Men and Women: Share Household Responsibilities?

Today on the radio they mentioned this book about the lack of time in a modern family, the need to shift and share responsibilities at home and suggestions on how to achieve it practically. But the idea that resonated with me most was that time is actually treated very differently by men and women.

Or I should rather say – home labor and responsibilities from perspective of time-consumption are treated very differently by men and women.

This difference in perception has developed over history. Women have always been housewives, keepers of the fire, child bearers and care-givers. Men were to do the real work – to provide for the family. Provide a dead raw mammoth for a woman to deal with in so many ways for her to enjoy: she could make it eatable for the family or she could skin the beast and make clothes and covers or what not!  Pure pleasure and joy.

Today nothing has really changed in the roles played by the partners at home. When a man returns home from modern hunting, a woman is home, busy with the usual chores: cooking, looking after children, cleaning up the house. The only difference is that now women have to do the real work, too, which leaves them with only a fraction of time they used to have to cope with the house chores. Today women have to provide for the family as well. Daily. 9 to 5. For now, let’s leave aside the attitude that a woman’s work is not “real” work, is not as tiresome and demanding as a “man’s” work. Irrespective of gender, modern work consumes the same amount of physical time from both, a man and a woman. Then there is always the commute.

So, both partners come home in the evening at roughly the same time. Unfortunately, home is where family chores and responsibilities are waiting for… both (?) partners.

Give as many examples as you can on each of the following:

1)      What are a man’s chores around the house and how often does the man have to attend to this chore?

2)      What are a woman’s chores around the house and how often does the woman have to attend to this chore?

As mentioned above, historically the majority of the house chores are a woman’s responsibility. On the genetic level, women are actually comfortable with that and no one has ever needed to question the system. However, the 20th century made women face – and find a way to cope with – severe challenges in form of time constraints. Even though men invented blessed time-savers such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, our time-greedy life-styles demand more effort from a woman than ever, while responsibilities of a man at home have remained few and relatively unchanged since the beginning of civilization.

To make it clear: the number of responsibilities for a woman at home did not really change over time, but the time available to fulfill them has been cut dramatically. And though most women do not mind doing their part on a daily basis, they do require physical help from their partners to cope with the tasks in reasonable amount of time, which would consequently allow the partners spend quality time together.

Otherwise, the woman will accumulate the stress from overwhelming amount of daily chores and break out eventually.

This pressure from time required and consumed by inevitable daily chores makes a woman go mad. It makes a man irritated by the woman’s behavior. From his perspective, she is being “hysterical” for no real reason. A man does not comprehend the stress which a woman is under. Which is perfectly normal and – no matter how much the woman wants – the man should not be punished for not realizing what a woman is going through, despite her numerous attempts to explain. Here the basic instinct kicks in and the man locks himself in. Neither of this helps to develop fruitful and fulfilling relationship.

What is worse is that this is what is being implied as relationship more frequently in the recent decade. Men hide away in fear of it. Women struggle – unsuccessfully – to avoid this abyss.  Both sides loose.

A good way to avoid the collapse is this: a woman should know that her partner will help her whenever asked and she should be comfortable asking for this help when she is overwhelmed with chores. But the only successful strategy to conquer the time-eating, stress-imposing beast that would have lasting effect is to share the responsibilities. Not from time to time, when asked, but truly share house chores with the woman on a daily basis.

Sorry, I promise this is not going to be easy for either party.

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5 thoughts on “Men and Women: Share Household Responsibilities?

  1. Nothing worth doing ever is.

    This post is timed so perfectly, just today I was reading over the economic reasons as to why women started to work. If you look at it from a historical materialist perspective women started entering the work force when it was no longer possible to live on a single income. After women started working, then liberalist, reformist and other forms of feminism took form. Time seem to be related to these concerns.

    • Sure, women started to work out of economic necessity. Although, I have never seen the sequence the way you describe. Reformists after taking up a full-time job? Could be, sounds logical… I have always thought it was a bit of the other way around (in very short simplistic terms): women got bored with dull housekeeping, began to voice out their dissatisfaction, the voice spread gaining support as the mood was in the air and as a result of these protests women started to be accepted to work-places.

  2. I was luckier than most. My bloke was better at housekeeping than I was, but just as reluctant. We used to piss ourselves laughing when one would find, say, dust on a tabletop, so that the other had then to rush about until s/he found some other failing in cleanliness. Always did, btw! When the place got too awful, we would invite people round in a week or so, so that we’d HAVE TO clean up! 🙂 It was always something we both did (or didn’t do).

    • You must have done something very good in your previous lives to have been blessed with your husband as your partner and your kindred spirit he undoubtedly was! We are slack on cleaning up as well. When my place gets too awful, I send my Love away (usually mountain climbing) and actually enjoy a day of purification – what a satisfaction when it’s all done! Mind though, this does NOT happen often 🙂

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