Housework: Does Your Husband Do His Share?

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At a party a few weeks ago, I witnessed a blood-boiling example of inequality. Through the entire three courses of dinner – for which the women had put together salads and baked desserts, organized decorations and gifts for the birthday boy – the majority of the men remained glued to their seats as the women milled amongst them, collecting plates, serving food and effectively waited on them, hand and foot.

 

According to Oliver Burkeman’s article in The Guardian, Dirty Secret: Why is there still a housework gender gap? I am fortunate to be in a minority of women who has a husband more anal than I am about germs. Not that either of us cares that much, but we all know that there’s a fine line between pretending not to care and hoarding empty “Pods” bags under the bed.

 

According to recent statistics in the UK, Burkeman says, ‘the “housework gap” largely stopped narrowing in the 1980s. Men, it seems, conceded that they should be doing more than before – but then, having half-heartedly vacuumed the living room and passed a dampened cloth over the dining table, concluded that it was time for a nice sit-down.’

 

I can believe it.

 

For it appears that some men, (and middle-aged men seem to be among the biggest culprits), believe that they are the character of Don Draper in Mad Men, still living in the fifties, at a time when housework was the responsibility of their wives because they didn’t work in a professional capacity – even though, (seventy years on), women now work full-time, as well as doing sixty percent more housework than they do. Yes, I did say sixty percent. And that gender imbalance is behind Tanya Plibersek’s commitment to a new survey into the value of unpaid and domestic work, to gauge the true value of gender inequity in this sensitive area.

 

As Tanya has stated, ‘Women, for the most part, do not begrudge unpaid work because of the “joy in caring for those you love” but it leads to lower pay at work, more time off and a tendency to work part-time, all of which add to the gender pay gap.’

 

Please understand that I employ the verb ‘waiting’ with tongue firmly in cheek because what in fact my band of friends and I were really doing was coming to the aid of a sister – even if that’s how it felt. While most men managed to prise their privileged asses off their chairs to refill their glasses and collect their food, and one, (upon receiving the look from his wife), scuttled to the kitchen to carve the meat, (hunted and gathered by my friend from the butcher that afternoon), the male contribution overall was disconcertingly negligible.

 

Why?

 

Well… my husband’s argument is that it takes time for a culture to change – although he has been known to employ that excuse a little too often for my liking. I noticed his look of discomfort when I ribbed the group of men (stuck to their chairs around the table) about the blatant lack of equality as I piled their plates together, noisily, in the face of such blatant injustice. ‘You just sit there,’ I said sarcastically. A couple of them had the sense to look away, while the rest happily passed me their plates.

 

This is not unusual, nor as Burkeman points out, is it entirely the fault of the men. While many men are happy to get into the kitchen to cook, the concept of clearing up afterwards needs some further education. His suggestion, that perhaps we women need to step back, (even if men make a pig’s ear out of a simple task), makes sense.  If we don’t, we are guilty of empowering their housework privilege; enabling their ineffectiveness to do simple domestic chores.

 

When I rewash those Bolognese-encrusted fry pans, am I feeding my husband’s genuine belief (I fear) that if he does a job badly enough, he won’t be asked to do it again? Surely, in a modern society where the majority of women work outside of the home as well, these chores should be divided?

 

‘But you do it so much better than me,’ he argues if I ask him to do something out of his comfort zone, such as clean the bathroom. And we all know how much easier it is to cave in when three sets of eye rolls are lobbed in your direction at the suggestion of help to clear the dinner table.

 

I’m fortunate, I suppose, that my husband does such a better job than me at putting the bins out on the street of a Tuesday night.

 

But what are men role-modeling to our sons with their half-assed approach to housework? In a modern world, and one in which we continue to fight for equality, what does it say to our boys when their fathers don’t clear the plates or load the dishwasher? What is the message from mothers to daughters when they assume control in the kitchen?

 

It’s time for a change. No-one’s arguing that it isn’t easier for us to do these chores ourselves. Have you ever watched a man put on a doona cover? Managing household chores avoids arguments, shoddy workmanship and the likelihood of a deadly bacteria cultivating on our bench tops, and yet, that’s not the point. It’s simply not the right thing to do.

