What would happen if you just stopped doing “housework”?
I’m talking to you, woman. You over there who’s just got home from a full day of work and is staring down the barrel of making dinner for three or four other people before cleaning up after three or four other people, yelling at a few of them to do their homework, wash themselves and brush their damn teeth.
Then maybe you’re reading to them, or you’re prising screens out of their hands, or you’re threatening to prise screens out of hands if they don’t turn the stupid light off and go to sleep. Sleep is very good for your mental and physical wellbeing, you’ve heard.
Listen: Census tells us that women still do the majority of the housework. Post continues…
Then, you’ve got dishes to do, and a living room to tidy, and three baskets of washing to fold. And uniforms to sort for tomorrow. And the state they left the bathroom in? Someone’s got to get to that before there’s a first-world outbreak of dysentery.
Maybe there’s another adult in your home. Maybe they’re male. Maybe while you’ve been doing all this they’ve been sitting on the lounge, watching the news. Or maybe they had to go for a run. Perhaps they were urgently called away to get on to some
Facebook trawling work emails. Perhaps they’re not home, because they work in the evenings. But then, why, when they were home all morning, didn’t they get a jump on dinner, or the washing?
Why are you the one doing all the work? On top of your, you know, actual work?
You know why. You have a whole list of excuses for why, out of the two of you, you are the one who's currently wiping down the kitchen counters, and not him.
- "You know men, they just don't see mess."
- "If he does it, I'd just have to do it again. Properly."
- "He could do the kids' dinner, but they don't like it the way he makes it."
- "He's just so tired when he gets home from work."
- "I just have to nag him so much to get him to do anything, it's not worth it. I might as well do it myself."
- "It just doesn't bother him if the house is a bomb site. He doesn't care about that stuff."
- "He can't cook. His mother never taught him. He can barely boil water."
Does this sound like a scene from the 1950s? If it does, you're lucky. You're NOT one of the women who lives with one of the one in five Australian men who answered 'Nothing, nada, are you kidding?' to the 2016 Census question: 'In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work in their household?'
That's one in five men who hadn't done any "housework" at all in one whole week.
As for the rest, the typical Australian man did less than five hours' housework a week. The typical Australian women did between five and 15.
Stop the presses, you're saying. Like this is news, you're saying.
Well, my fellow women, it should be news. We should all be hearing those numbers and giving ourselves a reality check.
Is there one really good reason why we are collectively working at least two jobs if, indeed, we are living with a grown- able-bodied male human in our home?
You know, any good reason other than, 'I do it better/faster/with less whingeing'.
Possibly. Possibly you live with a man who works so many hours a day, there aren't any left for anything but sleep. Possibly you have worked out a division of labour that makes you skip with joy, and mopping delights you more than chocolate. Possibly you live with a mean bully, who cares about no-one but himself (if so, this conversation needs to take a different turn.)
So, possibly, it's entirely unavoidable that you do all the 'inside' work, as well as the 'outside' work. And hey, he takes the bins out.
Possible. But not probable. And so, there's a secret you need to be let in on.
You know how we tell little girls that they do anything? That they can be anything?
The same is true for boys. They can be astronauts. They can be train drivers. They can be child care workers, nurses, teachers and ballet dancers.
They can run fast, jump high, make love like kings. And they can wash dishes, change a baby's nappy and use a recipe book to teach them how to cook a basic meal for their family.
It might seem like they can't wipe down bench tops without just spreading more muck around the surfaces. But they can.
It might seem like they aren't aware of the fact that washing doesn't fold itself. But their eyes can see and their arms can work. They can do it.
It might seem like they don't know where the vacuum cleaner lives. But they can find it. And it might seem, sometimes, like they can't cut the kids' fish fingers into exactly the right-sized chunks for little George to eat.
But they can.
Men can do anything. Just like us. And it's time we stopped doing it for them, and let them realise their full potential.
They'll thank us for it. Cough.
Really, one day, they will.
What would happen in your house if you stopped doing housework tomorrow?
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