Mothers do us a favour, teach your son to cook
I have a friend. His mum cooked and cleaned and shopped for him his whole life. Then he met a girl who became his wife who cooked and cleaned and shopped for him the rest of his life. This isn’t the 1950s and this “friend” could be any number of my mates or mate’s partners.
Now, before all you guys start wailing about the unfairness of this statement and start accusing me of being a man-hating feminist, let me just say I know quite a few guys who do their fair share of the domestic duties.
I even know one or two who do more than their partner. Case in point: My workmate’s partner is a saint. All the ladies in the office listen jealously as Kate tells us how her fiance Jamie cooks every night and makes her lunch everyday. The truth is for every Jamie there is a Tom, Dick or Harry who does bugger all.
I’m not just making this up. In a survey of 1,800 men and women, researchers found the fairer sex did 17 hours of housework, such as laundry, cooking and shopping a week, compared to just under six hours for men. This was despite the majority of women working out of the home.
So much has changed since the 1950s, yet so much stays the same. Women have made massive strides in education and paid work since then, yet we’re still struggling to achieve parity on the home front.
There seems to be one leading theory for the inequality, based on the research that’s out there: namely social structures and attitudes. Men have traditionally been the breadwinners and women the housekeepers. While that norm has shifted a lot it’s hard to undo centuries of women’s and men’s roles in a couple decades.
Here’s another one my friend suggested: guys have a higher tolerance for messiness than girls. It’s like they just don’t ‘see’ the mess. My partner can be at home all day with dishes piling up in the sink and the bin overflowing with rubbish and not do a thing about it. After arriving home from work one evening I asked him why he didn’t clean up. His response was that he didn’t notice it.
Does it really matter if women do more work at home than men? While some couples may be OK with this set-up, many clearly are not. Research shows domestic duties are still a major source of conflict for couples. Couples fight over who does what around the house almost as much as they fight over money.
According to author and feminist Stephanie Coontz “The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction”.
Husbands benefit too with a recent study showing men are happiest when sharing the housework. According to the Cambridge University study this is because domestic arguments decline and the general happiness of the home gets better when men do more work around the home.
Another reason: some argue women will struggle to achieve equality in the workforce until their men contribute more to looking after the home. Gender inequalities in all areas are rooted in social structures but also in attitudes so it’s difficult to see women being treated more fairly in the workforce if they can’t achieve equality in the home.
Theories aside, the reality leaves women a tricky situation. We don’t want to be nags but at some point you’ve got to say enough is enough.
Guys for the most part want to do the right thing by their girls. It would help I think if we let them know how we feel and what we would like them to do. For example, my friend recently explained to her flatmate how much his sloppy habits were affecting her. She gave him specific examples, suggested what he could do to improve and he took it on board.
This might not work all the time, but if a guy really cares about his partner/friend there’s a good chance he will make the effort.
Mums also have a part to play in encouraging their sons to cook and clean. I think a lot of the time guys don’t do domestic duties because they’re not in the habit. They’re used to a lifetime of mum cooking and cleaning and shopping, so it’s hard for them to suddenly start doing it. It’s probably instinct for mums to do these things for their kids, especially their sons.
But honestly, they’re not doing them, or their future wives or girlfriends any favours. If men were encouraged to do these things when they were kids the practice would be set for the future.
Another one of my friends recently met a really decent guy after a string of losers. She wanted to know what was wrong with him because he cleans up after himself and makes his bed. I long for the day when that kind of behaviour in a guy is the norm, not the exception.
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