Feb 10, 2011

Fair sharing of housework and childcare

There's a fantastic conversation going on at Mama Mia today in the comments under an article about whether men "should" help with bath-time and child-rearing tasks in general.
The question posed by the article is odd but refers to a study from Ohio State University that suggests that couples who share parenting and housework tasks experience more conflict than couples where one parent does it all.
(What's worse - conflict? Or simmering resentment and unhappiness?  Yes I know conflict at home is bad - have lived it, seen my kids suffer for it, suffered for it ourselves. But resentment is also bad. So yes both are bad).

Image: Korat, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Filomena Scalise, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 The comments are coming thick and fast, and what's interesting is reading how much in common we all have. Basically, everyone struggles with this, the women want the men to do their share, and these days, thankfully, most of them do.  A common theme is how it has taken a few years to reach the point where the man does enough and the woman is accepting of the different way in which he does it.

Another thing I note is that this is an equal problem whether parents are working full-time, part-time or whether one parent is full-time home with the kids.

As a full-time worker who has found it all overwhelming at times, it is tempting to think that women who don't do paid work, or who do paid work part-time, have all this a bit easier. Not so - as my mother often reminds me, many of the woes and the occasional difficulties I have with my kids which I attribute to my working full-time, are in fact common to kids and parents everywhere. She knows - she was a "housewife" most of her life.

In our house, we both work full-time, but different days, and my husband sometimes works evenings, so we split the work depending on the day. Also because we have twins we both did everything when they were babies. I do sometimes still feel resentful that I do "more" and he can sit around the house on his downtime and the kids leave him alone, but then again I am guilty of being too controlling sometimes and have to consciously remind myself not to say anything when my husband does things his way. I do think sometimes men completely disagree with women's beliefs on parenting but won't speak up, instead will just passively resist or just do the opposite of what the woman has "instructed". This can be annoying but mostly if you want them to continue then you just have to put up with it. Most of the time it's not actually important, and the kids do well with the benefit of both parenting styles.

The single parents I know do an amazing job and cope with way more than we have to so again you have to remind yourself sometimes to just let stuff go!

The article in Mama Mia tells of a woman who is obsessed about the fact her husband is not home early enough in the evenings to do bath-time. I have had this discussion with other mums and know it is a common theme.

As someone whose partner was often working in the evenings when our twins were babies and I was alone with two crying bubs after getting through dinner, baths etc, I can relate to the women who just want dad home for bath-time. I know it's a bit delusional but it can feel like sometimes that's all you want. My husband works shifts effectively and has a fairly physical job and sometimes has to lie down for half an hour when he gets home to unwind. Yes, in the middle of "witching hour". For a long time this made me incandescent with rage, but after five years we have reached a workable compromise where he lies down sometimes but not every day; most days he sits instead and talks to the kids and feeds them fruit while I am getting the dinner done. 
(Yes I know what you're thinking - I did too - but if they fill up on some extra fruit and eat a bit less dinner than they would have, but all of us are relaxed and some dinner does actually pass their lips, then that's a win in my book).

He also tends to clean up the house in the evenings after I've done the dinner and baths and put the kids to bed. I sometimes feel guilty he is doing more of the "chore" stuff instead of the "bonding" stuff in the evenings, but as he looks after them 2 days a week without me he does plenty of that too, and he plays with or talks to them while I am getting the dinner done, so it all works well for us - now. After five years!

Bottom line, most families are not the "traditional" model anymore - and thank goodness for that in all honesty, however much we may think we want that from time to time (yes I am guilty) - so each family has to find what works for them and just do it.


  1. Exactly. We're all different and each person in each relationship has different strengths and responsiblities (LC cooks, I'm happy to clean up afterwards).

    You use the 'g' word in the last paragraph and it's the word that we all fight against - Guilt. Somehow we've had to learn to accept that we're all doing the best that we can and at times when we feel resentful or pissed off or want to go off on our own and hide, we needn't feel guilty.

    Bloody impossible task though....!

  2. So true Kath, so true - and I realise now I used the word "guilt" or "guilty" three times in this post! So clearly do not have it figured out yet!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...