What is “nagging?” It depends whom you ask. If you ask a husband (my own declined to comment for this piece; “It’s a trap!” he said) they might answer: “It’s when my wife badgers me over, and over, and over to do something.” A wife might define the term in this manner: “It’s what I have to do in order to get my husband to do basic tasks in our house and in our lives, which involves constant and sometimes creative ways to send reminders.” Everyone would likely agree that it’s something that tends to happen in long-term relationships.
What would a marriage without nagging look like, and how could one attain it? Evidently the Trumps—Donald and Melania—have figured it out.
In an old interview recently unearthed by BuzzFeed, Donald Trump explained his approach to marriage. “There’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife and you know there’s a lot of husbands that listen to that,” Trump said, when asked if he’d ever changed a diaper for one of his five children. Not the Donald. He leaves domestic duties to others. Melania confirmed this in a more recent interview with Parenting magazine: “He didn’t change diapers and I am completely fine with that. . . we know our roles.”
Her role, evidently, is never to bother Donald with domestic responsibilities or, heaven forbid, nag him. Melania recently told GQ magazine she was neither “needy” or “nagging,” and then repeated this self-assessment to The New Yorker: “I’m not a nagging wife.”
Trump’s history of misogyny is long and well-documented. Many people wonder how it’s possible that a woman, let alone three women, have decided to hitch their fates to a man like Trump. The answer becomes clear in Melania’s interviews: like her husband, Melania is used to outsourcing a lot of the daily drudgery of life; and she doesn’t think that highly of her fellow women who don’t have the same privilege.
But as Hannah Sieglson writes in Slate:
The 2013 American Time Use Survey found that employed married women spend almost twice as much time on housework and child care (2.6 hours a day) as their husbands do (1.4 hours a day). While men are pitching in more (the amount of housework done by men has doubled between 1976 and 2005, according to the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan), women still have a longer second shift, which might leave them to grumble and carp—that is, nag—about what they need taken off their plate.
With women now in the workforce doing their share of breadwinning for the family, domesticity and parenting tasks need to become more balanced. We might not want our men to wear an apron and make dinner, but we do need a sous chef chopping vegetables to help get that dinner on the table, or someone to pitch in running errands. Just because we’re told we should do it all doesn’t mean we want to, or can, for that matter.
Technology has improved our lives drastically on this front; I have friends who use scheduled email services like Boomerang to send an email to ask a husband to do something, and then schedule several reminders at the same time to be sent at certain intervals after the arrival of the initial email. My husband and I use an iPhone app, “Remember the Milk,” to share tasks between us so that picking up dry cleaning and paying bills doesn’t fall between the cracks of busy lives.
But few American wives enjoy the privilege of having a full-time domestic staff at their beck and call like Melania does; for many of us, our “household help” consists of our husbands (and sometimes our older kids). So most mothers, when asked about their ideal working arrangements, prefer part-time to full-time hours. Mothering and housekeeping are full-time jobs, and understandably most women (myself included) prefer not to add another full-time job to that stack of responsibilities. Unfortunately for many people, taking a salary cut to pursue part-time work isn’t feasible. Which is why more men and women are trying to achieve a more equitable distribution of household responsibilities.
Most Americans understand this reality. Women don’t nag because they like to or want to emasculate their husbands (why would anyone want to emasculate the man they’re sleeping with?). They do it because of the overwhelming pressure they feel in terms of time, money and energy placed on the shoulders of both members of most American households.
This reality seems to have escaped the Trumps. In their view, all it takes are a few personal assistants, cleaning women and a chef. Hire a staff, and the ignoble reign of wifely nagging will end! Does that make the Trumps more enlightened than the rest of us? Of course not; it just makes them a lot wealthier.
It also makes them sound very out of touch with the concerns of most Americans. Melania’s “Let them use servants” approach to the very real time pressure Americans face isn’t likely to improve anyone’s image of her or her husband. Is this the kind of couple we want in the White House, one that not only doesn’t understand this mundane type of stress, but also chooses to criticize women for the way they keep their households running? Melania might not nag, but she also doesn’t have the first clue what American women—and American wives—need or want.