There’s a deep resentment simmering away in suburban homes.
You can’t miss it amid Facebook mums’ groups. When someone posts about their husband dropping dirty clothes on the floor, or spending the evening sitting on the couch, there’s an immediate chorus of, “Yep, mine does that too,” swamping the occasional chirpy, “Mine doesn’t!” The bitterness almost seeps from the screen.
A recent post about Kasey Edwards’ parody book OMG! That’s Not My Husband…, with lines like, “That’s not my husband. He’s sterilising bottles,” and “That’s not my husband. He’s doing the laundry,” was shared thousands of times. Women found it funny because, to them, it rang true.
Of course, there are couples where the chores are shared equally, or where the male partner does more. But across the nation, a lot of fathers are getting away with doing a lot less work than mothers.
Statistics back this up. The average woman with a full-time job spends 25 hours a week on housework. The average man with a full-time job spends 3.6 extra hours in the workplace, but only spends 15 hours a week on housework. That adds up to women working for nearly an hour a day more than men. No wonder we’re so tired.
It might seem mean-spirited to complain when men, generally, are helping out with the housework more than they did in previous generations. But that’s part of the problem. If men are only “helping out” with the housework, that’s not equal. That’s not fair.
If you feel like you're doing more housework than your partner, you're not alone. Photo via iStock.
Mum-of-two Bethany Liston expressed it perfectly in a blog post titled: Why I'm done asking my husband to help me out. She talks about the time she asked her husband to help her out by putting their son's jacket and shoes away, then realised she'd said the wrong words.
"He’s not helping me out. He’s being an adult, my partner. I said it, right then, out loud: 'Actually, can you just do it? It’s not helping me out. It’s just putting your kid’s shit away.'"
Her post has been shared more than 200,000 times.
If you have a partner who is willing to "help out", you know that you should feel lucky. But it means you still have to be across everything. You have to know exactly what needs doing and when it needs to be done. You have to ask, explain, oversee and be grateful afterwards. Sometimes it's quicker and simpler to do things yourself. You still, probably, end up doing more housework than your partner, despite his willingness to lend a hand.
You can find yourself justifying it: "Well, he works longer hours." But whether you're full-time or part-time outside the home, or a stay-at-home mum, you're working. Keeping kids alive is real, hard work.
Or you can end up blaming yourself: "Well, I could push him a bit harder. It's probably my fault, because I've let him get away with it." But why should women take the blame if men are the ones not doing enough?
The never-ending laundry. Photo via iStock.
If we're serious about supporting working women - or, gosh darn it, even just being fair - expectations about partners need to change. They should be doing more than "helping out". They should be stepping up and getting stuck in.
That means listening out for children's cries and then getting up to see what's wrong.
That means knowing what each kid eats for lunch and where they keep all their clothes and what they have to take for soccer or library and then making sure they're sorted.
That means, putting on a load of washing when school uniforms are grubby or sheets are due to be changed.
That means, cleaning the stove-top and wiping down the bathroom sink and scrubbing the toilet when they start to look dirty.
That means, filling in permission slips and testing spelling words and filing away receipts for tax purposes.
This is the shitty, boring, time-consuming, day-to-day stuff that often falls to one parent. This is how the average working woman ends up doing almost an extra hour of housework a day. Because five minutes spent wheeling out the garbage bin does not equate to half an hour spent cleaning the bathroom, and two minutes changing a light-bulb does not equate to an hour of picking up buttered toast crusts and Lego pieces and dirty socks off the floor so you can vacuum.
The resentment is out there, and it's real.
Do you feel the work is divided equally in your household?
Confessions: Things I do after the kids go to bed.