Laundry. Dishes. Floors. His. Hers. Chores. Love will keep us together – or is it love and a cleaner? Readers, print and digital, examine what the domestic division of labour says about modern families
I don’t imagine that many high-achieving women (or men) want to devote their lives to endless rounds of laundry, dishes and trips to the superstore. But men and women do, because they understand that the greater good – the family – needs someone, or a team effort, to take this on.
As the breadwinner in my family, whose husband sacrificed his career to stay home with our daughters, I applaud and celebrate men and women who take on the caregiver role. Cultural norms can and do change – think about race relations or gay marriage. If we want to benefit from our collective brainpower to address our most severe challenges, we need women and men at the board table and the kitchen table.
Kathryn Anthonisen, Ottawa
Men are not as detail oriented and they really do not see that the bathrooms could use a cleaning the way women do, nor do they feel the same sense of responsibility or guilt over mess. How often do men think about changing the sheets? It’s a different mindset.
Setting clear expectations over who does what and when can be helpful (and being flexible, depending on weekly schedules). I’ve learned that asking politely, giving a reasonable time frame and being appreciative of his contributions can go a long way. If you don’t ask for help, resentment can become an issue.
Christina Seely, London, Ont.
Every couple I know works really hard, period. I don’t know who loads the dishwasher more often, but if one partner is doing it, the other partner is taking the kids to a practice or to the park. It’s still work. That’s family life: There’s a lot of joy and there’s a lot of work. Get over it.
Michael Oomen, Victoria
Although Canada has been a pioneer in collecting data on unpaid household work, the question has been removed from the census at the request of the government. Also, the work involved in providing care for the elderly and disabled is growing significantly, not simply as a result of the population aging but also as a result of government cutbacks in services. This, too, is primarily work that falls to women.
Pat Armstrong, professor, sociology department, York University
That some attitudes – racism, sexism, homophobia etc. – are deeply embedded in cultures is undoubtedly true. That these same attitudes are intractable and impervious to gradual eradication is not. Younger generations of men and women are increasing less exercised by traditional male/female roles, with gay and lesbian marriages leading by example.
Mike Hutton, Ottawa
Women are their own worst enemies: They judge each other on cleanliness; men, for the most part, don’t care. So why don’t we stop doing this to ourselves? Because there remains a need to be in control, and the house is one area where women have traditionally had control. If men are helping out more, women lose their household supremacy. There could well be a feeling of threat here. It is pretty twisted; cleanliness is not next to godliness.
Anne Popoff, Toronto
The definition of housework and the amount is definitely part of the equation. It’s going to vary by household circumstance (e.g. young children who need a lot of attention, vs. older children who can help, vs. no children). The “balance” also depends on how each spouse sees each task: Is it a “chore” they dislike? One they don’t see as hard work? Or one they enjoy? It’s how those are divided up that can lead to discord or to harmony.
If one partner ends up with all the chores they dislike, they start to see the other one as having it easy, even if the other one’s tasks take more time.
Kyle Peterson, Calgary
“A full 46 per cent of the husbands surveyed reported never doing laundry” (Laundry’s Dirty Little Secret – June 6). Who are these men and how did they get such a sweet deal? This morning, having cleaned the kitchen and just put the fourth load of laundry in, this whole Dirty Work series of articles on housework inequality shows me that I’ve managed my married life very poorly, indeed.
And as for the wife who refolds the laundry her husband has already folded, don’t look to me for sympathy: You can’t have it all, so get down off the cross. Someone needs the wood.
Bruce Reid, Toronto
My husband and I struggle with these problems, but we have found things that he can do (washing the darks, which is the majority of our laundry; loading the dishwasher), and he appreciates that I do things that he hates doing (emptying the dishwasher, putting away laundry). I still do most of the housework, but I currently have more free time. My biggest beef these days is that everybody except me has a cleaner, so the expectations for cleanliness are much higher than they used to be.
Liz Crawford, Toronto
As a married male who occasionally does the dishes, I noticed your story referencing a study that claimed husbands who do traditionally “female” chores have less sex (Chores And Sex – June 4). The reporter dismissed the study because of a 2009 paper with a conflicting finding that husbands and wives “who spend more time on chores reported more frequent sex.”
Not so fast. The 2009 study examined overall housework. The other focused on the kind of chore, which it determined matters: Men who do “female” chores, such as cooking and laundry, rather than “manly” ones, such as mowing the lawn, get less sex, not more. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to mow my lawn.
Glenn Parsons, Guelph, Ont.
ON REFLECTION More letters to the editor
Re Wallin Audit Risks Running Into Summer (June 7): The first chapter in Pamela Wallin’s book Speaking of Success is “Setting Your Moral Compass.” She writes: “From my family I learned to set – and keep attuned to – my own moral compass, which simply means knowing right from wrong and having a sense of responsibility … I learned that character always trumps genius.”
Such gems abound. Perhaps she has forgotten what she wrote? Of late, many senators seem to be cruelly handicapped with memories like guppies.
Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto
Re Chocolate Fix: Three Charged In Alleged Pricing Scheme (Report on Business, June 7): Why is it illegal for chocolate bar manufacturers to price fix, when Ottawa and our provinces have created the institutions which do the same for milk?
Why a different law for private companies? Or are chocolate bars more important than milk?
Paul Geddes, Coquitlam, B.C.
Politics in T.O.
Re Ford Optimistic About Search For City Agency Chief (June 7): I’m not surprised Councillor Doug Ford is “optimistic” about the search for a new head of Build Toronto, since his manoeuvres seem to have skewed the process, and played a role in the departure of a number of directors.
Your headline is unduly benign. Wouldn’t “Councillor’s relentless interference threatens independence of city agency” have been more pertinent?
Another day, another story about how a Ford has lowered the ethical tone of politics here.
Jim Gough, Toronto
Clear on transparency?
Re MP’s Exit Turns Up Pressure On Harper (June 7): The Globe reports that the resignation of Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber has raised new questions about transparency.
It seems to me that there is no question at all about that. The Harper government has already reached the pinnacle of transparency: You can see right through them.
Richard Peacocke, Ottawa