Can you even the score on housework?

I find the question of who keeps the house clean a fascinating one. Maybe because I am a total slob and I pretty much don’t know anyone my age that is married and stays at home or has the time to do most of the cleaning in the house. But there are couples that do, right? They have kids, they both work and the bulk of housework still falls on the shoulders of women. Obviously, this plays out really different based on your class background or the type of relationship you are in, but consistently, both in my experience, the experience of my peers and others, the majority of house work falls on the shoulders of women. It is the assumed default position, that if it isn’t done, than guess who is going to end up doing it.
Well, according to this article from Parenting.com the main reason for this is that we as women really have to stop keeping tabs on who is doing what and just, you know, take one for the team. Oh and don’t nag while you are in the process. Kthnx.

Stop nagging, start talking
“When we’re tired and stressed out, we don’t usually talk to our partners as respectfully as we might otherwise,” says Kristen Harrington, a marriage and family therapist in Kingston, New York, and a mom of two. “We women, particularly, get bitter about our husbands’ not noticing what needs to be done around the house and start treating them like their IQs are 20 points lower.” Men, for their part, seem to tune out their wives when they nag.

Um, maybe we get bitter because we consistently end up doing more work and usually the work that is considered women’s labor? I understand this article is assuming, hetero, middle class, married couples that have money for the mortgage. So I want to pull us out of that frame of reference. This sexual division of labor that is instilled in us through the household and then through the media and other forms of socialization trickle into every way that we interact with each other. Who does what jobs at the work place and how is that reflected in their gender? Why are the majority of nurses and teachers women and the majority of doctors and principals men?
Who is expected to do what in the household is extremely political and it isn’t just a matter of convenience or someone whining more than the other. It is based on a historical division of labor that is the crux of the nation. Furthermore, when middle class women do not have the time to clean their houses, who do they hire to clean them? So still, today, the majority of house cleaning is done by women and mostly women of color.

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59 Comments

  1. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    “How is nagging different than talking?”
    Tone of voice, mostly, and also what a person says
    Nagging: What’s wrong with you? Could you not leave your socks on the bedroom floor. You really need to go pick that up right now.
    :::usually said in a berating, parent-to-child, tone of voice – assuming one has the right to order one’s partner to do what they wish:::
    Versus other strategies:
    Asking: Would you mind grabbing the socks you left on the floor and tossing them in the hamper?
    Stating: It looks like you left some stuff on the bathroom floor. I would appreciate it if you could toss them in the hamper.

  2. Mary Racine
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    One really good way to split the housework easily is laid out in Jeff Campbell’s The Clean Team books (and products). He owns a cleaning service and wrote a book about the system he came up with for his cleaners to clean a house with minimal wasted effort.
    The great thing is that the basic routine is designed for one person, but he also breaks it down for teams of 2-4 people. It takes us 30-45 minutes to get our two bedroom apartment sized house clean. And there is no question of fairness because we switch out between being the cleaner and the vacuumer. They even have a kids routine to add in.
    The products seem pricey, but we are still going strong with the equipment bought when we moved in eight years ago. And you can use normal stuff with the system.
    Not affiliated, etc., etc., but I’ve found that a geeked out solution is the best way of working on a team with a guy.
    But I still do all the laundry.

  3. Mary Racine
    Posted October 31, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    One really good way to split the housework easily is laid out in Jeff Campbell’s The Clean Team books (and products). He owns a cleaning service and wrote a book about the system he came up with for his cleaners to clean a house with minimal wasted effort.
    The great thing is that the basic routine is designed for one person, but he also breaks it down for teams of 2-4 people. It takes us 30-45 minutes to get our two bedroom apartment sized house clean. And there is no question of fairness because we switch out between being the cleaner and the vacuumer. They even have a kids routine to add in.
    The products seem pricey, but we are still going strong with the equipment bought when we moved in eight years ago. And you can use normal stuff with the system.
    Not affiliated, etc., etc., but I’ve found that a geeked out solution is the best way of working on a team with a guy.
    But I still do all the laundry.

  4. Sappho
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    “How is nagging different than talking?”
    I think if it’s a woman talking, then it’s more likely to get called nagging. Men are rarely accused of nagging.

  5. AlaraJRogers
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I call bullshit on “women’s standards are just too high!”
    My husband’s standards for a clean house are much higher than mine. He is constantly bitching about clutter I don’t care about and dirt I might eventually get around to. This never, ever inspires him to actually clean it himself. He needs it to *already* be clean before he will clean it.
    I don’t know how much of this is related to his eyesight being really really bad — he claims that when the house is badly cluttered, the visual “noise” is so bad he can’t really see what to do — and how much of it is male entitlement bullshit, but I think that “higher female standards for cleanliness” cannot explain a refusal to pick up the phone and call for a pizza.
    There are probably really anal women out there who demand that the carpet be shampooed every week and want to scrub out the toilet every time someone uses it, but I don’t know any of them. I do know that I am incredibly laid back and easy going about other people doing the chores, that I have never demanded that someone doing a chore do it a different way, and yet my husband claims that he can’t do laundry because I have “taken it over” and he doesn’t understand my system. I think the entire “women are passive-aggressive about doing the job the exact right way” thing is mostly a smokescreen men throw up to explain why they refuse to do household chores. I suppose it’s possible that some women really do make it impossible for men to do the chores, but like I said, I don’t know any.

  6. Murph56
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I am a feminist but I believe in using the approach that gets results. I find that men respond to written notes better than they respond to oral requests (which ALWAYS sound like “nagging” to them even when you ask only once and even when you ask nicely. Don’t ask me why!)
    Men seem to like lists—and even will accept timetables on them. Much better than having to ask six times….
    Thanks, J

  7. bmc90
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    J you are right about the list thing. Also, nothing dies harder than a sense of entitlement, which many met have from their mothers having floated around behind them picking up socks and making their lunches. SO treat your husband at all times EXACTLY like a roomate. If your roomate does your laundry you are thankful and suprised. If you clean up your roomate’s toothpaste from the sink, you just did them a favor. Explain you expect this relationship on your “roomate” issues. Any if your “roomate” balks? Well, they are going to need to pay more “rent” so you can hire someone to do the stuff a reasonable roomate would normally do, and the money is coming out of their budget for greens fees and the NFL Sunday Ticket. Also liked Michelle Obama’s strategy of going to the gym 3 mornings a week and leaving her husband home with the kids – he HAD to get them ready for school, because she was not there.

  8. bmc90
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh and kids? They are like you and your roomate own a dog. If only you ever walked the dog, played with it, took it to the groomer etc. you’d be annoyed and get angry right? If you have to, assign your ‘roomate’ responsibilities – you have to get them from daycare and get them off to school Monday and Friday so I can plan my week. If they won’t? Boy that sitter is going to mean you can’t get a new car when your current lease is up. Cause fair is fair.

  9. luhuien
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

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