Aaaaaaargh, I despair!

(62 Posts)
duchesse Wed 18-Sep-13 10:59:17

I am 45, went to university in 1987, and am utterly despairing that most of the women who were my contemporaries seem perfectly content even now, as Oxbridge educated women with often very high-flying careers, to do most of the gruntwork at home and make allowances for the fact their poor ickle menfolk can't possibly do that much at home!! I have one sole unique friend with whom I feel on the same wavelength about this- all the others seem stuck in a 1950s timewarp. What hope for their daughters?

BasilBabyEater Fri 20-Sep-13 11:07:57

Yes NC I think that's really important, men spending time alone with their children at least sometimes even if they work full time, so that they have a full understanding of just how much time it takes to look after children.

One of the problems of living in a patriarchy, is that women's experience doesn't get shown much and when it does, it gets shown inaccurately. So in films, soap operas etc., the sheer, mind-numbing time it takes to do stuff with kids isn't represented (and tbf, it wouldn't be a very good film / soap opera scene if it were grin) so people who don't do it, have no idea. I remember the biggest shock to me when I first had a baby, was that it was even possible to get up at 6AM and still be sitting in your dressing gown at 1PM not having actually had time to have a cup of tea, let alone breakfast, because of needing to see to the baby for all that time.

Lots of men only experience this for the first 2 weeks then they go back to work and because their life has returned to near normal, they kind of assume that their DP's life is settling back to a more normal way of living as well, when in fact normal is gone forever for her. And so that creates conflict as a couple of years later it still looks so chaotic and he thinks really she should have cracked this by now. He has a vague memory of those 2 weeks but he sort of assumed that after the first flurry, they'd go back to normalish within a few months - and in many cases, his life does. While her life has a new normal that he no longer shares in the way they used to share everything pre-DC's.

NotCitrus Fri 20-Sep-13 09:50:48

It's not a 50:50 split of housework necessarily - fairness is a 50:50 split of acknowledging it exists and needs to be done by someone, along with earning income and providing childcare, and all these roles should be valued.

A good start would be making it clear to boys as they grow up that when you have kids, your time spent watching sport on telly etc should decrease until they are old enough to join in - girls get told by all the rellies and colleagues and all how much work it is having kids and you don't get time to yourself with toddlers, but men I know found that a real shock because they had never been told, or rarely. Likewise how hard it is to do childcare and anything else at the same time - it really helped having MrNC working at home sometimes because he could see and so really believe I was busy all day even though by the end it still looked like a.bomb site and no dinner was made.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 20-Sep-13 09:25:32

It's the issue of the ownership of the housework that for me, is key. Yes. I refuse to even ask the kids to "help me". They have to do things around the house because we all contribute to the mess and we all contribute to rectifying the situation.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 20-Sep-13 09:02:59

>Also I don't think it's a question of 50 50 split of housework. It's the issue of the ownership of the housework that for me, is key.

oh yes. "I've put the bin out for you" . "I've done the shopping for you". WTF? did I create all the waste? Do I eat all the food?

BasilBabyEater Fri 20-Sep-13 08:55:15

I don't think demanding a 50 50 split of housework is any more prescriptive than demanding that men and women get directed into roles they may not be good at or want to do, simply because of gender expectations. People seem to be happy with one prescription but not the other.

Also I don't think it's a question of 50 50 split of housework. It's the issue of the ownership of the housework that for me, is key.

Parmarella Fri 20-Sep-13 07:37:56

Question to all: But what if the women in your examples are happy with their lot? What if they like their role ?

I know plenty of highly educated couples who do not actually WANT a 50-50 split of everything but who believe that as a team, devision of labour set-up, with woman doing home and kids and man working FT works best.

I also know women who would love to be at home, but the husbands say "no" as they think it unfair to have to work outside the house.

Lots of people do not have a career they love, they do a job they would not do if they would not get paid.

Isn't demanding a 50-50 split of work and housework a bit prescriptive and limiting? Is it really the best set up for everyone?

NotCitrus Thu 19-Sep-13 20:22:16

Going back to what messages blokes are getting: when I was student age and all my friends were male, I remember parents asking us all about career plans and I'd usually get a response like "You think you can support yourself doing that, do you?" Fair enough aspect to consider - but the lads would get asked "You think you can support a family doing that, do you?"

