Wifework- I don't get it...

(202 Posts)
louloutheshamed Mon 12-Aug-13 18:41:11

I have lurked here for a while and thought I'd try and boost my feminist credentials by doing some reading. So i read delusions of gender which I loved, I felt it articulated a lot I what I feel and experience in my life.

I have moved onto wifework and I'm just a bit baffled by it. It's Fascinating and coherently argued but the thing is I just don't recognise her description of marriage in my own marriage or those of many of my friends and peers. A typical husband as she describes would be generally accepted as a useless sorry waste of space by me and my friends, we just would not accept it. obviously I know these types
Of husbands/marriages exist but they are generally accepted to be crap. So many threads in relationships describe unequal
Partnerships but then there is always virtually a unanimous Condemnation of this behaviour by other posters.

I accept that I am slightly unusual in that I work full time and my husband went pt on the birth of my son. He does huge amounts of what is described as 'wifework' in the book, probably more than me. Moushart often starts sentences with 'I don't suppose there is a woman alive who hasn't experienced this..." and I am Screaming "well I haven't!!"

Perhaps I am the exception that proves the rule but it doesn't feel Like it in my experience. I don't even recognise my parents or in laws marriages in it as much as she suggests...

I also think, having read delusions first, that Moushart relies a lot on 'essentialist' (not sure if that is correct term) differences between genders rather than social constructs. I find it all a bit negative and bitter. When she describes how when she first got married suddenly felt like she had to be a domestic goddess type-??? I just felt like saying 'more fool you!'

Can anyone enlighten me as to what I am missing?

louloutheshamed Mon 12-Aug-13 18:41:39

Apologies for random capitalisation!

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 18:47:59

I do agree to a certain extent. She had a bad marriage, and compared to a fairly equal marriage it might not ring as true. I do also recall her being a bit over-fond of the broad brush statement.

Where I felt that there was a lot of truth for even many ostensibly very equal partnerships was the wife as social PA. Responsible (and held responsible by the wider family) for organising birthday cards, christmas presents, scheduling meeting up with friends, etc.

I would also say that many many marriages I know follow her expectations. My parents and in-laws both massively do. But even in my own generation. For example, men who love to cook but do so for big show stopper meals like Sunday lunch, and who need the kitchen to be emptied of small children whilst they cook. So the women still do the day in day out grind of putting a meal on the table every day. Men who would happily buy nappies at the supermarket, but would never think to check if they were running out.

LaFataTurchina Mon 12-Aug-13 18:55:16

I've not read it but keep seeing it mentioned on here. Anyone fancy giving me a super quick summary?

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 18:55:50

I know my parents or even grandparents arent/werent anything like that. I know many people with decent dhs or boyfriends.

When it comes to pa stuff Ido all the finances, but dh does all the school bits etc because he goes up there. I havent done a school run in months so it makes sense he does a lot of the kids stuff.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 18:59:49

I think the thing is, feminists are the most likely to have read the book but the least likely to accept a marriage on that model, or have even seriously dated someone like that!

LaFata - Her basic argument is that many women take on a massive additional burden even in apparently equal partnerships. Things like being the one who organises the family, being the one who carries all the diary information around in their head, being the person who cooks big meals even if they don't fancy them, etc.

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 19:01:09

I havent read the book just heard about it on here. I think it would just get me frustrated at people that put up with crap tbh. It already gets me annoyed even reading it on here.

badguider Mon 12-Aug-13 19:03:11

I haven't read it but the reason I haven't is because I don't think I do this 'wifework' - in fact, I often joke that I'm a rubbish 'wife' but that if I was a 'normal wife' dh wouldn't have married me.

I do some stuff around running our house, and he does other stuff... I have never been motivated to 'care' for him in any way and am not a housey person anyway so I guess it's quite easy for me. I also don't feel any guilt whatsoever when he fails at something like buying his mum a birthday present on time... to be honest I don't know WHY I feel no guilt for things like that and other wives do... I just don't.

I think that maybe us meeting later (I was 29/30 and him around 33 when we moved in together and we were 34 and 41 when we married) means that I felt no need to take over things he'd been doing for himself all his adult life before me.

BasilBabyEater Mon 12-Aug-13 19:03:18

I get more annoyed with the people who are dishing out the crap, than with the people who are putting up with it myself.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 19:04:15

I think where it is valuable is not so much the 'DH sits on his arse whilst I do all the housework' families. It's more thinking about the idea that you've made a fair deal if he does the garden and the washing up and makes a big song and dance about it <looking at you male relatives of mine>.

