Ask not what your wife can ask for you to do
May 22, 2017 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Mental Load: why women still do most of the work at home.
posted by jacquilynne (239 comments total) 151 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so true.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:48 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I know you shouldn’t read the comments, I KNOW this, but most of the comments were nice, and then I read one where a dude said that if the author of this piece had time to write and work on art, then she probably should be spending that time on her household chores.

I truly didn’t believe that anyone other than cartoonishly evil retail managers believed “time to lean means time to clean”, but apparently that applies to all women at all times of their lives as well, not just retail employees. Incredible.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:00 PM on May 22 [94 favorites]


ugh this is my life
posted by krix at 12:07 PM on May 22


+1000 for post title, too
posted by knownassociate at 12:08 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


I had this fight with my partner over and over again until he had to read Silvia Federici's "Wages Against Housework" 1975 (assigned by his professor for a social theory seminar)
Housework was transformed into a natural attribute, rather than being recognized as work, because it was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable, and even fulfilling activity to make us accept working without a wage. In turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not as workers in struggle.
Federici prefaces her essay in the 2012 collection Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle with this.
The confrontation with “reproductive work”—understood, at first, as housework, domestic labor—was the defining factor for many women of my generation, who came of age in the aftermath of World War II... The campaign for wages for housework was launched in the summer of 1972 in Padua with the formation of the International Feminist Collective by a group of women from Italy, England, France, and the United States. Its objective was to open a process of international feminist mobilization that would force the state to recognize that domestic work is work—that is, an activity that should be remunerated as it contributes to the production of the labor force and produces capital, thus enabling every other form of production to take place.

I should stress here that we fought for wages for housework not for housewives, convinced that this demand would go a long way toward “degenderizing” this work. We also demanded wages for housework not from the husbands but from the state as the representative of collective capital—the real “Man” profiting from this work.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:08 PM on May 22 [133 favorites]


flawless Federici comment. Reading that forever changed my life in my Asian American Literature and Labor class.
posted by yueliang at 12:13 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


I can't get the site to load from work. It keeps throwing up warnings about security certificates and everything is loading like molasses pouring uphill against a stiff wind.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:14 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that reads pretty much exactly like all the relationships I observed growing up, and I think most of them now...

And even though I (male) take care of everything food- and kitchen-related in my current marriage, my wife will absolutely wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, add things we need to the shopping list, and do anything else that looks like it needs doing without being asked and without that confused incompetence that my dad and grandpa (deviously, I believe) resorted to when asked to do 'women's work'.

And if I'm being honest, when it comes to laundry I do my own, but I never put on a load of towels or sheets unless I'm asked to. I can see the hamper is full, I just never think about it, which I didn't really realize until right now.

So yeah, that shit's right on.
posted by Huck500 at 12:15 PM on May 22 [56 favorites]


This is spot on, I'm afraid to say...

My wife and I had a conversation along these lines just this weekend. I am trying to learn
posted by Myeral at 12:16 PM on May 22 [10 favorites]


Yes, I've been waiting for this to show up on the blue. The comic doesn't even get into the dark underbelly of "also you must ask for help at the right time in the right way or else not only will you not get help, you'll have a grumpy partner in addition to all the work." I do appreciate that it digs a bit into the "I'll help, but I will only help with exactly what you asked me to do, no more" because that is a very familiar dynamic -- my father is constantly "forgetting" things on the grocery list my mom writes, for example, and she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store. Or my partner, bless them, will often come "help" in the kitchen by basically elbowing me out of the way to do the chore I was in the middle of doing, rather than pick another equally important task (I'm already filling up the coffee maker for tomorrow, but there are dishes ready to put away in the drying rack. Why are you "helping" me with the coffee?)

Looking forward to the follow up on emotion work because in my view emotion work and mental load are intrinsically linked concepts, and it doesn't seem to be an accident that a lot of the "mental load" stuff boils down to "emotional labor."
posted by sockermom at 12:17 PM on May 22 [82 favorites]


my father is constantly "forgetting" things on the grocery list my mom writes, for example, and she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store.

People should hang on to this for next time they need an illustrative example to explain the difference between passive-aggressiveness and all the other things people think are passive-aggressive.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:22 PM on May 22 [54 favorites]


You learn to be this person as a child, and believe me it can take a long time to retrain yourself. And it can have huge impacts; my wife is currently juggling full time work, two kids and finishing her Master's and I don't think it would have been possible had I not been able to internalize the strategies of cooking and cleaning finally when we had our first newborn.
posted by selfnoise at 12:22 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Things may be changing - probably not swiftly enough for some. But I am male and the spouse in a heterosexual marriage and I gave up my career for my partner, work (at a satisfying job) from home, handle morning breakfasts and the transportation of our son to and from school, and make dinner every night we do not go out. We do hire out for house cleaning, but I also take care of the car and pets and the grocery shopping and on and on and on.
posted by Charles_Swan at 12:23 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


So I guess what I'm saying is, if you need to fix this start now.
posted by selfnoise at 12:23 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


one aspect of our domestic life that my wife had learned to balance is splitting up some of these management and responsibility tasks. Like she'll handle the cleaning and the laundry and manages the schedule and timing of when vacuuming/clothes washing/dishwashing/etc. is done. I'll handle cooking, but that also means that I have responsibility for grocery shopping, pantry/fridge inventory management, maintaining leftovers, etc. I can ask her to do extra work to ensure that laundry is done before I have a meeting or a trip. She can hold me accountable if she runs out of snacking almonds or breakfast bananas because I forgot to get them on my last grocery run.

At first it felt weird to carve these up because I used to think that having an equal share of duties meant rotating chores. Like with previous partners, we'd swap cleaning and cooking duties every week and that was actually kind of dysfunctional because it overly complicated the management portion of how the cooking and cleaning got done. The cognitive load of keeping up that schedule didn't go away, but with rotation, we always had to check in with the other person about the who/what/where/when of our errands.

So, yeah, the thing I appreciated about with this comic was how it got how much of a job it is to track that sort of thing. And I genuinely appreciate not having to think about when laundry happens, just that it does, in the same way that my wife loves being able to come home and never having to worry about expending the effort to make a meal -- food just magically appears.
posted by bl1nk at 12:25 PM on May 22 [40 favorites]


Agree with bl1nk that this did a great job of viscerally illustrating the invisibility of task management. As a person who does this for my household, I struggle to explain how taxing it is. This comic is a great illustration of what I am bad at describing with works.

Thank you for sharing!
posted by sazerac at 12:30 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


I always feel a bit weird in these sorts of threads as a woman in a heterosexual relationship who somehow seems to have taken on the role of husband in these articles. My husband is just super on top of things and invariably ends up being the one directing our household - in the sense that, he remembers when loads of laundry need to be done, he knows when we're running low on things, he reminds me about things I need to get done etc. etc. It is an immense amount of work and I'm incredibly grateful to him. It is definitely cultural though - I think my attitude was shaped by growing up with a mother, who while she did a lot of mental work herself, was determined that I was not going to fall into that trap. My husband grew up with a single mother, who was and is quite demanding in certain emotional ways i.e. he will get 2 months of passive aggressive silence if he happens to forget her birthday.
posted by peacheater at 12:32 PM on May 22 [13 favorites]


my father is constantly "forgetting" things on the grocery list my mom writes, for example, and she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store.

This is a tactic that I have had absolutely confirmed as real by married men of my acquaintance. You're not imagining it.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:34 PM on May 22 [35 favorites]


Completely true: I sent this link to my husband this morning with a note that said "This is super cool and well done, and ties perfectly to all the emotional labor stuff we've been talking about."

Reply from my husband: "I don't get it. What are you trying to tell me?"

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by anastasiav at 12:34 PM on May 22 [84 favorites]


I am the wife of a hetero coupling, and I *do* really enjoy when food just magically appears. It was a hard fought battle for this magic - a screaming newborn attached to my boob and not letting me get off the couch was the main driver, as the adults still needed to be fed, too. But it is very nice. The hard part of that is my own de-programming because I am now, a few years later, out of practice for buying food or meal-planning or even meal-cooking, so when I do decide to make a meal, I am often staring into unfamiliar cupboards and the refrigerator not quite knowing what to do next. So I feel guilt for being out of practice. Damn patriarchy!

I still carry a lot of mental load, though. Like, as mentioned in the comic, buying new clothes for the kid when he grows. Taking care of the bill for daycare. Making doctor and dentist appointments. Paperwork and admin stuff.

Our house is a total mess, though. I think we are both waiting for it to magically get clean.
posted by jillithd at 12:37 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


Rubbish as my childhood was in a lot of ways, the nature of my parents shift work meant that Dad was equally responsible for the kids and the home. It literally never occurred to me that men wouldn't have an equal share until I was a teenager.

Im a SAHP, but we make sure that our child sees us both do chores, cook, clean. Our son has a play kitchen and Hoover etc. A friend of mine was astounded to see my beloved at the supermarket with our son one weekend because her husband has never ever taken any of their children out on his own- the eldest is 6. That should be astounding, but it's sadly commonplace.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:37 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


My bf and I do the category split of household duties like bl1nk describes, and it has its pluses and minuses. I agree that it helps with the cognitive load stuff, but as the cooking side of the cooking/cleaning divide, it can get stressful because cooking, buying food, planning for meals and leftovers and enough stuff to bring to work etc can't be put off the way that cleaning can if we have a busy weekend. (We each do our own laundry.) That's my only complaint, but believe me I'd never go back to my old relationship where my ex-husband did cook sometimes ("stunt cooking," as it is often described) but rarely did anything else.
posted by misskaz at 12:38 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]


Haha was gonna post this! Excellent.
posted by agregoli at 12:39 PM on May 22


My Dad did "stunt cooking" when I was a kid and boy was that a bad lesson for me. "Look, the man does the task when there's prestige attached!". (or just fire and meat attached; witness all the men who only cook on grills)
posted by selfnoise at 12:42 PM on May 22 [57 favorites]


Has there been research done on mental load in same-sex couples? I'd be interested whether it tends to be shared equally or whether, in most relationships, it's still one partner or the other that ends up with the bigger share.
posted by layceepee at 12:42 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]


In my same sex relationship, it's very heavily skewed towards me having the bigger share. (My wife agrees with this assessment, btw, so it's not just 'everyone thinks they're above average' manifesting.)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:47 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


This is a tactic that I have had absolutely confirmed as real by married men of my acquaintance. You're not imagining it.

[...]

Reply from my husband: "I don't get it. What are you trying to tell me?"

posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:50 PM on May 22 [22 favorites]


One of the difficult parts of dealing with this is that even once you've recognized that you need to divide up the management of different areas of the home as well as the tasks within each area, you often still have the problem that men and women are often socialized to have different desires, goals, standards, and concerns about the home. It's not good enough for a man to be in charge of making sure the kitchen is clean or supervising the children's status at school if his idea of "clean" or "supervising" differs significantly from that of his spouse.

So you can't just divide up the management, you've got to make explicit and agree (or compromise) about the outcomes you want.
posted by straight at 12:50 PM on May 22 [30 favorites]


We also have been moving towards the category split of household duties that bl1nk describes and it's working pretty well for us! The biggest challenge for me has been to let all the ancillary management and household work that shake out of taking ownership of a bigger task *stay* firmly in my husband's area, rather than taking it over.

I took over responsibility for cooking dinner because I work from home so the timing is a lot easier, since I can start things at 4pm or 4:30pm. From that, it's been easy/natural for the responsibility for monitoring the refrigerator (gotta make sure I have the stuff I need to make dinner), which also means doing the grocery shopping and tracking leftovers--and more often than I really like, being the one who "sees" the dirty dishes from the day scattered around and makes sure dishes are getting washed, put in the dishwasher, and the dishwasher unloaded.

My husband does all of the daycare drop-offs and most of the pick-ups, since daycare is right next to his work, and from that he kind of naturally took over monitoring whether the kiddo had enough diapers, whether clothes and shoes were still fitting or we needed new ones, shopping for all kid clothes, and more generally doing most of the emotional labor around "teacher appreciation" days and responding to birthday party invitations from other kids in the class. I sometimes find myself kind of sitting on my hands to avoid taking on responsibility for figuring out presents for classmate birthdays or other things like that - right now, we feel pretty evenly balanced, but I know it'd be easy for my "helpfulness" to lead back to the unbalanced load we had before the kiddo was born.

I am literally one of the only women I know who feels like the household division of labor got better after we had a kid. And it's kind of amazing to me to think about how much that depended on some very specific circumstances (my husband took paternity leave for 10 weeks after I went back to work, the daycare we got into is close to my husband's work and not our house) - and if those hadn't aligned, it would have been very easy and natural for me to just take on all the management and to be super-resentful about it.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:51 PM on May 22 [19 favorites]


I'm another man in a hetero marriage and I try to keep these issues in my mind and make sure the household is managed equitably, but I know that perspective of "wife as manager of the household" is definitely something that is deep-seated in my mind and isn't easy to dispel, despite working against it.

She also often gets trapped in expecting to manage the household but also resenting being in that role even as she facilitates it because the expectation within herself is so strong.

It's a tough problem and definitely one that men need to be more proactive in solving. One tactic that we try to employ is just talking about our expectations -- making sure that our assumptions and expectations are as explicit as possible. No matter how the work is divided up, it helps if everyone has a shared understanding of roles and things don't fall into patterns by default without examination.
posted by camcgee at 12:56 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


re: stunt cooking -- this is isn't intended to be cookie-seeking, but I really came to appreciate my role in our domestic relationship when it emerged that we're both really into having granola for breakfast, and part of the responsibility that I had to sign up for was keeping the gallon jug of homemade granola eternally full. Like it's not flashy, or showy, and nowadays it's pretty much part of the biweekly Sunday routine. But again -- cognitive mental load -- planning that shit out and doing it week after week, month after month, is work.

I made a promise to myself that I'll never let my wife go without granola, and somehow, over the last couple of years, that regular act of service for something that just unremarkably sits in our pantry has become more important and meaningful than any piece of meat that I've ever set on fire.
posted by bl1nk at 12:56 PM on May 22 [74 favorites]


I was the primary homemaker and child-rearer in my relationship for about 5 years. Patriarchy is a motherfucker. Even when you manage to break out of your strictly ordered gender roles, it convinces partners to look down at the one performing domestic labor, and if that person happens to be a man then it doubles down by dictating that he be viewed as weak and disappointing.

But I'm not about to pretend that my experience moves the line at all. The most important cohort that has to deal with this bullshit certainly doesn't include me.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:57 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Has there been research done on mental load in same-sex couples? I'd be interested whether it tends to be shared equally or whether, in most relationships, it's still one partner or the other that ends up with the bigger share.

In my m/m relationship, I'm 100% the person who has to keep track of All the Things To Be Done In the House, Mostly Decisions. Like, we can go until about 10pm before my partner says, "Are we going to do anything about dinner?" if I don't either make something or ask him to make something or ask him what he wants. It's pretty interesting how hard-wired it is into him, and sometimes it drives me totally bonkers.
posted by xingcat at 12:58 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


Great post.

I often wonder: To what extent is the scale of the domestic workload patriarchal holdover?

Feminist scholars like Ruth Cowan ("More work for Mother") have argued that labor-saving domestic appliances lead to inflated standards of cleanliness as a form of patriarchal make-work; today's women were catechized by the daughters and granddaughters of those who labored under this regime.

