For years, I have worried. Worried that I am not carrying my feminist ethos into my home life by doing the majority of the housework. I’ve reasoned with myself that it needs doing, so I’ll just do it, and that doesn’t affect the equal balance I strive for in my relationship with my long-term boyfriend. But the truth is, it 100 per cent does.
I’ve recently read article after article about emotional and mental labour, all from the point of view of women who have had enough of feeling constantly responsible for maintaining their homes, while their male partners do the bare minimum. And after each and every one, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of ‘wow, that’s me’.
All the shame I’ve felt for being a bad feminist – claiming my relationship is equal, when it really isn’t – has now been legitimised. It’s not just me, nor is it just grafting working class women who are picking up the slack for the men in their lives, but its the middle class professional women behind these articles too. It’s women of all ages, races, and backgrounds, with men who lean on them for more than just companionship. In fact, we do almost 60 per cent more housework, proving the gender divide at home is very much alive and kicking.
This became no clearer than when recently watching an episode of MTV’s Teen Mom UK, which saw young parent Chloe Patton fume at her boyfriend Jordan for spending three hours playing video games, while she cleaned the kitchen, tidied up and settled her son into bed. All while he sat and spent his time doing what he wanted to do, not what actually needed doing. Understandably, she was furious. Frustratingly, he was oblivious.
It was a lightbulb moment for me, as it showed the onus isn’t just on fifty-year-old women to play housewife, but young working women too. And that’s not OK. While many of us are working or studying full-time, we’re also expected to come home and maintain our home environment for the benefit of all. Nevermind the fact we might be tired, busy or would rather being doing anything else, the responsibility continues to fall at our feet.
“Your standards are just higher than mine,” says my boyfriend on a regular basis. True that may be, having a sanitary kitchen side to prepare food on or a clean bathroom to wash in isn’t a case of standards, but of basic hygiene. The fact that simple, low-level cleaning jobs are considered ‘overdoing it’ is not OK, nor is it correct. It’s another get-out-of-the-job excuse used to avoid any need for care or consideration on his part.
Then there’s the ‘just tell me what needs doing and I’ll do it’ line we’ve all heard more than once. Oh boy. While it may take the actual doing off your hands, it still relies on you to manage a running list of tasks, to keep an eye on your home and delegate what needs doing – something that puts all the mental labour on your plate and none on his. Again, we’re expected to factor household management into our daily lives, when it’s barely a passing thought for our male counterparts.
Ever bought a birthday present for his mum? Reminded him of an appointment he’s got coming up? Cleaned around him while he’s sat there doing nothing? Yep, we’re managing two lives at once here, with little thanks in return.
Its time for men to step up
So enough is enough. Men, we are not your mother or your maid. If you’re sharing a space with us, it’s equally your responsibility to manage it. It’s not OK to sit and wait to be asked before contributing to the housework, regardless of how you watched your own parents live out their own relationship. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re entirely burnt out from the mounting pressures of work and home life, and quite frankly, we’re resentful. Step. up. your. game.
It’s annoying to even have to write this piece, but so long as the imbalanced reality continues, women will always feel overworked and under-appreciated. Simply put, it’s just not fair. Luckily, my partner and I have now made progress in gaining equality in the home, but we’re definitely still not fully there. And I won’t stop voicing my anger until we are.