 

 

The Problem With Inviting People Over Is Then You Have To Clean The House

We had the surrogate family over for Easter lunch yesterday; no pressure really but it meant that my slovenly attitude to housework was at risk of exposure and that the dust on the floors may need more than a gentle push under the sofas. mini-pigs-2185058_1920

 

It’s funny how that works: how you can live in denial like a deliriously contented pig in shit for weeks and the only thing to push your shame button is the judgment from your friends. What’s even stranger is that once I commit to a clean, I get an almost perverse sense of pleasure out of it, and after thirteen house moves since the kids were born – a lifestyle choice they attribute to our general dysfunction – I’m actually not that bad at it.

 

In general, though, I give pretty much zero fucks when it comes to housework, mainly because I resent the archaic belief that it is “women’s work”, but also because at this age you realise that there are far more interesting ways to fill your time than cleaning the grout between tiles with a toothpick – such as watching Netflix and eating chocolate. NOBODY NOTICES, ANYWAY.

 

The old man does his share of the housework in our house, but badly, in the hope, I imagine, that his half-skewed attempts will be shameful enough for me to do them next time. So apart from the chores that one does to prevent the whole family coming down with gastro, the bare minimum normally has to suffice in our crib.

 

I’ve found that “training” is the key.  Usually, after six weeks, our bed sheets walk to the laundry of their own accord and “doing their own laundry” is one of the ways I’ve taught the kids about responsibility. So, in theory, all that’s left to do before guests arrive is a quick whizz around the bathrooms to pick up hair and to pop my head in the pantry for a quick head count of the moth population.

 

I am a tidy person, but cleaning is boring. It was one of the reasons I hated my maternity leave – that expectation that I would have time to clean just because I was incarcerated in the house for long periods of time. The old man might pretend to be clean, but the depth of toast crumbs and nose hair and the tesselating coffee rings on his desk tell a very different story.

 

Sometimes I think my paternal grandmother would turn in her grave if she saw how far hygiene have been compromised in our house. A mother of the fifties, she was one of those women who took pride in polishing her front doorstep until it gleamed with a brilliance that put everyone else’s in the street to shame. She used to spit on my glasses to clean them, much to my horror. She would be horrified if she knew that I’m the kind of lazy that will wipe the bathroom floor with bath towels in desperation and whose fridge only gets cleaned each time we move house.

 

Which, fortunately, is often.

 

But having said all that, the kids have rarely been at death’s door and I have always believed in building up their immunities through exposure to bacteria and dirt. In my opinion, the ‘sniff’ test” is a pretty good guide when it comes to clothes washing, especially since the old man decided that one wash a week is more than adequate. And as young adults, the kids do their own clothes washing these days, even if typically they are at opposing ends of the clean clothes spectrum – while Kurt washes his entire wardrobe every day, NC (for once her mother’s daughter) and ever the most logical of all of us, admits to reversing her undies to stretch the cycle that bit further.

The Fall From Domestic Goddess To Domestic Grossness That Can Happen In Middle Age

Do you ever get those moments when your own domestic grubbiness grosses you the fuck out?

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I had one of those last night when I used the grill in the oven for the first time in months and there was that much smoke, I’m surprised the fire brigade didn’t turn up. It was a blinding plume of billowing grey, fatty smoke and it filled the whole apartment, confirmation to the rest of the block that no, I never clean the oven unless I absolutely have to, and yes, there are “grubs” on level 4.

 

Obviously I clean it when we move, or someone is coming over to stay, though…

 

And in my defence, we are in the habit of moving a lot.

 

I’d like to say that blind eye to dirt is some well thought out stand for feminism, a shot at all those men who continue to allow their working wives to take on the bulk of the share of domestic chores, but I admit that it’s more about laziness. I’ve become much more blasé about hygiene since the kids passed the age of dying from some awful gastro-related illness that the police could trace back to me. Added to which, since the old man began working from home and we divided the chores, there’s a kind of mental impasse between us where neither wants to appear subservient to the other by cracking when it comes to unacceptable dirt levels.

 

But the truth is, neither of us really cares anymore and because the apartment is so small we can almost get away with it. If someone threatens to come round, we can knock the space into shape superficially in a matter of minutes…and we know all the tricks.

 

So why aren’t we more methodical? Why are the venetian blinds coated in a layer of dust? Why don’t we clean around the microwave out of habit? Why do the bathrooms only get cleaned when a visible bacterial population begins to hug the plughole?

