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Jumping on the Feminist band-wagon

Posted on: January 22, 2011

I started this blog with the intention of recording/analysing/debriefing from my experiences as a full-time mother of three young kids. I am hopeless at writing things down, so this is also my venue for recording some of the funny little things my kids do and say. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m also a big fan of other blogs, especially those written by Mums. Whilst conducting my ‘research’ (as I call it), I have stumbled across a lot of feminist, and feminist-mother blogs, too. And I’m learning so much!!

For example, it has suddenly dawned on me that I’m a feminist. I guess I did always know it, but I didn’t necessarily associate my ideals with the ‘feminist’ label. It’s just inbuilt – my mother raised me to expect a certain level of equality in life (whether it be in personal relationships, employment, career or socially). She also taught me to stand up to the men (and women) in my life to obtain equality, if necessary. I have always known that I have the freedom to choose any level of education, any career, and any partner, that I like. These freedoms come not only from feminism, but also from the privilege of not being born poor (not rich, but definitely not in poverty).

I suppose I haven’t given my feminism much thought, until recently, because I’ve been pretty happy with my lot in life. My husband is not a feminist, but, he’s always known that there are certain things I will not do for him. Very early in our relationship (we were seventeen and in year twelve when we met), I did a three-month stint house-sitting for a family friend, and Tom stayed with me for much of that time. I made it clear that if he were staying with me, he would have to contribute equally to the housework and the cooking. And he did. When we moved out together a few years later, the same rule applied. However, after a few months, it became clear that he has a pathological hatred of housework (I do too nowadays, but didn’t mind it too much back then), so we re-negotiated our duties so that he did most of the cooking and grocery shopping (both hates of mine) and I did more of the cleaning.

Fast-forward a few more years to the birth of our first child, and this is when things slowly started to change. I guess I probably felt that I should be the one to do more around the house, because I had the timeWe never really spoke about it, but I think Tom pretty much agreed. So I started taking on more of the domestic duties, with Tom pitching in when I’d had a bad day with the baby (which wasn’t very often as he was quite an easy baby). The baby-related duties were shared fairly evenly, when both of us were home, but I took responsibility for more and more of the housework. Three and a half years, and two more babies later, and I’m starting to think our arrangement sucks. I really feel that the kids alone are a full-time job. With overtime, in fact: they take up at least twelve hours of my time each day, seven days per week. So really, responsibility for the household chores should be shared more evenly, I think. But try explaining that to Tom, who often works six-day weeks. Neither of us have the time or energy to do the cleaning. Neither of us is willing to pay someone else to do it. So the solution to the problem is that neither of us do it, until I can’t stand the disgustingness anymore and MAKE time (out of the little ‘me’ time that I get) to do it. So NOT fair…

It’s probably more a personality thing than a gender thing, but I’m pretty sure the house would have to be infested with something very, very nasty before Tom would bother to do anything about it. And even then, he would probably pay someone to clean it up rather than do it himself. He also happens to quite firmly believe that all things house-y should be the responsibility of the person who spends most time in the house. Which I suppose makes some kind of weird sense, but I don’t see how that makes it my job to iron his shirts and put his clothes away (an ongoing argument – I’m winning because I’ve never, ever done either!) I also have stopped cleaning his shower (weird bathroom with two showers: the kids and I use one because we prefer it, and he uses the other. I used to clean it… why???) In Tom’s defense, I will say that he has always been pretty good about taking turns to get up during the night when one of the kids is sick, or whatever. He is also good at taking the kids for a few hours when he is home so that I can get out of the house for a while on my own. Plus, I can’t forget the fact that he let me go to Fiji for five days with only Neave for company, while he stayed at home with the other two (it was for my cousin’s wedding and we couldn’t afford to all go). All of which, I am very grateful for. But it doesn’t help me to hate housework any less…

Anyway, enough venting (sorry Tom!) I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, while motherhood is so many lovely, lovely things, it’s also darn hard work, and the distribution of work is not particularly fair. It’s funny to think that, in a society that has come such a long way towards achieving true equality for women (we’re obviously not there yet), many domestic chores (child-rearing and cleaning) remain under the banner of ‘women’s stuff’.

So where does this leave me and my feminism? In a big, messy house. Full of kids… Tom and I have ‘discussed’ the matter many times, and we’ve never come up with an answer that makes both of us happy. So, for now I am going to do the martyr thing and continue not cleaning my house, until it kills me…

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4 Responses to "Jumping on the Feminist band-wagon"

I’m glad to hear you admit your’e a feminist Anna! It’s a bit of a taboo for young women today. When I say anything about it at work my younger female colleagues laugh it off or change the subject, but I feel very strongly about it. Like you though, I have a wonderful, yet domestically challenged partner who agrees that work should be distributed evenly, but just never lives up to it. I’m the same – no ironing of shirts or putting away clothes, but where do they end up? On our bedroom floor until I nag long and hard enough for them to be put away!

OMG yes! I hate having to step all over his clothes so I can go from one end of the room to the other, but it’s not enough to make me do it for him : )

The first time I left my husband with our two kids while I went away for work he called me and said that he never realised how much work went on when he wasn’t there. It wasn’t until he was the only one there to do it that he understood. And I left him a list. A couple more goes at being the sole parent for a few days and now he is much better at pitching in. Also helps that our kids are older and more independent (7&4). Don’t feel guilty about time away from the kids. It is good for you, good for them to have Dad time, and good for him because then he gets an understanding of how much you actually do. /lecture

(over from Bluemilk). BTW your children are gorgeous.

Thanks for visiting, Mindy. And thanks, I think they’re gorgeous, too!

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