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How much childcare/housework is reasonable to expect a SAH parent to do?

(220 Posts)
addendumm Fri 09-Nov-12 12:47:43

Am getting really annoyed with DH who SAH and looks after DS 4 days a week while I work. He doesnt have a job at the moment.

How much housework is reasonable to get done during the day with a 1 year old who naps for 2 hours?

When the working parent is home how much time should they reasonably be expected to care for the child while the SAH parent has a break?

I would be interested to hear how others divide these responsibilities so I can work out if Im being unreasonable.

HandbagCrab Sun 11-Nov-12 22:11:33

So when op was on mat leave she did all the house stuff, now she works she does all the house stuff. But it's apparently anti feminist to point out her dh who is currently the sahp should be doing at least half (or y'know maybe a bit more seeing as though he has more leisure time than the op) of the housework because most sahps are women? Bonkers.

I pointed out how we do some housework because the length and drudginess of the activities were being emphasised as to why they were incompatible with providing good childcare at home and I felt the fact me and dh have a clean house, cared for ds and hours of leisure time of an evening is something other people might like too. As I have said upthread this is because we both do things so neither of us feels resentful or put upon or that they are the homemaker in charge of basic housework and also we have a cleaner who does the big cleans which means we don't have to find time to do it. This is a total luxury but no more so than the nightly(?) takeaways op's dh is getting because he can't be arsed cooking.

There are feminist issues around housework but I don't know that making essential housework and childcare easier is either feminist or anti feminist. It depends I suppose on what you're using your freed up time to do.

poorchurchmouse Sun 11-Nov-12 21:10:39

Expat makes an important point. Taking on your share of the domestic work in a household with other adults in it is not helping, it's accepting your responsibilities as an adult member of the household.

expatinscotland Sun 11-Nov-12 20:58:48

addendum, pulling one's weight in life, doing one's fair share is not 'helping out' or 'helping'.

wheresmespecs Sun 11-Nov-12 19:44:22

janey, yes.

Athing - as a feminist, I do loathe it when women lash out and accuse other women of being smug and competitive (not wild about calling them 'cunts' either, but whatever) when that is emphatically NOT the case.

You keep reframing things in terms of competition, one-up-manship, and where people on this thread have talked about sharing and negotiating tasks, you only see dictatorial behaviour and 'being the boss'.

You could reread the op's original posts. She asks, genuinely, what it might be reasonable to expect of her husband as a sahp AND OF HERSELF when she is at home. You've just gone off on one, and I really do think you are to some degree arguing with thin air and getting a lot of frustration out about your own situation. Which is fair enough - but you could start your own thread and focus on that more directly. Or even start a thread on Feminist chat if you want to bring your own perspective to power and relationships, which you seem very preoccupied by. It does sound to me, having learned a little about your circumstances, as if you are anxious about being on maternity leave with a parntner at work - perhaps you feel you have lost status somehow? - and this is making you hypersensitive in any discussion of working parents/sahp parents.

I think mn can be invaluable sometimes for women just sharing thoughts on how they do things. It can be easy to be overwhelmed, I think, by children/work/domestic arrangements, and very easy to imagine that other women are doing so much better than we are, and it just makes life harder for us (I think you've done some of that projecting on this thread, btw - although it has given rise to the very entertaining idea that I am a domestic goddess for bunging some laundry in the washing machine and having the skills to load a dishwasher. Go me!).

I also think that an open discussion between parents about who does what is just common sense - and part of that can perfectly reasonably be about 'expectations' without it being part of an oppressive discourse.

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 18:30:06

As for showing off about housework efficiency... good grief, do people really do that... maybe on the Housekeeping thread but I don't visit it so wouldn't know. I think most of us just realise that housework in 2012 is not rocket science, neither does it need to be time consuming. I'm sure it's one of those things that can be expanded to fit the time available if one chooses... but equally it's possible to run house in a way which makes things pleasant and smooth for everyone living in it, without it taking oodles of time and without it becoming an issue of calling shots or point scoring.

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 18:25:10

'I do not think that women should do housework because they are women . When I did more it was because I had more time'

Exactly - and this is what quite a few of us expressed quite consistently from the start of the thread. It doesn't need to be a rant about sexism (interspersed I notice with lots of 'fucking this', 'bleeding that' and 'smug cunts' from AThing... lovely turn of phrase [mm])

It's not about anyone being 'the boss' of anyone else. It's about mutual respect and practicalities. Seems to me the ones who shout loudest about sexism are the ones who have chosen to partner men have the most sexist attitudes. Most of us just get on with things.