There are two ways any couple can go: toward more domestic work (e.g. washing bedding once a week) or less (e.g. washing less often). Men are socialized to expect the former from women, and to accept the latter in homosocial living arrangements. So the attitudes of those in cishet couplings can go two ways independent of division of the workload: the "male" expectations are raised relative to the "female", or vice versa.

But this is anything but a "private" decision, for the obvious reason that houseguests invariably judge the woman in cishet couple for deviations from the domestic ideal.

Perhaps what we need is a new (renewed?) #SlobFeminism that historicizes "clean".
posted by phrontist at 1:01 PM on May 22 [54 favorites]


she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store.

People should hang on to this for next time they need an illustrative example to explain the difference between passive-aggressiveness and all the other things people think are passive-aggressive.

This is a tactic that I have had absolutely confirmed as real by married men of my acquaintance. You're not imagining it.


I think this exists on a spectrum from conscious passive-aggressive behavior to unexamined entitled laziness.

This is propped up by an advertising industry that's portrays men as incompetent homemakers in order to say:

"Women: It's your job to clean the house, take care of the kids, feed your husband, and look beautiful. Don't expect any help from the man because he's self-centered and incompetent. The only help you're going to get is if you buy our product."

"Men: Don't feel guilty, all guys are self-centered and incompetent by nature. Indulge yourself: buy our product. It's the wife's job to take care of the housework and the kids--you don't know how to do that stuff; if she needs help, buy her our product. If you give her more help than the dudes in these commercials, you're doing more than your share and she owes you big time, and you deserve to treat yourself: buy our product."
posted by straight at 1:02 PM on May 22 [35 favorites]


One of the difficult parts of dealing with this is that even once you've recognized that you need to divide up the management of different areas of the home as well as the tasks within each area, you often still have the problem that men and women are often socialized to have different desires, goals, standards, and concerns about the home.

This isn't separable from the sexism, though. I'm a lady gay who is a fucking disaster when it comes to most executive management / self admin type stuff -- I eat out like 90% of the time because I have not mastered cooking and cleaning, my apartment is a mess, it is constantly laundry day, and none of this bothers me, so basically I am a dirtbag bachelor who happens to be a lesbian -- and I was socialized to think this was ok, but I know this shit is not up to par and I would never in a million years impose it on a partner. When I've lived with other people as an adult - not even romantically - I made sure not to impose this on them. It's just basic consideration. (And honestly, I am significantly less dirtbaggy when I'm with someone.)

It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:03 PM on May 22 [121 favorites]


#SlobFeminism

Thank you for giving me a hilarious justification for my dirtbaggery

I shall blame it on men

(KIDDING. Sort of. But also I am 100% behind this idea of slob feminism but for so far wholly unconsidered and selfish reasons.)
posted by schadenfrau at 1:06 PM on May 22 [21 favorites]


I'm the office manager at my job which means I get paid to do emotional labor for the company. (Getting paid for emotional labor is really good for reminding you that it has value and for drawing boundaries in your real life.) Part of this is making sure that the kitchen is always stocked and ready so no one ever has to want for anything.

There are a handful of people who will do things like grab the last diet coke and then put more diet cokes in the fridge. Most people don't, though, and that's fine. I'm getting paid to do it, after all.

But one of my coworkers just quietly takes care of everything every time he walks in the kitchen. If the water cooler is low, he'll take the pitcher back and forth to the sink and refill it. He tops of the electric kettle and sets it going so the next person doesn't have to wait very long for hot water. He puts more teabags in the tea caddy. Just a dozen tiny little invisible things that make the next guy's trip to the kitchen easier.

This coworker can be a real smartass and tends to be surface-mean and puts off a lot of people here, but he's my favorite person in the office. He gets it.
posted by phunniemee at 1:08 PM on May 22 [110 favorites]


("stunt cooking," as it is often described)

Relevant Reductress: Aw! This Boyfriend Cooked His Girlfriend An 11-Pound Cube of Meat For Their Anniversary
posted by phunniemee at 1:13 PM on May 22 [13 favorites]


He gets it.

I often wonder what's so hard about "Leave a thing ready for its next use."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:15 PM on May 22 [19 favorites]


I actually had a surge of gratefulness for my husband this morning. He just manages to be thoughtful in about a hundred different ways.

The latest example: we left for a week's vacation last Saturday. I managed to cut myself pretty badly while shaving my legs about a day before we left leading to blood all over the bathmat. There was no time to take care of it entirely before we left, but my husband quickly rinsed it out and put stain remover on it. We got back yesterday morning, jet-lagged, and in my case sick with a cold and what looks like some kind of pink eye. I spent the day mostly in bed while my husband ran around unpacking things, putting up new closet rods (he did get my help to put our clothes back in), making me tea, and running loads of laundry.

This morning I went to have a shower and realized not only did I have clean underwear, thanks to those loads of laundry, he'd also remembered to wash the bath mat and so it was fluffy and clean under my feet as I got out of the shower. Seriously, nothing makes me feel more cared for.
posted by peacheater at 1:17 PM on May 22 [28 favorites]


#SlobFeminism

I'd like this to mean "Feminism should critique cultural standards of cleanliness," but for us dudes it probably needs to mean "If you want to be a slob, you have to make sure your partner isn't bearing the cost of it."
posted by straight at 1:18 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


Has there been research done on mental load in same-sex couples? I'd be interested whether it tends to be shared equally or whether, in most relationships, it's still one partner or the other that ends up with the bigger share.

I have not seen any serious studies on it, but I used to know a lesbian sociologist who was interested in this subject - both how this stuff falls out in non-het relationships and also how it falls out in workplaces/orgs skewed heavily in one direction or another - and her pet theory was that first is the male-female roles and then under that is sub-hierarchies. She felt that men tended to sub-hierarchize by perceived status (rank, income, social power, confidence/extroversion etc) with the least work done by the highest-ranking, but women often fell back into birth-order-ish/family-of-origin roles with the "most capable" doing the most work.

So that in MM couples the bigger breadwinner (and bigger perceived breadwinner, like if one was a software developer but the other was in med/law school the latter had higher status even if he was currently putting them in debt and not working outside the program; you also see this dynamic in het couples) often did the least work, and in an FF couple F1, the baby of the family who always had someone else micromanaging them, would do less work than F2, who might have been the oldest and most independent of her family, or the latchkey kid. (And in a lot of workplaces, that actually means the highest-ranking women in the company run the "fun committee" or whatever, because they have the most decision-making power and perceived skill. This has been true everywhere I worked except in one place where those tasks were explicitly the office manager's job. Then again, one could argue the office manager is the secret source of all power anyway.)

It still really does come down to that socialization (which, obviously, intersects with a ton of other influence factors so this system is not foolproof, especially in personal relationships), and early life/family of origin seems to play a very strong role in adult behavior. It also seems to be true that you can put any two people in a room and they will almost never naturally adjust to 50/50 and the actual breakdown is entirely dependent on the two actual people involved.

I know that if you gave me a Type A enough partner, I would absolutely be the one testing to see how little I could get away with doing, and I'm still no overachiever even though I am technically President of Almost Everything in my relationship, but I am outslacked by my middle-class college-educated white dude who's never memorized the contents of a refrigerator in his life. (On preview, I am also elevated above my baseline dirtbaggery when I am with someone, even another dirtbag. I assume this is some kind of socialization re: a woman's responsibility in a relationship, but might also just be that I know how much mess two dirtbags can make and my tolerance is not quite that high.)
posted by Lyn Never at 1:19 PM on May 22 [42 favorites]


straight: That's why I stress that deciding on the size of the workload would ideally be a decision orthogonal to the division of the workload. But in practice (due to social pressure) this can scarcely be achieved (e.g. masc partner wants to lower standards but keep division equal, fem partner wants to, but faces social pressure to return to higher standard, ends up making up the difference herself despite agreement with masc partner).
posted by phrontist at 1:23 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.

As someone who dates people of all genders, this is the very distillation of what frustrates me so much in my current hetero relationship (I'm female). I would favorite it a million times if I could.
posted by primalux at 1:27 PM on May 22 [43 favorites]


Also, re: changing standards (phrontist and straight)

I, as a woman in a hetero relationship who is the mental manager, do not WANT to compromise on cleanliness, and bristle at the argument that my standards are (because influenced by patriarchy) too stringent and that the obvious choice (this entirely outside of the issue of women being judged by outsiders about home cleanliness) is to live in a less-clean manner.

To me, it feels like the fucking man wins again, and like feminism is being used against me so that a man doesn't have to increase his cleanliness efforts.

YMMV I suppose, but this shit really gets my goat. Like, even in our compromise your position is inherently superior? Fuck that.
posted by sazerac at 1:28 PM on May 22 [93 favorites]


It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.

This times 1 million.

Like, today I had to explain to my husband how friendships work. He was like "you always have so many friends you do all these things that are fun for you with" and I had to explain that sometimes I do things I do not want to do, with the friends I love, because I want to spend time with them and he was just /confused/, like, why would I do that? Why not just find friends that want to do exactly what I want to do without so much work?

It's not that men are socialized to be deliberately inconsiderate, I think they are just socialized where nice things just happen to them and they don't have to expend work on it.
posted by corb at 1:32 PM on May 22 [102 favorites]


I keep thinking about one part of the comic...how she asked her husband to take the baby's bottle out of the dishwasher. He did that, and only that. He didn't think, oh, I should unload this entire dishwasher. He accepted her task and didn't expend any mental energy on what else would be helpful or if something else was required to lessen the entire house workload. That is definitely less mental load.
posted by agregoli at 1:37 PM on May 22 [10 favorites]


[Couple comments removed; pet peeves are pet peeves and it's okay to have them, but I don't think we need to launch into a speculative theory-of-mind thing here about men potentially secretly bearing a great undiscussed mental load about housework they're neglecting or whatever.]
posted by cortex at 1:38 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]


I, as a woman in a hetero relationship who is the mental manager, do not WANT to compromise on cleanliness, and bristle at the argument that my standards are (because influenced by patriarchy) too stringent and that the obvious choice (this entirely outside of the issue of women being judged by outsiders about home cleanliness) is to live in a less-clean manner.

I just meant that, on an interpersonal level, people living together have to deliberately and explicitly choose and agree on the outcomes they want.
posted by straight at 1:38 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking about one part of the comic...how she asked her husband to take the baby's bottle out of the dishwasher. He did that, and only that. He didn't think, oh, I should unload this entire dishwasher. He accepted her task and didn't expend any mental energy on what else would be helpful or if something else was required to lessen the entire house workload. That is definitely less mental load.

It reminded me of this boyfriend I had who, while we were staying at my sister's house, took the pitcher of ice tea out the fridge, poured almost all of it into a glass, but left a few tablespoons' worth at the bottom, and because the pitcher wasn't empty, put it back in the fridge and said nothing about it. I thought my sister was gonna kill him.
posted by JanetLand at 1:40 PM on May 22 [19 favorites]


szerac: my standards are (because influenced by patriarchy) too stringent

I think both the "male" and "female" standards were influenced by the patriarchy (as others, including corb just now, have suggested). But understanding how they diverged historically can help us decide what ought to come next (for a household or a society).
posted by phrontist at 1:41 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Yes, some men play a semantics game with things like the tea conatiner, as you mention. Which is particularly shitty, because they obviously see the problem as "woman acts like I'm a jerk when I do what I want" and their behavior there is to avoid being told they are jerks yet still continue to be jerks.
posted by agregoli at 1:42 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


schadenfrau: Woo! [*high five*] Slobby queer woman for the win! I'm a slob, but my wife is possibly more of a slob (although we slob in different ways) so my dirtbag bachelor ways are relatively unchanged since we started living together. (I no longer leave a pile of dirty socks next to the computer desk where I've kicked them off each night, and I don't drink milk out directly of the milk jug any more. That's about it.)

I honestly never expected that I would be "the neat one" in a relationship.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:46 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


...left a few tablespoons' worth at the bottom, and because the pitcher wasn't empty, put it back in the fridge and said nothing about it.

In my house, this is known as "A Ben Amount." As in, "why is there only a Ben amount of peanut butter left?" You may not be surprised to learn that my husband's name is Ben.

But he is really great in general and cleans the whole house all the time and runs errands without being asked, so you know. You win some, you lose some.
posted by something something at 1:51 PM on May 22 [27 favorites]


I think the Federici essay says something more politically fundamental than what the comic is saying: even in those snippets the given explanations are totally different. In mainstream media, you don't see many authors with Federici's point of view, and most align closer to this comic's perspective of unarticulated ressentiment and individualization. The International Feminists' outlook seems too radical for today.
posted by polymodus at 1:54 PM on May 22 [11 favorites]


My husband makes me crazy about the groceries in a slightly different way. I don't super-mind managing the food production factory, I've got all my systems and it runs pretty smoothly. But every now and then he goes to the grocery store for me and discovers Alternative! Purchases! I always caution him to get the usual one, but he'll come home and say, "I know you said 5# of flour, but it doesn't go bad and it's 2 cents a pound cheaper if you get 10#!" And I'm like, "COOL STORY BRO, but the 10# bag doesn't fit in the cabinet." Or he gets a cheaper kind of toothpaste and is flummoxed when the kids reject it for the flavor. Do not even get me started on the time he noticed instant yeast and figured it was better than regular yeast and came in cheaper and more convenient packages! It drives me batty that he thinks that I've NEVER NOTICED the cheaper alternative in 16 years of shopping and I'm just buying the 5# sack because I am economically dumb about flour.

That and I'll tell him to get "the usual kind" and he's always like "What's the usual kind?" I dunno, man, whatever's on the package we usually get! At least with smart phones I can make him take a picture of the display when he doesn't know which one, so I can say "second shelf, third from the right." (I'm a visual package rememberer.) He even asks me what deodorant he usually buys because he can't remember. It makes me crazy.

If it's children's medicine or raw meat, I just have to go myself because I can't "make do" with close enough, and it's not possible to adequately explain which children's Tylenol to get and getting the wrong kind is bad.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:55 PM on May 22 [63 favorites]


I suppose I'm just noting the frequency with which proposed solutions to unequal emotional and mental labor amount to a call for the total labor to be reduced, rather than for the other partner to increase their individual labor. And that this proposal is often based on what I consider a somewhat facile approximation of the complexities of patriarchy's demands on fe/male behaviors and standards.

And a lack of focus on the non-patriarchal (does such a thing exist?) reasons someone might be a neat-freak - the wholesale dismissal of collective increases in chore effort/standards is just something I've seen often in these conversations and I am hyper-sensitive to it. Because it can gloss over other valid points in the call for higher standards, and that is frustrating.

Wasn't calling either of y'all out specifically, just that I get a little eye-rolly when the default solution is "let's just all be slobbier."
posted by sazerac at 1:55 PM on May 22 [21 favorites]


my father is constantly "forgetting" things on the grocery list my mom writes, for example, and she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store.


So as a result of reading these kinds of threads I have adopted a personal strategy of trying to do at least what I think is 75% of the household chores so that I can maybe actually hit 50%. If there is something I can do to make my wife's life easier I do it. I've got a fair bit of making up to do and I'm sure I miss all kinds of things.

