Go Get Your Aprons On

I read this article today about housework. Apparently, the majority of Australian women who are in relationships still do the bulk of the housework.


Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that while woman have taken on more paid work, they still do about two thirds of the housework, while men do two-thirds of paid work.

Between 1992 and 2006, the average time men spent on household work rose by 1 hour and 25 minutes to 18 hours and 20 minutes a week.

Adults now spend an average of 50 hours and 10 minutes a week in a combination of paid work and household work.

And the report shows women are spending almost six times as long on laundry as men, and more than three times as long on other housework such as cleaning.

However, men are doing more of the cooking than in the past.

So what does this mean when both of you work full-time? Or one of you works full time while the other works part time and studies? How is caring for children – helping them with their homework, taking them to sport or ballet or music lessons – factored into the equation? Are these results applicable to same sex couples?

And the big question is -does the lack of equal sharing of housework contribute to stresses and strains in the relationship?

I haven’t conducted any of my own research but I have a few anecdotes to share which suggest housework is shared very unevenly in many modern households and that it does cause problems.

My friend, Jono, recently split with his partner of fifteen years. He kept the house as she had met someone else she was moving in with. They decided to have joint custody of the kids. One thing I have always noticed about Jono’s house is how tidy it is. Immaculate is probably the best way to describe it. I have never seen a speck of dust on the furniture. Even when I have turned up unannounced there has never been so much as an unmade bed.

Imagine my surprise when Jono invited me round for tea the other day and I walked in to the living room from hell. It was like some of the shared house student digs I lived in briefly while I was at University. Pizza boxes under the coffee table. Dust an inch thick on the TV. I don’t think the carpet had seen a vacuum cleaner for at least 3 months.

Jono could see how horrified I was. I felt like calling in Kim and Aggie and saying :’I’ve got a live one for you here.’

‘Celeste always did everything,’ he said. ‘I work full time and I have the kids three nights a week. I just can’t seem to get around to it.’

Celeste had worked full time too, yet she’d still had time to tidy the house. Perhaps Jono was having trouble adapting to his change in circumstances.

‘Maybe you should get a cleaner,’ I said. ‘Until you get used to things.’

‘I can’t afford one right now.’

‘Well, then you’d better find the time to do some cleaning.’

‘You’re right,’ Jono said. ‘You couldn’t give me a hand, could you?’

I didn’t think so.

My friend, Mel, is in a good relationship at the moment. There is talk that she and her boyfriend might move in together. But Mel has noticed something unsettling. James always has a very tidy house but on the weekends Mel stays over he leaves a lot of the household chores undone. She gets the sense he is waiting for her to do them. ‘Boy, has he got another think coming,’ says Mel. ‘I’m happy to help but I’m not going to do everything.’

That’s my girl!

My neighbour was telling me just yesterday that she is at the end of her tether. Her husband retired at the end of last year and will not share the housework load. ‘I never asked him to do it before because he was working full time. He seemed so tired at the end of the day,’ she said. But now that he is at home every day she has changed her attitude. Problem is, he hasn’t changed his.

On the other side of the coin, I do know a lot of people who share the load equally. Many men I know do all the cooking, or the laundry, or the shopping. In my household both my husband and my son are responsible for various jobs like emptying the dishwasher, washing the car, gardening, vacuuming and so on. By sharing the load we have more time to do fun things and there is less cause for resentment.

So come on, boys. Get into that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans. Break out that vacuum. Dust those bookshelves. Go get your aprons on. Prove the stats wrong. And if all else fails, hire a cleaner.

23 thoughts on “Go Get Your Aprons On

  1. Selma it is so funny you are writing about this today. Yesterday I had an all day meeting 200 km away. I drove there had the meeting drove back. My husband cooked supper. This morning when I looked at the mess I wondered if I actually preferred him to cook or not? If I complain he will get very defensive as he cooked didn’t he? But must you use very pot and large spoon in the house to cook a meal for two people????

    My experience -men don’t pull their weight in the house BUT are deluded into thinking they do. And yes it adds a lot of tension to the realtionship. Since I am a full time writer at home, it is assumed I will do it. I fight tooth and nail about this. I am STILL working.


