Who Should Steam Clean the Loo?

Who Should Steam Clean the Loo?

Can We Lighten Up the Chore Wars in the UK?

I once had a husband who loved to say to me “baby don’t sweat the small stuff.” This was his response to my being stressed out and on the verge of a mental breakdown between my work, my classes, running the children to their activities, fixing dinner, doing the shopping, etc. I would come home from being gone all day on his day off and the house would be the exact same, or worse, than when I left that morning. It was his day off.  Why should he clean on his day off when he worked all the time?  And why, by the way, was I never willing to go do something fun with him and the girls at the last minute if he decided that is how he was going to spend his day off?  Why did I always have to catch up my work on his day off?

Because I have not had a day off since I gave birth. Perhaps I could have. Thank you. It does sound lovely.

Can you be happy with an average of 17 minutes of downtime or free time a day? Day after day, week after week? It’s a fact. The majority of household chores in the UK are still done by women, even with more women working away from home than ever before. This, of course, is not exclusive to the UK. So with women working away from the home, often as many hours as their husbands or partners, why is it that in heterosexual relationships the women are still doing a majority of the housework?

Mumsnet is the largest online UK parenting community, with a network of thousands of bloggers dedicated to sharing ideas. In October of 2014 The Telegraph picked up a bit of their research involving 1000 working mothers.  The article also referenced a separate survey by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – The Chore Wars. The Mumsnet and BBC survey also made a Huffpost article in the same year, focusing on how women still do a majority of the housework.

steam-clean-loo-hoseSnapshot of the Stats

Take a look at a few statistics from the surveys mentioned and a few others of interest that will add to the chat:

  • 71% of working women take responsibility for weekly cleaning vrs. 5% of men [24% shared] Mumsnet Survey
  • 50% would like more help from partner with chores – Mumsnet
  • 75% of working women surveyed feel they would have more time to enjoy their partners if their partners would take on sharing more chores and help with children – Mumsnet
  • 66% of women surveyed said they would not want their partners to take on more of the responsibilities because they are either comfortable or they believed the tasks would not be up to their standards [It should be noted that the higher number who did not want their partners to take over the cooking or shift financial management influences this number] – The Telegraph reporting Mumsnet Survey
  • 66% of respondents aged 18-34 argue with their partner over chores – BBC data reported in the Telegraph

Free Time and Do-Overs

The DailyMail.com wrote about a survey conducted by a UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s in 2012. This survey found that women spend an average of three hours a week re-doing chores their partners have done. Let’s hope this is statistically skewed.

Then there is a piece out there that says the average working mother has about 17 minutes of ‘me time’ a day.  Read more

Why Are Things The Way They Are?

steam-clean-loo-busy-manBecause men are pigs.  I’m joking.  One can argue that it takes awhile for cultural attitudes to catch up with reality. Given the numbers it may be good to realize that this may not be anyone’s fault. This is to say that rather than blaming men for not wanting to steam clean the sofa, or women for going back and wiping down the countertops again when their partners clean up the kitchen, it is important to remember that this whole concept of men working away from home and women taking care of the home is rooted in the culture on a deep level.  And because of this men may often default to not doing housework and women may feel like they are superior at it without either one really being conscious of those thoughts. It’s not an excuse, or to say that things should stay this way, but it’s important to have that understanding.

Now you may be thinking I clean more than my wife. Or I do all the cleaning and work and it doesn’t bother me one bit. Good. That’s wonderful. But for some having all of the cleaning responsibilities in addition to working outside of the home can lead to resentment.

steam-clean-loo-balanceHow Can Working Partners Find Balance?

BBC’s Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey recently had callers on the wildly popular program discussing research done by the Office of National Statistics and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that found that the UK “is one of the happiest countries in the world in terms of family.”  According to Garvey the report says 90% of Britons say they are either fairly or very satisfied with the quality of family life.

Does this mean that stats showing women are dissatisfied with the balance of household chores is not worth talking about if most are happy?  Of course not. I can be happy with the quality of my family time even if my family time is limited because I spend too much time cleaning my house.