Even with being semi-woke to offloading of labour onto women I still see myself in some of what people say is passive aggressive offloading behaviour. I'm pretty much solely responsible for grocery shopping in my relationship and I forget things off the list all the time - because grocery shopping is hard work and if you go when the store is busy it is a complete shitshow. (I also routinely skip ingredients in recipes by mistake when baking and I assure you I have no intention to punish myself when I bake - the opposite in fact!). But here is the thing - when I fuck up I have to fix it (or eat it in the case of baking).

So I'd caution against a default assumption of malevolence for these kinds of things unless you have additional reasons to suspect it. I've even joked about being deliberately incompetent at it - not to cover for my grand patriarchal plan but to try and make incompetence less damning. Now part of why I am incompetent is no-doubt the patriarchal ordering of society that sheltered me from having to develop and maintain these skills so when I joke to salve my ego I guess I am salting women's open wounds and that's not a fair trade.

(One cure for men being deliberately incompetent is to make them responsible for dealing with the incompetence. You forgot something off the grocer list? Quel Dommage. Go back out and get it.)
posted by srboisvert at 2:00 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.

This, so much.

My apartment was often a mess - I just didn't want to spend much needed decompression time on doing the dishes or clearing up clutter, so it would pile up until I had a day of cathartic scrubbing. But it was my mess in my space, so it wasn't a problem.

I would feel awful if I did the same in a shared space. Because it's completely reasonable to want to have the dishes done, for the laundry to be in the laundry basket, for the litterboxes to be clean, for surfaces to be clear so you can work/eat on them, and so on. That's not asking to scrub the baseboards every week - it's just a reasonable standard for a clean and comfortable living space.

The fact that sometimes I was willing to compromise this so I could have another hour playing games doesn't matter. If I want to make that selfish choice when I'm the only one who suffers from it, that's fine - but it doesn't justify me imposing that mess on someone else.

But men are not, in general, brought up to think this way. They're brought up to think that if they're willing to let dirty dishes pile up so they can have an extra hour playing games, then everyone else should be fine with that - any greater demand is "unreasonable." Compromising for the sake of their leisure is just expected.

There is another side of this, as well: It's a lot easier to ignore a household mess when you're not the one dealing with it. The person who cooks is the one who has to navigate around the dirty dishes, the person who dusts and vacuums is the one who has to deal with the clutter, and so on.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:05 PM on May 22 [56 favorites]


Who is assuming malevolence here? I don't think any woman commenting or reading here has to be "cautioned against" assuming men are being mean when they fail at these things.

Not taking you to task, but feels a bit chastising.
posted by agregoli at 2:07 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


They're brought up to think that if they're willing to let dirty dishes pile up so they can have an extra hour playing games, then everyone else should be fine with that - any greater demand is "unreasonable." Compromising for the sake of their leisure is just expected.

Kutsuwamushi, thank you for giving the articulate and example-laden version of what I was failing to eloquently describe!
posted by sazerac at 2:08 PM on May 22 [10 favorites]


Oh God, Eyebrows McGee, my wife and I had to start a Google doc for each other so that we can share what our "usual kinds" were for when we moved in with each other and had to start splitting some of these purchasing duties. So, like, I have her hierarchy of "what yogurt flavors to buy when flavor #1 is unavailable", and then I had to relinquish my list of what toilet and tissue paper brands/types I found to be acceptable.

Elsewhere on the Google Doc is my running sequence of "How To Make The TV Do The Thing" and her guidelines of "How To Medicate Our Cats" (who've since passed away)

Also, there's a part of your comment that reminds me of how every effort I've made to help my mom with Christmas dinner is usually batted away because she's got 50 years invested in understanding how my dad exactly wants his steak or mashed potatoes prepared and she doesn't want to have re-teach that to any of us or expose us to his annoyance when we fuck it up.
posted by bl1nk at 2:12 PM on May 22 [18 favorites]


To me, it feels like the fucking man wins again, and like feminism is being used against me so that a man doesn't have to increase his cleanliness efforts.

This! I grew up in a clean house that was kept nice - not fussily nice, but surfaces were clean, things got washed, we changed the sheets every weekend, dishes got put away, etc. I'm not that tidy as an adult - I tend toward "clean all the things in one burst on the weekend, let them deteriorate during the week", but still "clean all the things" is in there somewhere.

And the way it works is that either I can spend all my time cleaning all the things or the house is a wreck, or else it's constant nagging. So the house is a wreck, of course, and it gets me right down since I wasn't raised this way. I mean, I live in a big, dusty, crumbly old house on a busy street and it takes a lot of work just to stay at baseline.

When it's the weekend, I get out of bed early and start working. I build in some loafing and exercise, yes, but my weekend is organized around the idea that I have to get some chores done. This is not how anyone else in the house organizes their time, ever. And still the house is a mess, and the only way it wouldn't be a mess would be if I worked every waking moment that I was at home.

I could totally go "on strike" against patriarchal standards, if I wanted to wade up to my ankles in trash.
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on May 22 [48 favorites]


I agree with the author, but the funny point is that at which she indicates how people get paternity leave. Hahaha, in the USA, everyone concerned with a baby being born is back at work the following week, and the baby is outsourced to elder relatives or some daycare franchise.
posted by kadmilos at 2:16 PM on May 22


Who has seen the 2006 movie The Break-Up, with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston? In it they play Gary and Brooke, a couple who get into a fight over the preparations for a dinner party they're hosting for their combined families. Brooke has cooked the meal and cleaned their apartment for the dinner party, while Gary's sole contribution was to bring home three lemons when she asked him to buy a dozen. Then he watches TV while she's scurrying about trying to finish cooking and set the table. She tells him she wants him to go have his shower and get dressed before the guests arrive so that she isn't stuck trying to finish up in the kitchen and receive their guests at the same time, and he drags his feet on that until the first guest arrives, at which point he says he's going to go take his shower. After the party when she's trying to get him to help do the dishes and he's being a dick about that as well, the argument escalates into her announcing that she's done with the relationship, and things go downhill from there. It's not a great movie, but it does very realistically portray what a very one-sided division of emotional labour can do to a relationship over time.
posted by orange swan at 2:19 PM on May 22 [23 favorites]


This is probably going to read as making excuses, or worse a "not all men" rant. Neither is my intent, honestly.

I try to do half. I think I probably fail. The strategy of trying to do 75% to actually hit 50% is a good one. I think it is very telling that neighbors and relatives say things like "your wife is so lucky, you cook and do laundry!" Yeah, it's called being an adult. But it shows what society expects from us.

However, there is a very frustrating occurrence that happens in our house, also in my family and my wife's family. I'll start doing something in the kitchen, or with laundry, or cleaning something, and the lady of the house will appear to critique my work as I'm doing it. It's incredibly frustrating to be repeatedly told "you're doing it wrong" as you're trying to do something. This isn't about legitimately doing something dumb or dangerous. Most of the time that "wrong" is completely subjective; not so much "incorrect" as "different from how I do it". It isn't putting laundry soap in the dishwasher, it's loading the dishwasher in a way she considers sub-optimal. It isn't leaving leftovers out overnight, it's using the square tupperware when she would have used the oval lidded dish.

It subtly reinforces the idea that these things are her domain, and I'm a helper if I'm doing them.

I'm trying to get my wife to understand how much I dislike this. I think she sees me as touchy or oversensitive about it. But if the work belongs to both of us, and I'm doing it now, then me do it.
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:21 PM on May 22 [22 favorites]


My beloved's family treat it as a charming anecdote that when his brother was in his mid 20s (still living at home) he was asked to put a load in the washing machine. He did, but he didn't put it on or put powder in or anything. Very amusing.

I was recently embarrassed when a mum friend asked me what size my son's feet were. I didn't know, I realise now that this is because my beloved took him to get his most recent pair of shoes. I felt massively incompetent but I would guess that, as in the FPP, many dads wouldn't have a clue.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:22 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I agree with the author, but the funny point is that at which she indicates how people get paternity leave. Hahaha, in the USA, everyone concerned with a baby being born is back at work the following week, and the baby is outsourced to elder relatives or some daycare franchise.

Could we not do this? The US's maternity and paternity leave policies are terrible, no argument from me there - but asking an elder relative to look after the baby or placing the baby in daycare is not "outsourcing" and it is hurtful to imply that it is. There's more than one way to bring up a child.
posted by peacheater at 2:22 PM on May 22 [22 favorites]


Cranialtorque - I've experienced the same thing as I've tried to up my contribution to the house. I get that it's demoralizing but it's useful to really think about what feedback you're given is a necessary part of fitting your work into the existing workflow of the house. Maybe loading the dishwasher a particular way is necessary to prevent having to re-run some dishes, or necessary to get as many dishes done as possible, etc. Maybe the square tupperware is needed for packing the kids' lunches because it fits better in their lunch boxes.

Again, it doesn't feel great to encounter demoralization while you're trying to ramp up but chances are she's telling you this stuff because it makes a difference. If you need to, find out what that difference is (with as neutral/curious a tone as possible rather than with defensiveness) so that you can slot your work in with hers as compatibly as possible.
posted by Jpfed at 2:28 PM on May 22 [45 favorites]


Cranialtorque, your comment really strikes me more as not pertaining to the issue we're talking about...unless you think this is a universal thing and why men don't bother to help is because women will nag anyway, which I'm not saying you meant, because that would be a outdated stand up routine.
posted by agregoli at 2:30 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]


I suppose I'm just noting the frequency with which proposed solutions to unequal emotional and mental labor amount to a call for the total labor to be reduced, rather than for the other partner to increase their individual labor.

And a lack of focus on the non-patriarchal (does such a thing exist?) reasons someone might be a neat-freak - the wholesale dismissal of collective increases in chore effort/standards is just something I've seen often in these conversations and I am hyper-sensitive to it. Because it can gloss over other valid points in the call for higher standards, and that is frustrating.


If you're just talking about cleanliness, there's basically three sources of those standards:

1. What other people will judge me for
2. What I have been socially programmed to find comfortable/tolerable/intolerable
3. My personal preference
(maybe also 4. What we want to be teaching our children)
(possibly 5. Stuff that might affect the value of the house / recovery of the security deposit)

And it seems like talking about these forces is important in deciding with your partner what you want to do. Personal preference is absolutely a valid thing when negotiating what you want, and might even carry more weight in the negotiation than a hand-wavy appeal to some supposedly objective way things are "supposed to be."
posted by straight at 2:31 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


You can get nowhere arguing about whether it's right or wrong that the carpet should be vacuumed every week, but if you say, "I want the carpet vacuumed every week," you're in the realm of love and negotiation. (Or "I feel uncomfortable if the carpet isn't vacuumed," or "Your mother is going to give me that look if the carpet isn't vacuumed.")
posted by straight at 2:33 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


Most of the time that "wrong" is completely subjective; not so much "incorrect" as "different from how I do it". It isn't putting laundry soap in the dishwasher, it's loading the dishwasher in a way she considers sub-optimal

As the mother of a teenager, and also a wife to a husband, I just want to dig in a little on this, because I think variations of this are at the root of a lot of problems, and honestly shows a lot of unconscious entitlement. None of this is aimed directly at you, but rather the general expectation that says, "well if I'm doing it, you shouldn't complain about how I do it."

If a man went to work at a widget factory, and his male supervisor had been working there for 20 years making widgets, it's likely that his first few times making widgets, he would submit to correction by the senior supervisor, rightly assuming that the senior supervisor knows more about widget making than he did. If he had ideas about the making of widgets, he would first look to make sure that his widget making process was actually superior to the previous widget making process, so he could bring something of value to the company. Never would he ever tell his supervisor, "well, I like the widgets better this way, you should be glad I'm making widgets at all."

But somehow that same man finds it hard to believe that he could have an incorrect understanding of household chores that he does not perform nearly as often or for nearly as long as his female partner. Suddenly it's no longer important to take direction or correction from the subject matter expert who knows the household far better. Where did that come from? Why not?
posted by corb at 2:40 PM on May 22 [187 favorites]


agregoli, I think my comment pertains. It's about how all of us are socialized to perceive housework as women's work. A man doing it is seen as either lauded (for doing the things women are expected to without notice) or needs close supervision (because he is invading the women's work or space.) The idea communicated to is that I'm "helping" instead of "doing"; much like dads who are seen as "babysitting" instead of "parenting".
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:41 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


I really enjoyed the illustrative examples of the deep impact of Mental Load on a person and the amount of effort that it requires.

...then in the middle of the missive the "Clearing the Table" example seemed to be totally out of left field. The experience she had with her process of side-tracking the simple event is a personal choice, based around her personal expectations and worldview.

It feels like her frustrations are primarily around lack of clarified expectations. To expect your partner to operate in exactly the same manner you operate is a recipe for discord. This relationship issue seems separate from the powerful insight that Mental Load is costly.

Expectations Issues are sort of a programming dilemma- what seems like a simple 'ask' becomes less simple when you tease apart the internal expectations and worldview that make the 'answer' acceptable. These take time and communication to resolve so that worldviews and expectations can be fully expressed and grokked by each partner.
posted by CheapB at 2:44 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Seconding corb!

When I say the laundry or dishes or mopping should be done a different way, I'm helping my husband be more efficient based on the experience I have from doing it a million more times than he has. I think this also ties into the thought above that men are conditioned not to have different standards, but to not think about others--men bristle because they don't CARE if it's more efficient! You can say "I did the dishes" no matter how clean they actually get, so why bother doing it the right way!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:46 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


But somehow that same man finds it hard to believe that he could have an incorrect understanding of household chores that he does not perform nearly as often or for nearly as long as his female partner. Suddenly it's no longer important to take direction or correction from the subject matter expert who knows the household far better.

I think this is a good point. If I had never done dishes or laundry before and were just learning how, I should absolutely take some pointers. The fact is, I have done these things almost my entire life. I was responsible for chores at home growing up, I maintained my own home for 15 years before marriage. My wife and I have equal experience here. I see it as the assumption that I need supervision in the kitchen or laundry room because I'm male. That is frustrating.

I think that frustration is relevant to the conversation, because I think it is a result of the ambient sexism in our society.
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:50 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


CrainialTorque, but you were talking about your own relationship, right? Extrapolating that to "women will nag a man doing a task" is what bothers me. And it reads and functions for many as an excuse. I feel like you're arguing against the premise of this by stating what you think women are doing wrong.
posted by agregoli at 2:50 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


I'll also add that I think a lot of the resistance to "doing it the right way" is a resistance to devoting space in the brain to remembering, consistently, over time, that there is a right way. That these plates must be turned this way and rinsed in this way or it has to be done all over again.

And I think the implicit statement there, even if it's not conscious, is, "The thoughts and ideas and mental space kept in the brain of a man is more precious than the thoughts kept in the brain of a woman, and shouldn't be taken up by such unimportant things."
posted by corb at 2:52 PM on May 22 [42 favorites]


It seems like the fact that women (or a transmasculine person who lives with cis men!) do most of the process stuff is part of what hangs things up. If you do the dishes "wrong", then I have extra work because I am the person who cooks (so if the dishes are put away randomly, I have to look for them); if you don't put your stuff away, I have to put at least some of it away because it's on a surface that I need for other tasks; if you don't empty out your old tupperware and get rid of your rotting produce from the refrigerator, I have to do it because I clean the fridge.

