In her new book, The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates, among many other brilliant points, reminds us of the importance of a successful marriage as a foundation for success in so many other ways. She delves into what she and her other half have adopted as an important symbol of the strongest marriages.
As she explained to Business Insider, the key centers on a fair division of unpaid labor–driving the kids to school, washing dishes, making dinner, doing laundry, packing lunches.
Gates put it this way:
Because male economists decided what was “labor” and what would be measured in our economy as productive work–we never looked at the unpaid labor, which predominantly women do at home. And I think it’s far time we changed that and have the real conversation about this 90 minutes extra of work that women do at home in the United States.
Gates went on to explain that all of this unpaid labor adds up to seven years of work, something she or any other woman could use to go pursue a PhD.
This realization led to a fairer split of the division of unpaid labor in the Gates home. Mrs. Gates would get frustrated when the family would drift off after dinner, leaving her there for another 15 minutes of clean up (prompting her to declare “Nobody leaves this kitchen until I leave this kitchen!”)
She and Bill started divvying up duties more, including the task of washing dishes. So yes, the second richest man in the world washes the dishes, in appropriate partnership with his wife.
Here’s why Gates assertion is so brilliant.
At the end of the day, the division of unpaid labor is about three things: a) caring enough to be aware of the unfairness and wanting to balance it out, b) being willing to sacrifice what you’d rather be doing to maintain that balance, and c) valuing your partner to show you know their time is as valuable as yours, their work is as valuable as yours.
Caring. Awareness. Sacrifice. Valuing. All wrapped up in one idea. Sounds like a fantastic symbol of a strong partnership.
I’m proud to say that I’ve long been aware of this unpaid labor (though I never so smartly labeled it) and have been consciously trying to balance it. However, I’m less proud to admit I’ve still got a way to go. The division of unpaid labor is not yet even in our house.
But consider this tip. This article prompted more discussion with my wife and I learned something important. Not all chores are created equal, and I can dial up my participation quicker in chores that are more onerous to my wife. For example, do more laundry? Nah. She’d rather I learn how to cook more so I can help more on that front.
You get the idea. The point is, if you’ve got balancing to do, leverage the highest potential swing items first to add to the bond of your relationship.
Here’s to hoping this article serves as a moment of lift for you in your relationship.