So with both partners working outside of the home how can we find balance and be happier?

Acknowledge A Few Things About Resentment

New York Times Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin writes about resentment in the context of shared work. A quick summary of Rubin’s post:

  • We tend to underestimate work other people do
  • We tend to assume that others should notice when we do things that benefit them
  • We overestimate our own contributions
  • It is easier to take turns rather than share work
  • The person who is bothered most by something will do it (basically what is important to you may not be important to the other person)
  • If you want someone to do it then don’t do it

Read more of Rubin’s article with her expanded discussion of these topics. It’s a great read.

Are You a Neat Freak? It May Have Nothing to Do With Gender

Are you one of those partners who have to have everything perfect?  That being your definition of perfect?  An article from Today highlighted research carried out to “test a theory that people may have different threshold levels for uncompleted tasks.” The results found that if you have two people who have low thresholds for a messy living space, they will both clean and be happy. If both are not bothered by messiness then neither will be motivated to clean and still be happy. But if there is a difference in tolerance levels for a messy space then things are intense. This whole project was carried out with putting people of the same sex in living situations to remove the gender factor.

Turns out that a marriage counselor (T.Tessina) in the U.S. says that 1 in 3 couples she sees has trouble with conflict and resentment over dividing up household chores. Here’s a summary of a few tips they share for the neat freak / slob combo:

  • Communicate pleasantly (don’t swear at your partner while dropkicking his PS4 out of the apartment window)
  • Compromise by having declared always clean spaces and it’s o.k. to be messy spaces
  • Set electronic reminders to put an end to the nagging
  • Never assume that the person doesn’t care about you because of  a pile of dirty towels

Read article…

If you’re a neat freak who is part of the number of women surveyed who go around the house and redo chores your husband or partner has already done, then maybe there are some control issues at work.

If you’re a complete slob who doesn’t care at all if there are dirty dishes beside your bed for a week or if your habits are bordering on unhealthy or unsanitary then there may be some real underlying issues of depression.

Teamwork- A Business Model

So sometimes we have to remove all the emotion from a situation and put our professional brains to work. If you and your partner are both working and the household chores are out of balance then maybe approaching the duties from more of a business approach to teamwork would be beneficial.  So what does it take to build a strong team or group of collaborators on a successful project?

  • Clear and defined goals (what needs to be done? what do you value? what is most important to all parties involved?)
  • Divide tasks fairly (will you take turns? or will each person have jobs they always do?)
  • A timetable for completion (when and how often?)
  • A meeting schedule (sitting down together once will not work, set up follow up sessions to voice concerns, make changes, work through conflicts)
  • Discuss procedures for issues that may arise (what happens if someone is ill? suddenly overloaded with extra hours of work away from home? etc.)
  • How will the project be managed? (will you use a shared Google Calendar? a white board in the kitchen? WHATEVER IT TAKES TO AVOID NAGGING)

Follow Up Tips

  • Honor the meetings
  • Prepare an actual agenda for your meetings
  • Plan an incentive for the family for sticking to the project plan (a romantic dinner for two, a family trip to the beach)
  • Be an active listener during the meeting (everyone should have a chance to speak and be heard)

steam-clean-loo-happypartnersBoth Partners in A Partnership Should Have An Equal Opportunity to Not Sweat the Small Stuff

What my husband failed to realize is that what I wanted, more than anything, was to be able to be the fun one sometimes. I wanted to pack up the kids on the spur of the moment and take off for a trip to the beach. I wanted to lay in bed with the girls and eat chocolate and watch television. And I can admit that there were times I should have done things like this more often than I ever did. But anytime I shirked off  work or housework I always ended up paying the price. Because there was never anyone there to back me up.

Everyone should forget about washing the dishes or cleaning the floors sometimes to spend more time with family, to spend a quiet afternoon curled up with a good book, or to go to bed a few hours earlier just to have more time with your arms wrapped around your lover. We all have to remember to slow down and remember what is most important.  Just remember that it is easier to do when you both are willing to make it possible.

How do you and your partner split up the chores?


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