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Why should you do all the drudgery, just because you're at home with the baby?

(45 Posts)
amosquitomylibido Thu 25-Aug-11 13:49:10

Prompted by lots of things - including the happiness thread, and thinking about marriage and expectations of gender roles, pre and post- children. Also prompted by my general nosiness. I'm thinking that, given that maternity leave is so much more than paternity leave, there must be lots of couples whose relationship started out as a partnership of equals with similar roles ... which then changes completely when you have a baby.

So - if you're on mat leave or a SAHM, and you have a DP who is working full time, how do you divide the housework between you?

Not the childcare, I mean, but the cleaning and the cooking and the washing and so on. If you started out both in full-time employment, has the division of labour changed? Have your expectations about equality in your relationship changed since you had children?

MotherPanda Thu 25-Aug-11 13:52:20

hmmm... pre baby, i seemed to end up doing housework daily and my DH would do very little in the week but a huge spring clean at the weekend, now i'm on mat leave... it's pretty much the same!

He does cook dinner a little more often now, which is nice.

TrillianAstra Thu 25-Aug-11 13:55:53

Depends on whether "being at home with the baby" actually fills up all of your day, or whether you have 5 minutes spare to put a wash on.

The "fairness" applies whether you have children or not and no matter how many of them or how old they are. Both of you should get the same amount of time to put your feet up and/or do as you please.

alexpolismum Thu 25-Aug-11 14:37:17

Well, 'being at home with the baby' actually does fill up my day, because of ds2's disability and care needs. But I still do most of the cooking - this is not a problem, it's entirely my choice, as I love cooking and baking and experimenting with food. Dh does cook sometimes, though. Dh cleans the house, sweeps/ mops/ cleans the bathroom/takes rubbish and recycling out. We both do things like load and empty the dishwasher. I do think I did a lot more pre-baby, actually, but I appreciate it's a bit different when your child needs a lot more of your time.

Mumleigh Thu 25-Aug-11 14:54:59

pre kids we split most of it but I did all the washing and ironing in exchange for him doing the bins and any other DIY type jobs.
Now we have kids ( after 10 long years of waiting) I am a SAHM and during the week I fit in the housework around the kids and take care of most of the meals but DH always gets home to do bath and bed routine and also helps straighten up any mess the kids have made while I get dinner ready.He does the kids breakfasts too and empties or loads dishwasher if it needs doing.We see our life together as a partnership and help each other out if needed. He has no expectations about coming home to an immaculate house and a meal on the table.Sometimes he cooks if I've had a bad day.
At weekends he takes over a bit more with the kids and I get some time to do stuff I don't get to do in the week ( either housework or fun stuff)
It works for us and the kids seem happy too! Been married for 15 years so we must be doing something right.

CailinDana Fri 26-Aug-11 09:20:08

I'm a SAHM. I tidy up after myself during the day when I'm at home with DS but if DS is asleep I relax and I don't do any major housework. My job is childcare, everything else is split with DH. I wash my clothes and DS's clothes but I don't touch DH's clothes. I don't tidy up after DH, as he's got arms and legs and can do that himself. DH does all the cooking, and we split most of the other jobs pretty evenly.

IfoundmyGspot Fri 26-Aug-11 09:39:01

I guess from a mans point of view it would be nice if he could put his feet up and relax for a few hours during the day at work to keep things 'fair', but then I guess he'd get the sack and the household would suffer the consequences so he can't.

That's how I viewed it when I was a SAHM

sixpinetrees Fri 26-Aug-11 09:40:58

I do the vast majority of the housework but I still have more sitting about time than DH as he works long hours in a physical job. My youngest baby is 2 so the days of sitting feeding for hours and night wakings are long gone. The older dcs have to tidy their things away and put laundry away (if applicable) every day, I don't touch the 'office' and DH doesn't make mess as such, just creates laundry. He cooks sometimes, does probably half the washing up but rarely empties the dishwasher, rarely puts a wash on but does sometimes peg out. I doubt if I do more than 2 hours housework a day whereas DH works 60-70 hours a week.

