Kate Hawkesby: The truth about chore wars

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 May 2021, 11:52AM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Kate Hawkesby: The truth about chore wars

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 May 2021, 11:52AM

Chore wars has been an ongoing issue debated through the ages by men and women, so it was unsurprising this week to see it rear its head again in the form of a new study.

That study came with a blunt headline – as they so often do – that ‘couples sharing the domestic burden would boost the economy by $1.5 billion’.

Great in theory. But that’s all it is, theory. And actually, a very large assumption. The assumption is that women who have to do less unpaid work at home, would thus be freed up to have more time to go and do paid work. But that’s assuming women want to do that. 

What if they don’t?  What if they want to spend that extra time they have freed up to do something for themselves like go for a walk, read a book, catch up with a girlfriend, or hit the gym? What if they just appreciate the downtime?

I also think with gender studies like this, you’re calculating hard and fast measurables like actual jobs. Which as any woman running a household knows is only part of the equation.

Yes, you can split laundry and dishwasher duties and decide who takes the rubbish out. But it’s more nuanced than that.

Whose carrying the mental burden of thinking about what needs to be bought at the supermarket, what the kids need for school, what time they have to be somewhere, when the dog needs feeding? 

Who’s writing the Christmas list and buying the gifts and planning the Christmas lunch? Who lies awake at night wondering if they watered all the plants and if they left a hose on?

Because as far as I can gather in my time on this planet as a working woman and mother, there are jobs at home, and then there’s thinking about the jobs. The nonstop planning, the forecasting, the knowing. 

Mums know when the birthday is coming up, when the soccer game is, when the uniform has to be out of the wash by. Sure, Dads can help do that stuff, they can transport to soccer or wash the uniform, but have they thought of that for themselves or are they operating under instruction?

Because without sounding like a rabid feminist here, having to do all the thinking, and hand out all the instructions, is exhausting too. You know what? Better than doing the dishes, or folding the laundry, is doing it without being asked to, or thinking to do it all by yourself. Where’s the study on that?

I know that in our house I'm very lucky to have a partner who happens to love housework, who washes cars and sheets and towels and vacuums floors and takes out rubbish and does the ironing and runs the kids around.

But if you asked him if we have enough apples for the week or where the school lunchboxes go or when the PE uniform has to be washed by, I can pretty much guarantee he won’t have given that a second thought. Furthermore, he won’t care. 

Show me the survey on the gender split around caring about household jobs and when they’re done, knowing intuitively what needs to happen at home, and thinking ahead about it, because that's the real measurable on whose got extra time.