 

I like to call it prioritising. Because just as those days have passed when the fuck-off house and the latest car model mattered to us, so has the care factor when it comes to a bit of innocuous dust within our four walls. And there are so many more interesting things to do in middle age, like trying new wines and discovering new drama on Netflix.

 

We’re not complete grubs, we’re tidy, probably because we both score highly on the OCD scale, but our standards have definitely slipped. We prefer to spend our time doing things we love. I have my writing, the old man has his golf videos.

 

There is still so much learning to cram into whatever time we have left, so who the fuck cares if the kitchen floor sparkles or the mould is kept at bay in the shower cubicle?

 

 

 

The Male Short Term Memory Issue: A Valid Reason To Nag

You’ll be aware by now that I’m a fervent believer in gender equality and the old man and I have heated discussions on the subject most weeks over a bottle or three of wine. And the one area in our discussions where he really gets to me is when he argues that because women don’t have the same physical strength as men, there are some jobs that women simply can’t do. cleaning-268134_1280

 

So I admit, women probably can’t pull trucks with their bare hands for stupid tv programs such as The World’s Strongest Man. (Remember that?)

 

However, they can fight in wars, build houses and cut down trees and I believe that in all other areas of work, (given the same opportunities), they are equal. Apart from one – because in my experience men have an unfortunate handicap when pitched against women, that of a severely underdeveloped limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

 

First of all, let me say that this is not a general attack on men (or the old man), more a statement about the ‘nagging’ label that some men assign to women with such onerous ease each time they are asked to do anything something in the house;  and more so because in this age of equality, the old man does his fair share of nagging in our house.

 

However, and it saddens me to admit this, as much as I find the verb offensively belittling and sexist, sometimes the act of nagging is a necessary evil, due to aforementioned genetic mutation that some men are born with when it comes to remembering shit; one which seems to become most noticeably apparent on the domestic front.

 

It should be noted that some scientists believe that selective memory is also a co-morbidity of this serious condition.

 

I’ll give you an example. I have asked the old man, kindly and without raising my voice, for about five years now, not to pour crap down the sink onto the cleaning sponges, as well as explaining to him patiently the reasoning behind my request – in that we use them in the hygienic capacity of keeping the kitchen devoid of bacteria, germs and creepy-crawlies.

 

Yet every day I go to use the dish cloth or sponge, it is soaking in a puddle of unidentifiable ‘kitchen grossness’ that not only turns my stomach, but has the capacity to turn all our stomachs into a bad case of gastro.

 

So, between clenched teeth, I remind him again about the fucking irritation sad disappointment his lack of care causes me, and I will be told to stop nagging – about the same time that a force as powerfully threatening as a platoon of White Walkers climbing over the wall takes over me.

 

Men will always deny they’ve ever been told or shown how to do something foreign to their intuition, of course, or they’ll say it’s not important enough to worry about, or come back at you with helpful suggestions like maybe you should take ownership of the chore, ‘because you’re so much better at it’ than they are. But it’s a ploy, people, a sad little ploy not only to get them out of helping you, but to pass off their share of the chores back onto you.

 

The statistics speak for themselves, when 79% of working mums admit that they do the bulk of the housework.

 

Worse still, we women have been brainwashed to believe that it’s not worth asking, or wrong of us to suggest they help out for fear of that most heinous of accusations, being a nag.

 

Interestingly,  men appear to have a perfectly developed short term memory when it comes to how much money you spent on clothes shopping in any given month.

My Husband, The House Bitch

An interloper has moved into our apartment. The teens annual Christmas wish of a cleaning fairy has finally come true, and albeit a welcome addition to the family, this new situation is making me feel strangely uneasy.

My Husband, The House Bitch
Cleaning Day by Jaymie Koroluk at http://www.flickr.com

Obviously, I’m grateful that the old man has taken over the major share of the domestic chores, but it takes some getting used to, seeing your partner in SUCH a different, less conventional role.

And frankly, I’m still a bit unsure about the pink rubber gloves.

For most of our relationship he has been my predictable caveman, a man who feigned not to know how to use the oven, and consistently used the ‘but you do it so much better’ excuse whenever I asked him to do anything domestic.

I thought he’d carry on the cleaning strategy I had cultivated – on a needs-must basis, or in other words, when people are coming around. I thought he’d pick up on my specialty of the ‘superficial’ clean, perhaps tweak it in places, but still run with it.

