Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Job Without Benefits

This week, the Sunday Globe Magazine had another article that gave me….well….indigestion…... This article, entitled The Job Without Benefits, analyzes why women who are out there in the working world, perhaps even earning more than their husbands, also do most of the housework. Here’s an example from the article:

…Susan's very particular about how things get done, and she's better than her husband at housework, and he likes to relax more than she does, and so she just does it herself.

"OK, I don't know what drives women like me to do it all," she says. "We're crazy. We don't know how to stop. I do get that I'm letting this situation continue."

Susan is locked in a prison that she designed and built herself. She even has the key. She just won't use it. And she's not alone in there.
Okay, I agree to a certain extent. Women who work hard outside the home shouldn’t have to do it all inside the home. I’m all for that. But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Research indicates that even in homes where women dramatically out earn their men, housework is still broken down based on traditional gender roles. In other words, women do most of it.

"Men don't intend to do less housework, they just don't notice that they are doing less, and it's a matter of standards." She adds: "Women notice there's a mess and take ownership of it. Men aren't programmed for it."
Kris Frieswick, the author of the article, comments:
It's the breadwinner wife's mantra – I'm so busy at my job, but somebody has to do the work at home, and I'm the only one who seems to notice that it needs to be done, and he doesn't do a very good job, and it's easier to do it myself than have a big fight over it, blah, blah, blah.

Breadwinning wives, of all women
– comments Frieswick -- should be demanding, protesting, striking for a fair division of household labor. But instead there are excuses and the sound of vacuum cleaners at 11 p.m. So why should other women care if these control junkies choose to do it all to the point of delirium? Because the home is site of the final skirmish in the battle for gender equality, a struggle whose outcome profoundly affects all women. And many breadwinner wives, who have the power to lead the charge, are giving in without a fight.
Well…yeah. This is kind of what’s going on at my house. Not sure why exactly. But gradually, as time has gone by, my husband, who used to cook and clean for himself very well, thank you very much, has slowly left most of those tasks up to moi. And I-- I’m embarrassed to say -- am doing them. Laundry, cooking, vacuuming, dusting, grocery shopping...yup, that's me.

I know they say the personal is political, but...is housework the last frontier for feminism? Maybe it is, and I didn't even realize it.

Well, in my situation, I'm the one working part-time. Since my husband works full-time, I don't mind...much... doing most of the household tasks. Or more, I'm home more, and I guess the other "half" of my part-time job is taking care of the house (and the child, but that's another story). What's frustrating to me is that my husband really doesn't seem to see the mess. I could not vacuum for a month, and he really wouldn't notice. I'm the one who notices. So I do the work.

To be fair, my husband does a lot of other things around the house. He mows the lawn, and does most of the snow shoveling and plowing. He deals with the car repairs. He deals with problems with plumbing, electricity, etc. He actually enjoys doing electrical work, G-d bless him. He will occasionally do the dishes. But it's the day-to-day stuff, the stuff that keeps the house running, that he avoids... and I fill the vacuum (no pun intended).

I’ve discussed this with other women friends. Some friends have just thrown in the towel on the whole cleaning thing, and have hired someone to come in and clean the house every week or every other week. Actually, most people I know have some sort of cleaning help. I probably should do this, but I haven't as yet. I still feel weird having a cleaning lady coming into my house. On the other hand, it might reduce some of the resentment that I feel.

But getting back to this article... I think what bothers me about it is the assumption of the author that once women earn more than men, that the men will suddenly take over the household tasks. This just doesn't ring true to me.

Maybe it's biological; maybe it's environmental. But I think men just don't see the mess the way women do. My husband notices piles: piles of books, piles of papers, etc., and the piles bother him. But he doesn't see dirt. The dirt is what bothers me.

You would think between him cleaning up the piles and me cleaning up the dirt, we'd have equal division of household labor and a clean house. But that isn't the case. Instead, we have him complaining about the piles and me cleaning up the dirt....

But I digress.

So back to who does the housework. I came across an interesting website recently called Equally Shared Parenting. The couple who writes this site has some tips on how to share housework that are interesting. But what's different here is a fundamental difference: the husband feels that he SHOULD do an equal share of the housework. It's HIS DECISION. He feels that it's RIGHT and FAIR.

But what of the husband that doesn't feel that way? Equally Shared Parenting has this to say:

...under no circumstance should you simply enable your spouse by doing his/her share. The idea is to cheerfully and lovingly let the natural consequences of inaction fall on the spouse who is responsible.
Frieswick says something similar at the end of her article:

It might not be a feminist march on Washington, but in the final fight for gender equality, walking away from a mess might be the most effective protest march of all.

1 comment:

MojoMom said...

Thanks for pointing us to this article, Adena. It provided unusually thorough coverage of this topic. I wrote about my reactions to it on my MojoMom blog as well, thanks to you!