I am constantly amazed by how many dynamic women who consider themselves to be gutsy go-getters go quiet on the subject of who do the lion’s share of chores around the house. These are clever, non-doormat women married to smart, accomplished – and crucially – understanding, reasonable men and yet, they still end up doing it all at home.
Is there really a good reason why they are trying to do it all? I’m afraid, “It’s just quicker when I do it” or “he doesn’t do it quite the way I would”does not cut it with me. I sometimes feel that women have lost all sight of perspective when they tell me it’s easier if they do everything themselves. Really? Easier for whom exactly? Is there really such a “bad” way of loading up the dishwasher or putting away the supermarket shop? And what makes women better at school-min? Listen up, we have to stop treating men like morons.
Vicky Bingham, headmistress at the girls’ school, South Hampstead High School provoked some debate recently when she said that career women must not infantalise their husbands. This being 2018, I’m inclined to say that she should have said any woman. According to Bingham, women with demanding jobs often ‘micro manage’ everything at home and the idea that men were bad at domestic tasks was a myth. “What kind of blueprint are some of us providing for our daughters by infantilising our husbands?” she wondered.
And of course she is right. There’s a glaring hypocrisy in demanding equality on many many levels and then treating your partner as if he’s too thick to sew on a name tag or choose the right brand of formula. He will figure it out just as you once did. Men will not lift a finger if we continue to be so controlling. Or when we delight in a “hands on father”… .have you ever heard a man say such a thing about this wife? Quite.
Why women wish to forever be assigned with the “mental load” – that is, the burden of remembering, and usually also executing, the myriad tasks required to keep a household ticking over – is utterly beyond me. How do you expect him to cook a Sunday lunch, or pack a child’s sport kit or sort out the Christmas present list if you never give him the chance? It’s the being bogged down in this never-ending daily minutiae combined with juggling a career that often prevents women from having the head space to go and achieve great things. And very often, it’s women, hard-wired to be perfectionists (so dull!) who are as much to blame.
In my head I like to think my husband and I both do 50/50 around the house, and while the chores divide is much better than in many marriages I know, it’s not by any means perfect. And for the record that swings both ways: sometimes I am just as guilty. With more hindsight, I see how the ‘chores’ issue might be solved with better communication.The following are pointers we must try harder to always keep sight of:
Learn to let go
The biggest impediment to your sanity. Remember: no one way is better. Let go and respect that you both do things differently.
Why are women so loathe to include their husbands on the school-min?
I genuinely don’t think my husband realised how much school communication there was until I stuck him on the weekly emails and whatsapp. Even if he isn’t always around to help sort things out (he works less flexible hours than I do), he is at least aware of what is happening. And when I’m away for work, it means he can pick up the pieces, rather than me having to send endless lists.
You owe it to your children to be honest!
Again, children need to understand what is required to look after them and that the daily grind is not your idea of fun either. You are not their slaves. It will help them be more independent and more respectful of you too. Plus, who says four year olds don’t love chores? I have a very adept floor sweeper in this household.
Telepathy is overrated
Never assume your partner is a mind reader. If you want help, ask for it. Don’t play a game of “Is he going to notice that I am unpacking 20 bags of shopping with the baby on one hip while also making lunch?” A word too on the way you ask for help: asking in a non-moany, not judgmental way is nearly always more effective.
Leave your partner alone with your children regularly
I really don’t buy that most women chose a life partner who was so incompetent that they can’t trust him to cook a simple meal, operate a washing machine or read a bed time story. Men bashing is detrimental to your relationship so stop it this instant. Also, think how long it took you to build your confidence when you first had children. And remember, don’t leave instructions or lists, or put your mother-in-law on standby. Allow him to develop his own relationship with his children without always interfering.
Everybody needs to know how to do the majority of household chore
I’m just as guilty of this. Obviously, it’s natural to want to play to your strengths: I am not proud to say that I don’t know where the house insurance documents are kept or even if wills have been made. And if anyone should know better it is me. My mother was left widowed with a 15 month old me and a two day old baby girl (my sister). Life for her changed in an instant. Even if you do divvy up the chores, you need to know how everything happens or where important documents are kept in case you ever need to pick up your partner’s slack. Naturally, there is no one-size-fits all answer to this but find a system that works for you and your family. For your own head-space, if nothing else.