real life

“We don’t need more wives. We need better husbands.”

Why do I say “I need a wife”, when that’s not what I really mean?

I’ve just watched people comment on an article in which a woman describes her experience of motherhood.

It’s a good article. Writer, Ginger Gorman articulates how so many of us feel, bored with the drudgery of domesticity and frustrated at society’s expectations of women to juggle life and work while maintaining a happy face.

Straight out of the block in the comments, “we need more wives”. A comment I have made myself a million times. The kids are all up in my face, and the list of stuff that needs to be done seems too long to contemplate. “I need a wife.”

I write this article on a Sunday afternoon in a rare moment of quiet calm. Both my children are asleep. I survey my home. It is a disaster. The dishwasher broke on Friday night and the kitchen is a bomb site.

There is clean laundry waiting to be put away; not one load, but eight. Yes. Eight. I can’t remember the last time we mopped the floors. I gave the loos a cursory dunk with bleach a week ago but the shower hasn’t seen a scrubbing brush in longer than I care to think about.

Let’s talk about this: Every woman needs a wife. Discuss. 

And, it’s a Sunday afternoon and the kids are both asleep. This seems the perfect opportunity to get on with it.

But I work during the week. It’s a job I adore, but I work hard and I work long hours.

My weekends are a haven to catch up on sleep, to see my husband and talk with him about something other than the daily logistics. To actually play with my children for longer than it takes to bath them.

I need my weekend for me too, to do something creative and fulfilling that isn’t work or child related. So, I’m not doing the chores, and truly, today I really could use a wife.

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But the joke is only funny because wife still means nanny and housekeeper.

Despite a 100 years of feminism, and the explosion of women’s participation in the workforce in the past 20 years, wife still means nanny and bloody housekeeper.

None of us are joking that we need more husbands. “Gee, I could really use a husband.” Because husband doesn’t mean nanny and housekeeper. Husband still means breadwinner, and it still means that men don’t have to help out with the lion’s share of domestic duties and child rearing.

We don’t need wives, ladies. We need better husbands.

But in all fairness, we don’t get better husbands until they’re given the chance to be better.

To get better, husbands we need serious societal change. We need better workplaces. We need more affordable childcare. We need more flexibility for men to juggle work and life.

Want more? This man calculated what his wife’s stay-at-home salary should be. 

We need employers to embrace fathers taking time off. We need bosses to say ‘yes’ when men request part time hours, or working from home arrangements. We need to make paternity leave a feasible option for men.

We need a community that doesn’t express surprise when men spend time with their children. We need to allow a man to be carers and still be masculine.

But getting them is going to take time.

But until then, please for the love of God, can we stop asking for more wives when what we really mean to say is, “I need a nanny and a housekeeper.” When we make this a conversation about women, always about women, and not about the fact that men have a role to play here too, we just make the task harder.

This post first appeared on iVillage.com.au. you can read the original here.

Do you joke that you need a wife too?

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