Men who don't/won't do housework - is anyone to blame?

(202 Posts)
Thurlow Wed 31-Aug-16 17:01:24

I'm hoping I can explain this clearly!

We all know there are threads beyond count about men who don't pull their weight on the housework front, or who expect their wife/partner to do it all for them, almost regardless of whether or not the woman is working or a SAHP.

Sometimes on these threads posters say "you shouldn't let him get away with it" and similar comments which often gets called out as victim blaming which, really, it is in that specific situation. But it did get me thinking.

Surely there has to be a reason why so many men don't feel as if housework and household admin and even childcare is their responsibility and that it is still absolutely fine, in 2015 Britain, to expect the woman in the house to do it all. Is someone at heart to blame for it? (Apologies for the use of the word 'blame' as I suspect this is a lot stronger than I mean, but I can't think of quite the right word).

Is it the parents who raised the boy in the 1970s, 1980s, even 1990s who is responsible because they somehow taught him, deliberately or subconsciously, that women do all the work?

Is it, very occasionally, a woman's fault for not putting their foot down early enough in a relationship? But then surely there has to be a reason why they feel they can't do that - is it their parents who are responsible for raising them to feel they can't put their foot down? Is it back to the parents who maybe taught (again, deliberately or subconsciously) a girl she had to do everything, or taught a boy that he could ride roughshod over a woman's complaints and continue to insist she did everything?

Or is it just such an ingrained societal response that teaches girls as they grow up to do housework and not be confrontational, and boys that they don't need to do as much?

I don't quite like the last thought - so many men now do do their equal share of housework, cooking and parenting that simply saying "because society" or "because patriarchy" seems far too simplistic.

I hope I've managed to phrase that well. I definitely don't want to suggest in anyway that it is simple the woman's fault and she ought to put her foot down. But it makes me curious (and frustrates me a lot) that there still seems to be this ingrained inequality that both many men continue with, and many women feel they have to come to somewhere like MN and ask if they are U to expect their OH to do more around the house.

TheSparrowhawk Wed 31-Aug-16 17:27:23

To me it seems blatantly obvious. Up until a very short time ago, in historical terms, women simply couldn't get a higher education and they were barred from working in many jobs. The woman's sphere was the home, and this wasn't just a societal attitude, it was enshrined in law and enforced by the state. That level of blatant discrimination takes a long time to recover from. The hang over if it is present in all aspects of how society works, right down as far as add and toys, and that influences how people think and view each other.

A good analogy I think is the way in which it's fine for a woman to wear trousers but it's not fine for a man to wear a dress. Emulating a man (by wearing trousers, working in a professional job) elevates a woman, but emulating a woman (by wearing dresses, cleaning the house, looking after children) lowers a man because of the inbuilt misogyny in society.

ElspethFlashman Wed 31-Aug-16 17:33:04

I think maternity leave has a lot.to do with it.

Occasionally on those threads the OP is asked how it started and she says well it was alright in the beginning but then I went on maternity leave and I was doing everything as he had such long hours and it was only fair....and then after I went back to work it just stayed the same.

Thurlow Wed 31-Aug-16 18:46:12

See, I get the historical perspective. Of course we all do.

I just struggle to see how that genuinely affects the decision of many men nowadays when they are sitting in their living room at 8pm watching their wife running around like a blue arse fly trying to get everything done.

Yes, there is a hangover in all areas of society relating to the historical perspective of how society works. But does it really affect how so many people think and operate on a day to day basis?

Lightbulbon Wed 31-Aug-16 19:12:54

It's social conditioning.

Men (and women) learn how to behave by imitating what they observe both in their own lives and through the media.

ChocChocPorridge Wed 31-Aug-16 19:23:23

Like everything, I think there are lots of factors.

Certainly for DP, my MIL (who I emphasise, is an amazing woman) does run around after her husband and sons (despite always working too) - when we lived with her for a year, she used to do all our washing, the cooking, and when I protested would often get a bit miffed with me - I used to do secret housework to make myself feel like I was at least partially pulling my weight. DP (and his brothers) actually find it annoying and retreat rather than assert - which I can understand, if you've lived with something for 30 years, you have to let it wash over you rather than fight I think.

The interesting (Ha!) bit for me, is why do I feel more responsibility to give our kids a clean, healthy, structured environment than he does? He certainly knows these things are important, yet for whatever reason, he puts them to bed late, feeds them stuff they're not interested in, well after their dinner time, he rarely sweeps, and wipes down the sides only if he really, really has to. Yet he can cook, he often cooks (although, again, without thought as to time of meal, and suitability of content a lot of the time), but leaves the kitchen and table in a state for hours after. I think it really can only be laziness at this point, coupled with the assumption that I will sort it out.