So 15 years later when MrNC and I went to NCT antenatal classes along with bunch of other reasonably-feminist chaps and articulate women who wouldn't accept crap, there was an exercise where we split by sex and each person had to write their main worries about the first 3 months after birth.

Without looking, the teacher said that they would be similar except women would worry more about physical recovery and hoping their partners would spend sufficient time supporting them and doing their part looking after the baby, and every single man would have put 'money'.

Big reveal proved this to be totally accurate. All the chaps had been conditioned to believe that babies are expensive and therefore to be a Good Father, their role was to take on more paid work and bring in more money, with a side order of worry that they didn't know what to do with babies and us women would know because we'd gestated them.

They were all flabbergasted when all the women told them that we wanted actual physical and emotional support when dealing with sleepless nights etc, more than any extra money, even if things were a bit tght financially (we were all fairly comfortable middle-class types). Even so, MrNC and I had our first screaming argument about 8 weeks after ds was born, as he thought he should go back to working more days, and I told him not to be so fucking stupid - we didn't need the money and I was still learning to walk agan!

Somehow we need to widen the role of 'good father' beyond 'buys stuff', given the effect on decent dads as well as the Disney Dads who think they are good fathers just by buying extravagant stuff. More celeb dads saying not only 'duh, of course I change nappies' but 'duh, I change about half the nappies - it's like roulette, hoping the pooey one doesn't happen on your turn' might be the best bet.

duchesse Thu 19-Sep-13 15:47:56

And another little gripe- the couples where the bloke earns his halo just by "doing everything he's asked to do". He's a flipping adult!! He shouldn't need to be asked to do things! He has eyes in his head and hands on his arms! (assuming of course that he does; obviously if he doesn't then allowances can be made)

duchesse Thu 19-Sep-13 15:31:10

It's a conversation I've had with my male contemporaries who tbh as a proportion of the overall amount of housework, do sweet fa at home. They are to a man really really nice guys, but it makes them exceedingly uncomfortable to be challenged and I do very quickly realise that on the whole it's not a conversation they've had with their partners, nor would it occur to their partners to begin to address it. They invariably look at me as though I have two heads. The dynamics within the gay couples I know seem far more evenly balanced.

Keepithidden Thu 19-Sep-13 15:21:55

Fair points Basil and GlassHare:

is so radical that I don't even dare to say it in RL. Because I know that it would make a lot of women and men either very angry with me or very uncomfortable and squirmy

I quite enjoy making people uncomfortable and squirmy, especially if it gets them to question their own core values! I appreciate doing it day in, day out with similar reactions is going to get you down a lot though so I can see why you choose not to air your opinion. Not that it is in the same league as the feminism/patriarchy aspect, I spent five years in a job trying to persuade people to change behaviour that has become completely ingrained in society, it does become soul destroying after a while.

K8 - Bathroom cleaning is shared in our household, but for some reason the toilet is my domain, going to have to discuss that this evening. Though I'm reasonably sure that it's pay-off for another unpleasant task that I manage to avoid!

DuelingFanjo Thu 19-Sep-13 15:18:34

To be fair to DH he is great in many ways and he is a bit of a feminist (could do better sometimes) but is just bloomin' lazy. He's taken this time off specifically to play a computer game (Yawn) which many people would find annoying but I don't mind as he gets it out of his system very quickly this way (it's all about completing the game for him) rather than playing it endlessly for weeks.

I stopped doing his laundry many many months ago when DS was born, and told him that I would be. Unfortunately this now means it builds up and up until he reaches a crisis where he has no clothes and then does it all in one go.

When I moaned to my mum that I was fed up with doing the bulk of the jobs to do with DS she told me perhaps I was just 'trying to be too PC'! I was quite shocked as I always thought my mother was a feminist but she said she got so fed up with my dad not pulling his weight that she just did things for herself and left him to it.

K8Middleton Thu 19-Sep-13 15:12:57

We did hit a low point the other week when I realised cleaning the bathroom had become my responsibility. We had a discussion and dealt with it.

It helps being married to a feminist but even so, the patriarchal bollocks runs deep within us.

AutumnMadness Thu 19-Sep-13 15:10:00

shit, have not got time to write as actually have to work, but just wanted to say how much I love BBE's post - A LOT!

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 19-Sep-13 15:03:33

<< bows to BBE >> So so so true.

Chubfuddler Thu 19-Sep-13 14:26:18

I love everyone on this thread.

