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I do love these reports about the closing gap between the sexes and how men are getting all domesticated, while we women beat our chests in the boardroom.
Yes, these reports always have juicy headlines but rarely any meat in the content. The latest, from Oxford University this week, reveals that the average man has increased the amount of time he spends on domestic duties by more than 60 per cent over the past 30 years.
Actually, the truth is that men are only doing 27 minutes more housework a day than they did 10 years ago. That’s an extra three minutes or so a day built up over a decade. Whoopee doo! Hardly revolutionary.
It’s time this gap really started closing and working couples truly elect to share household chores – 50-50. Too often, and I know from experience, women are expected to do the famous ‘second shift’ once they come through the door after a commute from their workplace.
I had a quite a heated debate on this on the radio with Britain’s favourite ‘cave man’ the other night – racing pundit and lovable rogue John McCririck. While calling me ball-breaker (!)..he stood his ground and affirmed that the kitchen is a woman’s ‘territory’ and that it is in our biology to gravitate to the kitchen sink! Well, luckily for John he has a wife that indulges this deluded fantasy and she is in a total minority, thank goodness.
But he did make a good point about assumed gender roles and masculinity. There is still a positive air of resentment from a lot of men at even the slightest suggestion of scrubbing the loo, ironing their own shirts or alternating cooking duties. Hands up, who’s had more ‘spontaneous take-aways’ on his cooking nights than hot dinners?! Yes, same here.
I no doubt there’ll be the odd teething problem as the balance is addressed. I once lived with a man who put Cillit Bang crystals in the washing machine instead of washing powder – my frillies literally marched out of the door! I also shared a flat with a guy who would ‘save his socks’. Yes, he would leave his stinking socks piling up for weeks and do a ‘sock wash’. But at least he did his own washing.
This is not about emasculating men either. There are some jobs men are just better at – I hold my hands up and happily surrender to the fact that I for one cause more damage and destruction with a power tool than a Kenwood Mixer! But at least I give DIY a go and sometimes with good results.
What I’m really stressing here is mutual respect and concern for each other’s time and needs. So, gentlemen, pop on that apron… with pride. It signifies that you value you partner (yes, partner) and recognise sharing household chores brings a lot of good returns. Less time arguing over the washing up means less stress and certainly more quality time in the bedroom!
For the record, I don’t have a problem with women (or men) who wish to be full-time homemakers. But if you are a working woman living with a man, sharing house chores is important if not essential to love, peace and harmony.
If his strong point is cooking and yours gardening, great, go for it. But, while eating a great dinner is wonderful, washing up afterwards on your own can leave a bitter taste if the task is not shared or at least alternated.
Indeed, I would go as far as saying real men do housework and those who assume it is ‘women’s work’ are truly living in the dark ages and need to step up their game. With men remaining in their independent bachelor years much longer these days, knowing how to cook and clean are not just admirable ‘extra’ qualities but essential.
Start them young too. Teaching young boys how to cook, tidy up after themselves and yes, wait for it, use a washing machine not only gives them the practical skills to survive on their own once they leave home, but also boosts their esteem. Too often the out-dated notion that domesticity is for women only, comes from the messages received as children. Luckily that’s changing.
Just the other day, I watched with great pleasure as my sister instructed her twin eight-year-old sons on the art of washing the pots. Yes, there were huffs and eyes rolling (mainly my sister’s) but once they had completed the task (and aching to get out the kitchen door to play football) they were really pleased with themselves.
Just look at the ‘Jamie Oliver’ generation – these are the guys who are now as savvy and sophisticated in the kitchen as any Nigella Lawson wannabes. Yes, the likes of Jamie and Gordon Ramsay have made the kitchen sexy, masculine and creative for a whole new generation of men. Long may it reign.
There will always be the cavemen who would rather sit living in a pig sty eating junk than lift a finger in the name of domesticity. But if they want to catch a modern day woman, they need to put their remote control down and pick up a feather duster. (ends)