AnyFucker Wed 31-Aug-16 19:26:13

Ooh. Lots of factors. Mainly male entitlement but then where does that have it's origin ?

< flakes out>

ChablisTyrant Wed 31-Aug-16 19:33:07

My DP is great. In men who are hopeless there is usually a mother who maintained an impeccable home for them and they also usually have no experience of living alone and looking after themselves for any length of time.

ThisIsStartingToBoreMe Wed 31-Aug-16 19:33:59

I think they know they should do it but they just don't want too so they don't. Which is where the woman steps in. A lot of women have swapped useless men for tax credits.

FurryGiraffe Wed 31-Aug-16 19:37:12

I'm with Sparrow on the historical perspective. However I also agree with Elspeth about mat leave. I think there are two problems there. First, the person on maternity leave rapidly acquires a higher level of competence in baby related matters due to doing far more of it, even when dad is there. Secondly, I think it's easy to feel you ought to be doing the non baby related housework on mat leave (and for your DH to think it too) and fall into a pattern which becomes a new norm. The question is why women on maternity leave feel they should be shouldering the housework burden. Ingrained cultural perceptions about SAHMs? An unconscious undervaluing of the work of baby rearing? Insecurity about the likelihood that DH is now the major breadwinner (even if temporarily)?

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Wed 31-Aug-16 19:40:47

I blame the parents (mostly).

My brother saw my mum and dad split the household chores - although dad did more DIY & gardening and mum did Sunday lunch (both cooked normally).

My brother pulls his weight at home - does more than SIL as she works longer hours.

Dh had a similar upbringing. And splits most household tasks. I don't let him near laundry as I'm weird about laundry. He does all the DIY I do all the gardening.

I'm sure external society plays a big role too. But if a man saw his father doing household stuff without his dick dropping off he's probably more likely to do it himself.

Also I think the kids need to be taught how to do housework too - it's not just lead by example.

thissismyusername Wed 31-Aug-16 19:44:59

this is a very interesting point.

I don't know if its because they just don't care, don't see it?
I was brought up by my DF and he wasn't particularly house proud, and I still emerged as someone who likes to keep place clean and tidy (fairly).
My DF always made us siblings male and female share household chores equal, when we had to clean, wash up etc.

I have a ds who I brought up alone so he has never experienced a male role model sharing these chores. Although I had him help me when he was growing up sometimes but really he saw me doing everything, all the diy and decorating and gardening as well.

He has grown up to be an entitled slob and I feel terrible, that I have failed him as a parent. I don't know what to do about it, if there is anything I can do, probably not.

Stevefromstevenage Wed 31-Aug-16 19:56:59

I have a father who is a hard worker and a DH who is the same. It probably is not a coincidence. In both cases to a certain extent we and my parents played to strengths. DH does a lot of DIY (except flat pack, he is not allowed near flat pack) and gardening and I do more of the random stuff (he never knew you could clean a toaster) but he does day to day stuff like packed lunches and kids breakfast and I cook evening meals.

ChocChocPorridge Wed 31-Aug-16 20:25:13

I don't think it can entirely be the parents - I have 2 sisters and we're all so different. I'm a slob living alone, and with children it may not be totally tidy, but it's not unhygienic, I have one sister who's a complete neat freak, and one who's worse than me.

DP has 2 brothers - also has one neat freak and one similar/worse than him.

I think that when it comes to SAHM doing the housework as well as parenting, that it can't be underestimated how much spending all day in an untidy, dirty house can affect your mood - I don't think it's unreasonable to want a clean and tidy work environment, and I think that's a big driver in women doing the tidying. DP does it - he can leave the un-emptied bin all day and be unaffected. I will see it whenever I go for a cup of tea, probably I'll smell it whenever I go in the kitchen - of course I empty it (unless I'm feeling very, very stubborn)

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Wed 31-Aug-16 20:44:37

I don't think it can entirely be the parents

Actually you may have a point. I know two siblings - raised the same. The male one is a complete neat freak but the female one is something of a slob.
Both are very successful professionals.

I guess the one thing the "good example" parents achieved is that they don't assume housework is someone else's job.
They both do housework just to vastly different standards.

AnnaMarlowe Wed 31-Aug-16 20:53:15

You get what you settle for.