Arisbottle Sun 11-Nov-12 18:16:53

Honestly being able to do basic housework is not something to be proud of , it is like boasting that you can dress yourself .

I suspect we are very close to each others views tbh.

I do not think that women should do housework because they are women . When I did more it was because I had more time. During periods when DH had more time at home he did more .

I don't think one partner should dictate to another . It would make sense for people with similar standards of cleanliness and tidiness to live together and therefore they would both work ad a team . Sadly life is not that simple . However I could not live with a man who expected to have more leisure time than me , something else we agree on .

Downandoutnumbered Sun 11-Nov-12 18:01:36

Sorry, OP, I didn't actually comment on your particular setup. I wouldn't be fussed about my DH not doing much housework in the daytime while I'm at work but I'd be incandescent if he thought he was entitled to three full days of leisure time, plus three hours on each of my working days, while I got nothing.

AThingInYourLife Sun 11-Nov-12 17:59:53

"Not sure how you can be smug or competitive about being able to turn a dishwasher or washing machine on."

That's poetic in its irony.

It's like the Platonic ideal of housework smuggery! grin

Downandoutnumbered Sun 11-Nov-12 17:57:13

I agree with AThing - the person who is doing paid work doesn't get to dictate how the person looking after the children spends their time, and if you have the kind of child who makes it really hard to do housework (or you'd just rather be out and about with them) then not much housework is going to get done and it has to be done in the evenings and at weekends. Most SAHP probably choose to get some of it done while the other parent's at work, but that's their choice and not something the WOHP can dictate.

I'm the WOHP in our particular scenario. If I'm looking after DS on my own I tend to get him to 'help' me with the chores or the cooking, because I hate playing games and making a mess blush. Play-Doh is my Nemesis. Whereas DH is happy playing with him and being led by what DS wants to do. It's a question of parenting styles and what you can cope with.

Arisbottle Sun 11-Nov-12 17:51:08

It isn't about anyone calling shots , it is about working as a team .

Not sure how you can be smug or competitive about being able to turn a dishwasher or washing machine on.

AThingInYourLife Sun 11-Nov-12 17:28:57

I haven't changed my stance at all.

My stance is, and always has been, that the earning partner doesn't get to have "expectations" of what their spouse gets up to during the day.

I'm not remotely defensive about it. I have no emotional energy invested in being a SAHM.

I resent the idea that in a marriage the person who earns the money gets to call the shots in terms of what is "reasonable" for them to expect in service from their non-earning partner.

It troubles me as a feminist that a woman's role, and it is predominantly women in this role OP notwithstanding, is treated as being subservient to that of the man who earns the money.

The problem here, as I have said since my very first post on this thread, is that the OP's husband believes that all the leisure time available to them as s couple belongs to him. It's the male prerogative to enjoy oneself while the woman does the domestic work.

Dealing with that doesn't require setting expectations like a boss. And the OP would be extremely unwise to concede that the earner gets to call the shots in terms of what gets done at home given that she plans to quit work herself soon.

They need to address why he thinks she should do all the childcare when she is not working, and why he isn't accepting his share if responsibiliy for running the house.

That there are lots of good reasons why a person might not get the laundry done during daylight hours is the bleeding fucking obvious, but on a forum where women like to show off about how efficient they are at housekeeping it apparently needed spelling out.

But the message is the same - the problem is what happens when the OP gets home, not what happens while she is at work.

Arisbottle Sun 11-Nov-12 17:05:59

I agree athing seems to be doing the very housework she said she should not do.

As I suspected going round and round in circles over nothing

wheresmespecs Sun 11-Nov-12 16:59:06

So actually, athing.... you do wipe surfaces and sweep the floor, and WOULD do laundry and dishwasher if your dd was easier to look after atm.

That's good to know - you do seem a bit determined to be martyred about things said here, and I also sense a few ishoos coming out as anger/defensiveness, in all honesty.

The op's husband doesn't do any of what you do at home in terms of tasks, and it seems reasonable to expect him to do that much, or equivalent. I really don't know why you interpreted that as the earning partner dictating what the sahp should do. You have changed stance on this thread a few times, and you are a bit contradictory.

