In our house, I do all the clothes washing and Tom does the washing-up. I generally cook during the week because Tom gets home after me, but he cooks fancier things at the weekend. He pretty much always makes weekend breakfasts, but I do most of the bills and home ‘admin’. He puts out the bins, tidies the garden and looks after anything to do with the car, whilst I hoover, clean the bathroom and change the bedding more often than him. It balances out and we’re happy with the arrangement. We don’t argue about housework very often, and if we do it’s either me being picky about him leaving things in random places (no, dirty socks do not go on the coffee table; why are there six jumpers on the sofa?) or us both being annoyed that we let things get out of hand and have to spend the whole weekend cleaning. (We used to live in a flat where we could hoover the whole place without having to unplug. *Sigh*, those were the days.)
Tom is also happy to do his fair share. We both work full-time, have the same amount of spare time and make about as much mess as the other. Luckily neither of us is more of a clean freak than the other. So, why, WHY? do I feel guilty when I ask him to do something? Why do I feel like I have to do everything, automatically say that I’ll do it and even get frustrated that he hasn’t read my mind and phoned the electricity company? Why do I feel relieved when he says that he’ll arrange the service for the car or suggests something fantastic for dinner and he’s already done the shopping and is happy to cook it? Why am I such a 1950s housewife when it comes to doling out housework? I can never just default to ‘this is something that needs to be done for the family. Someone in the family needs to do it. Who’s best to do it?’. I always think first whether I can fit it in and if I can’t (or really don’t want to) then I think I should ask Tom.
Maybe it’s just my personality. I am organised by nature and don’t like things to spring-up on me. I like to plan. But I don’t want my marriage to be like that, I want it to be a true partnership, not a military exercise in time management. I have slowly begun to realise that most men will not just proactively do the housework, but that if you ask them they probably won’t mind. So I don’t expect my husband to read my mind and I don’t mind asking him, and hopefully he will do the same in return. But yet I don’t think of housework as something for Team Esme and Tom to get done, it’s more something that I should do but get Tom to help with. That’s bad, isn’t it?
More than anything I wonder why this is. It’s not like I was brought up to think that the wife did the ‘female’ jobs and the husband sat back and drank his lovingly prepared G&T with the paper. I was brought up to believe in equality and that whatever he can do, I can do and vice versa. But there is something in my head that is telling me that I’ve got to write the shopping list and buy toilet cleaner.