I'm up to chapter 10. My neck's a bit sore from so much nodding
This quote from chapter 1 seems to me to sum up the problem: 'Just tell me what to do and I'll do it,' he protests. But, as far as she's concerned, this only underscores the frustration. Which is that the joint enterprise of marriage is really her problem. He's just a volunteer.
I'm not too sure about her assertion that there's a huge difference between marriage and cohabitation wrt wifework. I've been cohabiting for 13 years and the problem seems identical to when I was married. I'm also not sure about the lack of social respect I'm supposed to be feeling for being a cohabitee rather than a proper Wife. Perhaps Australia is more traditional in this respect (I'm assuming she's australian?) or perhaps I'm really thick-skinned and don't realise my married friends are looking down on me.
The other thing I'm a bit about is her attitude to meals and how women on their own prefer to just have a sandwich or pick at their DC's leftovers. It doesn't sound like good self-care to me. I've always cooked myself proper dinners because I'm worth it and if I find myself just picking at stuff, it's usually a sign I'm getting depressed.
God, it's depressing though, isn't it? The level of denial required to prop up this whole shaky structure is exhausting in itself! I think it's affecting how I feel about paid work. I really should be looking harder for more hours at the moment but I get this dreadful sinking feeling because I know how stressed and resentful I'll feel about the lack of 'help'. When I last worked FT we fell out about it a lot.
Yes, I was very unconvinced by that bit about meals. I can't speak from wider experience, but certainly in our relationship I'm the one that will always cook a proper meal regardless, whereas DH will eat bits and pieces if he's at home on his own.
I was also a bit wavery on the stuff about men doing stuff badly (putting the children to bed in tracky bottoms. Part of me agrees, but OTOH I know that I find it utterly infuriating when I'm doing a DIY job or whatever my way, and DH criticises the way I do it because he would do it differently. Yes, his way might be better (because he spends lots of time mending things) - but to some extent I need to learn from my own mistakes. Or my way might just be different, and good enough for what is needed.
So given that, part of me thinks - does it matter if kids sleep in their tracky bottoms, or if the laundry isn't pegged so it dries flat, or whatever.
Obviously there are degrees - cooking pasta and tomato ketchup as your only meal is definitely at the undoubtedly wrong end of the spectrum
Plenty - yes, I nodded at that quotation too. And I agree with you, I'm not convinced there's a huge marriage/cohabitation difference IME but I wonder how generational that is.
I did agree with her about the meals, actually. I am 5'4 and slight; a salad in the evening is plenty for me. I end up cooking what DH needs to eat and it is easy for me to overeat. How much is that just me having crappy self-control, though?
I wondered the same thing as you takver about doing things badly. But I think the problem I've noticed isn't so much DH doing stuff badly, it's him doing half a job and assuming I will do the rest. I can see that sounds really equal, but I do find it incredibly annoying - because it's incredibly petty crap that he doesn't do. I reckon if he puts a wash on and I put it on the line, or he puts clothes on the line and I get them in. that makes sense. But he'll leave things unfinished when he's done so little it's hardly worth bothering. And I'm realizing how much it annoys me.
Like, he'll put leftover food in a bowl and put clingfilm over it - but won't reach over and put it in the fridge. Or he'll make a sandwitch and clear up everything except the butter knife. Or he'll tell me that he didn't bother to wrap the bread up because he has 'checked' and it goes stale no matter whether it's in a bag/bin or not.
Rightly or wrong, I have just stopped tidying things away and he was puzzled the first few times the food had to be thrown away because it wasn't in the fridge. The thing is, he claims and believes he does jobs when they need doing and I am just overly sensitive and do them too often. So the bit where she talks about the men who claimed to have - and be the main users of! - a model of washing machine they didn't even own rang true for me.
I think a salad is a perfectly proper meal LRD - it was the bit about just eating the kids' leftovers that appalled me I think. I did used to do that on occasion when I was a LP but that was because of money issues.
I've just finished the chapters on emotional work and sex and am feeling quite smug relieved - In these areas at least, I think we are getting it right.
What's annoying me most at the moment is the way DP seems to treat me like some sort of external memory device. I'm getting better at resisting this -
him (waving a pile of papers at me): These are very important me: Oh, you'd better put them in a safe place then
him: don't let me forget to take the cash card tomorrow me: don't let me forget to not let you forget to take the cash card tomorrow
him (standing next to the shopping list pinned to the wall): we are running out of ketchup me (who doesn't like ketchup anyway): Oh - we ran out of ketchup and nobody died
I've just realized I'm having the same conversations on three threads.
Is there something about autumn and housework?!
I think leftovers would be fine depending what you make your children - I was brought up eating the same meals as my parents from very early on, so leftovers sounds odd to me too. But if you just mean you give the children spag bol at 5pm then reheat if for you at 7, that'd seem ok to me personally.
Congratulations on the sex!
I think we're pretty good on the emotional work - one thing DH is great at is taking the time to talk through stuff about work with me. It is a huge help. And he doesn't do the 'don't let me forget' thing any oftener than I do it (that would drive me mad).
He's just finished reading delusions of gender and has agreed to read wifework but I suspect he will get bored (I sold him the other because 'it's like ben goldacre' - which it is).
I don't know if this makes sense, but I feel really petty complaining and simultaneously annoyed that I feel petty. He's really pretty good. And he'll read Wifework and think 'wow, I'm pretty good'. I know I am comparatively fortunate. It's just .... why should I settle for 'well, he's a shedload better than my dad ever was to my mum'?
