For those who don’t know, when my first daughter was born, I gave up work to look after her while Mrs Dim carried on defending the country through advanced filing and HR systems. Prior to becoming a Househusband, I had worked in a variety of jobs. I’d worked at a TV studio, a Solicitor’s office, a pub, a hotel (or, if you prefer, an hotel), an off-licence and finally for the Civil Service (That’s GOVERNMENT work, folks…) So I’d worked shifts, I’d worked nine-to-five, I’d had in-trays and drip trays, I’d been on call and offline, I’d been management, team player and independent worker. I like to think I have a broad experience of working environments.
Then I tried to do the domestic thing and, predictably, I was lousy at it. I had never really run my own house before and got dreadfully behind with the minor things like food and cleaning. I was bang up to date with the internet surfing, but that didn’t help as much as you might think. Slowly, very slowly, and with many shouts and yells and ‘discussions’ I formulated a system to achieve domestic harmony. This can be abbreviated thusly:
Do all the housework before it mounts so high it can topple and kill you.
My house was still not, say, as nice as Nigella Lawson’s, but there was food on a regular basis, the floors were clean enough to walk on without sticking and the laundry would eventually be put away after it was dry. As a bonus, I managed to keep Eldest Weasel fed, clean and healthy, as well as entertained, even when the other two weasels arrived. Before that happened, however, I was already taking on paid writing work, fitting it in between domestic duties and the various marriage maintainence tasks like conversations and evenings out.
One of the topics of conversation that I noticed was often aired was the comparison between the effort of working (ie, what the man did during the day) versus the stress of childcare/domestic duties (ie what the woman did) I got into trouble by disagreeing with the majority and saying that I found staying home with the kids to be the easier option. People were offended, I discovered. It didn’t matter that I was basing my opinion on accumulated evidence (I have worked, and I have looked after kids: Work was harder.) I was saying something unpopular. Now, please unclench your teeth and read the following statement carefully:
I am not belittling the enormous amount of work necessary to raise even one child and run the average household. It is immense.
I truly believe that running a house is a herculean task, and adding kids into the equation makes it harder by an exponential amount. If you want to bring in the option of being a single Mum, then I will raise my hands and back away. That is effort I could not even contemplate. But look, you can only base your assumptions on your own experience. I can’t say “Climbing Everest is easy – you just keep climbing until you run out of Up”. It might make sense to me, but I have no frame of reference for mountain climbing in the Himalayas, so I would clearly be talking out of my…well, I’d probably be wrong. So, from my own experience, bringing up three Weasels, even moving every two years, even trying to maintain a writing career, even while emigrating to another continent, that’s STILL THE PREFERABLE OPTION FOR ME THAN GOING OUT TO WORK. I’m not saying this because I’m a man, or because I’m a Virgo, or because I was born in Sunderland. I’m saying it because, on the balance of the evidence available to me, that’s how it is.
But I can appreciate that women often feel they are being done down because they are, ultimately, the only ones who can actually have the baby. There’s no real way around that, if you’re determined to hand down your favourite genes, as it were. You want a baby, it’s gonna take nine months, cost you a fair bit of work time and it doesn’t do you any favours on your career path. I would bet that the percentages regarding who gives up work when the baby arrives still show women are most often left…er…holding the baby. But what makes me mad are articles like this one:
I’m going to come right out and say I didn’t read it. Never followed the link. So why did I include it? Because the headline was used on the frontpage of my internet home page. I saw it when I first logged on this morning and it serves only one purpose – to aggravate people. Whatever the actual substance of this article, however genuine the scientific study at it’s heart, this piece has been written and published to make women angry, some men hurt and the few remaining lager-swilling, armchair-hogging wife-beating monosyllabic footie-snorting morons cheer drunkenly.
Men can be good at domestic tasks. We really can be. We need to get organised about it, and it doesn’t help if the routine changes unexpectedly. I can run the washing machine, the dishwasher and the dryer. I can hoover the whole house. I can even clean floors and toilets. I need a timetable to make sure I get ’em all done (or a sarcastic comment about the state of the floors) but I can do them. I don’t plead exhaustion after a hard day’s greeting at The World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailers to get out of doing the ironing. So, could the media stop perpetuating this myth that there are women’s jobs in the home and men get to read the papers? Could you folks out there stop believing them? Can people accept that “Househusband” does not mean a man in a pinny, for crying out loud? And can we agree that arguing about whether childcare or office work is harder only matters if you’re doing both?