HandbagCrab Sun 11-Nov-12 14:58:12

athing you do plenty smile you have 3 children, two volunteering things and you're doing a bit of work as well. Afaics op's dh has 1 dc to look after, no volunteering, no consultancy. Therefore IMHO he can do more round the house. I work pt and study and I do more than op's dh and I still spend a vast proportion of my time sat on my arse smile

AThingInYourLife Sun 11-Nov-12 14:06:45

I love being at home at the moment, although it's not my natural environment and I am pretty shit at housework. It takes me ages and I need to give it more attention than some need to.

A typical day would be:

school run then home and baby to bed. This used to be my power hour when I loaded the dishwasher and did laundry. But DD2 is a really unhappy girl right now, so now we do stories or something when the baby is asleep. Actually despite my talk, I did discuss this with DH. We're both quite worried about her.

Then we go to toddler group and see friends. Come home for lunch, baby naps. Make lunch, eat lunch, DD2 watches CBeebies and has a rest, I tidy up after lunch, wipe down surfaces and sweep floor.

Then I sit down and have a cuddle with DD2 for half an hour while I read the paper.

Then school run, feed DD3, do homework with DD1, maybe bake, play in the garden if it's nice. At this stage of the day DD3 gets cranky but won't nap so have to carry her around and do everything 1 handed. Plus she likes a few little feeds.

Prepare dinner for big girls, try to dish up and then feed DD3 while they eat.

DH comes home! He chats to big girls, I take baby upstairs for her bath and get uniforms and clothes laid out for the morning.

DH supervises big girls tidying bombsite living room then does bath with them and puts DD2 to bed while I feed DD3 and put her to bed.

Then I load the dishwasher, do the laundry while DH and DD3 play games or watch a video and then he does her story.

Then one of us cooks dinner and we eat. If I don't cook I do stuff for the toddler group I run or the PTA or possibly consulting work.

After dinner either I express and DH gives DD3 a bottle, or I feed her. DH likes to feed her because it's "his" time with her.

Is that so terrible?

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 14:04:40

Oh I completely agree its more complex than women just thinking 'oh I'll pick a lazy sexist pig'. Human relationships aren't like that. However I also think everyone has a responsibility for the behaviour they put up with, as well as their own behaviour.

If a woman decides to put up with her partner doing far less housework before they have children, then she has to ask herself why, and address the issue like an adult, not just let it go for years and then suddenly complain. Does she not consider her work life of equal importance and worth?

Of course, there are some women, but I guess it's a minority these days, who deliberately choose a partner with greater earning power and they make their own work life totally secondary to their husbands and actively choose to take on more of the domestic stuff as a trade off for not having to step up to the responsibility of a serious career.

What I'm saying is, women have choices.

wheresmespecs Sun 11-Nov-12 13:50:58

just to pick up on something other posters have said -

I do think a lot of women pre-dc are in relationships where household tasks and cleaning etc is not shared equally, and women do more than men.

I think there are lots of reasons why - it can creep up on you without noticing, to some degree, I know women who do it themselves rather than risk snappy conversations with their partner - I also have friends in the 'trap' of doing things themselves rather than sharing with their partner because they don't feel he does it well enough.
Underlying it all is a basic sexism of course, and a historical assumption that it is the woman's job to run a home.

When dcs come along, they both create more work (laundry, cleaning up, food prep etc) and also make doing it harder (you don't have unhampered time to get the radio on and clear the decks). I think that's when it becomes a problem for lots of women, especially when they go back to work in some way. I think it brings home the conundrum of 'oh - I get to work, and look after dc, AND seem to be doing the majority of the household tasks too? Why?'

in an ideal world, future partners would be recruited for their willingness to play an equal role as parent and in the home. However, most relationships have more tentative and romantic beginnings than that! and it is only over some years that patterns of behaviour emerge, and you might realise that that fun loving tender sexy man with the great taste in music and love of books is also someone who doesn't clean the bathroom or kitchen or do a weekly food shop. And who might not react too well when you ask him to do it instead of leaving you to do it all. And that by asking him, you may have every right, but you are also trying to overcome thirty odd years of social conditioning and behaviour patterns. Which isn't easy. And you may also have to literally teach him how to use a bucket and mop and cleaning agents because no one else has.

