I can’t help but sit and wonder sometimes about my marriage and where exactly it lies in terms of ‘equality’. There is no doubt that we have a far more progressive approach to our relationship than say my mum and dad did with theirs but sometimes when I compare my marriage to theirs (and I don’t like admitting this), there are far more similarities between us than I would like to see.
My parents had a very traditional marriage (and I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about), where Dad went out to work and Mum stayed at home to take care of us. She was the typical housewife who did all of the housework, all of the shopping and she cooked dinner for all of us every single day of the week. My dad never lifted a finger when it came to the house, especially in the kitchen. I have vague memories of him frying sausages a couple of times and maybe, just maybe making beans on toast once. He sat every evening at the table reading his newspaper and when dinner was ready, he would put it to one side and my mum would put his plate down in front of him. That’s just the way it was.
Fast forward to today, thirty years later and here I am, now also married and with two little girls, but the path that led me here is a very different one to hers. My mum got married when she was 21 because as she explains the opportunities weren’t there to go to college and get further educated. I however was so lucky because I got all of the chances that she never did. Not only did I finish school but I also went to university and completed an undergraduate and postgraduate degree. I was so busy studying in my twenties that I didn’t get married until I was 30. And the same can be said for my husband – he too went to university and completed an undergraduate degree and a masters. So between us we have degrees, diplomas and certificates coming out of our ears. But really and truly how much has changed?
Well for starters I can definitely say that as partners, we are certainly on a more even keel with each other. When I first met him, one of the things that impressed me most about him (he shared a house with friends at the time), was that he washed his own clothes AND the boy could cook. He got big bonus points for this. So I could see from very early on how able he was and I loved it. But then one day we got married. And then another day we had a baby. And then another day after that we sat down and discussed my decision to stay at home for the foreseeable future to take care of her. And from here we really began to slot into our ‘roles’. As time went on I put forward suggestions such as I would make dinner every evening midweek for the simple reason that I am here and can have it ready for everyone for six o’clock.
However with time, other things began to happen too. As I was at home every day I began doing all of the housework. I also started doing all of the food shopping. Essentially I was fast becoming the manager of this household. I would know exactly when loads needed to be put into the washing machine, when we were running out of milk and bread and when bedclothes needed to be changed. And then one day when I was hanging clothes out to dry it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks – I am hanging out his boxers. What is going on here? How did it come to this? I am hanging out his boxers and his socks (and the rest), and he never even questions how it happens. Every week his cupboard and drawers are filled with freshly washed clothes and he never questions where they come from. I know he knows that I am doing it. At least I hope he does (I hope he doesn’t think some housekeeping fairy flies in every week and waves her magic wand around the house). But how did this come to be? As more and more time passed he started doing less and less. He became completely complacent with the fact that I was at home and had taken over the majority of the housework. At this stage his only real contribution to the chores is leaving the bins out every week. And the more I thought about this I found myself getting quite aggressive with those clothes pegs.
Because this is the real point that I am coming to – thirty years later how different are we to my mum and dad? Have we really made as much progress in terms of equality as we think? I can tell myself that I am washing my husband’s clothes every week because I am at home everyday so I have the time to do it. But is this really true? Honestly sometimes I think no…I feel deepdown in my heart that if I was out working full-time the same way that he is I would probably still take care of all of the washing, the food shopping and the majority of the daily chores. And why? Because I am the woman. I am more natural at multi-tasking so I can do things faster.
But does that make it ok? No, it doesn’t. And the truth is that sometimes I really resent this role that I have somehow slotted into. Just because I can multi-task better does not mean that I enjoy doing all of it. And you might be thinking to yourself ‘well if it bothers you that much then just down tools and stop, then he will have to do more’. And as much as I would love to do that sometimes it is not the most practical solution, especially considering how fast-paced our lives are these days.
He already knows how frustrated I get with this imbalance. We have sat down and talked about it before. And yes at times he does put in the extra effort, especially at weekends but ultimately it still comes back to me doing the bulk of it. So maybe we need to sit down and talk again. Because this wife is not completely happy with the role that she has slotted into. And she needs some change. But right now I have to go – I have a load to put on.
Look, a button code made by Heather Keet!