I was on the phone last night with a friend I’ll call “Susie”. She talked about how angry she was with her husband for not doing enough of the work associated with their two children. “I probably do 85 percent of the work,” Susie noted, “and in any case there is nothing that Bill could do now to make up for a year of lost sleep. I’m still angry about things that happened 10 years ago.” Did she imagine that other American women were getting more help? “No, all of my friends are in the same situation.” If her husband was no worse than others, why then was she angry? “If you were born into slavery and everyone you knew was a slave, it would still make sense to be angry about the situation. Maybe every woman being angry is the first step towards justice.”
It then occurred to me that perhaps Americans with kids would be happier if all couples got a divorce when the kids were about 10 years old and did not need too much hands-on child care. If a woman desired “the society of a more or less coarse-minded person of another sex” [Isabel Archer in Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady] she could remarry a man who’d wronged some other woman by not doing his fair share. Every married woman would still be stuck with a slacker, but it wouldn’t be the same slacker who prevented her from enjoying a full night’s sleep when her children were young.