My DH had literally never washed a dish before moving in with me. Had never cooked a meal or done a load of laundry.

None of this stuff is complicated and he soon learned to be a fully functioning adult.

My MIL was stunned when I happened to mention that I was the only one of my female friends cooking Christmas dinner as their DH's were doing it. It was like I'd opened up a whole new universe to her.

They find my feminist views rather trying though.

On the other hand my FIL now apparently irons his own shirts after finding out that DH does his own ironing so a little bit of progress is being made. smile

pollyblack Wed 31-Aug-16 21:05:13

A few things i think. When we first moved in together, i enjoyed making a nice home for us and cared about it looking and feeling nice. Dh absolutely doesnt care about decor or tidiness so i guess it started then. Mat leave was the nail in the coffin though, then i didnt go back to work so the house was my job- dh worked away during the week. I am trying to claw it back now, and be a better example for our sons. Its hard though. And it does make me angry.

ThatStewie Wed 31-Aug-16 21:14:11

I think even 20 years ago the historical perspective worked. But, now, with so much media coverage of women doing double duty &, increasingly, evidence that women are doing more than their mothers did 20 years ago, that men are making an active choice to devolve responsiblity. If they're coming home & watching Tv whilst their wife cooks & cleans & cares godchildren, it's not because they don't notice. It's because they don't want to.

iminshock Wed 31-Aug-16 21:38:06

V good question. I don't know the answer .
My partner of 3 years is an exception.
Much more housework orientated than I am . V clean and tidy. Always hoovering and doing the laundry.
I know this isn't helping he debat e but hey ho

AskBasil Wed 31-Aug-16 21:42:28

Yes. They are.

Will now read the thread

AskBasil Wed 31-Aug-16 22:09:43

I've RTFT.

Still think men are to blame.

They don't do the housework because they don't have to. No-one will judge them if they don't. When people walk into someone else's house and notice it's a mess, they mentally put it down to the lack of housewifely pride/ too busy-ness etc. of the woman of the house. The men don't even come into the equation.

At a sub-conscious level, men know this. It's not their job - it's women's. If the house is a filthy health hazard, that's because their wife's not doing her job properly and they know they won't be judged for it, she will. So they don't have ownership of the task.

Unlike their cars, where they do feel ownership. I am always astonished by women's claim that their DH "doesn't see dirt" in the kitchen, when he has an hysterical attack about even the idea of the children eating crisps in the car. Men do see dirt - in or on their cars. Because they feel ownership of it. They feel responsible for cleaning it up.

They just don't feel like that about their houses. Because of their deeply ingrained sexist thinking, which they've had a half a century to get rid of.

powershowerforanhour Wed 31-Aug-16 22:14:02

Has anyone done any studies to find out what % of housework men think they do vs how much they actually do?

TheOddity Wed 31-Aug-16 22:15:59

Agree with AskBasil.

AskBasil Wed 31-Aug-16 22:27:56

Yes, powershower, there have been studies.

All are quite clear that both men and women overestimate how much men do in the home and underestimate how much women do.

Men overestimate more than women. So if a man thinks he does 50% of the housework, his female partner will think he does about 30-40% and the independent observers will find that he does only about 20-25%.

It's a bit like Samuel Johnson's quote about women preaching being like "a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

MyNameIsInigoMontoya Thu 01-Sep-16 00:07:57

I agree with Basil, I think the feeling of being judged, and other messages from wider society, are a big factor.

I do still think a lot of people automatically judge or tut at the woman of the family rather than the man if the house is messy or kids look neglected/haven't done their homework/had a balanced diet and so on, particularly older generations like our parents and in-laws, so we feel we have to measure up. Even silly things like the air-fresheners thread I was reading earlier - it could have been the man who installed them, but the assumption is clearly that it was the woman.

But there are also still a lot of messages from adverts, magazines and so on that it's the woman's job to maintain the perfect home, provide the perfect "magical" Christmas and so on. I occasionally like reading magazines like Ideal Home, for example, mainly to get decorating ideas but these are clearly aimed more at women than men, and always seem to chuck in things like recipes, how to deep-clean your fridge/garden furniture/whatever, or how to do perfect fancy present-wrapping, which I really don't think you would find in mags aimed more at men. So it's no wonder it would never even occur to many men to steam-clean their skirting boards (or whatever), whereas women start feeling it's expected of them...

I also agree about the maternity leave thing though, that does often seem to be the time when the patterns set in which are then very hard to reset later.

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