writings valuable and regret that we cannot answer your question just as you asked it. In order to do so, we would have to agree to be constrained by the corner in which you are painting us.
You are making several assumptions in the way you phrase your question. We, too, have read surveys that show that women do more household chores than men. We have read other surveys that show an increasing number of families where wives out-earn their husbands. We’re not sure we have seen any accurate studies showing the overlap between these two sub-groups of families and that drill down into relevant details of these families. There may well be some studies like that, but our first instinct when we see studies on just about any politically hot-potato topic is to ascertain how objective and statistically accurate they are. Very few meet this reasonable standard.
You then make a huge leap into assuming that in those families where wives do out-earn husbands and in which they also assume the greater domestic burden, this uneven distribution is a result of a lack of awareness on the part of husbands. That is one assumption too many for us.
However, we aren’t going to leave you empty-handed. We often use the phrase, “how the world REALLY works.” That is a phrase that makes social engineers extremely uncomfortable. For example, how the world REALLY works is that the overwhelming majority of marriages come about when a man asks a woman to marry him. Surely, that should be a thing of the past? In today’s day and age, after more than half a century of gender egalitarianism, why aren’t proposals 50% of the time instigated by men and 50% of the time by women? You might attribute this obvious imbalance to men not realizing that they can just as easily be on the receiving side of a proposal as on the active proposing side, but that would be misleading.. You’d be ignoring the fact that God built a world where men pursue women and both men and women (in general) prefer it that way. Deuteronomy 22:13, “When a man marries a wife,” is where God informed us that it is seldom a case of, ‘when a man and woman marry’ or, “when a woman marries a man.”
Every individual is a unique creation and every marriage is unique. Of course, today many people avoid marriage altogether so when we talk about married couples we are already dealing with a self-selecting group. (Incidentally, many sociological and political studies and many media outlets, on policy, do not distinguish between live-in lovers and spouses, referring to everyone who shares a home as married. This muddies the data water terribly.)
The questions we would rather ask—and we are working on a book that discusses this idea—is, “Do men and women relate differently to the process of earning money?” “Do men and women relate differently to their homes and families?” Our short answer is yes, which means that we reject your question as you ask it. Instead we would suggest that only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works think that earning money and taking care of home and family can or should be divided 50/50 among husbands and wives. Only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works would expect traditional roles to be reversed in a seamless and painless fashion.
Obviously, every couple can and should make its own decisions. However, we do think doing so without acknowledging the laws that God built into the world and by which most people will thrive is akin to taking up smoking a few cigars a day on the basis that George Burns did so and he lived a long and healthy life. Maybe you are an exception to a general rule, but more than likely you are not.
Hope you don’t find this non-answer too disappointing ,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin