E is not feeling the best today, so I volunteered to take the boys and do the weekly shop. He decided against it, so we all did it together. The reason he decided against it? He didn’t trust me to do it properly.
This is a classic (reversed) gender stereotype – the housewife (to use the word deliberately) refuses to delegate tasks to her husband because he is no good at it. Any discussion of who does housework (which includes both genders) will contain men complaining that their female partners don’t trust them to do things properly, and it’s their own fault that they have to do the work themselves.
My experience makes me realise that at least some of the housewifely refusal to delegate is sensible – E was behaving quite reasonably not to trust me with the shopping. Although I would have brought adequate food, and we wouldn’t have starved for the week, the fact that I don’t cook to speak of, and don’t make the boys’ lunches means that I am unlikely to have an instinctive memory of the state of our various staples (for example, we needed cream for tonight’s dinner, which E cooked, and muesli bars for C’s lunches as we had just run out). And on Tuesday, when I was back at work, he would have been the one stuck with my choices.
Any household is going to have some tasks that are done by just one person – generally other members of that household are not as good at them. The hard part is to understand and recognise the specialisations, not get sucked down into the gender stereotyping of them. I think we are both much happier with our current housework specialisation now that we have chosen it, rather than as it was when we lived in London, when I was more often the cook and the shopper by default, and did a worse job because I wasn’t particularly happy with being the one who decided what we ate every night. Mind you, we had a lot of takeaway then, so I didn’t exactly have a hard job! Perhaps it’s just that I’m not cut out for being in charge of a household.
Or maybe it’s just me who is happy because I do less of the housework than I ever have before? I’ll have to see what E thinks.