Pre dcs we kept our individual houses tidy, we didn't live together until I was pg with eldest dc.

SardineQueen Fri 26-Aug-11 09:47:35

I agree with your suggestion that ideas of equality can go flying out the window when the first baby arrives. All of a sudden the mother with her long stretch of mat leave and the father with his puny 2 weeks if that slip into traditional 50s roles and it's pipe slippers and supper on the table before you can say "stereotypical gender roles".

Having said that, it's not how it works in our house grin

SardineQueen Fri 26-Aug-11 09:49:07

I do think that if you're at home with a child/ren and have the time then you should do a spot of housework though. I don't understand these people who get their OH to do their own washing. Surely it takes just as long to separate it all out as to bung it all in? And it seems so petty confused

IfoundmyGspot Fri 26-Aug-11 09:57:06

Couldn't agree more SQ

Hardgoing Fri 26-Aug-11 10:27:10

I wouldn't worry about producing a perfect home if I was home all day with the baby (and I didn't) but I did do some housework and household tasks (e.g. shopping, posting things, bills, some cleaning, some washing). I don't subscribe to the view that staying home with a baby is like being a nanny and therefore you should not do any other household tasks until your partner comes home and then they should be shared equally- that's one reason I would never get a nanny, I don't even think it's especially healthy for children to have one devoted person constantly meeting their every need and cooking solely for them all day every day, much better to be part of a household in which other jobs have to be done, food is cooked for everyone, and children muddle along within the household rather than as a devotional object separate to it.

However, clearly your partner did do household jobs before living with you, so some shared load is sensible too. I'm not sure why it all has to be so rigid (on MN). As SQ says, refusing to wash your husband's clothes, very odd. My husband washed mine for years when he was at home a few days a week and I was working, I don't think he felt like a drudge-like slave.

TrillianAstra Fri 26-Aug-11 11:43:00

pipe slippers and supper on the table

You shouldn't put slippers on the table SQ grin

alexpolismum I hope you didn't think I was being funny about whether being at home with the baby takes up all of your time, what I meant was that different babies (and combinations of babies/toddlers/other children) take up different amounts of time so the definition of a "reasonable" amount of housework to do during the day will vary quite a lot.

CognitiveDissident Fri 26-Aug-11 11:49:29

It's 'Maternity Leave', not 'Housewife Leave'. It should be about caring for your baby, bonding and recovering from the pregnancy and birth. All of the housework and drudgery should be split evenly between you and your partner.

If you take on the role of housewife while on Mat.leave, then when you return to work you are going to find yourself doing a full-time job, ALL of the housework and doing the grotty part of childcare while your DP swans around demanding to know where his clean shirt is, and awarding himself a medal every time he takes the kids to the park.

IMO

PebblesAndWine Fri 26-Aug-11 12:31:19

But while you're on maternity leave, surely that's your job, to look after children and house?

SardineQueen Fri 26-Aug-11 12:36:34

While you're on maternity leave your job is to look after the baby. The government don't give people time off work to straighten up their houses grin

lynniep Fri 26-Aug-11 12:45:45

It really depends on the stage/age of the children doesnt it. New babies are hard hard hard and its a 24/7 job. My 1 year old is a destruction machine and I need to clean up the kitchen at least three times a day. Its soul destroying. My 4 yo really isnt that difficult to work around and I can get all sorts done with him.
I'm not a SAHM now, but I did have maternity leave, and I found it very difficult to cover all the housework, but I did try, because I think its fair enough if you arent working 'outside the home'.
What I did find more difficult was DH coming home after his 'long day at work' and wanting to sit down and put his feet up, when my working day just continued - putting kids to bed, making dinner, washing up, tidying up getting up in the night to see to the kids. It took quite a while, and not until loooong after I started back at work to make him understand that I'd quite like to sit down in the evening too. And I'd quite like to get some sleep occasionally. And that I'd quite like someone else to get up at 5am and entertain the toddler. When I was SAHM, I did everything, bar the ironing. I refuse to iron under any circumstances. Now I work, he's brilliant - even pops home at lunchtime to clean now and again!

