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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?

GlassHare Thu 19-Sep-13 11:05:08

If a womam lived with a man who hit her, or who controlled all the household finances leaving her with no money, or who constantly belittled her, or who tried to stop her seeing her friends, would we say that she should have known earlier in the relationship that he was going to become like that, that she shouldn't let him get away with it and that it is her fault and that she is responsible for making him change his behaviour?

If not, why do we think that women can make men do housework and childcare?

K8Middleton Thu 19-Sep-13 11:20:14

Do men become like that or are they already like that? Are they made or born?

I've lived with two men. One nobber controlling, emotionally manipulating and didn't expect to lift a finger. The other the opposite: generous, kind, respectful and shares the load. I married the latter.

If we found men who don't pull their weight in the home as abhorrent as those who hit their partner that would be a good start. We don't say "he hits you?! Have you tried putting up a list of tasks that are not hitting you?" which we do for stuff at home "he doesn't help out? Put a list of jobs on the fridge and allocate some to him". The responsibility for the inadequate behaviour lies with the perpetrator. The responsibility for leaving the situation remains with the victim. The trouble is that we are conditioned to believe that it isn't serious and the responsibility for the situation lies with the disrespected partner. That's wrong.

It really is about our expectations and what we feel we deserve/should expect to put up with. If we don't teach our boys and girls that there is value in being equal partners, looking after children and the home and that it is a shared responsibility nothing will change.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 11:36:03

All well and good but what we all know is that before children, many modern men do pull their weight.

It all goes to shit when women have children.

That's when the power changes. That's when all those subconscious expectations and assumptions, which were consciously held off in spite of the adverts BC, kick in.

I agree, the best strategy women can use, is not to live with men until they automatically pull their weight without needing to be prompted or persuaded or cajoled or blackmailed into it. But tell that to a woman who lived with a bloke for a decade in a totally equal relationship and then found herself in a bewildered 1950's state 2 years after giving birth. She's no longer as marketable, she's lost her confidence and she's perplexed as to how they got to this stage. While at the same time feeling guilty because she's probably bought into the shit that society throws at us, that paid work is better than unpaid work and therefore she doesn't have the right to demand better that her man goes back to being the decent man she thought he was BC.

Chubfuddler Thu 19-Sep-13 11:45:43

Sadly glasshare there is a massive amount of victim blaming with regard to dv so your parallel doesn't really hold water. It would be nice if it was ludicrous to think of people responding to dv in the ways you describe, but actually a lot of people do.

BasilBabyEater Thu 19-Sep-13 11:51:27

Also couples rationalise:

"I work more hours out of the house, therefore it's right that she does more hours in the house".

And because of subconscious assumptions, both women and men often over-estimate how much men do.

I remember reading that women compare their marriages vis housework and doing the grunt work, to those of other women, not to that of their husband.

So for many women, because the grunt-work balance in so many women's marriages is awful, in their marriage it comes out looking fucking brilliant in comparison to that of their friends and neighbours. If they compared themselves to the marriages of the men they know, they might not feel so satisfied.

Parmarella Thu 19-Sep-13 11:56:33

I think that on some deep psychological level, a lot of women think a man wearing an apron, doing cleaning and dishes and dusting is somehow not a "manly" man, and deep down do not really want it?

That some of these tasks, as well as "being made to do them" ("henpecked") is somehow emasculating. The whole term "emasculation" is an interesting one really....

The same reason that in most couples, when traveling together, it is the man who drives. With us it's me, as I like cars and driving and DH doesn't, but we've had a fair few jokes and comments.

ModeratelyObvious Thu 19-Sep-13 11:58:16

Excellent point re comparisons, Basil.

DropYourSword Thu 19-Sep-13 12:00:16

Ok home from work.

Firstly curlew I said that on my previous post because I wanted to clarify that I was asking a genuine question and not a sarcastic "what on earth do you think is wrong". People do tend to get offended quite easily on threads onlineand often it's because it's not clear how something was actually meant.

