Dads in the laundry room
A few weeks ago, while searching the Googlesphere for breaking laundry news, we came across an article in The Daily Beast that we think belongs on every refrigerator in America: “Dads, If you want your Daughters to be CEO’s, Do the Laundry,” by Andy Hinds, aka BetaDad.
In days to follow, as our inbox filled with emails from moms and feminists passing along the article, we got curious and did a little homework. Clearly, stay-at-home dad blogger, BetaDad, is a man the world needs to know more about. So we invited him to be our first-ever laundry room interview. Enjoy!
Becky Blades: Andy! We know you’re busy with laundry, almost-5-year-old twin daughters and writing for people who pay you, so thank you for saying ‘yes’. We are huge fans! You had us at “Dads, Do The Laundry” (forgive our paraphrasing), and you sealed the deal with your entertaining report on parental roles and gender stereotypes.
What are the roles you and your wife play in your family? And how do you think they will play into your daughters’ success?
Andy: My wife is a family doctor and therefore primary breadwinner, and I’m a carpenter with a MA in Rhetoric (sort of like English and Communications), so by default I get to be the childcare specialist, chief logistical officer, and entertainment coordinator. There’s more to it than that, of course. My wife is also very involved in the kids’ emotional lives and day-to-day care; and I do leave the house periodically to do paid work. When the kids are at preschool three days a week, I run around doing projects on other people’s houses, or writing essays for various websites and magazines. My kids call me a “fixer.”
According to the research I cited in that Daily Beast piece, the spectacle of their dad constantly engaged in household drudgery should give them a leg up in their professional lives. They won’t think of themselves as hamstrung by the domestic responsibilities that have been traditionally thrust upon women, but will instead doggedly pursue their careers.
It’s not that important to me that they be hard-chargers in their work lives, though. I just want them to have lives that are fulfilling and happy. And I think the roles my wife and I play in the family will demonstrate that in charting your course, you need not feel constrained by traditional gender expectations.
Becky: How do you work laundry and housework into your eclectic life?
Andy: Well … heh heh. I … um … don’t actually do the laundry very often. My wife is very particular about how the laundry is done, and I can’t keep it straight; so she does most of it. I mean, she goes beyond the standard divisions and settings in her protocol. It’s not even as simple as looking at what the laundry tag says. Different temperatures and times for different types of fabrics, things that need to be line-dried, flat-dried, or machine dried in multiple stages—I think a lot of it is based on superstition. (But I would never tell her that.) Anyway, it’s way too much for me. I always screw it up somehow. We used cloth diapers on our twin girls, and I did manage to master that arduous process, so I got to be in charge of it. Nowadays, I’m only allowed to wash the dog’s bedding and the cleaning rags. I help with the folding, but I’m pretty bad at it. My wife is a folding ninja.
I would ascribe some kind of personality disorder to my wife based on her laundry habits were it not for the fact that I’m am just as finicky about washing the dishes. I do 98% of the kitchen clean-up; and when I watch my wife clean up, it makes me wince. She doesn’t do anything wrong, per se; it’s just, you know, not quite up to my standards. In fact, I wrote a piece for The Atlantic a while back about our system for dividing household labor based on who cares the most about which tasks.
Becky: Does your family believe in the sock monster? I would think having twin girls (4 identical feet) would scramble his brain.
Andy: I don’t know about a “monster;” but I’m pretty sure there’s a cosmic force that is fueled by socks. I mean, seriously. Could a single monster be responsible for the millions of socks that disappear from washers and dryers every day.
It’s funny — in our house, I’m the only one who is really affected by the black sock-hole. My wife, as persnickety as she is about doing the laundry, throws all of her socks into a bag, unmatched, and then digs through them to make a complete pair when she gets dressed. (She thinks that rolling them up together will stretch them and lead to their early demise. See, I wasn’t kidding about the extent of her clothes-coddling.) And my kids—well, they honestly wear socks like five times a year. We live in San Diego, so there’s really no need for them.
Becky: When your daughters become CEOs, what kind of companies would you like them to run?
Andy: Companies where creative people collaborate to invent simple solutions to complicated problems. Wow. I should write taglines for corporations.
Becky: How can we get the word out about this research and get more dads in the laundry room?
Andy: I think the word is out. This kind of research tends to have legs on the internet. However, I don’t believe research alone will convince people to challenge traditional gender roles. Women need to have higher expectations for their partners’ participation in the home; and men need to step up and take responsibility. But everyone needs to be willing to compromise. You can’t demand that your partner do everything exactly the way you do. I think change is happening, slowly but surely. When I meet a couple my age or younger who have the same roles their parents did, it’s kind of shocking.
Becky: What is your favorite entry of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone?
Andy: They are all really good; but one that particularly resonated with me was “Don’t lose your head in your stuff.” I don’t feel like I’m especially attached to possessions, or driven to accrue them, but somehow they keep piling up, and they start weighing on me.
Becky: My book was writer’s therapy when I was anticipating my daughter leaving for college. How are you feeling about sending your girls off to kindergarten this fall?
Andy: I’m surprisingly sanguine about it. Sending them to preschool was majorly weird because they had never even been in daycare before, and there I was leaving them with strangers—like six whole miles from home—all day long! Their “big-kid school” on the other hand, is just a couple blocks from our house, and I’ve already been doing volunteer work there for the last few years; so it should be a smooth transition. Theoretically.
Becky: Love those final words – sentiments that easily could have come from any career or stay-at-home mom. Isn’t it great that loving parenting defies gender stereotypes?
Thank you, BetaDad.
Read more from BetaDad Andy Hinds at www.betadadblog.com
and follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/betadad
and Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Beta-Dad