Jan 11, 2017

Domestic Labor Gender Gaps and How to Deal


I've most recently thought about this issue because it has become somewhat of a contentious topic in my household. I predominantly take the stance that however mundane the work, it could, within reason, be done primarily by one person. Taking into consideration the work schedules of each partner, mental stresses of the week and overall stress of the household. Now, I am not a subservient girlfriend, taking orders from a dictator of a boyfriend. I do though, find a sense of purpose by serving others and taking care of them. Maybe this is a trait that isn't often found in many others, but rarely do I ever complain about having to clean up after, or take care of someone else. I find joy in it, believe it or not.

In my home, there are daily and weekly chores. On the daily, it breaks down pretty evenly on tidying up when necessary. We’d each claim more responsibility for grocery shopping (he’d be lying). Weekly laundry, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning are more often than not done by me. In fairness, I’m the one who can’t relax until the dishes get clean, the bed made, and the endless dirt that's tracked in is vacuumed up. I do the cleaning. I do because the dirt bothers ME; on some level, it’s selfish.

At the same time, I know that while my partner wants to live in a clean house, he doesn’t actually want to do the cleaning. I cannot bear to ask him to do chores because, in my experience, a) it sounds like nagging b) it still won’t get done until he is good and ready, which inevitably is long past the time when I am good and ready to see the job completed and c) refer back to "a."  It sounds like nagging because it IS nagging.

I hate nagging. What's even worse? Being nagged at for the very reasons you'd want to complain.

About this issue of nagging: I kind of made peace with the concept when I realized that if someone had to remind me to do every task and chore I do routinely and without being asked or reminded -- hell yeah, it would sound like nagging. I’m thinking along the lines of, “Gloria, can you please empty the garbage bag when it’s full/toss the empty cereal box/pick up soy milk/put laundry in the basket/wipe the toothpaste out of the sink/take your dishes to the sink/get your hair out of the drain?” Who the hell wants to listen to that? It sounds parental, and, god forbid, mothering. MILFs aside, it’s not hot.

And dammit, I do have certain standards: socks and pants strewn about the floor, a dirty toilet, mold in the shower and a moldering sink full of dirty dishes is pretty darn intolerable to me. When I met my partner, I saw how he lived with his roommates. There should have been no illusions on my part as to the sort of domestic work that might be expected of him.

I must say emphatically: I’m no clean freak.

Of all the amazing skills my boyfriend has, fastidious cleaning is not among them. I have come to understand that we have different notions of what makes a home clean. In my partner’s case, I know that dirty dishes and piles of clothing just don’t bother him the way they do me.  We’ve had this discussion many times -- when a person must decide between pushing a broom or reading a book on the sofa, the sofa will always win. But isn’t making boring tedious choices that involve pointless work one of life’s unpleasant realities? We can’t always succumb to the sofa.

This mother/lover housework bullshit can be a source of simmering resentment, which, I’ve learned can have unintended consequences in the bedroom. Is the solution to throw money at the problem and just pay someone to take care of our mess? 

If we both desire domestic harmony including a degree of hygiene, there are compromises to be made. And we are working on them. I know this stuff isn’t even specific to gender; in friends’ relationships there are women who slack off and men who do the bulk of the tedious stuff. I hate to think that something as mundane as housecleaning could sow the seeds of discontent in my happy relationship. Who knew that the metaphoric work of relationships could morph so stupidly into literal work of housecleaning? I would love to hear how other people (women) work this shit out.

I'm going to lose my mind.

and in hindsight, this post should have been titled:

"Seeking Local Housekeeper, Will Pay Handsomely"

Peace out, 




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