GlassHare Thu 19-Sep-13 14:24:20

I also think it is very easy for men to hide they are not going to contribute because two adults living together and having to clean up after themselves is in no way comparable to cleaning up after a family and providing 24 hour a day childcare.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 13:49:20

keepithidden I just think that housework is looked on as something so trivial and boring that it's not worth talking about, not worth arguing about and in many men's cases, not worth doing.

So if you propose to most people that a man who is not doing his fair share of housework is in fact, withholding the love, support and nurture that he genuinely wants to give his partner, they will look at you as if you are berserk. The suggestion that doing the laundry properly, owning the responsibility of ensuring that Johnny remembers to take his music book to school on Thursdays and Jane remembers to pack her PE kit (which has been properly laundered since last week, possibly by you) and that both have their nutritious packed lunches (which you've made) and pick them up from a properly wiped kitchen surface (which you wiped), is every bit part and parcel of nurturing, supporting, loving in a functional, respectful relationship, is so radical that I don't even dare to say it in RL. Because I know that it would make a lot of women and men either very angry with me or very uncomfortable and squirmy.

Basil You are brilliant. Fantastic summary.

Chubfuddler Thu 19-Sep-13 13:15:41

Me too BBE.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 13:13:59

DF I'm sure your DH is perfectly lovely, but this is exactly why I will never live with a man again. grin

(Unless he's a radical feminist supporter who looks like George Clooney of course. There's loads of them about, aren't there?)

DuelingFanjo Thu 19-Sep-13 13:11:12

oh - and yesterday he put three loads of washing in. The washing that i refuse to do for him which then builds up until he decides to do it all in one day when it's raining outside. Then he seems to expect a standing ovation for doing it.

DuelingFanjo Thu 19-Sep-13 13:10:01

I was thinking this morning about why I still do most of the housework and childcare despite working full time like my husband. I think that because he has taken a week off to play grand theft auto and is staying in bed until long after I am up and out of the house it irritates me that I know when I take a day off work it is usually so I can tidy the house and I still get up at the same time and sort DS out and take him to nursery.

I annoy myself.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 12:36:55

I must read the Politics of Housework one day.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 12:36:31

Sorry

that turned into a bit of an essay. blush

But honestly I could rant on for pages and pages about it. grin

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 12:35:51

Keepithidden, I don't think it's just a matter of men hiding themselves for a decade. (Although sometimes of course, it is - people can hide themselves from themselves for a whole lifetime if they have a good enough motive, so I don't think we can rule that out).

But on the whole I think that there is so much background propaganda telling everyone in society, men and women, that domestic labour is women's work, childcare is women's work and running and organising a household and the family in terms of both the physical and emotional labour is women's work, that when children come along and maternity leave happens, it is incredibly difficult for most couples to not fall into the default - women picking up all the slack of cleaning, cooking, childcare and family networking (remembering birthdays, planning family get-togethers etc.) and that pattern to continue when and if she returns to work as described by Amanda. Also of course, women get judged for how their houses look while men don't - there aren't many MIL's who walk into a kitchen and ask their DIL with a disapproving air, why their son isn't keeping a tighter run ship. The default assumption is that it's the woman's job to co-ordinate it all, even if she's allowed to delegate some of the tasks.

In order not to drift towards that default, you have to be utterly militant and vigilant and that is pretty exhausting - it's much easier to slip into default mode. If a man is not an active switched on active feminist supporter, to some extent it's almost impossible not to slip into that default mode. And most men are not particularly feminist sympathisers, they agree with the bits of feminism that don't threaten their comfort but anything that does is generally met with disbelief that it's necessary. So a woman wanting to resist default, will actually find that she is causing conflict in her relationship at the time in her life when she most wants to have support, help, love, nurturing etc. And the man wants to give that support, help, love, etc., he wants to be the loving daddy and husband and so then she feels like she's causing a whole load of recrimination and anger and background tension over something which is seen as so trivial. Who the hell wants to fight that battle at that vulnerable time when you have small kids and what you want is a happy functional family? Not many women, which is why so many fall into those patterns and why even well educated women with degrees and careers, perplex us by their seemingly mindless acceptance of the men they live with subtly undermining their equality. It's not because the men deliberately hid themselves for years - it's because they weren't aware that they had those deep-seated assumptions and they're not prepared on the whole, to dig them out and fight them, because they don't know they've got them so it's not a problem they've ever felt the need to confront. IMO.

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