Big rant on gender roles. How can this be fixed?

(16 Posts)
LightHouser Sat 25-Jun-16 16:38:22

Bear with me, I'm sure this question has been asked a million times and if only we knew the answers, we'd all be better off... I suppose I also just want a bit of a rant...

My husband is a great one, I love him dearly and I think we are both lucky to have each other. We have a child who is nearly two.

We both work in the same industry, both successful, both freelance. He earns more than me because he will purely be focused on his capacity to take on more work vs rest and sleep when making a decision on whether to accept job offers. I think it's important to have more of a work / life balance so while I do work very hard, I don't put myself in the situation of frequently working through evenings, through the night, through weekends and so on.

Since we have got together, eight years ago, this has simply meant that I have more capacity to run the house, so I have. I also have more experience of this because I have lived alone, lived in a house share with other women who all pitched in, had chores to do at my parents house before leaving home etc. He wasn't brought up like that (his mum did everything for her three boys and husband) and before living with me always lived with others, such as as a lodger with a couple. He has therefore learnt to simply wash his own bowl or plate, not leave a mess, that sort of thing, but wasn't really cleaning, hoovering, washing down the bathroom, mowing the lawn, keeping on top of maintenance in the house and so on.

Living with me, ALL of this falls to me. I'm a practical person, and a helpful person, and when I see he's working so hard and I'm more free to do tasks, I do them, but now, years down the line I see that this has now become the norm, has impacted on my capacity to accept work and therefore earn so much and in turn has increased pressure on him as the main earner to earn more, work more, be away more... it's a vicious circle. I honestly don't think he even realises what's happened, because he's never had to run a house. If I mention it it sounds like whinging and nagging (he doesn't say that, because he's not a dick, but I think it sounds like that! It certainly has never had any positive affect anyway)

Now we have a child. I continued to work, and had to draft in my parents, his mum, part time nursery (which he pays for) and most recently a couple of hours a week from a cleaner (our house is big and includes office space for both of us). He acknowledges that despite what looks like a lot of help for me, it's still ultimately me working 24/7 in unpaid work as a housewife and mum and yet nothing changes to redress this balance.

What I want is a proper partnership on everything to do with the house and our DD. I don't want to have to say that the bathroom needs cleaning, the groceries need to be bought, the lawn needs mowing, that car needs a service, dinner needs making, the child needs reminding to use the potty etc etc. I want someone else's (his) brain to be keeping on top of these tasks too. He just doesn't seem to think that way, or it's not so important. He thinks he's helping me by taking a nap with the child (which he's doing right now, though admittedly this is on a rare day off for him). He thinks that the cleaner is the solution to the housework (it's a HUGE help that I'm grateful for, but they don't clean everything, just the basics, they don't do any laundry, any dishes, anything other than floors and bathrooms really). He's happy to go and get himself a bowl of cereal when he's hungry or order a pizza, but I get the shopping in, plan what we'll eat, cook for all of us. He will occasionally put a wash on of his own clothes, but usually only if he's been away and unloads his bag into the machine because he needs to take the contents away with him the next day, whereas I usually do all the laundry for all three of us. I have never seen him clean the bathroom. Anything else I really don't think comes close to being on his radar, let alone a priority.

Apart from somehow undoing years of socialisation of him and billions of other people, or going on strike, what the hell can I do?!

Has anyone ever turned such a situation around and if so how did you do it?

singingsixpence82 Sat 25-Jun-16 17:33:00

I'm single and not much help but there's a book called "Wifework" (Susan Maushart I think is the author's name) which basically outlines how this is how most relationships work even in this day and age, sadly.

There's also a blog called mustbethistalltoride by a guy who's wife left him over these sort of issues. He now writes trying to get men to understand that the dynamic present in their marriages makes life easier for them and harder for their wives who slowly come to hate them and in the end often leave. His readership are people who are in the same situation (women trying to get their men to change and a mixture of people post divorce trying to work out how to do things better next time. And a few who have managed to turn their marriages around). You might get some tips there.

ChocChocPorridge Sat 25-Jun-16 17:33:25

No. I hit breaking point a while ago when I was offered a very good job, but when I sat down with DP to see how we were going to split pickups/drop offs he announced that he wouldn't do any (despite being initially supportive). I lost a fair bit of respect for him that day.

Then I got a better job anyway, that lets me work from home in my own hours for better money, and we moved country, so my resentment has gone on the backburner a bit.

The only reason it bubbles below is that we have a nanny (who also does the washing), and a cleaner, and we online shop/he grabs bits on the way home/we have enough money to eat out frequently.