  2. It’s interesting to see that stat’s in your neck of the woods are no better than the ones here. I still do more than my share, specially during the week… shrug. Maybe I should go on strike. (I’m not sure it’s expected, I just think he really doesn’t care about cleanliness…)


  3. Nat you bring up something else I thought- they don’t care. If you say the house is mess, they say looks fine to me. So now it’s your problem and your solution.


  4. I am blessed to live with a great guy who helps a LOT in terms of keeping things clean and tidy. Joe is a gem in so many ways and I know that not all men give a toss about cleanliness. I’ve lived with and been involved with some “slobs” LOL along the way. They were all immaculate in appearance but that didn’t always go as far as where and how they lived. I love order and tidyiness. I do know as well that it all takes time though. If I could afford it, a cleaning person would be the norm, at least once a week.

    Great post Sel!

    PS: I won’t ask you to help me to clean if you come for a visit, promise!!!! LOL πŸ˜‰


  5. I gave up offering to cook years ago after endless “no”‘s in response. I had to insist that I be the one to scrub the pots and pans because I’m not afraid of ruining my nails while scrubing them so I do a better job. The list goes on, but all I’m saying is that I can honestly be free of any guilt on this one. I’m one of the guys that helps around the house, thankyouverymuch.


  6. Seems silly that we are still having this conversation in this day and age. Time to let go of our gender roles and become equal partners who simply do things because they need done, not because it is our job or the other persons job.


  7. LAURI:
    It is so true. I have had that happen to me. A few Saturdays back my hubby had some friends over for lunch. When I got home in the evening even though the friends had left several hours before, the kitchen was full of dirty pots, empty beer bottles. I think my scream woke the dead. That’s just not on. Clean up your own mess, pal.

    That’s always what I wonder. Does it just not occur to men that things need to be cleaned? It is annoying, especially if you both work full time. Yet I have a friend whose hubby is fantastic. He’s like a butler. I dream of a husband like him. *sigh*

    I get that all the time. ‘Uh, well, I didn’t notice it was dirty.’ What the????@@@@#####

    Joe sounds like the find of the century. Hold on to him, hon. Can you believe Jono asked me to help clean his house? Cheeky so and so.

    You are a shining example to men everywhere. I knew you would be. You rock. πŸ™‚

    You hit the nail on the head. That is the crux of the matter. Why, oh why in this day and age are we still assigning roles to people (particularly in a domestic situation) based on gender? Is there a proven genetic disposition that makes women better at housework than men? Sharing the load is definitely the only way to go.


  8. I have to say we have our moments just like anyone else, but when it comes to the “cleaning factor” my hubby is typically pretty good. We both clean the dishes, and he actually enjoys vacuming, I do the typical stuff that all of us do, but I have to say he’s pretty good ……

    Also side note … Love your blog. Your are a very good writer. Really enjoy how you can invision your wordage … Hope you visit my site again, stay in touch.



  9. My (soon-to-be) ex is a very tidy fellow, did his own laundry from the start. He’d tidy the living room, too, and because the sound the vacuum cleaner makes gives me massive headaches, he took on that job as well.

    But despite all this wonderfulness, he drove me crazy. His idea of cleaning a room involves putting things into bags and boxes and cramming them into closets and corners.

    Of course, I don’t like housework and can find any excuse to avoid it like the plague.


  10. Nat is right, it’s the same thing in the States. As a matter of fact…and this is gonna drive the womenfolk nuts…recent studies indicate that even when men have lost their jobs (not exactly unusual nowadays), they do NOT do more housework in their spare time.

    It’s a cultural thing. I live alone…I have to do it all. Knowing what I know, it’s a safe bet I won’t be marrying a man…


  11. I have to say that I couldn’t live with someone who didn’t do at least half the chores- the injustice of it would drive me bonkers. But I never have. I guess it just wouldn’t happen.

    When I was working full-time and Al was too, we did have a cleaner. The other chores we just divided up so we did things we disliked least. He liked washing and cooking, whereas I preferred shopping and doing any odd bits of hoovering that needed doing between cleaner visits.

