Studies have shown that women are far more likely to worry about stuff than men. What stuff? You name it. Before kids the worry was most likely related to relationships, appearance, personal safety and career. After kids, the worry revolves around all of that stuff plus kids, husbands, and a household that somehow needs to keep working even though the baby has the flu, your mother is coming for a visit … and goddammit who drank all the vodka?
Wired To Worry
It’s hard to pin down why women worry so much more than men. Some hypotheses suggest worry is an evolutionary trait. The strong female bond and concern about their offspring (and themselves) may have helped protect human infants, allowing the species to thrive. Males, on the other hand, were mostly interested in making more infants, regardless of the risk, with whatever would let them — humans, mammoths, that hollow tree over there.
And consider this before you start whining about how “fathers are always being put down about not caring for their offspring as much as mothers blah blah whaaa whaaa …” Studies show, time and again, that if you give an equal amount of money to mothers and fathers, the mothers will almost always spend it on their children while the fathers will almost always spend it on themselves. Nice car, buddy. Now what were you saying?
Other studies suggest that there may be a hormonal link to worry. Estrogen suddenly floods receptors in the brain around puberty, causing a surge of worry and anxiety. And now you know why you thought girls were so bizarre in middle school.
Worry does appear wired into women. Society, however, does a fine job of exploiting and reinforcing it. Women with families often engage in “worry work,” or a constant preoccupation with all the tasks of coordination, scheduling and purchasing required to keep the well-oiled family machine ticking. Incidentally, that’s also what crew members on a Zach Snyder joint call their gigs.
But worry work is crazy overwhelming. Particularly with a new baby in the mix. And even if you are cherry picking stuff to pitch in on, like dishes and the occasional laundry load, in most families women still shoulder a heavier load. At best it can be annoying, at worst it can derail careers.
A Simple Solution
It’s not that you don’t want the work to be equitable — of course you want an even split to these tasks. But many relationships never accomplish a true accounting of all the shit that needs to get done. In other words: what’s left off the chore list? Writing the damn chore list.
A motivation to relieve your partner of some of this worry work should result in sitting down with her to make a master task list. No you’re not being called master in this scenario. Sorry.
Add to that list everything that happens to keep the family unit going. Look beyond your daily and weekly chores. Think about stuff like buying baby clothes and diapers, financial accounting, scheduling playdates and pediatric appointments and list making.
Once you have a full list, you can better take on an equitable share of the tasks. But here’s the trick — and it is arguably the hardest part. Do the things and then shut the hell up about it. After all, she might just find more mental capacity and time to do stuff you both can enjoy. Like mutual orgasms, maybe. And that’s at least something neither of you will have to worry about.