Home Help

Apparently 8 out of 10 husbands don’t pull their weight at home.

I read this in the Guardian yesterday, the figure shocked me if I’m

honest. Maybe it shouldn’t have but I’ve grown up in a family where my Dad and Mum shared out the domestic chores, have a brother who did his turn as a househusband so that his wife could pursue her career and am married to man who takes it in turns with me to get everything done. I’ve been a little sheltered it would seem.

It’s astounding that so many men think it’s OK to let their wives share the income generation of the family

and still shoulder the burden of the housework, but according to analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, eight out of 10 married women do more household chores. Just 1 in 10 married men does an equal amount of cleaning and washing as his wife. The other one in ten does more.

It has led people to ask the question why is the gender imbalance still alive and kicking in British households and more importantly, what can we do to change it? I’ll be honest, I stayed awake last night thinking about it. People talk about needing a change of mindset, the need for there to be a cultural shift. But these can be just the things we say when we want to groan about the current culture, they don’t carry much weight without action.

Things needs to change and there is definitely a place for those two in ten husbands to get vocal about their views and what they do. For them to be raised as role models for men who think it’s OK to let their wives run themselves into the ground trying to keep everything going alone. The media needs to be challenged about the gender stereotypes it portrays and some key characters could do with a not so gentle word about the sexism they perpetuate with their ‘humour’ and their lifestyles.

But women need to get a grip too. We have been complicit in allowing these figures to be true. We can only do more than our fair share if we actually do it. If we didn’t it wouldn’t be true. I’m not saying that we have to sit back and watch the pile of dishes grow mould in the sink whilst we wait for erstwhile husbands to get the hint, but we need to set some boundaries. We need to have those conversations and let our other halves know that currently they are other third due to the fact that we seem to be doing twice as much as them. We need to raise our expectations. Too many women have watched their Mums do everything, have seen their Dads waited on hand and foot and haven’t thought about doing it differently.

Of course the danger is that we will be called nags. I suggest we need to get a backbone and realise that sticks and stones might break our bones but names like nag can’t hurt us. Working ourselves into a nervous breakdown however, trying to manage challenging jobs, maintain picture perfect homes and raise exemplary kids all by ourselves will hurt. It will hurt a lot.

Husbands can only take us advantage of if we let them do it. I’m not talking about women who are victims of domestic abuse or suggesting for a minute that I expect them to say ‘no’ and leave. That is exploitation on a whole different level. Those women have had their ability to choose taken away by men who have made a conscious decision to manipulate the women they chose to marry. No, I’m talking about women who are married to lazy men.

We can argue that they should just know better – and they should. But they currently, apparently, don’t. So we need to show them. Just like we would an employee who hadn’t learned the ropes, or a new member of the team who isn’t used to the way we do things. We need to set boundaries and not avoid doing that because we don’t want confrontation. It’ll be messy for a while, we may have to do some staff training – but we’ll get there.

The only way to change these statistics is to refuse to comply; to refuse to participate in a system of inequality. These fights can be fought from a platform or through the pages of a blog or a magazine, but it will be won by a ground movement of women who refuse to participate. It’s a gender equivalent of not getting on the segregated bus. We don’t need to hurl insults or employ terrorist tactics we just need to opt out of the system.

This doesn’t mean that we need a mass file for divorce of lazy men, it means we need to gently tell them that it’s time to change, that we’re not doing it this way anymore. We need to take a deep breath and ask them to cook dinner tonight, to put the kids to bed and to sort out the laundry basket. It may even need a full on ‘darling we need to talk’ moment and a sitting down with a piece of paper to detail a timesheet of each of your days and a rota to show how everything is going to get done.

But it’s a conversation that needs to be had, it might be difficult, there might be some tears, but it will be liberating.

For both of you.

4 thoughts on “Home Help

  1. I agree with you. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard women talk about how their husband/partner does nothing around the house and that they do everything for him instead. They’ll then admit that they ‘know it’s bad’. So why go ahead and let it continue? I think responsibilities regarding housework and childrearing are for both partners – it’s not fair on either of them otherwise. I’m not saying there needs to be this rigid 50/50 split that must be adhered to at all times; it’s about an awareness that housework is not ‘the woman’s job’ and that if a man lives in a house, he should be doing his share of what’s needed to keep it clean and tidy.

    When I got married I made it clear to my husband that there was going to be some sort of vaguely equal divison of labour. Obviously it doesn’t always pan out that way (for example if one or both of us is busy all week and also at the weekend) but it gets done. Cooking is also a joint effort.

  2. Hiya,

    Thanks for your post. I understand what you are saying but I find some of it problematic. Firstly we need to understand the power of cultural conditioning. The guilt that women feel about not “doing everything” is really hard to conquer.

    I would also say that not doing housework can be a tactic of abusive men, and I know you mention this isn’t about domestic abuse, but I would suggest that for some abusive men, not doing housework is a tactic that can exhaust and destroy women gradually and we must be aware of that.

    Having been married first to an extremely abusive man, who didn’t do any housework among many other abusive behaviours, and now being married to a man who is not only very wonderful, but a full time house husband who does nearly all the housework, I have to say it was the fact that he challenged my beliefs about men and women and the “roles” we have that enabled me to change my perspective on this. I think that yes, women do need to relnquish responsibility, but that also men need to challenge the deeply held beliefs that many of us women hold about the way we should be caring for our family.

    Throughout your post you use the term “let” as in give men permission to do certain things, but I wonder whether this can be a hindrance rather than a help. Do we “let” men get away with not cleaning or do they “let” us do everything, or is this a way of neither taking responsibility. Just a thought around the words we use…

    Thanks again!

    1. It’s a good thought and one I take on board, I think my thinking is that what I really want to see is men getting themselves into gear and to see a major culture change, But the reality is that in each of our situations we are limited to controlling our own actions. Some of us have played a role, albeit a passive one, in creating an imbalance. I wanted to encourage women that they don’t have to accept the status quo – to empower them to be the agent of change in their relationship.

      I have every intention of influencing men to ‘up their game’ and in fact, off the back of this discussion, my husband has commissioned a survey and resulting article for Sorted Magazine to challenge his readers. Let’s hope they take the challenge on board!

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