Also I think a big issue can be that the woman is the organiser. So the man will buy your mum a birthday card if you ask him to. But it would never occur to him to do so off his own bat, and no one would expect him to. Whereas as the 'wife' you are held responsible if his mum doesn't get a card.

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 19:05:27

I get annoyed with the lot of them wink

kim147 Mon 12-Aug-13 19:09:06

"Whereas as the 'wife' you are held responsible if his mum doesn't get a card."

Having been in a relationship where we brought our own cards for relatives birthdays and would never expect the other person to get a card, I have to ask who do you think holds the "wife" responsible if they don't get a card for their MIL?

Is it the MIL or the husband?

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 19:10:00

I think it works both ages badguider. We met at 18 and it would never occur to be to feel bad if he hadnt got a present for his mum or organise that type of thing. He knows what his mum likes, he did live with her for 18 years. I dont get guilt either.

LaFataTurchina Mon 12-Aug-13 19:11:03

I'm not even sure when DP's mum's birthday is :D

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 19:11:29

I don't do DH's cards, but when I have said this to friends in the past they have been shocked and said that their MIL would be cross with them at no card. A societal expectation of wife work. I said I didn't much care if MIL was cross with me as she wasn't my mother (not in a nasty way, but YKWIM)

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 19:15:20

I havent a clue when my mil,fil or any of dhs families birthdays are and we have been married 10 years. I dont know many women under 30 that do this.

Phineyj Mon 12-Aug-13 19:26:24

It rings true to me, but most of the tasks are things DH simply didn't bother to do while he was single, but they are things I would feel bad if they weren't done -- his auntie etc must be aware why the thank you cards etc suddenly started coming though. I do sometimes get annoyed that DH cannot apparently apply his considerable organisational skills to things that affect us jointly -- he has got better over the years though.

badguider I wish you could bottle that and sell it!

LRDYaDumayuShtoTiKrasiviy Mon 12-Aug-13 19:37:32

I think it's easiest to see in stuff that applies to all of us, however good your marriage is or however much you don't conform to social norms - stuff like, if you watch adverts, that is a world where mums naturally care about wifework, isn't it? And men don't, and/or are clueless (I find the clueless bit incredibly annoying).

It definitely rings true to me, but I grew up in a house where my mum did 90% of the work and it really upset her, yet she still rings up to think my DH for 'letting' me visit them without him, as she 'knows' if I'm not there, he must be cooking his own meals. So I found it exceptionally obvious from an early age, because I was exposed to it.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 19:44:58

Yes, thank you letters. Who makes the kids do the thank you letters for birthday and Christmas (or whatever religious festivals apply). Who writes the note to thank X for having you to stay. Very rarely have I ever seen such a note written by a man in a couple - or heard a mother say her partner organised the children doing theirs.

maja00 Mon 12-Aug-13 19:45:39

I don't have a relationship like that, but it is exceptionally clear from reading MN that many, many women do.

The number of threads about "how good is your DH about helping with housework?" or women having to take time off work to deal with childcare, MILs being upset about wives not organising birthday presents, "should we split the housework after the baby is born?" and on and on. Many (most?) women still do most of the housework, childcare, PA stuff and have less leisure time than their husbands.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 19:47:49

Yes, the language of 'helping' with the house work and the (thankfully becoming less common) 'babysitting' of one's own children. Guess which gender that language applies to?

peteypiranha Mon 12-Aug-13 19:52:14

Dh writes thank you cards with the kids. I have done some before. It isnt set who does it. He takes time off when kids are ill. I cant say either of us have wrote one saying thanks for letting us stay as thats what texts are for.

maja00 Mon 12-Aug-13 19:56:33

Well, sure - same here. But that's because I'm a feminist and have made sure I have ended up with a man who feels similarly. That's not the reality for everyone, or even most people.

Yama Mon 12-Aug-13 20:00:05

Yes, my colleagues at work think my dh is some kind Demi-God because he does a lot around the house. I have to regularly point out (when they tease) that he merely does HIS FAIR SHARE. And, where's my praise for doing my fair share?

Not just housework but taking time off when kids are ill, organising shit and remembering stuff.

My Dad does much, much more than my Mum. Always has done. I think what my Mum taught me was defiance.

MadameLeBean Mon 12-Aug-13 20:02:35

We split it. I do all the "organising" bills and social diary. He does all meal planning food shopping cooking. Even the boring cooking. It works. We split cleaning equally. No resentment. Feel I'm in the minority of partnerships though.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now