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The gender gap in the home

This week marks 100 years of suffrage in the UK, in 1918 women got the right to vote and there began the relentless journey that we are still travelling along towards gender equality.

Over the last half century there have been monumental strides made in the developed world to breach the gender gap in the workplace, with the pay gap narrowing, females being offered higher power roles and fathers being able to take longer paternity leave to give them the freedom to take a more “hands on” approach in raising their children; it seems we are indeed closing the gap. However there still remains one area that seems to be utterly imbalanced, the house work.

A survey performed by the Office Of National Statistics in 2016 confirmed that women did 60% MORE of the “unpaid” work than males, in other words for every hour of dishwashing, childrearing or hoovering men do, females do six. SIX! No wonder the modern woman seems utterly exhausted, because perhaps it isn't the glass ceilings that are preventing us from sitting at the board table, perhaps it is the sticky floors and messy carpets instead.

I can concur with that completely, I have lived alone with my son for the majority of his life and therefore have always been both the main breadwinner and the only one to do the housework and childcare; however, since I began living with my partner last year and despite us both contributing equally financially I continue to do the majority of the housework.

I am the only one to change the beds, do the dusting, anti-bac the fridge, clean the oven, hoover the stairs, sort the bills, file the paperwork, take the recycling out … need I go on? Now, it may seem like I am about to go on a rant about justice and how unfair home life is; but stay with me, I promise if you read to the end it all ends happily ever after (…well as long as he does the dishes!)

I have tried everything to “share the load” a little at home. I tried asking him to “help me out”, which I then realised just re-enforced that it was “my role” to manage the house and him lifting a finger would be deemed as a monumental task which was ground for momentous applause. I tried writing lists for him specifically, which he enjoyed, however I felt created a parent – child association which wasn’t beneficial for our relationship, so I wrote lists for “us” and popped them on the fridge, but it was soon apparent only I looked or acted on them.

I have tried begging, hinting and probably raised my voice a couple of times to request that he “just please make the bed after you’re up in the morning” or “wipe the sink after shaving!”.

I have also tried passive aggression, sighing heavily so he can hear as I get the hoover out again!

Oh and I tried reverse psychology, where I have not done the food shopping for a couple of weeks assuming that he would then do it, but nope the fridge stayed totally empty.

Nothing worked.

I couldn’t force him to share the workload at home. I couldn’t even guilt trip him into doing it.

I started to resent the fact that in his free time, he would spend hours in the gym, see his mates and sleep in; where as in my free time I would be doing the laundry, dusting the sideboards and doing the accounts.

And then I realised maybe the issue wasn’t him, maybe the issue was me.

He genuinely doesn’t care if he leaves the pots and pans “soaking” for three days. Or if not all the bags go into the basket so the floor is tidy. Nor does he care that the blankets are folded neatly on the sofa or that toothbrushes went back into the pot every morning. It just doesn’t matter to him.

My son doesn’t care either.

It was me, as with many women I have been raised to attach my self worth with the tidiness of my home; and before my partner moved in I had always been able to control this which meant myself worth was safe and stable.

If the house is messy and he invites someone around for dinner; I can feel the shame spread throughout my body and order a keep tidy up. Then the over thinking kicks in …

“What will they think of me?

That I am unable to manage my household?

That my messy home represents how messy my mind/heart/life is?

Will they even want to be my friend anymore if they see this mess?”

I know, totally insane hey, but I also know I am not alone in these thoughts. It’s a female thing. We obsess over things that are really not that important in the grand scheme of things, because we attach a value of worth to them.

I have realised that the gender inequality in our home life is my choice, because I enjoy things clean and tidy; whereas my partner doesn’t get the same enjoyment from a clean house and actually quite enjoys his gym bags and shoes over the floor as they are easier to access.

I believe that the only way to create gender equality in the household is not for men to “step up” or “share the load”, it is for us as women to step down from perfectionism. To leave the dinner plates to wash in the morning, to leave the hoovering until tomorrow.

If we as women want to stop having to do 60% more of the housework then our partners, then we just have to stop doing it.

If we want the sticky floors to stop preventing us from sitting in the boardroom, then we have to simply be happy to live with sticky floors.