If we didn't have the money (because like you, we both work in similar jobs) that I could just pay people to do things that I wasn't prepared to do for him or without his pitching in, then we would not be together I think.

Shallishanti Sat 25-Jun-16 19:09:14

er... YOU are paying for the nanny/cleaner? I hope not!
I don't think you need to 'go on strike' but you DO need to talk about it.
How about logging the time you spend on domestic tasks as a starting point? Then look at a rota?

ChocChocPorridge Sun 26-Jun-16 10:28:43

We have a family money situation so we pay for the cleaner/nanny

Oh, I've tried all the toddler tactics - but to be frank, I'm not prepared to manage his life like a child's, I stopped picking up his washing etc. I'm firm that bedtime is his entire responsibility and I tell him, and I tell him how it makes me feel when he doesn't clear up after himself, and what it does to the children when he doesn't look after them.

In the end it's up to him to grow up and take responsibility.

At the moment it's all pretty much fine, but if that changes I still have my job and my house (I own a house myself, and we co-own one) so I'm in the very lucky position that I can make a free choice on this.

Amaia10 Sun 26-Jun-16 10:44:54

Lighthouser - this kind of situation is so common and in your case, the imbalance is probably all the more stark because you both work from home and in the same field. You're absolutely right, that it's a vicious circle. It's hard to tell who or what is the driving factor - especially when you're running round after a 2 year old!

In your DHs mind, he probably thinks (subconsciously or otherwise) that the main responsibility of bringing the money in is his. So if, as you say, he's working flat out, he probably feels like he's fulfilling his role and anything extra (in the form of housework etc is s bonus)! It's not only women who are conditioned to think and behave in a certain way. He probably sees the support you get from your mum, his parents and the cleaner and thinks it's all ok - cleaner's been in, job done, that kind of thing.

I too have a cleaner which is a great help, but as you say, they only do certain tasks and my 3 kids and/or their friends have usually covered the kitchen with Nutella or god knows what within half an hour of her departure.

Of course what many DH don't seem to grasp is exactly what you say - it's not the individual tasks of childcare / housework that are tiring, but the constant feeling that you are holding it all together and can never just switch off. You become so tuned in to your child that you're always expecting to respond to them or you're anticipating the next thing - even if you have helpful GPs. You feel like any time away is "borrowed time" and this if course affects your work focus.

Sorry if this is not very helpful in terms of solutions. It's great that you can work from home. Not sure how many kids you're planning to have, but one day they will all be in school and you will get some time back - and hopefully be able to pick up your career where you left off.

thedogstinks Sun 26-Jun-16 16:28:59

You don't have to learn how to clean a bathroom. If you're an able bodied person with opposable thumbs who can read instructions on a bottle of cleaner, then it isn't that hard. It isn't any fun, either, but needs must.

My mum did everything for me, too. When I moved out I did it myself.

LightHouser Sun 03-Jul-16 01:11:18

Wow, a week's passed and I didn't even thank you all for replying, sorry.

It's been a busy week, and partly because he's been away all week, I've been working, dd and I have both been full of cold etc. It didn't help that the cleaner cancelled. Anyway, I did speak briefly with dh before he left and he agreed again that change is needed but that was about as far as we got. He's home for a while now so I'll have the chat. We have holidays too so that'll be a welcome break.

Singingspace, thank you, the book sounds a goodun and I've enjoyed reading the blog. I'll try to pass that dh's way!

ChocChoc, that's rubbish, glad to hear you're not paying for it all personally. I hope you find a solution soon.

Shallishanti, I've tried a house schedule, not a rota with names but more of a what needs doing on what day thing and he agreed that it was a lot and unfair for me to do it all and said he'd pull his weight, but then he was busy at work and went away and it slipped away before it caught hold. That was probably months ago, maybe more. I also resent that a schedule is still me taking responsibility for managing the house, I just want him to know the obvious...

Amaia, I'm sure you're right, it's a classic tale hmm Your post IS helpful because it's so understanding, thank you.

Thedogstinks, exactly, and even if he did have to learn why should I be the one to teach him. I think it's bigger than that though and is about conditioning etc.

Right, thank you ALL so much. Even though it's taken me a week to respond I did read your replies and they were very helpful. I'm going to fix this, or should I say, my husband and I are going to take joint responsibility fix this together (he just doesn't know it yet wink).

dogdrifts Sun 03-Jul-16 01:25:17

I found it very beneficial to work away for several days at a time, at regular intervals, so that dh got used to be an equal parent/ domestic slave. I continued to do so with all three children (including the last one who has a disability and was v hard work for many years). Dh learned very quickly that babies and children require bathing, feeding, clean laundry and regular sleep, and that houses also need many things in order to run smoothly. So these habits were set even when I stopped working away.

