A woman’s work is never done… 28



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I’m convinced that men and women have a fundamentally different attitude to domestic chores.

When I was a kiddy, Friday was cleaning lady day and, without fail, every Friday morning my brother and I were issued the motherly order to make sure that our bedrooms were tidy because, as mummy never failed to say, “I don’t want the cleaning woman thinking that we live in a pig sty”.

Even then, the logic of this maternal stricture escaped me. I thought then – and still do – that cleaning lady day was the only day when you should feel free to leave your room in an ungodly mess. We have a regular cleaner nowadays – as I have had to point out several times I did not knock off work to become a domestic drudge – but mummy’s instruction still lingers and I do some basic tidying on cleaning day as if I am on some sort of autopilot.

Naturally, we chaps have become lots more sensitive than our fathers’ generation to the needs of the womenfolk but that doesn’t mean we have changed all that much when it comes to a division of domestic chores. Do we reasonably think that younger blokes today are enlightened and progressive about this?

Well, consider these findings from a recent British study which surveyed more than 2,000 men over the age of 30 – showed that laundry, cooking and making the bed were all jobs either left undone or to the woman of the house. Mind you, I have never ever seen the need to make the bed except when changing the sheets – it’s not as if a photographer from “Better Homes and Gardens” is going to make a surprise visit, is it?

The survey showed that the typical British man only learned how to use a washing machine at the age of 24 and is 27 before he has learned how to make a proper meal. More than half admitted they “never needed to know” while a further 39% said they “had someone else to do it for me.”

And 9% flatly stated “It’s not my job” to do anything even vaguely domestic in nature. When asked if chores were carried out by a wife, partner or parents, half of the men said that they didn’t do laundry, 31% did not cook and 18% can’t or won’t make the bed. Yet, in an apparent contradiction, 58% felt that they contributed fairly contributed to housework.

Perhaps “fair contribution” has a different meaning for men and women.

But what shocked me more than anything was a comment from the person who conducted the survey: “Too many men hold the mindset that chores are not their job and should be done by the women of the house. They need to wake up into the 21st century. I believe more needs to be done to encourage men to help around the house. Chores should be introduced from a young age to encourage and develop abilities – it will only benefit them in the future.”

I can easily imagine some feminist academic coming out with this sort of nonsense but the author was a man! Yes, a man – Nick Swan in fact. Talk about letting down the side. I do wonder if his mates say to him in the pub after work, “Time for another one Nick or do you have to dash home to cook dinner, bring in the washing and do the ironing?”

Serves him right if they do.

Meanwhile another British study on more or less the same subject is supposed to have shown that, when added up over their lifetimes, women spend seven years looking after children, six years doing housework, five years cooking and four years shopping. Presumably, the shopping bit refers to groceries because I know women who have spent a total of 32 years shopping by the age of 50.

And, it is further alleged, women are at their busiest between the ages of 25 to 34 while Saturdays between 9am and midday are their ultra-busy times.

To balance things out a bit, yet another British study is supposed to have shown that women are getting fatter because they do less housework.

Researcher Dr Melanie Luhrmann said that the average British woman spends nearly 20% less of her day than her early 1980s counterpart on housework but are spending more time at work and the swop may have added to their weight. Advances in technology, while saving women time and effort, have meant that fewer calories are burned.

She said that while women were eating less nowadays, they should be consuming even smaller meals as the level of activity had dropped significantly.

“Both physical activity and calories are important,” she said, noting that obesity levels in the UK have tripled in the last thirty years.

So, if a chap wants his lady to be trim, taut and terrific – and if he cares deeply about her health and wellbeing – he won’t muscle in and offer to do housework.

Now that really is sharing and caring, isn’t it?


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Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. I agree with tiding up before the cleaning lady arrives. It puts the cleaner in a good mood and she is able to do more cleaning. I prefer to do it at home and then it is done to my standard.. Lol

  2. My husband is FIFO and puts in long hours at work so cleaning the house is my job. I don’t say I enjoy it but I look upon it as a form of exercise.

  3. As I still work part time hubbie does a good clean once a week then between us we share through the week

  4. I love cleaning, but the only time my husband cleaned was if I was in bed dying!! (Exactly twice in 53 years.) once he put his navy singlet in with the nappies doing the wash. So, baby had blue/grey nappies until I got better. He would happily cook, but was miserable at cleaning. We would bake together on Saturday afternoons. Pies, pasties, cakes, and he made the best sponges, as we had no electricity and he could really get that hand beater going! He also made an excellent raspberry shortcake slice. But, of course, when all was finished, I did the clean up! Then, we would wrap some pies in tea towels, pile the kids in the car and head to Benalla to the drive in. Kids bounced around and half watched the first movie, falling asleep so we could enjoy the second one! Good trade off! Happy memories of simpler times.

  5. Tidying isn’t the same as cleaning. If your mug enough to want to pay someone x amount of dollars just to pick up after you before they start cleaning, then by all means, Splash your cash.

    2 REPLY
    • I’m glad many people paid for a cleaner, as it kept my family eating for years and I enjoyed doing it and made a lot of wonderful friends

    • I babysat several children in four rich families in England, they knew their parents rules. ALL the toys, Lego, jigsaws and clothes had to be put away before the cleaners came. They weren’t going to waste money on tidying instead of cleaning lol.

  6. What’s this with having a cleaning lady. Only posh people had them, and to my way of thinking only in the movies. Still do not have a cleaner but I have got to an age where a few things taking up space not allotted to them is not going to stress me out. As far as men doing the house work I would rather give the jobs to a two year kid. The resultant mess would be the same.

  7. Less time is spent doing housework today because we have a lot more labour saving devices. I can remember rugs being hung on the fence and beaten with a cane carpet beater. Can’t imagine anyone doing that today. Men just don’t seem to see it when something needs done, they always have to be told. They seem to be blind at times.

  8. Debra Vandermeeden, we were not only NOT posh, we certainly were not Hollywood!! We ran a huge Red Deer a stud, and a South Devon cattle stud, and we had 5 staff members, all using the house as a base, a lunch room and a meeting place! The house had 4 bedrooms, three bathrooms, a massive kitchen, lounge/dining room, a games room, and an office. Then there was the garden and the tennis court. I helped run the farm so there was no way I could keep up with the house too. Our housekeeper was Danish and she was a character. She would get stuck into the staff , both the men and our one girl employee. She cleaned like a demon and if they came in a made a mess she was straight into them. We became great friends and I always appreciated her effort in maintaining order. The joy of coming home to a clean house, a freshly made bed and a scrubbed toilet cannot be overestimated. Our gardener lived on the other side of the property and he and his wife also became firm friends to us. It was an interesting time.

    1 REPLY
    • It had its ups and downs just like everyone else’s, Christina. I can remember Elsa getting stuck into our 15 year old son about the mess in his room. I never interfered with her. She ruled the house. I kept the stud records. I worked in the weighing room and kept the deer weights and drove for the feeding out. Helped with the insemination programs for the deer, and actually did the insemination of the cattle, especially the heifers, as I had smaller arms. We pulled out ragwort, soaked grain for feeding, and on and on. It was a big job. About writing a book, I’ve written 4. Sometimes I look back and it seems like it all happened to someone else in a different life time! Strange!

  9. Oh Russell, what are we going to do with you? 🙂

    1 REPLY
    • Oh dear Angie – I do try, repeat TRY, to be an aware, modern and progressive sort of chap – cross my heart and hope to die!

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