Scaevola Fri 26-Aug-11 12:52:37

If you use subjective and emotive terms (such as the "drudgery" in the title) to describe necessary but dull and repetitive tasks, then the condescending and belittling attitudes to such work will become ever more engrained.

It is not demeaning to run a household, but it is easy to devalue it.

It is up to each household to decide who within it does what, and whether they contract out any tasks. This is enormously variable, depending on the skills, interests, attitudes and availability of the people within it, and the nature of the tasks that actually need doing.

I suppose the only thing that would bother me is when someone settles for an arrangement with which they are clearly not happy.

Hardgoing Fri 26-Aug-11 12:54:26

I agree that in the very early stages of babyhood, it's overwhelming and it's not about housework. But once those few months have passed, what then? Do you really expect another adult to pay to you sit at home and stare at one child all day (or more than one) having not done a stroke of housework or household tasks when they get home. My husband was a SAH for a period, so this is not a gender thing, but you are dead right I expected him to have done at least some tasks whilst pottering about with the children, just as I did when I SAH for a while. The person at home can do home-related tasks simply because of their geographical location! Obviously things that can be done at work relating to the household (e.g. bill paying, managing money, online shopping) can be done at work. I find all this 'I don't do the drudgery, I"m a child-carer' bizarre and not in the spirit of co-operation within marriage. I am all for a fair division of labour, so unless you are making very heavy weather of looking after a child, there's plenty of time to run a household whilst at home and do at least some housework to free up your family time for having fun, not getting the other person to do 'equal chores'.

idlevice Fri 26-Aug-11 12:59:15

SAHM's are not always on maternity leave, it can be a "lifestyle choice". If you are a SAHP the main ppoint of it is care of the child/children, which includes a certain amount of domestic stuff. If you feel there is time after those priorities & don't mind doing it, then why not do some more housework? Otherwise go & do something less boring instead.

TheRealMBJ Fri 26-Aug-11 13:03:49

Just quickly before I go out (I will be back later to catch up on the whole thread)

While DS was very small and feeding very frequently/screaming most if the day/not sleeping at all. I did virtually nothing but child care and DH did almost all the housework (bar the 2 hours the cleaner does a week. As DS has become better versed at entertaining himself for little bits of time (and CBeebies has become of interest to him grin) I am able to do more during the day, which means that in the evening after DS has gone to bed and we've eaten, both DH and I get a little bit of time to relax. Which I think is fair.

Neither of us are particularly good at housework or particularly tidy,which helps I think, but neither does one sit on their asre while the the other is busy with chores. We still have a cleaner for 2 hours per week.

I imagine that when DD is born in October we will pretty much go back to having a very, very untidy house. Eating late and being generally knackered. But such is life with a small baby.

stripeybump Fri 26-Aug-11 13:06:35

Reading with interest as I'm pregnant with our first, and plan to be a SAHM until the kid is 3-4 ish. ATM we have similarly paid stressful jobs and I'm quite looking forward to dossing being at home and being able to cook, clean and potter [deluded emoticon]

I read on MN a while ago that SAH should be prioritised thus:

1) baby / children
2) house maintenance
3) husband

I think it's a good starting point, for me at least. To be fair it may go out of the window when reality kicks in!

I'm going to aim not to feel guilty if I don't have time/energy to keep the house spotless and cook nice meals, I think that's the key - my DH loves me and knows I want to do my new 'job' really well but is more than happy to do his share. Hopefully we'll bumble along and find our own balance.

I also find the word 'drudgery' a bit hmm - it's looking after your environment and isn't or shouldn't be demeaning or slave labour.

Bonsoir Fri 26-Aug-11 13:12:42

Looking after your household is going to be part of your day when you are on maternity leave because being at home with a baby generates a lot of housework of itself.

Bonsoir Fri 26-Aug-11 13:13:39

stripeybump - why would you put your DH third? How mean!

anastaisia Fri 26-Aug-11 13:19:00

Where would you put yourself stripeybump?

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