    But I am not at all fussy about chores. We do the absolute minimum in this house – life is far too short. But yes, like you I share the jobs out – the boys have to do stuff.


    Will definitely be visiting again. I am a little behind in my reading this week and I don’t like to rush it. The way I look at it is if someone has spent the time writing it then I should spend the time reading it. Makes me a bit tardy, however!

    Sounds like you have a good housework arrangement. I appreciate the visit.

    There is a story there with the bags and boxes. What a great thing for a character in a book to do. I still have a friend who sweeps her floor and puts all the dust under the rug. That old rug’s getting a bit lumpy by now!

    I’ve got to say that I hate housework too. I dream of having a cleaner. Maybe in my next life *sigh*

    Even when they’ve lost their jobs? Say it ain’t so! I guess old habits die hard. I definitely think you won’t be marrying a man. πŸ˜†

    Completely agree with you. 50-50 is the only way to go. I’m not super fussy, either. I mean, I have curbed the habit of cleaning behind the fridge and doing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. Only joking….


  13. My uncle once said I was ‘henpecked’ because I washed my coffee cup … thankfully, he’s only my uncle because he married my auntie; I’d hate to think he was a blood relation!

    It is happening, but slowly. A neighbour said the other day that housework is getting so easy that even men can do it. Hell’s bells, straightening a duvet, or getting a washing machine or dishwasher going is hardly quantum physics!

    Actually, I think women are partly to blame, too. Picture this; you’re visiting a friend; her husband comes in and makes himself a sandwich and a coffee, and asks if you want one, too.

    After he’s finished, he puts the plate and cups in the dishwasher …. NOW, answer truthfully! Can you put your hand on your heart, and say yuo’ve NEVER said ‘You’ve got him well trained!’


  14. That is exactly what my mom looked like when I was small. And she had four little kids to take care of.

    I have asked my husband what jobs he wants to take over when he retires–so far he hasn’t come up with any!


    Oh, you are so right. So many people I know say that. Or similar things like – ‘Where did you get a husband like that? I want one.’ It just doesn’t help, does it? Excellent point.

    Did she really? Wow. I actually got that photo from the Life magazine archives. They have some fabulous shots in there of days gone by. I love to browse through them.

    That’s funny about your hubby. LOL.


  16. Ooooh, don’t get me started. I remember a nasty argument I had w/an old boyfriend about this very thing. We both worked full time, but he expected me to do the lion’s share of the housework. “Well, my mom did it alone, and she had two kids at home!” I could have throttled him.

    I think one solution is to do as you and your family do, and have a stated and understood structure as to who is responsible for the various “chores”.

    I’d be having a sober sit-down w/my guy if I were your friend Mel.


  17. STEPH:
    It is not fair if one person (regardless of gender) gets stuck with the majority of the housework. Nuh – uh. Mel definitely needs to have a heart-to-heart re. that.

    Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more!


  18. Hi…I’m catching up a bit. My hubby is one of the wonders of the married world. He does NOT cook, but he does keep things picked up, vacuum, dust, do dishes and laundry. He only works 36 hours a week, so he has more home time than many men, but he does his share. In fact, considering that I do next to no home or car maintenance AND I don’t have an outside job, he does MORE than his share.



  19. My hubby is quite good about helping with cleaning. I’m extremely clean, though I’m NOT organized, but am getting better. I tend to be a “stacker”, rather than a “filer”, and tend to “save” stuff, rather than uh, “purge”(is that the word?).
    I have an idea for all us Blog-pals:
    How about we try to visit one another–and stay in each others’ homes for a couple of days–in exchange for a great deal of housework accomplished? I’m great at dusting, vacuuming, and ironing. I love to cook! I’d even clean bathrooms, for a visit to meet Selma–and also see a bit of Australia!
    Just a thought.


  20. GROOVY:
    Your hubby really is one in a million. What a refreshing attitude he has!

    Sounds like a great idea. And we could make a reality TV show about it. We could call it Blog Swap or Life Swap. It could catch on. πŸ˜€


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