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My husband does his own laundry. Let me repeat those words: My husband does his own laundry.

There is no expectation on me to do it for him, even though I work from home and we have a daughter in kindergarten.

He’s not a stay-at-home husband (not that there is anything wrong with that); he works full-time in a high-powered, demanding job. He also cooks on the weekends, helps clean, and shops for food.

I suspect that many women are gasping right now and perhaps feeling a twinge of jealousy.

And that is the problem.

It should be second nature for dads to do their share of chores. Women should expect it and men should offer it gladly. It should be part of their contribution to help raise happier kids.

Research supports that. One study in the Journal for the Association of Psychological Science shows that girls whose fathers play a part in housework and laundry—no matter what their income levels—directly contribute to their daughter’s health, happiness, ability to do well in school and broader career prospects. Another study in the Journal of Family Issues demonstrates that working a more egalitarian chore schedule improves the relationships of long-term couples with children.

Gloria Steinem famously said, “women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”

Sheryl Sandberg has also acknowledged men need to be part of the equation for gender parity to exist, and recently launched an addition to her “Lean In” movement, called “Lean In Together.”  She knows of such matters. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, who she just tragically lost,  advocated for gender equity — and famously lived it at home and at his company. Just read some of the tributes to his life.

“We’re never going to get to equality unless men lean in as well, and they should do it not because it’s the right thing to do—even though it is—but because it’s good for them,” Sandberg said.

Let’s be frank: isn’t most of the work that mothers do inside and outside of the home invisible?

Mothers cook and clean and schedule and make appointments and shop and do errands and it all sort of flies under the radar. But an economic value can be placed on that work— even laundry. On salary.com, a poster breaks down the cost of a “mother’s” invisible work.

And where has this all-consuming care-taking gotten women? It has contributed to the cultural zeitgeist that states that when a woman becomes a mother, her individual needs—aside from being a wife, mother or partner—do not matter, or only matter if they affect the family, as the old platitude, “happy wife, happy life,” goes.

Yes, but what if mothers can feel equal without connecting their needs to the happiness and well-being of the family?

What if a mother’s desire for time alone, a girls’ night out, continuing education, acknowledgement, and having her partner do his share of the cooking, cleaning and the laundry were just considered to be human needs, not selfish needs?

If children hear their fathers give lip service to equality for women, but then see that their dads can’t be bothered to do a load of laundry as a regular part of their household contribution because they view it as “woman’s work” how can a boy or girl’s consciousness ever be changed?

Our sons and daughters need to see their fathers as good role models and our daughters must not think that by becoming a mother—a caretaker— she would become a second-class citizen, whether she opted to stay home or work outside the home for pay.

My daughter is growing up knowing her dad does laundry, cooks and occasionally goes food shopping. To her, this is normal gender behavior.

It would be odd if she ended up with a man who didn’t share her dad’s behavior, and, in fact, I believe she would reject such a man because it wouldn’t feel right to her.

I think that’s wonderful.

The support for equality and care-taking needs to start at home–the best place to effect change.

That’s where the heart is, after all.

Estelle Erasmus is a former magazine editor and current freelance writer. She can be found on twitter at @EstelleSErasmus and her award-winning blog is Musings on Motherhood & Midlife.

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