Wifework- I don't get it...(202 Posts)
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?
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.
See I do the birthday/thank you card: present thing BUT dh does all cooking, most laundry, all grocery shopping, childcare is shared. I am constantly being told how 'good' he is by my older colleagues and now I just avoid participating in conversations when people moan about their husbands as I just have nothing to contribute and feel like I'd across
smug and boasty if I said
What actually happens at home.
In terms of 'emotional care taking' and leisure time we are even too- I was Always v conscious to 'preserve' my leisure time since having ds as I can see how that could easily slip.
I wouldnt describe myself as a feminist really. Never read any books or really known anything about it. It just wouldnt make sense to me to do all the work. I dont even think I am the minority in my friends partnerships I know a fair few young men like this.
We're not even. We're not awful, and my mother and most of my mates think that he does about 60%-80% of the work. He does about 40%. That is the thing that bothers me the most, actually.
He tries, and it's deliberate wankerishness or anything, but it does get me down.
DH and I have a fairly equal relationship I would say. I am acutely aware of the imbalance in home organising - I sort childcare, meals, shopping, thank you cards etc. if I didn't do it it honestly wouldn't get done. Poor excuse I know but we're a team and play to our strengths, even if these strengths are social constructs. Didn't Jenni Murray say something like 'Don't tell me men can land on the moon but a week's meal planning is beyond them'.
However, I am sometimes completely at a lost for words at some of my friends' relationships - dads who have never changed a nappy or cleaned anything, men who expect a meal on the table every night on arrival from work, men who are bemused at the thought of sharing childcare at weekends or on holiday etc etc. And don't get me started on financial abuse.
God forbid we raise our son to be like this.
I get what you're saying kim, but I do think it is a bit of a red herring.
If you're in a couple, you compromise.
What happens a lot is, someone says 'yeah, but my DH, he just happens to have lower standards than me'.
What I think is, ok, that's nice ... now what do he and you do about that? Cos it seems to me the reasonable thing is to meet in the middle. Instead, people usually seem to reply 'well, I do all the cleaning because DH, he just doesn't see it ... it's his low standards.'
Miraculously, those 'low standards' disappear when it's something that bloke cares about, too.
I am aware this is stereotyping massively and I do believe there will be many couples where this isn't the case - it's just I've seen so many MN threads with this pattern, it's obviously not that rare.
Btw, with the specific example of thank-you cards, it would be perfectly logical for the average bloke to find them less important than the average woman.
This is because the average bloke isn't expected to send them, and the average woman is.
It's funny because mil and oil have had a v traditional Marriage, fil was the big earner, mil never worked since having dh. They had 3 boys and both said they wanted to make sure they knew how to iron/cook/clean etc so they wouldn't rely on a woman, and I have reaped the benefits of this. None of them inc dh are Especially 'alpha' or ambitious, and I wonder if this sometimes irks Fil, but i am so e balance out quite well.
I have never done thank you cards. This is what I mean by defiance.
If something is not expected of dh or my brothers then I won't let it be expected of me.
LRD- I think that the thank you card thing applies to cleaning too. men just happen to have lower standards in so many couples. But those men were raised in a patriarchal society. Many families will have modelled cleaning as women's work. Even if not, adverts, many friends and colleagues, etc will have done. So of course lots of men don't 'see' the dirt.
It's much like I lived in a city for five years but only know a couple of road routes - the ones my bus travelled. I didn't have a car and I didn't drive, so I didn't 'see' those routes. I was always a passenger. The turns and the junctions passed me by. By contrast, we've lived in our current area a year, but because I need to know how to get about by car, miraculously I know all about it.
A surprising number of men have simply filed cleaning away in the same manner - it doesn't cross their consciousness because it literally does not occur to them that it has anything to do with them. So fo course they are seen has having lower standards, and then they can use this very lack of awareness to avoid the jobs. Win/win for them really.
Yes, absolutely, it does apply to both.
It's true different people have different standards.
But there's also good reason why men and women would have different standards.
Actually, it's interesting that lovely gleaming cars (which are a blokey thing) seem to be one of those things where men are judged for dirt as much as women. But generally, I think it's a perfectly rational response in both men and women to care about dirt in proportion to the amount society expects you to care about dirt.
(Or cards, or whatever)
Think Amanda has hit the nail on the head. It just does not occur to them that it has anything to do with them. Most but not all men .
I think kim has a good point with here might also be a difference in expectations and standards which one person in a relationship might see as less important than the other and so not bother to do it or do it to less of a high standard.
Carrying on with the cards example, DP would never think to buy cards. But his family don't really do cards. I buy them now because I feel bad that MIL doesn't get a "Happy Birthday Nanna" card. But it's not because DP thinks that it is "wifework". He didn't spend his early twenties not sending cards because he was waiting for a woman to come along and do it. He just doesn't think about sending cards.
So I really do think that some of the examples are less about a wife being by default an organiser and more about the fact that one member of a couple has different standards than the other.
X posts with a few, but some aspects of cleaning and housework can be viewed in the same way too. Does not cross my mind that the hedge needs trimming. Does not cross DP's mind that the tea towels need changing. If I can see out of my front window and he can't see a stain on the towel, we're both oblivious.
Ok, if there are 'just' differences, why would there be a gendered pattern?
Logically, it's either:
- There is a gendered pattern because men and women are subject to different social conditioning, such that men and women develop perfectly genuine different expectations.
- There is a sex pattern, such that men are biologically incapable of noticing what women notice.
(There is a third possibility, that men are deliberately being jerks and women are deliberately being nags. Let's ignore that one cos it's full of shite).
My suspicion is it's reason no. 1.
But we don't usually say 'ah, there's social conditioning in play, so let's throw up our hands and not worry', so why would we here?
I know perfectly well that DH doesn't hoover as often as me cos he's not conditioned to notice it, and to feel guilty, and I am. I'm aware this means he genuinely doesn't care, and would leave the floor unhoovered if he lived alone.
I don't care.
We're married, he has to compromise upwards and I have to compromise downwards. I'm not going to live in a pigsty or do all the hoovering just because I am capable of understanding social conditioning.
Cross post ... see, thurlow, I think when that sort of thing evens out nicely, that's when you have a good even relationship, you're compatible. I think that's what most of us aim for really.
But when things don't even out, that's where there's a problem.
DH and I have a very equal relationship, but I see many relationships where they are equal on the surface, but its the woman that organises packed lunches/birthday parties/presents esp for other children/childrens school uniforms and labelling thereof etc. And in a two job household, it always seems to be the woman who worries about childcare and has the spreadsheet of summer holiday arrangements.
DH and I both travel for work. No one ever asks him what ds is doing while he's away or how I feel. I get asked very frequently who is looking after ds, and 'doesn't dh mind you being away?'
Oh, definitely, and if one partner can't appreciate that something is important to the other partner then there are problems too.
I often imagine a thread by men of things women don't notice or remember to do might be quite enlightening...
Ask blokes you know about it - it is enlightening.
It's totally the gender thing, as LRD says.
I get judged on the house, so I do something about it. DH gets judged by the lawn, so he is particular over that. We both like having a tidy house and a neat lawn, of course, but we only take one of them to heart. My standards are so much lower than his when it comes to the shortness of grass. it's a real headscratcher
Of course, even in the height of summer mowing the lawn is half an hour once a week,compared to housework. The imbalance is there.
What have they said when you've asked LRD? (Sorry, my pool of available men to ask currently is relatives and a few SAHD's - who are unlikely to be representative. It really is sadly gendered becoming a SAHM in a new area!).
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