Another thought: I do the cooking and grocery shopping, so the knock-on effect is that I also have to keep track of everything that is in the fridge, use things before they rot, throw out the last two spoonfuls of last week's chili, etc, and that means it doesn't make sense for anyone else to clean the fridge, because I'm the one who knows about the condition of the fridge. So there's another task for me. (Because otherwise there's so much directing that I might as well do it.)

This is making me tired even to think about.
posted by Frowner at 2:53 PM on May 22 [36 favorites]


I've had the same experience as Cranialtorque when living with my sister. We're both women, and both have the same amount of experience doing housework. My way gets the dishes just as clean as hers, just as efficiently - there really is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.

I don't think it's a patriarchy thing; I think it's just particular to some people's individual personalities.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:53 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


Sure, The Underpants Monster. I agree with you that it's an individual thing. But that is definitely not what this post is about.
posted by agregoli at 2:57 PM on May 22 [6 favorites]


Clearing the table isn't out of left field. Not everyone needs to deal with their day in precisely the manner she did -- they could make a mental list for later, rather than interrupting a current task. And maybe they would still pick up the towel, wash the laundry and update the shopping list by the end of the day.

Or maybe, If she hadn't picked up the towel when she did, someone would have tripped over it, or the dog would have chewed on it and now she has soothing hurt feelings to deal with or 'buy new towel' to go on the shopping list.

If she hadn't picked up the towel, she wouldn't have noticed that the hamper was full and started the laundry. But laundry is a chore that has a lot of down time, during which other things can get done -- if she didn't start the laundry now, she would have had to do it later, and maybe that would have meant it wasn't finished before bedtime. And now you have stacks of folded laundry you don't want to put in the kids room because they are sleeping, so instead of having finished the laundry today, it's another thing sticking around until tomorrow.

None of these are world-ending crises, of course, but taking care of things asap after you know they need taking care of ensures you don't forget them and minimizes follow-on problems. Part of the mental load is constant reprioritization between what you are doing and what you have just discovered needs to be done.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:57 PM on May 22 [27 favorites]


Is there room for an app to help with scheduling chores in a couple/family?
posted by miyabo at 2:59 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I'm currently debating whether to send this to my partner or not. It's probably going to make them feel guilty and defensive and start an argument we've only had a billion times by now, but by the same reasoning... what do I have to lose by having Argument Billion+1.

This is also harder to deal with when my partner doesn't drive much outside of their normal route to work, due to anxiety and panic attacks. In fact I prefer to do most of the driving and errand running because I care for this person, and want them to feel like they have plenty of time and space to deal with these issues. So all grocery/pharmacy/cat litter runs are done by me, which means I automatically keep tabs on the fridge (which tends to mean meal planning). What feels like a long time ago now we decided my partner would take care of scheduling vet appointments for the cats and dealing with "cat maintenance" issues, but after 2 months of them saying "I really need to schedule that vaccine update" I just went and did it.

On top of that my partner has had to deal with super long hours at work, managing a team of people, so they are understandably exhausted and I end up doing extra things because "wouldn't it be nice for them," BUT THIS SOMEHOW NEVER ENDS UP HAVING AN END DATE. That's what kills me! Time and time again I just continue doing extra things around the house because my partner NEVER goes "Oh shit thanks for doing this for so long, I've got it now." Rebalancing never happens until I have a breakdown about number of plates I've had to keep spinning.

God I wish I never had any expectations of equality in household management when I was younger, because that dream died a very painful death I'll never get over.
posted by erratic meatsack at 3:00 PM on May 22 [15 favorites]


miyabo - Chore Wars comes to mind.
posted by aniola at 3:00 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I had this happen to me every time I ever lived with a guy, despite having very low standards. But now I see this a lot with the husbands of friends, and in at least two cases, the thing I find completely infuriating is that the husbands are software developers. At the very least, if you can't compromise on more getting done, you can be willing to throw money at the problem to make part of the problem go away. (Laundry seems to always be a huge one, and laundry is not hard to pay someone else to do.) And yet this solution will be dismissed as unnecessary, or like if it happens, it should be paid for entirely out of the spouse's part of the budget. Compromise doesn't always necessarily involve more physical labor on anybody's part, or more mess--there are sometimes ways around that. And yet even where those options are available, the problem never seems to be the labor. It's the whole concept of sacrifice, of offering it time and attention and household resources.

If these problems were only had by poor people, it would be a problem of division of labor, but it isn't. It isn't about the standards for housekeeping, or who does how much. It's about who's in charge of caring.
posted by Sequence at 3:01 PM on May 22 [20 favorites]


Fwiw, my wife and I are firmly in the camp of "if you delegate, you can either define acceptable or your can define method, but you should not define both"

We both do not like being micromanaged so when I have to take over to do the dishes (because, say, she's ill) I know the acceptable level of cleanliness and that nothing should get broken, but she doesn't micromanage technique or time or water usage. Similarly we had an ambitious house party where I had to ask her to make guacamole. The request was to make guacamole and I let her pick ingredients, technique, and even just choose to go out and buy it from a store so long as guacamole appeared.

Fortunately our standards for cleanliness and deliciousness are pretty compatible and I admit that this sort of separation would be challenging when standards are more divergent.
posted by bl1nk at 3:05 PM on May 22 [22 favorites]


I do the majority of the cooking and meal planning in our house, so when we entertain I'm usually busy buying groceries and cooking and cleaning after myself and making sure the dishes are clean, napkins are folded, etc.

So mrsozzy is always in charge of making sure the bathrooms are clean, furniture is dusted to at least a non-slovenly state, etc., but those are things I'm usually worrying about too, because our standard for clean is "clean," but not "Lysol commercial clean." Which of course is fine, but I have serious anxiety about being judged about it.

But I know that, the truth is, I won't be judged for it, but she will. If I'm wearing clean socks and not visibly drunk before people show up I'm good. Which is shitty.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:12 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


I've lived in many shared housing situations with men and women both. I've lived with clean men and messy women.

But the people who've gone out of their way to do something thoughtful for the house for no real reason - like, buying flowers for the living room, or cleaning the entire bathroom when it wasn't their turn, or making everyone breakfast - were consistently women. Always women, really.

The best I could ever hope for with the guys was general tidying of common spaces. This feels meaningful to me but I'm not sure what connection I should draw.
posted by Emily's Fist at 3:13 PM on May 22 [17 favorites]


But somehow that same man finds it hard to believe that he could have an incorrect understanding of household chores that he does not perform nearly as often or for nearly as long as his female partner. Suddenly it's no longer important to take direction or correction from the subject matter expert who knows the household far better. Where did that come from? Why not?

There's complicated truth in this. My wife, a perfectionist, and I, not at all a perfectionist, struggled with an allowance for the space for me to get better at certain chores. You get good at things by doing them and sometimes the advice on how to be perfect at something comes before even basic competencies are developed and it communicates impossibly high standards leading to defeatism.

So there is a conflict between a reasonable expectation that experience be respected and a practical pedagogical concern that learning involves trial and error and if you can't brook error you may makes the trials too aversive. It's a practical concern rather than a moral one though and it is of course yet another ridiculous thing that women have to train grown men.
posted by srboisvert at 3:15 PM on May 22 [13 favorites]


Uncleozzy, does she offer up any "sorry things are messy" kind of things that put the blame on her? Not saying her or anyone should, but if she does, you could say, "actually cleaning was my department, sorry!"
posted by agregoli at 3:15 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


For the first time ever, I've been tasked with all the housework for more than just me, including all the outside stuff. This is because I'm staying with my mother, who just went through a rough time with surgery. It doesn't look like I'll be getting rid of much of the work for a while yet, probably for close to a year.

I've always done my own work, because I've lived alone forever. The perception that I've had is that housework isn't so bad, and the perception I've been missing is that of someone dependent on me to get it done, and on top of that, do it every day, with no end date in sight.

So I get it, somewhat. I can't say I get it fully because it's never been expected of me like it has been for women forever, but I now can at least sympathize and relate to the article a bit.
posted by disclaimer at 3:20 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, I usually offer disclaimers. Which is silly-- like I said, our place is never really a true mess, but I have a lot of anxiety about her, not me, being judged about the state of the housekeeping.

My mother kept house meticulously and obsessively, and we sure as shit don't (and I don't actually desire that level of cleanliness), but my sense of what other people expect is definitely based on that.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:20 PM on May 22


It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.

Ah, I was struggling how to explain this phenomenon in the context of trans men and you've done it for me. I know both neat and messy trans men, but all of them are very conscious of their friends' and partner's needs. Being trans is a hidden blessing sometimes.
posted by AFABulous at 3:30 PM on May 22 [13 favorites]


I'd caution against a default assumption of malevolence for these kinds of things unless you have additional reasons to suspect it.
Right, because my mother and I both only possess this one data point about my father, and have no other reason to suspect that he is doing it purposefully. Trust me when I say that this is not a glib statement.

But I also think this comment and the comment about men being criticized when they take up some of the slack are related. I think a lot about the men that I have dated that have decided to pick up some tasks, and it's very interesting: even if they ask me how to do something, and I show them, they often get defensive and angry that I am telling them it "has" to be done a certain way. I've heard this argument before, and while I generally agree with the statement "to each his own" - I do not tell people how to do things unless they really need to do it a certain way for a reason - I also think that it's pretty fascinating that in both of these comments, it's assumed that the women are being arbitrary and glib with their criticism. Why is that? Why is being asked to do something a certain way even framed as criticism in the first place? Why isn't it seen as something more benevolent, like knowledge sharing?
posted by sockermom at 3:35 PM on May 22 [58 favorites]


It's always rankled me how thoroughly people internalize those roles, even today. My parents got married in the 60s, so my mom quit her job and stayed home to take care of the house and kids, but my dad would get up in the morning, feed us kids breakfast when applicable, pack his lunch, and then bring my mom a cup of coffee in bed before he left for work. He did the grocery shopping on the weekends, and brought us kids with him when we were little. And that grocery shopping included keeping stock of everyone's preferred menstrual supplies, for another thing that many men find so daunting.

He regularly cooked big batches of soup or chili or something on weekends and would freeze the extra for later, and while Mom did most of the regular cleaning, it wasn't at all unusual for him to do that when it needed done. So seeing men washing dishes or running a vacuum never looked weird to me. In fact, it's weird seeing men being all dependent and helpless when it comes to basic grownup skills like that.

And one of the best parts is that my dad was born in 1925, so when someone pulls out the excuse that they were raised in a different time and it just never occurred to anyone to do things differently, I can call bullshit pretty decisively. If they cared, they could have done things differently too.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:42 PM on May 22 [81 favorites]


Oh man. Certainly people have differing personalities and different ways of cleaning. There's no doubt about that. But there are so many passive-aggressive and just damaging things that can happen around the balance of household labor.

My husband and I are gender-role-reversed in a lot of ways (I'm genderqueer and he kind of raised himself in some respects, with a single mother, largely absent father, and family of almost all women). So I try to be mindful of the machismo or chauvinism that could potential accompany my being the primary earner in the house. Yet I feel like we run into these sorts of emotional-labor issues regarding cleaning all the time.

When I was first getting to know my husband, I remember thinking it was so great that when I would call him on the phone, I would inevitably find him doing totally! adult! stuff! like cleaning his apartment. Great! He's older than me and knows how to do this stuff. I don't need to clean up after someone.

Pffff yeah right. Nowadays this boils down to things like his suggesting I don't join in enough in our cleaning efforts (read: "You work from home so you should clean more while you're home 'cause you're always here," plus "You should be more enthusiastic about joining me in my occasional massive cleaning frenzy"). Yet he refuses to do stuff I ask of him to reduce our cleaning workload, like keeping the built-in microwave in our house clean (put a paper towel over your freakin' food when you heat it up, dude, and you will basically never have to clean it), as well as just never cleaning the microwave at all after it becomes dirty and crusty. (We never used to clean the microwave at our apartment, but that's because it was like a 20-year-old heavy gross thing I got on Freecycle when I was just out of college that I planned to and did leave on the curb when we moved out. The new one is literally attached to the house, so it seems important to keep clean.)

Or there's that thing where he says I don't unload/load the dishwasher often enough (I prefer to leave it until I have time to give it the care it deserves, rather than making it a prereq to my doing something like heating up food). But while he does the dishes more frequently, it is often in a massive, rapid sweep in which he makes a ton of noise and sometimes breaks dishes (I had to turn off heated dry, because he would bang around hot glassware so hard that something would break every time he unloaded the dishwasher). And almost every time he fails to notice things like dishes and silverware that didn't get all the way clean (he puts them away anyway), which I find super gross and frustrating.

He also does the thing someone else described above wherein he'll request that I help with something, then get annoyed that I'm right there doing it, in the space where he apparently now wants to do other things or complete other parts of the cleaning ritual.

We definitely have different standards of cleanliness for various parts of our respective cleaning efforts, and it's true that in general he cleans more than I do, but I find it hard to appreciate the effort or to even want to take part when there's this level of hypocrisy and carelessness surrounding it. I feel like there would be less need to clean surfaces, for instance, if he didn't carelessly splash stuff all over them.

And the thing is, he does go out of his way sometimes to clean, even when he's not up for it due to illness—but I feel like this is more about demonstrating to me he's all-in on cleaning or fulfilling some compulsion than actually caring about the results. And that, I am not grateful for—it just makes me angry, because he ends up hurting himself to make a point about how he doesn't trust me to follow through on the cleaning.

We have a few problems, clearly. But yeah, this stuff can get toxic in a hurry. I've tried to talk to him about the concept of emotional labor before, and he just views that as "keeping score" or otherwise not being relevant to his experience of day-to-day life, because in his view there are "things you just do." That means that we can't really talk about this in a productive way, because he feels like work is just something a body is obliged to do, an inevitable part of the human condition that can never be discussed or questioned, even when it breaks down unevenly or just breaks down entirely.
posted by limeonaire at 3:45 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


CrainialTorque, but you were talking about your own relationship, right?

That, uh, may happen sometimes in these threads. I was writing something related to Cranialtorque's comments but I decided not to keep it because it's too much an AskMe about my own relationship.

So there is a conflict between a reasonable expectation that experience be respected and a practical pedagogical concern that learning involves trial and error and if you can't brook error you may makes the trials too aversive. It's a practical concern rather than a moral one though and it is of course yet another ridiculous thing that women have to train grown men.

A counterpart to this is:

Ugh, [chore] is a pain in the ass
- I can do that if you want, you know!
Nah, you never do it right.
- Well I'll never learn to do it if you don't let me do it.
(unresolved, repeats)

I don't know what the best solution to that is.
posted by atoxyl at 3:49 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Guys, check out How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids. Jancee Dunn consulted several experts for ways to make peace with her living situation (husband + one daughter). I didn't even finish the book, I was so eager to get it into the hands of a friend who, I thought, could use it even more than me (partner, no children).
posted by olopua at 3:57 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


What's interesting is that if you perform a "real job" (paid job?) like the man in the comic, it makes you bad at what you do. When I wait tables, I'm like the man in the comic - I'm doing everything asked of me (and sometimes more?) and it feels like I'm doing a good job - but there's a level of additional stuff that a good server does intuitively that I guess I just don't "get". And you know what? I am not a good waitress. The second time I got fired from a server job I gave it up and just looked for office work (where I do have the instinct?).

So yeah. In the situation outlined in the above Federici where this type of work is paid, many many men would be fired. Kind of ironic.

