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Monday, 14 February 2011

The Chore Bore

  Chores are the single biggest bugbear of my life and my relationship. I love order and want one of those homes that is always clean and calm but I just can’t be bothered to devote the time needed to keep on top of it. My husband, whilst basically very clean indeed, is not as enamoured of order and tidiness. Cue an argument that I fear may last a lifetime. Literally.

Meg, over at reclaiming wife, does a good job of summarising the tensions as well as offering some practical ways forward.

I had intended to offer the link and leave it there, but I’ve never been one for letting the chance to air an opinion pass me by.

Meg doesn’t want to make it all about gender and to a certain point she’s right: male or female there are a hundred more interesting things to do than vacuum. There is, however, plenty of research to suggest that housework is generally not divided equally between men and women when the genders cohabit.

This research echoes my own experience. My husband claims not to notice the dust gathering, or the stains on the hob, or the crumbs on the kitchen side. I don’t believe this is because he’s trying to shirk out of his responsibilities or because he expects his good little wife to sort it all out for him; I suspect it’s because he spent the first 25 years of his life having his mother sort it all out for him and there’s a whole host of gender conditioning at work there.

Does it matter? It matters personally for me and I’ll continue to scream and shout and huff and puff until my husbands DOES notice those crumbs and it does feel like we’re sharing the chores equally. But I’m not sure that the tensions in my private relationship should be a cause for public concern. At the end of the day, I don’t feel oppressed by his reluctance to clean the bathroom.

 But then the whole premise of the movement had its roots in freeing women from the chains of the domestic sphere, enabling them to play a more fulfilling role in the public domain. I fear that the lack of balance in household chores betrays a still deeply held sentiment that women’s natural place is presiding over the home. We are allowed to go out and play at the career we choose, as long as we still have a handle on the washing up.

In which case, my giving in and cleaning the bathroom when it’s his turn takes on a whole new, political, significance.  And that’s what I’ll console myself with next time we let the limescale take over. 

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