A friend of mine recently told me she is pregnant. We were chatting about her home life, and how great her husband is with fixing things like her car and household furniture. “He sounds great,” I said. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Except he won’t do any housework.”
I was confused. “What do you mean won’t?”
She shrugged. “He just refuses. I have to do everything, even his laundry.”
Right … so there isn’t anything preventing the man from shouldering his share of the housework, he just won’t do it.
Now, before you rush to point out that he does other things, like fixing the car, I’m going to stop you right there and clarify something. Housework is not a choice. It is a responsibility and a normal part of living life as an adult. And when I say housework, I mean the day-to-day cleaning, cooking, gardening, basic domestic labour that is necessary to have reasonable living conditions.
Having a partner who is handy with cars, or good at fixing things is great (and it should be noted that these skills aren’t gendered either) – but one-off tasks like that aren’t the equivalent of daily domestic labour, and the latter should be the equal responsibility of both partners.
And yet, time and again, I see my friends in heterosexual relationships mentioning how their male partners just “won’t” do the cleaning or the cooking. One friend solved this problem by hiring a cleaner, but she still continued to do all the cooking because her husband simply wouldn’t.
Another friend has simply made peace with it, and assures me that he “makes up for it”, which I can only assume is a subjective measure of equality.
I just don’t get how men in 2022 can still think it’s reasonable to just not do the things they don’t want to do in a house – but still expect the benefit of those chores being done.
Presumably these guys enjoy having a clean home, fresh laundry, meals to eat, but they don’t see an issue with not contributing to those tasks.
I know, I know – #NotAllMen. I actually know that firsthand, because my partner and I are completely equal in our contributions to the home. We both cook, clean and take care of the pets. We both equally manage our finances and life admin. We both do our share of boring things we don’t want to do, because neither of us would expect the other to do it alone.
I’ve heard every excuse under the sun for the inequality that many of my female friends have learned to live with.
“He takes care of our finances, though.” Well, for a start, I think it’s really important for both members of a couple to have oversight and understanding of their financial status but, again, a few hours on a computer every week versus hours and hours every day cooking and cleaning is not equal.
“He does everything outside and I do everything inside.” Just take a step back for a second and tally up the number of tasks and the effort required for each of those domains. Unless you live on a property with significant upkeep, that doesn’t seem equal to me.
Maybe the only one I feel is valid, in so far as both parties aren’t being reasonable, is when my friends say “he just can’t clean to my standards”. If that’s the case, you’ve created a rod for your own back to a degree. Yes, standards are important, but if the cleaning is getting done and is hygienically up to scratch, it’s not fair to quibble over minor details.
If you’re very particular, then maybe you should do it yourself – but even so, there should be a give and take occurring somewhere else to make up for it.
The thing that confuses me the most is where these guys are hiding. All the men I’m close to who are of my generation have no qualms about doing housework. They don’t even consider that there is the option not to do it. My brother, brothers-in-law, partner, friends – they all know how to cook and clean, and they don’t expect a cookie afterwards as a reward for their good behaviour.
So where are these guys who are happily bowing out of their responsibilities? They’re clearly out there somewhere, because they keep cropping up in these anecdotes.
Assuming both parties are physically able to undertake domestic duties, can there ever be any genuine justification for not shouldering your share of the housework?