I must give a shoutout to my husband who actually does a lot of this - it actually feels fair (we both work and have one kid), other than all the breastfeeding. He was always pretty domestic, but I have to say, going back to work when kiddo was 6mo old and having him take parental leave for 5-6 mo was a total game changer. It freed me of being the expert.

I agree with the comic that it's not just about women's rights - it needs to be about men's rights to be whole people too. We've got to the point where women can act like men (put on a suit a go to work), but men need to be able to stay home etc. too. We all need to be able to just be whole people.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:03 PM on May 22 [15 favorites]


my father is constantly "forgetting" things on the grocery list my mom writes, for example, and she's convinced (probably rightly) that he does it so that she will stop asking him to go to the store.

A former colleague of mine and his wife had a baby, and shortly thereafter he cheerfully told me that when she asked him to swap off getting up in the night to take care of it, he deliberately banged around, made a ton of noise, and made a huge mess so that she would be disturbed by him, find the house in worse shape in the morning, and ultimately decide that asking him to help was not a good idea and it would be easier to do it herself and let him sleep. He felt no embarrassment or awkwardness about this, and talked about having learned this from talking to some of his Army buddies.

His wife responded by insisting that they move back to their hometown so she could get more support from her mother, because she couldn't handle the baby by herself. This meant I got to spend six months working massive overtime when he quit suddenly.

So yeah. This is definitely a thing.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:37 PM on May 22 [42 favorites]


"Ugh, [chore] is a pain in the ass
- I can do that if you want, you know!
Nah, you never do it right.
- Well I'll never learn to do it if you don't let me do it."


I mean, this is what's hard about teaching children to do chores! I can do it SO MUCH FASTER AND BETTER myself. But if I don't let them do it in their bumbling and fumbling way while they learn, they will not learn, and they will grow up to be terrible partners who never do the dishes or laundry because they don't know how. It's also why so many people are TERRIBLE TEACHERS because it takes a certain cast of mind to be able to watch people do things really badly while they gain mastery. (I mean, can you imagine being an elementary school band teacher who loves music so much they want to do it every day for the rest of their lives, and are sentenced to listening to elementary school band students every day?)

I don't know how to iron because my mom is left-handed and deft, and I am right-handed and clumsy, and she could not stand watching me try to iron "wrong handed" and always just this side of catastrophe. (I've picked up a little bit from Martha Stewart appearing on Conan, but only a little.) She never let me cut anything up in the kitchen, either, for the same reason -- the horror show of watching a clumsy person use a sharp object wrong-handed -- so I didn't learn to handle a kitchen knife until I was in my mid-20s and I was so awkward and so slow for years, because everyone else started when they were ten or whatever.

So I strongly recognize this as a problem but it's very difficult for me to relax my control/standards/efficiency (especially the efficiency!) to teach my kids how to chore. With an adult, you have the added dimension of "YOU'RE NOT MY MOM! YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!" which is not super-pleasant.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on May 22 [25 favorites]


Has there been research done on mental load in same-sex couples? I'd be interested whether it tends to be shared equally or whether, in most relationships, it's still one partner or the other that ends up with the bigger share.

Another bit of anecdata to add to comments above:

In the beginning of our 8-year relationship, it drove me crazy that my ex never initiated any kind of cooking/cleaning/organizing/planning. She insisted that she'd happily do anything I asked her to do, and maintained that all I had to do was ask.

So here comes a Saturday. After working a 50-hour week, I'm vacuuming and dusting and mowing the lawn and changing the cat litter and fixing all of the broken things (because part of our relationship dynamic was that she broke things -- tangible, physical things -- and I fixed them, because I'm handy that way). Sometime around midday on this Saturday, past the point where I'd grown resentful that I was doing all of this work while she was sitting on the couch literally composing a poem, I'd ask her if she'd wash the dishes and change the burnt out light bulb in the hallway.

She always cheerfully said "Sure!," so she was technically being genuine when she said all I had to do was ask. But after I resumed my long list of chores, she'd come start quizzing me about the light-bulb-changing process.

Her: Where are the light bulbs?
Me: Above the fridge, where they always are.
Her: [goes off to retrieve light bulbs, returns holding two light bulbs] Which one should I use?
Me: What was in there before?
Her: I don't know. I threw it away.
Me: Well, go look.
Her [goes off to look at trash can light bulb]: It said 75 watts. We only have 60 and 100.
Me: ...
Her: ... [does not compute || system overload || awaiting further input] ...
Me: You are a 35-year-old woman I should not have to teach you (or ask you) to change a light bulb.**

(Then I'd go into the kitchen to see that she had washed some dishes, but only the ones she herself had eaten off. Which was additionally maddening since the food she had eaten off of the dishes she had dirtied was food I cooked, and the pots and pans were still there, unwashed. "All you have to do is ask me to help and I'll help! I don't understand why you're making a big deal out if it," she'd say the next time around.)

** I didn't actually say that last bit about how you shouldn't have to teach a grownup to change a light bulb, though I should have, early on. And if I had done so, like I should have, we wouldn't have ended up buying a house together, which we shouldn't have. After about three months in our new house, after nothing had changed in terms of household duties AND we had a whole new set of things for her to break, I went on strike.

I stopped cleaning. I stopped asking her to clean. I began cooking only for myself. I stopped fixing things. Appliances became unusable. The floors made the bottoms of our feet dirty.

This is no way to live, obviously, but she actually got the message and started doing some of those things without being asked. It was an extremely dysfunctional and unhappy relationship, only partly, but not insignificantly, as a result of this stuff. My weaponized conscientious objection immediately proceeded our filing for divorce, and I moved out.

After which, my lawyer explained to her that we live in a community property state and she would have to split the proceeds from the sale of the house. Her honest-to-god response to my lawyer: "BUT SHE [meaning me] NEVER DID ANYTHING AROUND THE HOUSE!!!"

All this is to say that being an asshole about household work and mental load doesn't exactly correlate to gender identity or sexual orientation. We certainly live in a culture that ties this burden around the necks of women in heterosexual relationships like an albatross that needs a bath, and those women certainly bear the brunt of it. But it's not magically different in same-sex relationships. If it was, they wouldn't be as much work as the other kind is. And yet they totally are.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:40 PM on May 22 [31 favorites]


Her [goes off to look at trash can light bulb]: It said 75 watts. We only have 60 and 100.
I have to confess I'm a 31 year old woman and I don't know the answer to that. Are different wattages interchangeable? I get that it's frustrating but you probably learned that from someone at some point right?
posted by peacheater at 4:50 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted - folks, in a thread about overall, average gendered differences in distribution of labor/expectations, it's common but entirely unhelpful to drop in with something like "just care less" or a terse "not at my house." It's fine to engage in a way that adds nuance.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:02 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Okay, I just read the whole comic and this entire thread so that I could say, with great appreciation: the title of this thread should be on t-shirts. I would buy the title of this thread a drink. The title of this thread makes me want to drink. In conclusion: I love you, thread title.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:05 PM on May 22 [40 favorites]


Are different wattages interchangeable? I get that it's frustrating but you probably learned that from someone at some point right?

Not really? I just know that a 100w bulb in a bedside lamp primarily used for reading is going to be uncomfortably bright (for my eyes), while a 60w bulb in the overhead light in the kitchen is going to be dim to the point of frustration (for me). I'm not sure where I learned that, to be honest, and always filed it away as either common knowledge or knowledge gained through life experience.

My bigger point, I suppose, wasn't about light bulbs. It's more about a relationship problem that boils down to "Do not expect your partner to be the keeper of all knowable facts" -- which wattage of light bulb to use in a hallway falling for me into that category.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:09 PM on May 22 [13 favorites]


One more sort of half-formed observation I have about gendered expectations (here I'm thinking about living with people who are *not* romantic partners - if they are I think the expectations are a little different):

Women (it seems to me) tend to be raised to think of cleaning up other people's messes as an expression of care, and a thing one does as a good friend/roommate.

Guys (when they are living with their buddies) often think that staying out of other people's messes, turning a blind eye to shit because you'd like them to do the same for you, as a thing one does as a good friend/roommate.

I live in a house with my S.O. and a couple of my guy friends and the one guy in particular who is this

It's not that men and women are socialized to have different standards. It's the men are socialized to think they don't have to think about anyone else.

in spades has been a big problem for her. And I have no problem saying fundamentally he really is an asshole who doesn't seem to understand the basic responsibilities that come with living with people. I'm a fairly messy person by preference but I take the attitude straight describes that if you're going to coexist you of course have to establish some common expectations and uphold them - it's not about what you personally think is the "correct" level of care but rather what will make everybody happy. But - sometimes I feel like I know some things about the rules he's playing by in his head which she doesn't, and think somehow if I were better at translating (in both directions) I could spare some frustration? It's hard to explain even what I'm getting at by this.
posted by atoxyl at 5:18 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Are different wattages interchangeable?

It's fine to put in a lower-wattage bulb, except it won't be as bright. Putting in a higher-wattage bulb might be unsafe (as in "start a fire") depending on the lamp or fixture -- usually they'll list a max wattage if they have an upper limit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on May 22 [12 favorites]


I'll handle cooking, but that also means that I have responsibility for grocery shopping, pantry/fridge inventory management, maintaining leftovers, etc.

Sazerac, I'm not picking on you, but I'd like to delve some more into the aspects of labor division.

My husband does all of the above that you mentioned, with the exception of kitchen cleanup. Frankly, I don't want him to do that, because he never wears (!) his glasses, and his idea of clean counters is not mine. Not to mention I would rather clean three kitchen than have to plan meals, shop, and maintain leftovers! So there we are, he cooks, I clean, I load the dishwasher, he puts away (with the exception of the silverware, that gets dumped in the drawer; I sort it out into the slots, because he hates that for some reason. Eh, whatevers.

But he sees the trade off in terms of his doing cooking, and my doing the cleaning up. There's a whole lot of effort on my part that isn't acknowledged: I clean the fridge, and delve into the back of the freezer where the bloody hamburger has run down the wall. I tear apart the stove, make sure the drip pans are either cleaned or occasionally replaced when too grungy. I make sure the self-cleaning oven gets done in the fall and spring so it doesn't crust over to where it can't be cleaned. (I saw one like that once--pretty impressive) Takes planning, so it doesn't have to be cleaned in the heat of the summer. I notice when the filter in the range hood is greasy and toss in the dishwasher. Wipe the back splash. Time to bleach the counters and put some baking soda and vinegar down the drains. I'm the one that cleans the interiors of all the cupboards, and uses Murphy's Oil Soap to preserve the outside doors and the kitchen table and chairs. The light fixtures need washed occasionally. Wash the French door and kitchen window. Dust off spiderwebs in the corners. Put kitchen rugs through the washer.

The floor--Dear Dogs, the FLOOR. We have a dog and two cats, we're house sitting 2 other dogs this month, we have horses, and we are putting the garden in. Please don't look at the floor. All the unseen small stuff--making sure the butter dish gets washed before the butter goes in; washing the bucket for the chicken scraps after you dump it; washing and sorting recyclables; weeding out the mismatched plastic containers and lids, finding where their match might be hiding, deciding to buy new ones. Hmm, maybe it's time to paint the kitchen again. The donkey salt and pepper collection and the houseplants are rightfully mine to respectively dust and water, but he admits the kitchen is more like home with them. When I leave for two weeks in the summer, I need to remember to call long distance to remind him to water the plants, or there is sadness when I get home.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:24 PM on May 22 [9 favorites]


THis reminds me of an incident that happened shortly after my husband and I moved in together. He arrived home from work one day and informed me that he'd invited four couples (his friends, not mine) over for dinner the coming Friday evening. Great, I said. What are you cooking? Uh, he said, I thought you'd do it?! Why would I do it, I asked. I'm a guest! I wasn't asked if I wanted to host a dinner for ten in two days time, I wasn't asked if the day was right or who I'd like to invite. I wasn't consulted on anything. You simply came home and told me you were holding a function at my home. I haven't been involved at all, it's not my dinner party - it's yours.

So my two options are to assume that, like everyone else, I'm an invited guest who gets to enjoy your hospitality, or that I'm actually your servant and I don't get to be consulted on whether a dinner party is hosted at my house, I just get to do the grunt work of preparing, shopping, cooking, cleaning and hosting. NOW WHICH OF THESE INDIVIDUALS AM I TO YOU, A GUEST OR YOUR SERVANT?!

Dinner that Friday was great, I didn't lift a finger. Strangely, he's never done that again.
posted by Jubey at 6:54 PM on May 22 [178 favorites]


actually, BlueHorse, I posted that bit.

Our division for the kitchen is somewhat similar to yours, though we do a few more splits about specific cleaning chores. My wife usually loads the dishwasher. I unload. Washing prep equipment and scullery tends to split. She isn't always down for doing the dishes after a full day of teaching so sometimes I'll just wash what's needed to clear the sink and what's needed to prep for dinner or breakfast. She's more attentive to stove top and counter surfaces than I am. I go at the refrigerator, usually when I'm also doing a purge/reset of the contents, though sometimes also it happens when I'm defragging the layout so that leftovers and reheatable lunches are little more visible.

We take turns with portering garbage and recycling. I wind up being the recyclable sorting nazi, and have taken to pre-emptively going through our wastebins to ensure that waste paper and old mail go into the recycling before the bin is summarily emptied into trash.

I inherited having to sort out tupperware lids because I wound up organizing the cabinets, and also because I tend to bring more tupperware to the office, and I have to bring back more assorted pieces over the course of a work week.

Neither of us are pro-active about the oven, and it only gets cleaned when it's noticeably smoky, which basically means it's me. She sweeps but hates mopping, so if a floor is to be mopped, it's also up to me to do it.

We split the plants. She's usually home before me or WFH, and usually gets to the plants before I do, but I often ask when I get home and take it on if she's caught up with grading or answering student emails or having an evening workshop. It helped for me to participate in the plant acquisitions and feel ownership over them. I also at least think of the herbs, tomatoes, and salad greens as an extension of the pantry and therefore something I'm accountable for. The balcony and deck garden for us are relatively new things, and we haven't yet sorted out ownership for that, so our domains may change in a year but in the meantime, we're co-managing it.

and, yeah, there's a lot of other micro-exceptions in our chore splits. She'll do laundry, but hates ironing, so I iron whatever's needed to iron, and will offer to take whatever she gives me while I'm doing my shirts. I sometimes wish that she'd use a clothesline, but that's back to defining acceptable outcomes vs defining methods. If the clothes are eventually dry, and she prefers to just hang them in the bathroom, then I live with it.

I manage most of the social calendar, bills, and appointment booking, but she handled all veterinarian stuff for the cats (because our last cats were hers, and she wants primary responsibility for future cats). She maintains our bathroom and cleaning supply inventory, but we split home hardware inventory (spare light bulbs, batteries, nails, screws, etc.) because home repairs tend to boil down who sees it first and who feels confident about fixing the thing.
posted by bl1nk at 7:20 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


basically I am a dirtbag bachelor who happens to be a lesbian

brb updating my tumblr header
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:33 PM on May 22 [25 favorites]


This was interesting because it didn't talk about household management that is stereotypically male and I was wondering if maybe that was falling more and more to women these days too. For example, household repairs, paying bills, taking out the garbage, disciplining kids - those things I think of as traditional household management for men and not really represented in the comic. Does that just not exist anymore (we hire people for most of those things - and an app will pay your bills!), are those still typically male domains, do women manage those things as well or what? Sort of curious...
posted by Toddles at 8:45 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]


The way I read it, Toddles, is that it's not that men don't do any household management, but that the share of managing the duties still disproportionately falls on one partner's shoulders. In the author's example she uses paying bills as an example of another thing a lot of women do, which I agree with. I honestly think that some tasks, like accounting and bill tracking are not really male coded so much as it's just not taboo for a man to be responsible for it. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that a man will assume the entirety of that responsibility. Ditto for disciplining kids or household repairs.

