Does anyone like housework?

Nicholas Gruen in Club Troppo has a New Year’s post on gender relations, which took me aback a bit. Not so much the post, but the comments. You have to read the whole post to get the flavour. My summary (which may be overly pointing out the parts that took me aback) is that he is protesting at the implicit blaming of men for the current situation where women do far more of the housework and childcare than men – perhaps it’s a preference, or even an aptitude issue? In other words, women do more of the housework and childcare either because they enjoy it more than men, or because they are better at it.

The comments are full of men complaining about women’s over fastidious natures (i.e. it’s their own fault that they do more housework, because they dust the mantelpiece when there’s no need), and pointing out the huge amount of work they (men) do in the backyard.

I find it hard to believe that anyone enjoys housework as a whole. I know a lot of people who enjoy cooking, but most of them enjoy show cooking for a dinner party, not cooking every night for a household. But the less glamorous things, like cleaning the toilets, or hanging out the washing – who enjoys that? Elizabeth at Half Changed World has some great posts about this.

Women may be better at it, because they’ve been trained better, but let’s face it, none of it is exactly difficult. And they may be more fastidious than men. That’s at least partly because in a household lived in by a man and a woman, they’re the ones who get blamed (by everyone, men and women) for a dirty house.

Childcare is more complex, because there is a huge amount of fun and joy in raising children, in amongst what can be a very mundance existence. So I find it easier to believe that women do it because they want to (I know plenty of men who, when they find out my husband looks after our kids, sigh and say how much they wish they could too). I don’t believe though, except for the breastfeeding beginning, that women are intrinsically better at it. They get a headstart, as they’re the ones responsible at the beginning, and that headstart tends to get set in stone as a couple adapts to a life with children. Throw in society’s expectations, and it’s hard not to end up with a household in which a woman is more responsible for the children than men.

I haven’t read Club Troppo for long (Crikey put me on to it by awarding it best Australian blog last year), but it depressed me that what seems to be a very thoughtful blog on many issues seems so dark ages on this one. Or maybe I’ve been spending so much time with people who agree with me and should get out into the real world more?

  2 comments for “Does anyone like housework?

  1. January 6, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    I was astonished by how conservative the views expressed there were.

  2. January 6, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Well, they were almost all blokes. I was less surprised than I wish I’d been.

    And as the daughter of a perfectionist mother, one who has grown up sloppy in reaction, I was actually in a tiny little bit of sneaking sympathy. There is at least a bit to be said for the argument that goes ‘Look, if you want to see your face reflected in the piano then you can bloody well Mr Sheen it yourself.’

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