None of the family are super house-proud. We’re not pigs, but we put ‘living’ over cleanliness and lifestyle over the tedium of cleaning the grime from the microwave and the brown ring around the bath.

Not the old man, it seems.

He interrupts me when I’m Facebooking working to discuss the benefits of the cordless vacuum and eco-friendly cleaning products. He has moved everything around in the kitchen cupboards, so no-one can find anything. One minute you can be having a conversation with him about the benefits of vinegar over bleach down the toilet, and the next moment he’s lost concentration as his sensors pick up a spot on the carpet. Quick as a flash he’s back with the Vanish.

He tries to discuss meal plans for the week with me and looks hurt when I make no contribution. I’ve never created a meal plan in my life, and surely he must know that I don’t give a shit what he cooks, as long as he cooks.

It would be sexist to say that he is no longer the man I married, but something has changed…

Which is strange because I always yearned for a ‘new’, domesticated man, yet the nightmares I keep having of him in a pinny are perplexing. I’m a feminist, I believe in equality, so why does my man going against the traditional stereotype unsettle me so much?

He has become best buddies with the concierge in our building and I catch them giggling in the lift like schoolgirls as they discuss the latest glass-cleaning products and recycling ideas. Next thing I know, they’ll be opening the wine at five o’clock.

Where once my husband would begin conversations with ‘In this meeting today…’, most of his conversation these days start with ‘when I was in Aldi…’, and he bores the pants off me about the price of milk.

Was I really this insular and dull when I was the doing the housework?

7 Jobs That Only Get Done When The Internet Is Down

The old man decided to upgrade our router system the other day, and inevitably the job took longer than planned because of one, or several of the following reasons:

English: merrow, merrow sewing machine company...
English: merrow, merrow sewing machine company, this image is available for public use (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Even though he thinks he is Steve Jobs and we should have shares in Apple, he is technologically inept
  2. He cannot be described as ‘handy’ or a ‘man who can’
  3. He refuses to let anyone help him, in particular women or anyone from Generation Y
  4. There was probably some major part missing that was required for a successful installation
  5. There was OBVIOUSLY some fault at our Service Provider’s end, even though the rest of Sydney had Wifi.

My world without Internet came to a grinding halt.

For two hours I felt lost. I couldn’t partake of any of the daily functions that give me pleasure, such as Facebook, Pinning, Tweeting, or in absolute desperation, work. I couldn’t research stuff to do in the future – that I will obviously never do; I couldn’t trawl the net for clothes, that I will never buy or images of food that I will never cook.

Which left me no real excuse NOT to do all those things I would have/should have been doing before the Internet came along. Those boring, housey chores, that now only get done on a needs basis.

Such as:

  1. Cleaning the Microwave – which I have thought about for a good month but hoped that someone else (such as the old man, who is more commonly referred to these days as House Bitch now he is a house husband), would be grossed out enough by the porridge splatters to do it for me. Obviously he can’t fathom how to put back the glass plate either.
  2. Clearing the Fridge of all those leftovers that we never eat, in spite of our supposed conscience about world poverty. These include half-used jars of sauces that have developed green fur on the top and manky old pieces of cut up veg and fruit that were used last Christmas.
  3. Sewing on those buttons, patching up those seams…
  4. Getting to the bottom of the ironing pile where the tablecloths, napkins and shirts you never wear, live forever.
  5. Polishing shoes rather than buying a new pair, or giving them a quick once-over with the dish cloth.
  6. Cleaning those stains on the carpet that have annoyed me for the past year every time I walk past them.
  7. Not ignoring the little flashing light on the dishwasher that reminds me to add some dishwasher rinse aid, even though it seems to make fuck all difference to the results.

Sewing is my biggest ‘I would prefer to be an ugly, fat girl in the Bachelor house’ task out of all of the above and I will avoid it whenever possible. I will throw clothes away rather than spend two minutes mending them. It’s not even that I can’t sew – I am THAT old – it was part of the school curriculum in my day, when we slowly advanced from blanket stitch to designing and making some hideously embroidered cushion that both parents actually fought over NOT to be gifted for Christmas, over the space of four years.

But…NEEDLES!

What heinous domestic task will you lower yourself to do when the Internet goes down?

I’ve Lied To My Husband For Twenty Years

No, this is not a headline from the Sunday Telegraph. I have something I need to admit to my husband.