Even if a man brings in the greater proportion of a household's revenue, I've often seen it be the case where it's just a matter of some portion of his earnings going into a joint account then they split who has to pay for what, and it's still asking the spouse to assume some portion of mental load for tracking whatever bill schedules are assigned to them.

And if the spouse has to be thinking about some portion of bills, plus kiddo management, plus wear and tear of the house, in addition to cooking, laundry, medical, pets, gardening, extended family, social calendar, etc. it's not really fair for the man to think, "oh well, I'm participating in those three things too, so I'm bearing my share."
posted by bl1nk at 9:17 PM on May 22 [7 favorites]


Putting in a higher-wattage bulb might be unsafe (as in "start a fire") depending on the lamp or fixture -- usually they'll list a max wattage if they have an upper limit.

Ideally you want to learn about this stuff without actually starting a fire or melting​ a lamp, but if you don't, it's definitely not a lesson easily forgotten. Also, a good reason beyond saving energy to turn off lights when you leave a room. Though it's all a bit different nowadays with our fancy post-incandescent lightbulbs that don't produce so much heat.
posted by asperity at 9:27 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


"This was interesting because it didn't talk about household management that is stereotypically male and I was wondering if maybe that was falling more and more to women these days too. For example, household repairs, paying bills, taking out the garbage, disciplining kids - those things I think of as traditional household management for men"

FWIW, my grandfather sold insurance in the 1950s and he commented that they always had to sell to the (stay-at-home) wives, because they managed the money -- husbands earned it, but the wives were absolutely the budget planners and managers and while the husband was the one who would SAY yes or no, it was absolutely the wife who was making the decision 80% of the time, and even way back then they had seminars from the company on pitching the products in such a way that it protected the husband's ego as "head of the household" but actually made the sale to the wife and got her on your side, because the wife was going to be the decider. (The neck that turns the head, as My Big Fat Greek Wedding put it.) Similarly, with a breadwinner/housewife model, the wife was actually providing the bulk of child discipline; dad was just being symbolically appealed to (as a more distant authority figure who is less present and therefore less predictable).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:03 PM on May 22 [24 favorites]


Sheesh -- I was active in the EL thread and ensuring debacle over the published thread, hence a new identity here, but I looked at this and immediately remembered the cathartic stories I shared. The constant mental load of ALL THE THINGS that had to be juggled, the fiance who had no idea how to clean the yard after a hurricane, all the other shit.

I'm going to assume it's different times now, we have President Nincompoop and it's been months of feeling sad and beaten up, and now when I read this stuff I just feel mostly terrible and honestly, just sadly resigned to it.

One partner is a rockstar and generally does everything, the other one is a lazy fuck who decides they're the helper and it's all bullshit and it's never going to change and I will die a single woman surrounded by rescued pets because I can no longer deal.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:53 AM on May 23 [5 favorites]


I'm female, diagnosed ADHD as an adult, in a relationship with a man who definitely does not have ADHD. When I do chores, it's often on the sly because otherwise my effort will be fixed. When I forget items at the grocery store, it's because I've made it that far without remembering that I must always take a list. However, I'm the more fluent of us when it comes to tasks of nuance. I know what's happening when our router barfs, which snacks are the right ones to take to meetings, that you don't have to dress up for a music recital, when a car salesperson isn't giving the best price, what tasks cause the most disruption to our household's general flow.

This division of labor works fine until we have to interact with the rest of the world. There, it sometimes translates out to "it's so cool that he's a really involved parent, but why do you do X when all the other moms do Y?"

I don't doubt the experiences described in these threads on Mefi. At all. But the time I caught hell for bringing fruit snacks that my husband bought to a soccer game where Everyone Knows You're Supposed To Bring Oranges? They wouldn't have been the places where I could feel less angry about that.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:30 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Her [goes off to look at trash can light bulb]: It said 75 watts. We only have 60 and 100.

In some ways worse these days. The ones labelled '60 watt EQUIVALENT' are also labelled 9 watts, the LED's actual usage.

On the other hand, I just redid my kitchen troffers with dimmable LEDs and a vacancy sensor. Shuts off 5 minutes after you leave the room. The two combined, based on my back-of-the-envelope calculation means that replacing them is Someone Else's Problem way down the road.
posted by mikelieman at 4:42 AM on May 23



I, as a woman in a hetero relationship who is the mental manager, do not WANT to compromise on cleanliness, and bristle at the argument that my standards are (because influenced by patriarchy) too stringent and that the obvious choice (this entirely outside of the issue of women being judged by outsiders about home cleanliness) is to live in a less-clean manner.


True story: We decided, after years of me being in charge of the kitchen, and also after years of enduring "oh my god it's clean enough" eyerolling, that I was going to take care of Kid McCatburglar's bedtime routine and my husband was going to do the kitchen. Almost overnight we got a horrible roach infestation because "good enough" standards didn't include taking the compost outside, sweeping the floor or wiping down the counters.

I'm back on kitchen duties (duh) but it is going to take eons to get rid of those fuckers, and I swear to god the next person who tells me my standards are too high is going to have a roach shoved down their throats.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 5:31 AM on May 23 [32 favorites]


And I think the implicit statement there, even if it's not conscious, is, "The thoughts and ideas and mental space kept in the brain of a man is more precious than the thoughts kept in the brain of a woman, and shouldn't be taken up by such unimportant things."

I just want to highlight this from corb, from way upthread, because holy shit yes. This is 100% the reason I am a dirtbag. I have limited resources for stuff in my life (chronic illness + dying cat take up a lot), so if I want to live an approximation of the life I want to live, I have to decide not to care about dirtbaggery. Because otherwise that stuff is like another full time job. (Possibly not full time on the reg, but the capital investment of getting to a point where it would be minimal routine work would for sure be a full time thing.)

And I get to make that choice for myself! But it's 100% a choice based on what I think is important and worth my limited time and resources. I don't think I'm unique in that reasoning, even if my circumstances are different.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:38 AM on May 23 [12 favorites]


...then in the middle of the missive the "Clearing the Table" example seemed to be totally out of left field. The experience she had with her process of side-tracking the simple event is a personal choice, based around her personal expectations and worldview.

Mnnnn.

We here in the warrior household have had many discusssions around this and in fact at one point in my marriage I did all the chores for a couple of years as an experiment in not divorcing. (Pre-kids, and things are way better.)

This kind of comment, that ignoring the towel on the floor and the full hamper is a personal choice, kind of drives me nuts. My personal equivalent is the "weekend timer,"* which starts before first child activity at 7:45 am Saturday and goes off at 10 pm Sunday, with a huge mental list in between consisting of, in part:

Activities & practices
Time to workout for both adults
Wholesome activities for kids
Laundry
Groceries & prep/cook for week
Pet stuff
Cleaning - weekly, monthly
Organizing the constant stream of stuff
Teaching our kids to do these things
Homework
Yardwork
Purchasing: does everyone have seasonally-needed clothing in sizes that fit, sunscreen, bug spray, mittens, shoelaces, birthday presents, thank you cards and gifts (end of school!!) sports equipments
Forms, bills, budget
Check in on friends and family
Sleep???
Car maintenance

My husband, bless him, also has a weekend timer which sort of goes: pancakes, laundry, wholesome activities, downtime, fun.

The two hours to clear the table in this example is not a choice not to focus on the table, it's an awareness of the larger to-do list.

*Most chores fall to the weekend due to us both having killer commutes + activities/family/friends.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:10 AM on May 23 [16 favorites]


I do think it's good to remember though, that having mercy for women who struggle with keeping up with the household tasks would also be uplifting things for some women in the world who do NOT get to be treated like a cool bachelor living the life (or cleaned up after).

I think it's especially hard for me because I was adopted into a family with very functional tidiness levels, whereas my biological mother, my biological father, my paternal biosister, my maternal bio sister.... all of us struggle with cleaning and tidiness and timeliness and forgetfulness.

And my maternal biosister was also adopted to a totally non-related adoptive family as an infant so it's really really not because of rearing or socialization, it's not because we weren't shamed or scolded enough, trust me I wanted to die because all I had to do was clean my room and get good grades and I just couldn't do it, not with meds, not with therapy, not with reward charts, not with punishment, not with all these cool tricks that are supposed to help people with add etc etc etc....

So I am still hoping that having mercy for ladies who struggle with this could somehow be worked into this conversation as part of progress for women because some of us even if we struggle and try, really really have a hard time with this. Maybe relaxing on the women could include not shaming and treating as totally unacceptable to exist the women who just aren't that good at this stuff.
posted by xarnop at 6:15 AM on May 23 [17 favorites]


My wife takes care of the gardens (something I don't like to do)... I do EVERYTHING else around the house..pets, shopping, cleaning, repairs, laundry, cooking, dishes, windows, lawn, raking, boats, I also do all this for her elderly/disabled mother who lives in a house we own just down the street...everything... I also work full time (as does she, but her job is much more demanding)... This works for us.... Other systems work for other people (or not)..if you don't like it, change it or leave.... simple as that.
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]


Not really that simple Bob. 'Other systems' are thin on the ground right now.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:53 AM on May 23 [23 favorites]


if you don't like it, change it or leave.... simple as that.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

*ahem*

If it was that simple, we literally wouldn't be having this conversation. And once again, women are doing the emotional labor of explaining to men why things are usually never as "simple as that."
posted by cooker girl at 6:54 AM on May 23 [65 favorites]


if you don't like it, change it or leave.... simple as that.

But it's not simple, HuronBob. It's not simple to realize that people who theoretically share a committed responsibility to a shared space, and a joint project, have clashing or incompatible values in their approach to it. And that sometimes those values lead to outcomes like roaches or rotting plaster from unfixed leaks or a bunch of tiny, daily workarounds (missing stairs) that cause frustration and resentment. It's not simple to realize that a partner does not have an accurate mental model of what you care about, and has no interest in developing one, and thinks that the things you mention caring about are ridiculous and petty. That's corrosive to relationship. That you do all of the material work of caring for your surroundings--for your mother-in-law--for your wife--that's love, and that matters. My hat is off to your labor of love.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:58 AM on May 23 [13 favorites]


I just love it when outlier cases announce themselves in a thread loaded with women describing a Thing. And then outlier person has to tell women to plod off looking for one of the oh so many varieties of being in a relationship that include blokes doing the mental load in proportion to women. Grrr. I did actually just smack my head.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:58 AM on May 23 [18 favorites]


Yeah I favorited Huronbob's comment without reading all of it... I got to all the "I do everything" part and didn't apparently read the end... it's definitely not simple!! Especially when there are kids involved, women being more likely to have taken time off work for childbirth and nursing and bonding and to not have as high of income if they try to leave.
posted by xarnop at 6:58 AM on May 23


(Also, can we not beat up on somebody who gets the amount of work that needs to be done, who does the work, who has arrived at a satisfactory-for-their-relationship arrangement? His isn't a thoroughly #notallmen comment, just one with a difficult bit of phrasing at the end. And I think he knows it's not that simple. My own comment was driven by wanting to expand the terms of this conversation beyond "Ugh, it's just mess, people have different standards, what's the big deal?")
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:04 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


I wonder why anyone would come in here, say they are awesome at tasks, and tell women to figure it out, this is simple. That's obnoxious.
posted by agregoli at 7:22 AM on May 23 [29 favorites]


My biggest struggle was when my kids were little, I felt I had to be there or I would later regret it, because I wanted them to feel cared for. It wasn't that my husband wasn't there but that the culture dictated that the mom should be there, and if the mom wasn't there somehow the kid felt unloved. It's not that any one ever said this to me, or that I felt that there was pressure from my kids or my husband for that matter. It was internalized expectations I had for myself. We both worked at pretty demanding professions our whole relationship, and Mr. Bluesky did a lot in managing the household and our kids (we shared daily the organizing of kids to school, cooking, and split other things) but I felt a very strong cultural pressure. And I don't know how to get past that kind of stuff. When I think back, it would've been very hard for me to feel comfortable with doing anything different. This was surely emotional labor, managerial responsibilities. I'm not asking for advice or a societal solution in the comments, I'm just reflecting on the kind of pressure I felt. I'm a baby boomer and our kids are all on their own now and maybe it's different or will be different if there are discussions like this.

Maybe the recognition of stuff like this piece and the discussion here earlier in my life might've changed how I felt.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:37 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I'm with a woman and I'm in the planner. However I take after my dad in that respect. I also have a love of project management in general. My husband is not the planner. He's gotten better over time it's hard to tell how much is sexism and how much is just our personalities.

I'm home with a chronic illness and he works full-time so I don't mind most of the general day-to-day chores being on me and he does help when I ask. Though it does still take him me asking multiple times sometimes for things to get done.

One of the things that drives me totally bananas though are bigger things that I do that I absolutely need his help with. For example I'll spend all day pushing through my chronic illness pain and suffering to clean the office for hours. When he gets home I'll ask if you can take the big box of trash out I know I kind of sprung it on him but at the same time it will just take 10 minutes or so. I'm often met with a huff and I'm tired and then I'll do it tomorrow.

Why though? I just spent hours basically doing the equivalent of your full-time job because I'm pushing through illness just to get this huge task done.

Why is his tiredness more important than mine? Why is his desire to not to do it more important than my desire to get it done?

This is happened consistently with large projects even ones that we've communicated about prior to me working on them. For example I redid the entire office including building furniture and the old items that needed to be thrown out had sat there for about a month.

And I'm sure he feels differently about this. Anytime I try to bring this up it gets into a defensive discussion about how "he just doesn't want to right now I can't you understand that? "Yet I have to ask well when will you want to do it then?

In his defense he's a wonderful man he takes care of me with my chronic illness does our grocery shopping and does help around the house. Dealing with my illness and a full-time job is very stressful. However as the one dealing with illness all the time I can say that when I have the time to get big tasks done I would like the reward of my husband being happy for it and just doing the 10 minutes of taking the big box that I can't carry.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:39 AM on May 23 [11 favorites]


I just love it when outlier cases announce themselves in a thread loaded with women describing a Thing.

But what if the outlier is a woman?
posted by Lucinda at 7:42 AM on May 23


I think it's wonderful for someone to chime in here, regardless of gender, and tell us what works in their family.
Like, hurray for you, buddy.

However, I do not like anyone taking it a step further by adding:

Other systems work for other people (or not)..if you don't like it, change it or leave.... simple as that

because it's belittling, dismissive and shows an alarming lack of empathy.

Oh really, all I have to do is LEAVE??? The solution was that simple?? So stupid of me to never see that as an option. Thank you for telling me how to fix years of bullshit.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:56 AM on May 23 [36 favorites]


Also, can we not beat up on somebody who gets the amount of work that needs to be done, who does the work, who has arrived at a satisfactory-for-their-relationship arrangement? His isn't a thoroughly #notallmen comment, just one with a difficult bit of phrasing at the end. And I think he knows it's not that simple.