I've just finished Wifework last night - will come back and post but my immediate feeling is that I much preferred Delusions of Gender, because it was so well referenced and thorough (I will also confess to liking BG and being slightly geeky ). There were just a few too many places in Wifework where I thought 'hang on, I'm sure I remember studies that completely contradict what you are saying here'. I did also find it overly heavy on the biological determinism.
Having said that, reading it as a polemic rather than an academic study, I thought it was excellent and thought provoking.
Ooh, I'd be really interested to know where she can be contradicted - I'm not sciency so appreciated how Cordelia Fine actually tells you in her footnotes what she's on about. I found Wifework a lot less helpful in that respect.
Oh yeah, reheated spag bol is fine, I was thinking more of the one-and-a-half slightly licked fish fingers off their plates sort of leftovers.
re: the sex - while the quality is marvellous, we fail miserably in terms of quantity - I think we are averaging about once every 6 weeks at the moment. We have a tiny, thin-walled house and teens who keep very odd hours, so privacy is hard to come by.
I don't know if this makes sense, but I feel really petty complaining and simultaneously annoyed that I feel petty.
Well, it's only housework, it's not important, it's not really even proper work ... in fact, it's trivial and you are probably being a control-freak!
I always wonder about the quantity of sex. People lie. I dunno how much they lie. DH and I have problems in this area and have had sex probably about 12 times since we got married which averages slightly less than once a month. But in previous relationships I have always wanted more sex than my male partner and yet when they talk in public I've had to repress a slight grin because they reckon they want 'slightly more sex than average'. I think most people like to believe that (me included I'm sure). I really doubt that the average amount of sex is anything like as high as people claim it is. Anyways ... can of worms ...
Btw, with housework I am not remotely a control freak at the moment, though I am repressing shudders whenever I walk on the kitchen floor and my feet stick to it. DH hasn't yet discovered it ain't self-cleaning, but we shall see how long it takes .... trivial as it is ...
It's having the opposite effect on me, millimurphy - it's helping me work out the hows and whys of the situation, like the incredible pressures on women and men to conform to outdated gender roles. It's helping me think more dispassionately and rationally about things and I'm not nearly so personally angry with DP about it all. I'm more hopeful than I've been for a long time that we can actually change things without either of us ending up feeling like shit. Of course all that might change if he reads the book and comes back with a load of defensive bollox but just at the moment, it feels like a solvable problem
I think actually I didn't respond very strongly to reading the book because so many people on here have either worked out the same ideas on their own and articulated them, or quoted from the book, that I felt I already had confronted some of the real surprises.
However, nothing could compare to how utterly, inarticulately angry and depressed and self-blaming I felt when I lived with a guy who really took me for a ride on these issues. And it is so liberating to look back and think, 'oh, I wasn't being trivial, it was awful that I did those things!'
I think as well, the book is very good at showing how all sorts of areas of relationships are interconnected, so I felt there were always things where I could look at me and DH and think smugly that we did that bit fine. The author is very good too at saying where she messed up, so you're invited to judge her a bit too - all in all it was very constructive, IMO. Not in the 'get angry with your man and leave him' mould at all.
Have raced through Ch1 'The job description' while DD naps.
Main point arising is how to apply what I learn to to my own life? Does a Wifework exercise book for couples exist? It should.
The most interesting points for me: *the remarriages (or not for the women) and how more needy men seem to be in terms of being married. Had never thought about this difference before. *the better the job/educational achievements, the less happy women seem to be in marriage. An obvious one perhaps, but why is this the case? (rhetorical Q) *men use marriage to define their masculinity. Nod, nod, nod in agreement. An explanation of why men stay in unhappy marriages perhaps? They need the social validation. *the Wifework list. God yes! Especially the 'extra child' analogy. On a personal level, at least I don't have to do anything for DH's family relationships. The others may have rung true though! As a new SAHM, some of these were to be expected -what will be interesting is how this changes when I return to work. *the 'temporary' situation that arises with the arrival of children. Temporary? Am only a few months in, and am thinking 'yeah. right'. *how childcare for husbands seems to be fun and games. Childcare for wives means entertaining them while you sort the house and do 1001 other things... leaving less time for just fun.
I have finally got around to reading this. I found the writing style annoying - clicheed and tabloidy, with far too many cringey "more x than a y!" constructions. I didn't find anything in it that surprising because I grew up with a mother who stomped about muttering a lot about things like "he likes growing carrots so I have to scrub the bloody things when I could buy a bag of clean ones for sixpence" - she did all this anyway though and ranted and raved at her daughters (not her son) about being taken for granted about housework (despite working very full time). Reading Wifework is not a step forward for me because it has not empowered me to discuss any of this with my partner, or with anyone else. It has just reinforced the situation where I get all this, but sometimes it feels as if I am the only one on the planet who does. DP gets it a bit. But we're still 2 (relatively) sane people floating in a vacuum ;)
Sorry to be so dismissive. I suppose I have a jaundiced view because of the bit at the end where she insists that ended marriages are terrible for children; and I feel that only the genuine threat of ending individual arrangements is enough, on a societal scale, to make any difference to how these things work. I mean one of the strongest messages in the book is that these inequities are just not talked about. I don't see this book as a lever for change, and that is what matters to me. Understanding what is going on is not enough, actually, just painful.
I think that there are very powerful penalties for talking about workload inequality within the marriage, and very few rewards; if you are determined to stay in the marriage, you will find that you will have an easier life if you pretend it isn't happening. As we know, this is what nearly everyone does. And things don't change.