I just think it's a bit more complicated than stupid women choosing lazy partners, is all.

wheresmespecs Sun 11-Nov-12 13:32:40

Athing - you cannot even load a dishwasher or a washing machine while you have 2 kids with you? Seriously? Not once during the course of a entire day?

Don't get me wrong - as someone who was working full time with a small un-put-down-able baby (self employed, main breadwinner, no maternity leave), I totally understand how exhausting and demanding life can be, and how the very basics (get food, make food, eat food) sometimes seem insanely hard.

Perhaps it is fairer to ask you what you DO do during the day while you have 2 dcs. And how much you or your DP do during the evening or weekend. I am genuinely interested.

I think, when you are talking about sexism, you may have forgotten that the SAHP the OP was discussing was a man. As a feminist, I don't think that asking ANY sahp to do very basic and minimal household tasks during the day - picking up their own mess, for example - is unfair. At all. I do it when I have sole charge of ds and expect my partner to do the same.

Is it possible for you to close the kitchen door to make sure your dd doesn't turn off the washing machine once you have put it on? It seems more sensible to try and find a way of stopping your dd doing that (my ds went through a phase of reprogramming the wash as soon as he could reach the controls) than giving up doing any laundry entirely during the day.

Are you unhappy on maternity leave, being at home with the children?

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 13:26:11

And btw these jobs aren't massively difficult for people with jobs as us WHOP manage to do them all too. It's just that if one partner isn't working its so much more practical for them to do it smile

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 13:24:26

Dear me you seem to be over thinking this. Surprisingly my children are all different to eachother too but I still managed to get the washing done!
You seem to be transferring a lot of your own ishoos onto the ops situation here...

AThingInYourLife Sun 11-Nov-12 13:13:05

Ah, I remember the halcyon days with DD1 who loved a good sort of the washing.

How different from DD2 who will not "help" except to turn the washing machine off every time I turn it on.

It's weird that not all children are the same. I really must send DD2 back for being defective.

"It is much easier if you have separate baskets for whites, darks and delicates."

You can't seriously be suggesting that I pass the work of sorting dirty laundry on to the person with the "responsibility for paid work" by asking him to put it in the right basket?


There is a right time for doing laundry, and it is when you have small children to look after.

Doing it when they are in bed or there is someone else around to look after them is wrong.

It's 2012 now, and the new modern way is that women whoever does the childcare must also do the housework, because it's no trouble for them but massively difficult for people who have jobs.

Yes, yes, I know that the new modern way looks a lot like the old sexist way. But it's not. Because of self esteem.

jellybeans Sun 11-Nov-12 13:01:47

My DC5 is so hyperactive that I get little done, bit better now he is a little older but even so. However since i have been SAHM I do most the housework. DH does garden (he loves it), most of big DIY (i do half decorating) and the odd bit of ironing. When he is off he does half the childcare. He has them all while I am studying or at uni tutorials.

I would say with a little one who is not at nursery it IS hard to get stuff done. Sometimes you just want a break when they are asleep. But when they are at playgroup etc there should be time for at least the washing and bathroom cleaning etc. Either that or he could do hat when you get home. I quite often do chores while DH has the DC in the evening/weekend.

HandbagCrab Sun 11-Nov-12 12:49:37

All everyday washing in my house goes in on same cycle, same washing tab, same fabric conditioner. I buy clothes that wash at 40 and aren't pale. I don't spend fortunes on clothes that are dry clean only or require ironing. I approach housework from the point of view of 'what is the least we can get away with'. It does require forward planning in the sense it effects the clothes I buy and occasionally something gets ruined (a white primark tea towel this week).

Similarly I buy kitchen stuff that is dishwasher safe, multiuse cleaning products, family toiletries, dinners that are easy to cook.

However, I can only do this because I have the support and partnership of my dh. If he never washed a bottle, put a plate in the dishwasher or washed his pants, I would feel like a put upon skivvy however much I streamlined the house stuff.

janey68 Sun 11-Nov-12 12:32:07

Oops yes I forgot to mention the task of separating whites from coloureds and putting powder in the machine. Like you arisbottle, I used to Make sorting the washing into a game with the kids when they were small. Children can be involved in this sort of thing and it teaches them all sorts of sorting and matching skills, which IMO is a positive thing anyway

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