If he knows it's not that simple, why literally say "simple as that."? You can be as charitable as you want to be, and that's fine, but I also will be as charitable as I want to be and I'm not feeling incredibly charitable to a man who comes into a thread about the way women are mostly expected by society to be the project managers in their relationships and pontificates about how simple it is to leave a relationship that doesn't work equally well for both partners.

It's short sighted, it's incredibly privileged, and not at all nuanced.
posted by cooker girl at 8:00 AM on May 23 [19 favorites]


if you don't like it, change it or leave.... simple as that.

I keenly await your ten point plan to make my husband, who has never adulted alone without a woman in his entire life, take on a full share of the mental, physical, and emotional load in our marriage.

I will also accept an alternative ten point plan that shows me not just "how to leave" but how to, after I have left, find a unicorn husband in my age bracket that possesses no inherent sexism and takes on a full and fair load, as defined by me, not him, of everything, including child rearing and other "traditionally feminine" jobs, while I single parent multiple kids and pets that will undoubtedly all wind up in my custody.
posted by corb at 8:08 AM on May 23 [27 favorites]


[Folks, having made the point that oversimple "solutions" aren't helpful, probably it'll be better to shift away from focusing on Huronbob's comment and back to the actual/more general conversation.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:27 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]


So I spent about two years as a stay at home mother, and we've now reversed roles and for the last six months (and for the foreseeable future) my husband stays at home while I work full time. It's been really fascinating to me to observe how quickly this mental load has shifted from me on to him - I used to know exactly where our daughter was on the vaccine schedule, the doctors' appointments, her daycare details, what she did and didn't like to eat, how well her closet was stocked, whether we were out of diapers, what was probably in the pantry or fridge at any given time, when it was time for the car maintenance, what maintenance or upkeep needed doing in the yard or the house, who we were being social with and when, so on and so forth. That's all him now. It sort of horrifies me when I step back to think about it, but I don't know the names of any but one of her daycare staff, I can't remember whether her spare change of clothes is still there or whether it needs replacing, I don't know the names of most of the kids she does playdates with, I have to ask my husband what we need from the store if I stop on my way home or else actively take an inventory before going out, he knows what the rough dinner plans are for the week, I have no idea when the dog runs out of her medication or how to refill it, he goes through her dresser to weed out too-small clothes, I have to be frequently reminded of what the current reward rubric is for her potty training compared to a few weeks ago, I can't remember which preschool he said was his preference for her next year, etc. He books all of our travel now - for the first time in my frequent flying adult life, I showed up to an airport last month not knowing my flight number or exact departure time, because he had it all sorted. Blew my mind. Not to mention he does the vast majority of laundry, dishes, cleaning, and cooking, especially since I'm pregnant again and was knocked off my ass for most of the first trimester. It was so, so easy for me to just shed all of this the moment I had someone to offload it to. I work, of course, and we roughly split the evening/nighttime kid routine, and I manage all the bill payments and stuff. But if you were listing out primary domestic responsibilities, it's really all him. Like I tell my friends, now that I have a housespouse, I kinda understand the patriarchy. If I'd been socialized to feel entitled to this kind of, well, service, I'd have a hard time giving it up too. (Not to excuse the behavior, by any means - my dad, though he tried more than most, was a lot like this. It sucked for Mom. But I do kinda get it.)

And my point here is not to say "not all men!" though I do think I got pretty damn lucky. My point is more my own observation that in the presence of a stay at home spouse, it is incredibly, shockingly easy to just ... let it all roll off onto them. I am a total planner/project manager/whatever, him less so, but the breakdown definitely falls most easily along the "who spends the most time at home" lines. What will really interest me is how things change when he does eventually go back to work full time - will we revert to a more traditional model where I take on most of the domestic mental load again? Will this experience as SAHP make the breakdown more equitable? Our pre-kid cohabitation experience is hard to judge by, because he had to travel for work for months at a time so obviously everything was up to me for about three quarters of the year. How easy will it be to fall back into gendered expectations some day?
posted by olinerd at 8:34 AM on May 23 [18 favorites]


Is there a more effective way of shaming men into doing better at this than shining a spotlight on dudes who are doing better at this?
posted by straight at 8:54 AM on May 23


I love these threads, because I feel like they give me good ways to discuss and explain the issue of emotional labor/mental load to people.

But when I realize that women still have to put up with this sort of thing well into the 21st century, it just makes my blood boil.

The spiteful part of me wants to go out an acquire a boyfriend just so I can pull the reverse approach on him:

HYPOTHETICAL BOYFRIEND: Honey, I'm in the middle of something. Can you gas up the car? hands keys

ME: Sure!

ME: drives car to gas station

ME: fills tank

ME: leaves car parked by pump, takes bus home

ME: returns keys to HBF There you go!

Or....

HBF: Ow! I hurt my ankle playing sportsgame! Can you mow the lawn today?

ME: No problem!

ME: gets out mower, mows only the tiny front lawn where people can see it, lets backyard return to its pre-Fall-of-Man state

ME: All done!

Or....

HPF: I'm stuck working late, and I'm going to miss the Big Game! Can you DVR it for me?

ME: I gotchu, fam.

ME: DVRs final score only, since in the final analysis that's the important part

ME: Go, Team!

Etc., etc.. Eh, it probably best that I stay single.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:04 AM on May 23 [17 favorites]


Wow... I honestly didn't intend that as it came across, my apologies for that. Even if the solution is "simple" in theory, were our society be such that walking out of an unhealthy (in any way) relationship is doable for anyone, as pointed out, in reality, it is nearly impossible for some people to take that step... I know that and didn't mean to dismiss that truth.

My apologies... My hope is that those in that position don't ever resign themselves to that condition, keep looking for that strategy, whatever it might be, to find a more peaceful and acceptable arrangement.
posted by HuronBob at 9:33 AM on May 23 [5 favorites]


...in which the burden of fixing the situation to make it a "more peaceful and acceptable arrangement" will likely fall on women.
posted by agregoli at 9:35 AM on May 23 [11 favorites]


My son was recently invited to a paintball birthday party and my ex-husband said he would take care of it all: RSVPing, drop-off, buying present, etc. Great.

...The night before the party, he texted me to ask if I had signed and sent in the waiver to play.

My ex and I share 50/50 custody of our kids, but this shit is still going on in my post-marriage life. Specifically, the mental load/project management aspect. Kids' school trips, school event deadlines, their days off, and so on. I keep track of it all and 'remind' my ex so that the kids don't get stranded or whatever.

I don't know many others in my position, so am curious about the experiences of other separated/divorced women.
posted by methroach at 9:36 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]


"I know that and didn't mean to dismiss that truth." Bob, thank you. Well said.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:38 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


(My point being, maybe don't lecture women who are discussing a problem and their attempts to fix it about how they should work hard to fix it. We are. That's part of the problem.)
posted by agregoli at 9:40 AM on May 23 [8 favorites]


I have one of the better husbands due to a combination of his schedule and his enjoyment of projects, and EVEN STILL I find myself saying things that my mom used to say to me when I was a kid, like, "You need to do the WHOLE job." As illustrated in the comic and in other folks' comments, when I know it's garbage day, I empty every garbage can in the house and replace the liners, and then do the same for the recycling. If any garbage spills or drips, I clean that up. Sometimes if the whole floor is dirty, I clean that up too. I take all the big bins to the curb, and then bring them in when they're empty. When he knows it's garbage day (which, to be fair, he does know without me telling him! He is very on top of garbage day.), he... takes the big bins to the curb and then brings them in. The Whole Job of garbage doesn't really occur to him, and I guess keeping the household cans to fill up during the week may not be so bad (except he travels every week for work so that means that when the cans ARE full it then becomes my job), but it's back to me having to compromise my cleanliness level in order to keep the relationship happy, which just seems teeth-grittingly unfair!

I literally cannot comprehend how couples with children do this, because pretty much every day I think, "If we had a child and I had to take care of THAT too, I would probably have an actual rage stroke". And again, I have one of the good ones! He cooks elaborate meals, he adores my family, he treats me wonderfully, he's smart and a hard worker and has done so many things to improve my life, but sometimes I want to be single again just to know the house will always be as clean as I left it, and I won't have to explain the necessity of washing the outside of the pan, scrubbing the outside of the toilet, vacuuming regularly, etc etc etc etc just like I'm someone's goddamn mom, which I never signed up for!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:42 AM on May 23 [11 favorites]


And my point here is not to say "not all men!" though I do think I got pretty damn lucky. My point is more my own observation that in the presence of a stay at home spouse, it is incredibly, shockingly easy to just ... let it all roll off onto them.
This is an ongoing and low volume concern that my wife and I process in our paradigm of split domains. If I handle all of the bills, I still need to ensure that she knows the passwords to our mortgage payment account and our shared credit cards, and our cable and utilities so that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow she can still deal with all of that, but if she isn't checking those accounts on a regular basis, then our mutual confidence in that overlap is somewhat doubtful. Same thing for me about how to handle cats when we had them or if ever we do adopt new ones.

Unloading the responsibility is great on a day-to-day basis, but we both kind of low-volume worry that it's making us co-dependent in unhealthy ways. We may wind up evolving to more micro splits within the domains. So, like I wind up owning more parts of the laundry beyond ironing or she winds up owning more parts of the accounting besides her personal cell phone bill; but it's been a different challenge trying to figure out a healthy way of doing those splits that doesn't land us back into the world of both of us having to co-manage everything and just multiplying mental load.
posted by bl1nk at 9:44 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Like I tell my friends, now that I have a housespouse, I kinda understand the patriarchy. If I'd been socialized to feel entitled to this kind of, well, service, I'd have a hard time giving it up too.

Dude, my husband is a stay-at-home-spouse and I tell everyone I know how awesome it is and they should all definitely get one. (Just a joke, people!)

Cleaning-wise, my husband and I are pretty close, although I'm probably less of a clean-freak than he is. The trade-off though is that he doesn't really know how to clean properly. I come from a super clean-freak mother so I know how to clean everything properly, I just don't want to because of how much I had to clean when I was living with her. Husband is a clean-freak because he grew up in a home with very much not clean-freak parents, so he doesn't want things to be messy, but was never taught how to clean properly. After 14 years of living together, I've helped him improve some, but I 100% will not complain about how he is cleaning. If I want it done differently, I can get up and do it myself (and do if it's really bad or bothering me).

Probably my biggest pet peeve is that he doesn't really understand the concept of not making a mess to begin with. I can cook, and the only evidence will be dishes in the sink. He cooks and the entire countertop needs to be cleaned. But again, I'm not the one cooking or cleaning so I'm not going to complain that he's not doing it right.
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:11 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this.

I've been aware of the imbalance in my family and ran a tally of the duties and chores in our house. For the daily and weekly stuff we're almost 50/50 but when it comes to monthly / yearly tasks and big projects she almost always is the one taking the lead.

Gonna fix that.
posted by Reyturner at 10:23 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]


In my house, one of my chores is laundry, which I do on Sundays in anticipation of the work week and school week. In my mind, that means that if all the laundry is done by Monday morning, my job is done.

There have been so many times when it's early Sunday evening and I look up from what I'm doing to discover my husband has taken over doing the laundry because I'd let a load sit in the dryer for half an hour or something.

(It's not just laundry, either - my husband will yell at our son to stop whatever he's doing and empty the dishwasher RIGHT NOW, even though there's nothing going on that will involve the dishwasher needing to be empty for several hours.)

It's frustrating.
posted by Lucinda at 10:26 AM on May 23


Lucinda, that brings up something my husband and I have discussed a lot - we have not dissimilar levels of clean tolerance (though he hates clutter whereas I hate rings in bathtubs and smelly towels), but we do manage chores totally differently. I batch process - in my head I say "okay now it is chore time" and I do all the things - laundry, bathrooms, dishes, floors, etc. Before and after that, dirty dishes in sinks, toys on the floor, etc, can all just wait, because they are not causing problems. He walks through the house, notices something, and does it immediately, which drives me nuts when in my head it is "pre-chore relaxing time" and he's running around picking up towels and toys and things and making me feel guilty (even though that is not his intent). We haven't fully resolved how to not make the other annoyed/guilty over the situation but having talked about it we're at least both fully aware of our differences now, which helps to understand why neither of us SHOULD be feeling bad.
posted by olinerd at 10:32 AM on May 23 [7 favorites]


I would, just once, like to go to a man's home for the first time and not be afraid to use the shower/bathmat/and especially the damned hand towels.

Just once.

So yes. I'm super fun to date. I will totally take over the laundry of guys and make sure those things get washed once a week. And I will lobby hard for him to hire a cleaning service and tip extravagantly if he isn't going to at least squeegee his shower to prevent it from mouldering. If this can't be managed, we don't keep dating. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sorry guy, that's just how frustrated I've gotten with this whole division of labor that I'm either expected to suck it up and work around, or plead/cajole/bargain/seduce my way out of.
posted by bilabial at 10:39 AM on May 23 [10 favorites]


Wow, this is eye-opening!

Very interesting ideas on non-straight couples Lyn Never - I hadn't heard of that before and will look into it.

Data point - My partner and me (both cis women) are both the oldest sibling with one younger brother. We have lived together for almost ten years and and we are pretty even (I hope) on household work like this (no kids btw). We take turns cooking (although not by rota) and food shopping (mostly ordered online) and we both keep the place clean in terms of bathroom and kitchen. I am probably more concerned with tidiness so I am more likely to hoover/dust/tidy up before she is but then she is more likely to remember that we need milk and do the shopping order. Reading through this thread reminds me that I should make sure not to leave that up to her too much - I could probably show more initiative thinking ahead about what to bring for lunch and so on.

What I think is the main think is that we are both actively concerned that things are fair between us and, in fact, both worry that we are not doing enough sometimes. Neither of us would EVER make a big mess and leave it out to be cleaned up, unless maybe there was some kind of emergency. Basically, I feel we are both engaged with the household as part of what makes life pleasant. We will joke around sometimes about being 'strategically incompetent' in order to avoid doing something but we never actually would do that.

I have to admit to seeing the kind of behaviour in the comic with many of our friends, particularly those with little kids, and I have to bite my tongue...
posted by sedimentary_deer at 11:02 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


My folks were a cis het couple with a standard-issue gendered division of labor except that my dad cooked and baked and my mom did not. This wasn't an even division, but it did give me an understanding that household chores weren't about gender, they were about finding a division that worked for you. It's been weird for me growing up and seeing how many of my AFAB peers are in relationships where they do the bulk of the domestic labor and their cis male peers, many of whom would identify as feminists, do not get it, do not see it, do not think having someone clean up around them is a problem and do not take their partner's stress levels or attempts at discussion seriously. The personal is political, indeed.

I myself am another dirtbag dyke (come on, alliteration ftw!) for many reasons, including chronic pain, a job that requires heavy travel, and that there's always something I'd rather be doing than cleaning. Cleaning is boring, and I hate being bored. I've currently got a girlfriend who I don't want to call her a dirtbag dyke since she might not think that's as funny as I think it is and she's a fabulous femme bi gal, but she's also got a similar approach to cleaning, so that's nice and bodes well for the future (we do not currently live together).

