The quickest solution is for husbands and partners to step up, and generously—meaning without compromise, guilt, or interruption—give women some of their time back. This might be tough; men can be fiercely protective of their time—“they guard it with their lives, and society protects their time,” as Rodsky points out. But as she also notes, “flexibility is in the eye of the beholder,” and excuses are just that. If men really want to help their female partners during this critical period (and well after), they need to value their partners’ time as much as they value their own.
It’s also necessary that both individuals in the relationship stop equating income with importance. Just because one partner makes more money (in the U.S., it is still typically the man) does not necessarily mean he has less time or flexibility, or—most crucially—that the work he does is more valuable. What it does mean is that he has to find ways, and time, to be more efficient. And no, women aren’t more efficient or better multitaskers than men; we’ve likely just been told that they are so they’ll do more and so men can expect more of them. “Women do $10.9 trillion worth of unpaid labor,” says Rodsky. “So these fallacies, these arguments around ‘my job being more flexible,’ ‘my husband makes more money than I do,’ ‘I’m wired differently for care,’ ‘I’m a better multitasker,’ or my favorite, ‘in the time it takes me to tell him what to do, I should just do it myself,’ which is a classic time value failure argument—they have all been made by design. It hasn’t been an accident.”
Some men, of course, have prioritized finding a way to make emotional and domestic labor more equal. For Justin, M.M.’s Chief Digital Officer, respecting the work his wife does, as well as her time, means collaborating on a schedule that gives each of them a hard stop. “We try to split up everything pretty evenly,” says Justin. “I feed the kids breakfast and put them into bed at night” (his wife is with the kids during office hours). “So at least I kind of bookend the day, and she has a start and stop to managing the kids. If anything, the pandemic has made this more important, because it doubles the emotional burden of every decision that’s made.”