You have plenty of time. If your DC is just 2, you are just starting on this route and have a long (long long) way to go. It can be sorted out.

These days, dh cooks most nights, we do roughly equal amounts of laundry, and he is largely the one that cleans the kitchen. He also does all the ironing. I am generally the one that amends my workday to take into account kids' appointments etc, largely because I work half an hour away, and he works an hour away, so it is easier for me to get backwards and forwards. I work out the budgets, we both shop.

These things are easy to sleepwalk into, particularly if you are picking up less work, but it is easily reversed. You just need to say 'your turn to sort dinner' or 'we are behind with the laundry, can you get that done today whilst I am out?' and leave him to it. If your expectations change, he will step up. If he is even half the man you think he is.

Boolovessulley Sun 03-Jul-16 07:12:58

I think this situation is very common.

My ex h was like this.

I don't have much advice except to say I totally sympathise.

I'm a single parent now and even though I have everything to do mysel, no cleaner etc, I can honestly say that I find it so much easier.

At least now I'm not cleaning up after another adult.

LightHouser Tue 05-Jul-16 08:41:47

Boo, huge respect to you, I don't know how you do it. Thanks for your sympathy.

Dogdrifts, nice idea but it's never been possible. Largely because dh is already booked up well in advance to work away so I have to stay close to base with the child. I've been offered work away and couldn't make it work logistically with childcare, as it was at times that he was already away himself. The only person who's be able to drop everything to take dd for that long would be my mum, and she lives hours away by boat/plane. Also, I simply don't want to have to say 'your turn to make dinner' ... I don't need telling, so why should he? I don't think I'm being unreasonable!

Anyway though, you are right, he will step up and has already! I had 'the chat' the other night which mainly was me briefly putting into words how I felt the situation was not balanced for either of us. He agreed. We left it at that. Since then he's hardly donned a pinafore and feather duster (I don't want that anyway) but he has been doing loads more, despite still being busy at work, and including the thinking part, which is the biggy for me. I hear him say, 'come on, let's get your breakfast' to dd or when I suggested to him that I gave him a lift from work he suggested we also went food shopping on the way home, and while there he did much of the thinking (I usually have a list, but didn't) and included ingredients for what he wanted to cook for us. Those are just a couple of examples, generally it's already just so much better. The comments here have really helped me frame exactly what the problem is and made talking about it easier, so thank you all! Here's to it continuing to improve from here.

TeiTetua Tue 05-Jul-16 17:08:31

Without making him feel like the world's greatest hero (because it's just doing the right thing, and avoiding the wrong thing) you might be saying, "Yes, this is what I want, and I'm certain it's good for all three of us. Thanks for listening, and responding."

IcedCoffeeToGo Wed 06-Jul-16 07:59:07

I don't understand how you/he pay for things separately, don't you have joint money? Especially considering he earns more because you take on more of the house.

In this house it's 50/50 chores when we are both here but more me as I'm here more often throughout the day.

LightHouser Wed 06-Jul-16 10:24:50

TeiTetua, you're absolutely right, I'm trying to walk a fine line between recognising and appreciating, without essentially thanking him for doing what is his responsibility, nor patronising him.

We don't have completely joint money, many couples don't. We do have joint savings. Most of the bills are in his name. We're both freelance, so sometimes one or other bank balance can get a bit low if contractors are slow to pay us, in which case we've got into the habit of subbing each other, which is always paid back. We rent so I'm not concerned about ownership of the home. Generally I have no concerns over our finances with the exception that in an ideal world I would have a bit more earning power than I do, but the finances are not the major issue here.

OlennasWimple Thu 07-Jul-16 02:10:09

I've enjoyed reading this thread very much, and am in a similar position: married to a good un, but through a combination of twists and turns have found ourselves in gender-stereotypical roles.

I'm sick of DH asking me what's for dinner. He has stopped saying that he had taken the bins out (or whatever) "for me" angry, but I don't think he gets why I hate having to ask him to do stuff or why every dentists appointment, holiday camp booking and children's party invite is automatically on my to do list

<and breathe>

DetestableHerytike Thu 07-Jul-16 18:19:37

Regarding working away, could you say you are going to make a concerted push to get work away in Q4 this year (or whatever timescale makes sense) so he needs to not accept any jobs away in that period? Lots of film star couples seem to alternate being away for movies - you could be like them!

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