All of the things that you pointed out may still exist, but I still feel they are improved from say 30 years ago. Maybe we aren't as far forward as you'd wish but nothing is ever ever fixed quickly.

I'm sure there are many people, male and female, who are people pleasers. It's not exclusively a "female" concept.
And the guilt thing in my experience comes from other women and their expectations. Not from men.

I certainly have never felt objectified at every turn.

I married my partner because we are partners. There's no way he'd ever accept that it was my job to do the housework. It's just equally shared. I wouldn't be with someone who thought otherwise. Its just that simple to me. Don't be in a relationship if you're not happy with it. If he's abusing you, get out. If it's unequal, get out. People can only treat you this way if you allow it. So I don't allow myself to be walked over. Anyone can do it.

I saw how my parents relationship worked when I was younger and I swore I wouldn't accept the same for myself. When I was young my dad expected my mum to do all the housework, cooking, cleaning, shopping etc. And while he was not financially abusive he was definitely very financially thoughtless.

I saw that and decided I would not allow that to happen to me. We are in charge of our own lives. So even if this is still women's experience, it's is not EVERY woman's experience, and I think it's improving all the time. Children won't necessarily emulate their parents relationships, they may learn from them to ensure they don't make the same mistakes.

And now, over the past 20 odd years, my Dad has changed. I wouldn't say they do an equal amount but he's doing more and more as he's gotten older. Things can improve.

I really think there is plenty of hope for these women's children to live in a fair and equal society in the future.

DropYourSword Thu 19-Sep-13 12:00:47

Stupid bloody phone!

Keepithidden Thu 19-Sep-13 12:04:42

Basil - How does the sudden change in partnership dynamic work? I mean surely the bloke was effectively living a lie for ten years prior to children? It can't be the case that he believed in equality for a decade then suddenly had an epiphany that actually "yeah, men are better than women". Can it?

RE: Paid work v unpaid work, I get very annoyed when people don't consider the value of being a SAHP, DW does this and my colleagues class them as officially economically inactive! Okay, so it's quite complicated to calculate the ecomonic value of a SAHP, but jeez come on inactive? Imbeciles!

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 19-Sep-13 12:06:03

I agree with Basil.

DH and I were very equal before children. Not perfect, but ok. Then we had kids. First you have maternity leave, during which a pattern often develops of the person at home (until recently exclusively the woman, now still vast majority women) does more housework. Even when I went back to work, a lot of the kid stuff became me, partly because I just knew how to do it. Then currently I am a SAHM, with DH working away a lot. So I naturally do more. DH still does a fair bit at weekends, but he does things like expects to be able to shut the kitchen door to 'cook' for an hour rather than juggling children and throwing something together.

It's not an ideal situation, but becomes entrenched and quite hard to change.

It doesn't help that my mother is always congratulating him on being wonderful, because he is so much better than my Dad. Who is turn she sees as 'much better than my dad/a lot of men' because he does the washing up and sets the table.

I love DH dearly and, in many ways, he is a wonderful husband. He does work hard when he's around. But he tends to do the glory jobs and the fun jobs, leaving me still mopping the floor and cleaning the loo. And until recently, I was too tried to notice, let alone think about changing much.

missorinoco Thu 19-Sep-13 12:08:54

I find it disheartening. My husband has no expectation that I should cook/clean for him, although I am increasingly aware that my expectations of myself are different.

But it is infuriating that I am considered "lucky" to have a husband who looks after the children, cleans, irons<gasp, he irons?>. Why? My contemporaries are educated and professional, and all work outside of the home. I start to agree it isn't just education of women.

Agree with NotCitrus, some of these comments come from my mother and MIL. My husband just had to acknowledge paternity to be considered a saint.

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.

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


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 12:36:55

I must read the Politics of Housework one day.

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.

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.

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?)

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

Me too BBE.

TravelinColour Thu 19-Sep-13 13:16:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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

I love everyone on this thread.

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

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

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!

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