This morning Husband and I had the sort of heated argument that could power up a MasterChef kitchen. And gosh it felt good. We fought good and hard and loud, and afterward I felt amazing. I'd had my say, and, surprisingly, graciously admitted defeat... or, at least, a truce.
This whopper was about housework or, rather, the (un)fair and equitable division of it. Apparently, Aussie blokes are the worst in the world when it comes to helping out about the home, so I'm clearly not alone in my frustration with Husband's inability to perform menial tasks, such as the washing up or a load of laundry or cooking dinner. Dirty dishes, piles of unwashed clothes, bags of garbage, crumbs and the like are simply invisible to him – not on his radar. In his eyes, inside the home is my domain; outside is his. Heaven forbid should we have children – his idea of cleaning them will be taking them outside for a hosing down (hello, DOCS calling).
To be fair, we live on a 10-acre farm property owned by his parents, which requires him to mow a lot, attend to general maintenance and pick and pack avodacos for sale three months each year (which "we" do to pay the rent). Also, being borderline OCD, I'm not averse to cleaning and tidying and keeping things in order. The amount of time I invest in performing such tasks is really my choice – and I choose not to live in a pig-sty.
The argument, which took place in the kitchen – the hub of domestic life – started with a pile of laundry, built over a bit of bed-making and climaxed with the cleaning of a pile of dirty dishes. Worn down by the daily grind, I let loose with a rant about how unfair it was that I spent a good part of my day attending to such things, when I had far better things to do with my time – like blogging! I tallied up the hours for him: an hour in the kitchen each day cooking and cleaning up, four hours a week of washing, three hours of cleaning every Saturday morning = 12 hours of domestic duties each week, and then some. He retaliated with his list of outside duties and the avos. He had me at the avos.
Without wanting to come across all anti-feminist, I think I've been somewhat conditioned by society, television producers and the media to believe that housework is evil, unfair and beneath me as a professional, educated working woman. I'm not supposed to enjoy it or get some sort of warped satisfaction from performing it – I'm to loathe it, and begrudge my husband for trapping me into a lifetime of domestic subservience. Housework sucks, right? In Desperate Housewives, for example, the mere idea of domestic duty is associated with boredom, suicide and murder!
Additionally, there's the superficial "Martha Stewart complex" pressure of having your house look like something from the pages of a glossy interiors magazine or Spray-n-Wipe commercial. We can choose to buy into that, too. Who's setting the standards, anyway?
I think it's grossly unfair that women who live in apartments or homes requiring little outdoor maintenance should get lumbered with all the required household work – more particularly, those with children to rear (which, I imagine, adds to the "inside" duties a thousand fold).
But I'm slowly beginning to accept my lot and find joy in the domesticity rather than fight, tirelessly and fruitlessly, against it. My mother worked full-time, reared two girls (no mean feat!) and kept our house spotless – and I don't ever remember her complaining about it. In fact, the first time I think I heard a woman whinge about domestic duty was Peggy on Married... With Children, followed by Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond (who I still think is awesome).
Is this, therefore, a GenX/Y thing? Have we become a bit soft around the edges? Afraid of putting in the hard yards on the homefront for fear of betraying our feminist forebears or getting our designer dresses dirty? Are we getting our knickers in a knot for no good reason? Or are we really hard done by?
Girl With a Satchel