You see, as I write this post, the old man is winging his way back from the UK. He is without a doubt watching all the films I will want to see at the cinema over the next six months, and munching and drinking his way through all the freebie peanuts, chips and alcohol available, (because what else do you do on a 24 hour flight?), which means he’ll refuse to go out to dinner for ages too.

I, on the other hand, have spent the past eight hours cleaning the house, from top to bottom, in an attempt to return our home to the state he left it in before Kurt and I got into our student groove.

You see, I have been lying to my husband for the last twenty years about who I really am and how I naturally like to live.

The word ‘feral’ springs to mind.

When I think back to the past ten days of cohabitation with Kurt, scenes from Feris Bueller’s Day Off spring to mind.

It’s not that Kurt and I are physically unclean people. We shower. We know how to use the dishwasher. But let’s just say that we’re not as anal about stuff that doesn’t interest us.

Like tidying up. Putting things away. Organisation.

In our defence, the old man is an accountant and thinks and breathes organisation, filing, minimisation and order – it’s what he does best – which is why we need him. He often tells us proudly, about how his desk is completely clear of clutter at work – and we smile sympathetically. Kurt and I, on the other hand, have a preference for the right side of our brain, where randomness and creativity hold court over boring shit like tidying. Numbers, logic and over-analysis bore the pants off us.

In the words of Cyndi Lauper, given the choice, ‘we just want to have fun.’

Left to our own devices, we become modern-day hippies who bury our heads in the sand, and are happy to celebrate life and deal with the consequences later.

Add to the mix that wonderful ADHD trait of distraction, and although we might plan to clean up after ourselves – LATER – if something more interesting grabs our attention, we tend to veer off task horribly.

So while the cat has been away, the mice might have been a bit lax about things that aren’t as important to them.

Such as:

  • Opening the mailbox, its contents and filing. I am of the opinion that anything I really need to address these days comes in the form of a text, an email, on Facebook or Twitter, so I am not interested in what comes via the mailman unless it is the results of my latest online shopping splurge.
  • Eating. Kurt and I eat when we’re hungry rather than the traditional framework of three set meals a day. There hasn’t been lot of food in the house because I’ve been on the FML diet and they sell crackers and tomatoes at the local deli. Kurt eats voraciously off his meds, in which case we have to call in food-aid from the local restaurants, and when he’s on them the only things I can get down his throat are smoothies and one flavor of McCain pizza – usually around 12pm at night.
  • Putting things away. I hadn’t realised quite how slobbish I can become but I went into serious ‘writer’ mode while the old man was away and prioritised catching up on ‘the book’ and ignoring what didn’t need to be done. How I made the call on what needed to be done was simple – I simply asked myself this question: ‘will it physically kill us if I don’t do this? Putting away piles of discarded clothes didn’t make the cut, neither did clothes washing, linen washing, opening blinds or vacuuming. Luckily for the Princess, she managed to survive on Kurt’s scraps which I think has been a good learning curve for her – how to fend for herself like real Spoodles that live in the wild.
  • Any of my bad habits that really piss the old man off such as all of the above as well as staying in my dressing gown until midday, eating out of tins (and preferably in front of the tv), not cooking anything that isn’t microwaveable, stretching my legs wildly across the bed and making it a goal to have all the covers on my side by morning, reading in bed until the wee hours even if I have to resort to copious amounts of caffeine, snoring super LOUDLY, living in my joggers and proudly converting our house into a student slum.

So inevitably, the atmosphere in the house this morning was absolute panic when Kurt and I looked at each other across the breakfast table and realised that we had to somehow completely eradicate all evidence of our ten-day music/writing/lazy festival, before Mr Mature walked through the door and judgment day began.

We metamorphosed into those busy mice from Cinderella, minus silly voices and nauseating songs. 

Immature, I know. I’ve surprised myself at how well I’ve managed to conceal the real me, (which is obviously a teenager), thus far. The old man’s impending return to the house created the same fear that my father used to cultivate when he came home and caught me smoking out of my bedroom window.

Marriage can do that to you – it can make you lose your true identity. I think the marriage guidance books call it ‘compromising’, and in my case, it has probably been for the best.

More worrying (and perhaps a touch Freudian) is the question of when exactly I began to think of the old man as my father?

What lie have you managed to hide from your partner?