Sharing the Housework - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity

Off-the-Wall Stuff

Sharing the Housework

Suppose one day a man said to his wife that he wants to get a hunting dog. He tells her, "Dogs are such great companions, loyal and loving. And a hunting dog could be a big help when, well, I go hunting."

"But honey," she replies. "You know I don't like pets, especially dogs. They shed all over, they destroy things, they poop on the carpet. And they can be expensive."

But he persists, and finally she gives in. They get the dog. Then, six months later he says to her, "You know, dear, you're not doing your share of the work to take care of the dog. You almost never take him for walks or take him to the vet."

"But it's not my dog," she says. "It's your dog. I don't even like having him in the house. You wanted him for hunting."

"Well you can take him hunting any time you want, too."

"But I don't go hunting. That's your thing."

"But you could if you wanted to. You're getting half the benefit, but you don't do half the work."

Do you think the complaint of the husband in this little story is fair? Is the wife in all justice obligated to do half the work to take care of the dog? Or would you say that because he wanted the dog and she didn't, that he should be responsible for the dog?

You often hear women, especially but not exclusively feminists, complain that men don't do "their fair share" of the housework.

But here's the catch. Many, probably most, women enjoy having a clean and tidy house, and this is something very important to them. Most men don't care. Most men don't want to live in a total dump -- they don't want to live with rotting food on the counters and layers of trash on the floor -- but they don't care if the house is spotless and all the throw pillow are positioned exactly right.

With modern labor-saving devices, like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, a man living alone can keep a house clean and tidy, to his satisfaction, with perhaps an hour of work a week. But to keep a house clean and tidy to a typical woman's satisfaction requires much more effort than that, often several hours a day depending on just how demanding her standards are.

So think of the math here. Suppose when he is single a man spends 1 hour a week cleaning his house. He figures that when he gets married (or gets a live-in girlfriend, but let's say "married" for convenience here), she will do at least half the work, so he's down to 1/2 hour per week. But from her point of view, she think that it takes, let's say 10 or 15 hours a week to keep a house clean. She expects him to now do half of that, or 5 to 7 hours a week. From his point of view, getting a wife to "help" with the housework has multiplied his workload.

Women will say, "But he gets the benefit of the clean house, too." No, he doesn't. Because he doesn't care. Oh, there are probably aspects of the cleaner house that he likes. But a lot of it is just a nuisance. He can't even sit on the sofa without having to re-arrange throw pillows. He's not allowed to put his put his feet up on the coffee table. He can't keep his toolbox in the kitchen cupboard any more. Etc. From his point of view, it's more of a pain and an inconvenience then a benefit.

Women are demanding that their boyfriends or husbands do a whole bunch of work to fulfill the wife's dream of having the perfect home. But it isn't his dream. Like in my story about the hunting dog, the husband may see the hunting dog as a great benefit. But the wife sees it as somewhere between useless and an active nuisance. And then he complains because she's not doing half the work for something that she doesn't even want.

© 2020 by Jay Johansen


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