If one parent knows all the answers to the 30 questions below while the other doesn’t, this relationship is an unequal partnership. (We’re looking at you, dads.)
On Father’s Day this past Sunday, Joshua Ziesel, a clinical psychologist, wrote an essay for the Washington Post about how women traditionally take on more mental labor than men. He wanted to be a better husband so he chose to plan his daughter’s fourth birthday party by himself. The article details the author’s struggles and ultimate success of party planning. He ends the piece by vowing to pick up more of the mental load “…because it is the just and equitable thing to do.”
Rather than debate his arguments and mini-epiphanies, I prefer to welcome Ziesel to the next step of being the intellectually engaged and equally involved parent he strives to be.
Here are 30 questions the average American mother will either immediately know the answer or know where the answer is. This list isn’t complete, but it does show how much mental energy women devote to the minute, invisible requirements of child rearing.
- What is the name of one of your child’s friends?
- What are the names of that child’s parents?
- Where does that friend live?
- What’s the name of your child’s pediatrician?
- When is the next wellness checkup?
- Where is the pediatrician located?
- What is the name of your child’s dentist?
- When is the next dental appointment?
- Where is the dentist located?
- Does your child wear glasses?
- If so, when does your child’s vision prescription expire?
- How many extracurricular activities does your child participate in and what are they?
- How often do these extracurricular activities occur?
- Where do these extracurricular activities occur?
- What equipment is needed and does your child have it right now?
- Which activities require parents to bring snacks?
- Is your child allergic to anything?
- If so, what is the allergy and what do you do during an allergic reaction?
- What is your child’s current shoe and clothing size?
- Where are your child’s winter clothes stored during the summer?
- Roughly when was the last time your child’s bedding was changed?
- Where is the clean bedding?
- Is your child registered for school?
- Who is the emergency contact(s)?
- When is the first day of school?
- When are the drop-off and pickup times?
- Where are drop-off and pickup?
- Does your child have the required school supplies yet?
- What was the name of your child’s teacher last year?
- What is the next event that you need to drive your kids to?
All of these questions have factual, concrete answers. If one parent knows all the answers while the other doesn’t, this relationship is an unequal partnership.
I sincerely believe Ziesel wants to share the mental load with his wife. Permanently knowing these answers is a good first step. This knowledge will not only alleviate the gender imbalance but will also help anticipate what needs to be done day after day until the child is self-sufficient.
For people who find these questions too burdensome, American mothers would like to remind you we don’t have the luxury of ignorance.