Friday, October 29, 2010

My Husband Doesn't Help Me Around the House

One of the things that annoys me the most is to hear women say that their husband or partner helps them around the house or with the baby. This way of framing the issue presupposes that housework and child-rearing are a woman's responsibility and she should be grateful if a man condescends to participate in these activities.

My partner doesn't help me around the house. He takes care of his responsibilities, as the adult that he is, and I take care of mine.

It might seem like a small thing, but the language we use to discuss certain aspects of our lives ends up shaping the reality we create for ourselves.


Vertigo said...

you know, I never saw it like this... thanks.

Pagan Topologist said...

This is a wonderful way of putting things, but when I read it, it makes me wonder whether one of you or your husband would do the other's work when the other is in the hospital, out of town for a week-long conference, etc. It seems to me that there needs to be some flexibility in the system.

Clarissa said...

Of course, when people love each other it's normal to cover for your partner in cases that you mention. What I think is unhealthy is a situation when a woman sees all housework as her own reponsibility and the male partner just "helps out" whenever he is so inclined and it's perceived as some sort of favor.

SereneBabe said...

This is such a huge pet peeve of mine. Yes. It's ridiculous. I've even caught myself thinking in those terms, "help" instead of equal participation.

It carries over into child rearing, too. Families actually refer to the Dad "babysitting" the children when the mother goes out. THERE ARE NO APPROPRIATE WORDS FOR HOW WRONG I FIND THIS.

JMP said...

This is a great point to always make. Last year I was teaching a class and we were discussing the "double day" and it was amazing how many students just automatically assumed (not that they wanted to assume this in every case) that certain labour was feminine. So that men were "good" if they "helped out" because they were going "above and beyond" what was expected of them.

juerginskyi said...

I hate housework, but of course you are correct. Actually, I´d wondered about that line (my husband helps...) before.

Robert said...

My wife and I ended up in a lot of conflict about this. It does work both ways - there are jobs that are simply assumed to be men's work.

I agree that establishing responsibilities, in a flexible way, is key to avoiding unfairness. There are social "defaults" that set up epically unfair workloads, the infamous second shift for example. People who want a fair division of labor in the home have to take the defaults they come into the relationship with into account.

In our case, I was actually raised in a pretty feminist home, with a mom who worked outside the home and a dad who often cooked and did domestic duties. So while I have my blind spots I'm not usually bad about assuming something is her job b/c it's kitchen or child-related. She was raised very traditionally and there are a lot of jobs that just strike her as being "not her department", even when they are.

The one thing I've come to realize is that the party with the higher standards is the party who has the most to lose in case of a conflict. If I want a sparkling kitchen while my wife is content with one that doesn't smell bad, when we allocate the responsibilities it would probably behoove me to sign up for a lot of kitchen cleaning. If you want something done the way you want it done, you usually have to do it yourself.

Aydan said...

I had never thought of it in this way before, so thanks for that.

@ Robert: While what you say about the person who cares more about something being the one to do it, it's also true that, because of the traditionally gendered division of labor, many things are considered to reflect on the female partner. So, she may not actually care whether the kitchen is clean or not for herself, but she may still feel driven to clean it to avoid the "shame" of being a woman with an untidy house.