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“You Should Have Asked”: The Division of Labour

“You Should Have Asked”: The Division of Labour

the division of labour

As a member of a great many female-driven motherhood Facebook groups* – who’s got time for Real Life friends these days? – I read A LOT about the division of labour at home after kids. And it’s a subject I always observe with the utmost sympathy and concern: yes, being a single mum has its tricky bits but not having to manage the life of another grown-up (a husband’s) in addition to my own and the kids’ is a huge weight off.

Because no matter how progressive our cause of feminism is, there’s still a huge disparity between who takes on the majority of time-consuming management jobs at home. And I don’t mean the crappy day-to-day stuff that is easily taken care of, like the bins or the washing up, but I mean the brain power-intensive, management-heavy life admin tasks. Think medical appointments, school paperwork, organization of bills, supermarket shopping, meal planning, play date and social life co-ordinating. The stuff that still, in the majority of cases, falls on women.

the division of labour

And it’s bloody exhausting. I don’t think even we appreciate the mental pressure of these tasks – the remembering, the managing and the organizing – that is placed on us as wives and mothers. Even now, I think back to my ex-husband getting home to two babies, a crazy wife and an untidy house and asking what I’d been doing all day: it made me want to explode. What do I do all day? EVERYTHING, I do EVERYTHING all day.

It’s as fellow blogger Susie Verrill recently responded to her partner when he asked, “have you got a minute?”. “I haven’t had a minute since 2014!” (just substitute that year for whenever your firstborn came along).

The feminist artist EmmaClit drew a cartoon on this exact subject recently, and I think it hits the nail BANG on the head. I showed it to a friend this week and as soon as she saw the title of it – “You Should Have Asked” – she was nodding her head in agreement.

Click here to see the full version – I’d be interested to know if you’re nodding your head too.

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  • Lisa Wade wrote a similar thesis for Time, here:

    And this really stuck with me: “To truly be free, we need to free women’s minds. Of course, someone will always have to remember to buy toilet paper, but if that work were shared, women’s extra burdens would be lifted. ”

    …so often when I wonder if I’m on top of everything enough I remind myself that I’ve kept the house stocked with toilet paper (normally), which must count for something?

    • YES! If everyone’s alive and there’s loo roll to use… the rest is totally negligible.

      Thanks for the link, really interesting reading!

  • I saw this earlier this week and sent it on to himself. Didn’t stop him asking me this morning when he was due to get a new prescription from the doctor – not a prescription for one of the children, FOR HIM. I wanted to strangle him.

    Also nodding along with the “What did you do all day?”

    The final ranty thing I’ll add is, is there anything more irritating than when they arrive home from work, you ask them to take the kid(s) so you might be able to pee without an audience and the response is a sigh and “Can I not get 5 minutes to myself, I’ve been in work all day?” No, you fucking can’t!!

    • I genuinely think men would struggle to survive as leaders of the household/primary caregivers of children. Going to work is a sodding SPA BREAK compared with full-time parenting.

  • I read an article that if you both write on a piece of paper the percentage you feel you do around the house it will add up to more than 100%. In my case my other half felt he did 65% of things so when i asked him to do anything he already felt he did more than his fair share, for the record i thought he did 40%.

    • That’s a really interesting exercise… what percentage did you write down for you, Julie?

      Obviously I do 100% now but back when I was married I would have thought the split was something like 80/20

  • Yes, yes, yes, you are so right.

    Looking on the bright so though Alice, I don’t think that my workload has increased since I became a single mum. In fact, it has decreased. I no longer have to be a PA to my partner. It’s brilliant and it means I have time to blog instead. Pen x

    • Exactly! I found the emotional and mental worry of not having to nag someone to do things they’ve promised such a difficult thing, too – I don’t miss that at all. x

  • I saw this and sent on to four friends. We are all in agreement! It is also something that is impossible to bring up in a neutral manner with your partner. And my husband is very hands on. But I do all laundry, clothes buying (together with sorting of three kids clothes which I bloody hate), party planning, meal planning, tidying, Xmas organising…it just gets done. However I do think there has been an improvement from my mother’s generation. So just got to hope it’ll be better for our kids.

    • Completely agree that it can’t be discussed in neutral way, I always end up losing it/in floods of tears over it. The tipping point is normally when something along the lines of “how am I supposed to know it needs to be done if you don’t tell me?” is said……………

    • Ahh I’m with you on the kid’s clothes thing! It’s the absolute worst job… along with laundry (more clothes).

      And yes, I’m also hopeful for our next generation.

    • When I saw this I thought finally this can explain to my son’s dad what i’ve been trying to explain for years… he got so upset!!! so yes impossible to bring up. they just don’t get it do they? I constantly have this in my mind while raising a son and trying my best to raise an emotionally available, sensitive and feminist son!

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