I was out with a friend last week, who is getting married later this year, and she started to ask me about the key to a strong marriage and what tips I could pass on. I started to think “why on earth is she asking me?” when I realised that as someone who’s been married for 10 1/2 years and with S for 12 years, I guess I might not be so surprising as a source of advice on this.
I think I have two main rules. First up, sort your housework out. Share it from the beginning, talk about it, work out what you like, what don’t, what you’re good at, what you’d like to try and how it should be split. Make it clear that neither of you “help” with the housework – you both live there so it’s both your responsibility. Try a trial period till you work it out if you like but make sure you talk about it and you don’t take each other for granted. And, related to this, do not EVER buy domestic chore-related gifts for Christmas or birthdays. No-one finds novelty rubber gloves hilarious. Or an iron.
Second, have sex! In lots of different locations.
That was it. The sum total of my wisdom and experience. I didn’t think it was much until I read a piece in the paper about a recent study conducted for Mumsnet. It found that many mums feel that they are seen as the housekeeper, the rule maker and the boring parent when what they would like instead is to be the ‘rule-breaker’ or the fun parent. 74% say they want to spend more time doing fun things. 58% say they are too busy doing all the other stuff.
Now, I think my ranting on here probably tells you where my feminist sympathies lie, but honestly there are times when I really do despair. 74%? 74???
This applied to stay at home mums as well as working mums. If you still don’t have time to have fun with your children each day then you may as well be at work.
Are people so incapable of having a rational conversation about how their lives are worked out that all they can do is bitch to Mumsnet? Is it so hard to say to the person you have chosen to marry and have children with, “Can you do this?”
Alternatively they could just ditch some of the housework. No one ever sat on their deathbed and thought “Oh I’m glad I always dusted the doortops.”
An idle speculation on my part here but is this MASSIVE proportion of women the same women who smugly tell me they don’t call themselves feminists? That they don’t see where it’s relevant? These women who appear to be stuck in gender roles and can’t do anything about it but complain? They’re clearly unhappy at the situation.
Now I know it’s hard fighting the patriarchy and all, but you’ve got to at least try and start in the areas you can influence. I know no men of a younger generation who aren’t willing to do something at home, and who, if explained to them, probably would be fine about this. If you keep doing their ironing for them, they’re not going to stop you. (I know I’d like someone else to do mine.) Of course it’s not that simple for everyone but how many of these women even tried to have a conversation about this?
Having said that, listening to a couple of mother’s groups recently I have realised there’s nothing some women seem to like more than just moan about how useless their other halves are. Perhaps this is the same people who spoke to Mumsnet but I find that bloody depressing to listen to. And 74%? Again, I’m just amazed.
Sitting there in your immaculate fun-free house won’t help, solutions don’t just happen, you have to do something about them. So do that. (And don’t forget the sex.)
Tomorrow I will be blogging about fellow blogger @Dadbloguk and his solution to tackling domestic stuff. In the meantime please do let me know how you work this out in your house!