In my various dating experiences, on average the AFAB folks were better at managing their lives than the AMAB folks, though I had one disastrously messy AFAB nb partner (to the level that it was a warning sign, since they owned a house), and one very responsible AMAB partner who was cluttery/messy the way I am, but on top of making sure his place was not actually a health hazard - it's perhaps telling that he grew up the youngest of six, with five older sisters and their single mom, and sees women's experiences as the norm in a way that most cis men do not.

The history of my issues with dating is beyond the scope of this thread, but the behavior of cis men talked about by so many women and AFAB folks here and on the other threads about emotional labor makes me very relieved that I'm primarily attracted to women and can choose to pursue that, and that I'm not at all afraid to be alone with my various rescued pets.

I do want to say though as a dirtbag dyke, I have never been treated like a cool bachelor who is living the life. I get judged for being a messy woman in ways that my similarly-situated male friends are not, and there have been a lot of times when being alone was really hard on me and all the harder because I kept getting rejected for men who do zero emotional labor. So please don't make assumptions about what kinds of tradeoffs I'm making to live in a way that's comfortable for me and that I can physically handle. There's less "unfortunate spinster" stigma than there used to be, but people are still weird and terrible about it.

I'm going to snuggle my cats and not do my dishes now.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:04 AM on May 23 [8 favorites]


It is definitely cultural though - I think my attitude was shaped by growing up with a mother, who while she did a lot of mental work herself, was determined that I was not going to fall into that trap. My husband grew up with a single mother, who was and is quite demanding in certain emotional ways i.e. he will get 2 months of passive aggressive silence if he happens to forget her birthday.

This is me exactly. I'm the woman in a heterosexual marriage, we're both cis, but I often feel like I'm the stereotypical husband in these types of discussions. My husband often jokes that he's the housewife. Just last night, I almost put a near-empty carton of milk back in the fridge, then stopped myself, while my husband exclaimed "You're growing as a person! I'm so proud!"

I wasn't raised in a way where I learned how to do domestic chores. This is partly because although my parents had a very traditional marriage where my dad worked outside the home and my mom was stay-at-home, everybody in my family always wanted more for me (my mother in particular didn't get very many education and career opportunities in her life, and has always been vocal about feeling trapped in domesticity), and partly because even as a child, I realized the split of work in my parents' household was unfair and I resisted all attempts my mother made to actually teach me how to do any chores (because she wasn't making the same efforts with my brothers). My husband, on the other hand, was raised as a latchkey kid almost, as both his parents worked, and he had to come home from school, get himself a snack, take care of his younger sibling, etc. His mom, also, is demanding in emotional ways.

We are both pretty messy, in terms of letting the clutter get out of control sometimes, but I do generally find it easier to ignore the mess. As a result, he does clean way more often than I do. He also takes the lead on cooking, which means he also does the grocery shopping, the ingredients management, the pantry organization, the cleaning of the fridge, etc. He makes dinner, he cleans up after dinner, he makes me coffee most weekday mornings, he packs my lunch, he runs errands, he plays receptionist in my business some days, and generally does everything he can to make my life easier. I find it's pretty easy to fall into this pattern of him doing everything around the house and me doing nothing and thinking of him as the household manager and me as there to "help" him. This is because obviously if I'm not regularly responsible for cooking, then I am out of practice in terms of meal planning, and just knowing where things are (what is the Tupperware organization system, where do we store the bag of sugar to refill the sugar canister, etc). I've also been guilty of waiting for him to tell me what to do. In fairness, I do look for other ways to help, but often feel like I just don't know how to do something (i.e. I can empty the dishwasher but will I know where the lesser-used item goes? Probably not, so I will leave it on the counter).

I do feel bad about it sometimes but not really, because we make it a point to check in about it all the time and discuss whether it still feels fair - honestly, like on a bi-weekly basis. If he feels like it's been unfair, I step up my game (or suggest outsourcing some of the cooking and cleaning).

We both also both know our roles can change, and are open to making that change. In the past, I've taken on most of the domestic work when he's had a busy period at work, for example, and we are both open to the arrangement changing again, if our life/work circumstances change, depending on if we have kids, who has parental leave, who is working more, who has a shorter commute, who has more energy, etc. We figure these factors will always be changing, and it will just even out in the long run. For what it's worth, my husband is a mid-career software developer and he is also the primary earner - that hasn't changed for the entirety of our marriage, but while we've been married, I've been various things: in school, studying for the bar exam, unemployed, self-employed lawyer, underemployed junior associate. But because I'm early in my career and do want to progress in it, I have to put in longer hours now, whereas he's reached a point in his career that is stable, and that provides him a steady 9-5 schedule, so he does everything he can to support me at home. Plus, he has a way shorter commute, so this combined with his schedule means he leaves home an hour later than I do, and gets home a good 1-2 hours earlier than I do.

Oh, and I do pretty much all of the emotional labour in terms of scheduling our social calendar, remembering people's birthdays, reminding him to pick up a gift, call his mom, etc. This is also something we discuss all the time, about whether it's fair or not.

We also have this thing called "toilet paper czar", as in the person who is in charge of procuring the toilet paper. And all the other household supplies, like the paper towels, the microfiber cleaning cloths, all the cleaning supplies and sprays, the laundry detergent, the dishwasher detergent, the soap, shampoo, conditioner, vitamins, etc. This is usually me as well, but it's something we're more easily able to switch off on - "I will be the toilet paper czar this month" is a regular phrase.
posted by spicytunaroll at 11:16 AM on May 23 [7 favorites]


I resisted all attempts my mother made to actually teach me how to do any chores (because she wasn't making the same efforts with my brothers)

Omg yes this. I have a younger brother, and was clear very early that where my brother could get away with anything, the same was not true for me. My mom spent her entire life gaslighting me about it, and my dad kept saying he would help with it if I would just do what she said so she couldn't complain. After a few attempts at this, I became a dirtbag as an act of rebellion, because my other option was cleaning up after everyone else all the time and having them act like this was something I just owed them. I seriously came home from college once and my brother pitched a fit that I hadn't done their laundry that had been generated while I was gone. I shrugged and said "do it yourself, it's your laundry, I don't owe you this" and he screamed "YES YOU DO" like that was actually a thing.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:58 AM on May 23 [12 favorites]


I always feel like I learn a lot when I read through these threads, and I definitely made some adjustments to my life and mentality after the big crone island post.

One thing I've been thinking about for a while is a practical example of how dividing the labor in my relationship has lead to benefits for both of us in less obvious ways. I married a wonderful woman who loves to cook. She buys cookbooks for fun, and loves to be adventurous in the kitchen. As such, I almost never cook. So in return, I do all the dishes. Unless she's cooking herself lunch while I'm not around or something like that, any dish that gets used gets washed by me. We love this arrangement, and honestly I still feel like I get the better end of the deal because cooking is really hard and I was awful at it as a bachelor!

Recently we were chatting about it and she mentioned that because I do dishes, she's more inclined to cook better, more involved food. Not to look down on nice simple meals, but she doesn't mind dirtying a few extra dishes to make a sauce from scratch, or feels free to experiment with something weird we've never tried, knowing that if it takes her twice as long she doesn't have to also slave away washing them after we're done. I encourage her to dirty up that extra bowl if she needs to because the end result is always worth it.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:12 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


Ouch. I am a dirtbag cis woman. I used to get woken up at 4am if the dishes weren't done as a child and I. Just. Don't. Care. Anymore. My mother hated being a SAHM and my brother was not required to do anything but take out the trash and mow the yard. I took over both of those duties when he hit high school. I left to go to a residential high school as soon as I knew that was a thing I could do. Then immediately went to college. I spent three days at home after high school graduation. In college I reveled in not-cleaning. I'm sure my roommates hated me. Today my husband takes care of all house stuff, outdoor stuff, and most daily things except the floor, which belongs to the roomba. Our roommate does dishes. I do laundry, clean the bathroom, and mop when needed. Periodically we'll have a cleaning episode where we put music on and just generally tidy up. I like having a roommate to share chores with, she'll often do nice things like buy flowers or bake. She moved in with us temporarily while she's finishing her current nursing contract and working on her travel nursing plans. I joke about not letting her leave.
posted by domo at 12:16 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


For example, household repairs, paying bills, taking out the garbage, disciplining kids - those things I think of as traditional household management for men and not really represented in the comic.

The thing that bugs me about this kind of rationale is that it frames traditionally "male" tasks as equivalent in both time and effort to traditionally "female" tasks, like cleaning.

As someone who owns a house and lives alone in 2017, I can say from personal experience that repairs rarely need to be done (and can easily be hired out), paying bills is almost entirely automated and consists of maybe 20 minutes of set-up when initially signing up with the provider, and then logging into online banking to make sure the payment cleared. Taking out the garbage happens once a week and takes 10 minutes at best, if you're going around collecting all the trash in the house and then wheeling the cans out to the curb. (If you're only wheeling cans to the curb, it takes one minute.) Car maintenance consists of going to the oil change place 4 times a year and hanging out in the customer lounge. Men are also quick to mention yard work, even though a tremendous number of people don't have yards because they rent, or they live in apartments and there isn't a yard, or they're otherwise not responsible for maintaining the exterior of the building.

All these things take considerably less time than doing laundry, cleaning the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher (or hand-washing dishes, for those who don't have dishwashers), buying groceries, or cooking. In particular, cleaning and cooking need to be done daily or semi-weekly, even in the purely practical sense of making sure there's room in the sink for the dinner dishes, or putting all the laundry in the hamper before you wash a load. If it takes me 45 minutes to vacuum the house (and it does, I've timed myself), which entails lugging a 21-lb vacuum (looked it up last time I was in the market for a vacuum) around floors and stairs, that is way more effort than 10 minutes of lifting 5-10 lbs of trash 15 feet to a can and then wheeling it another 20 feet to the curb. Lugging 15-lb baskets of laundry up and down stairs and then putting it away is way more effort than sitting at a keyboard to see if the power bill went through.

Even just the framing of "traditional men's work" as somehow being like, "Well, you have to cook every night because I mow the lawn once a week!", as though the lawn-mowing was so much more weighty and laborious a task, is really dishonest. Maybe men got away with this in the past because a) those tasks did actually require some time and labor and b) women didn't have a basis for comparison, but that hasn't been true for at least 30 years, and online banking has been a thing for nearly 20 years by now, so...no. That argument doesn't fly anymore, if it ever did.

And whenever I meet someone who tries to argue that they are equivalent, I simply offer to take on the "male" tasks" while they take on the "female" tasks. Unsurprisingly, they're never willing to do that, because everybody knows that "male" tasks are infrequently necessary, and easy.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:24 PM on May 23 [51 favorites]


(Whenever I've gotten into this discussion on other sites, this is the point where other people would say things like, "Well, are you going to start killing your own bugs and changing your own light bulbs, then?" Which, to me, really underlines how much people over-value the contribution of "male" tasks in relation to "female" tasks.)
posted by Autumnheart at 12:48 PM on May 23 [16 favorites]


And whenever I meet someone who tries to argue that they are equivalent, I simply offer to take on the "male" tasks" while they take on the "female" tasks. Unsurprisingly, they're never willing to do that, because everybody knows that "male" tasks are infrequently necessary, and easy.
I think a lot of people underestimate the it's-never-done-ness of more coded-female tasks, and the weight of that.

I am GREAT at changing lightbulbs. If I have a small DIY project to do, it will often get done quickly and well. Meanwhile I have dishes in the sink, clutter on my surfaces, laundry that needs doing... these are tasks that require a level of frequent engagement that I think is hard in a way that doesn't get fully appreciated, either by those who think it's easy because they don't have to do it, or by those who feel like "everyone else has a clean house and I'm a lazy failure."

(And I think it's no coincidence that Getting Things Done is so widely lauded as a productivity system while dealing very badly with tasks that need relatively constant attention.)
posted by Jeanne at 12:58 PM on May 23 [11 favorites]


these are tasks that require a level of frequent engagement that I think is hard in a way that doesn't get fully appreciated

It's hard because first, it's never done the way changing a light bulb is done, and because you also have to maintain an ongoing mental list of the laundry or dishes you have used vs. the ones you haven't. Like, if you're making spaghetti, you need to remember that your sauce pan is clean or dirty and manage accordingly. If you have to dress up for a meeting tomorrow, you need to remember that you have a shirt that's ironed, or else plan to iron. Whereas tasks like changing lightbulbs are pass/fail, it either needs work or it doesn't. You don't need to remember the status of your lightbulb and cultivate your light bulb assortment. Especially not since light bulbs last 15-20 years now. Imagine if we could go to Home Depot and buy a thing that sorts, launders and puts away your laundry for 20 years. Whereas in today's society a not-inconsiderable demographic think that's what they're buying when they enter a romantic partnership. Like, they literally think that's part of the deal.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:07 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


I visited my parents for Mother's Day this year (I live several states away and don't see them often). After lunch on Sunday, which my parents and I cooked, my father did all of the dishes and cleaned the kitchen until it was spotless.

However, I feel compelled to note that this had nothing to do with Mother's Day. This is something my father does every time they eat. On Thanksgiving, he does this while the women in the family chat at the table and the rest of the men have sat down in front of the TV to watch football.

Things like this make me grateful for being raised in a family where emotional labor is not something that only the women have to keep up with. He buys cards for birthdays and holidays. He does the grocery shopping and laundry. He maintains the yard and exterior of the house. He feeds the pets and takes them for grooming and appointments. He takes them out in the morning then brings my mother a cup of coffee to wake her up.

My parents have both worked full time for most of my life and, though I think my father is the primary breadwinner in their household, I don't think that the work my mother does outside or inside of the house is undervalued. I think my father understands that her contributions are valuable and wants to reduce her workload where he can.

I'm not sure where this comment is going but it makes me happy to see the distribution of emotional labor in their house and realize that it does not have to fall on one person in a relationship. My husband maintains our yard, does laundry, vacuums the floors, takes out the trash. I clean out the fridge and grocery shop and cook and do dishes and clean the bathrooms. It's never a perfect split but knowing he shares these responsibilities makes me feel like my partner has my back.
posted by cp311 at 1:25 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


Killing bugs and changing light bulbs are man jobs?

I honestly didn't even know people thought that. That sounds like something from an old comic strip or something.

Although I will say that I've noticed that people in heavily gendered families seem to have weird incompetences a lot. I dated a guy once whose family, it turns out, was super like that, and it was absurd the things he didn't know how to do. Just basic life skills and things you'd think every grownup knew. NOPE.

And when I met his family, I saw where a lot of it came from. The women were all super-compulsive cleaners, and they were good at their jobs, but they seemed almost performatively incompetent at anything male-coded. They weren't as bad as the men, because that would be impossible, but still kind of not really capable of really basic things that were coded male.

But the biggest gender difference, from what I could see, is that at least the women knew that the 'man stuff' was getting done and would thank them (a little too profusely sometimes, IMO). The men seemed weirdly oblivious to the women constantly doing housework in the background. They don't appreciate or even seem to notice it at all.

So I do a lot of cooking for family and friends, and it's funny how casually some people take that work for granted, like it must be super easy and just come naturally, and that I must actually enjoy the process so much that it's its own reward or something. How readily they'll do weird insulting things like casually pick through it to take only some parts (there are people who drain soup, so they only eat the solid bits and leave everyone else with the broth), or smother things in condiments before tasting it. It's just kind of weird and disrespectful. If you do some male coded thing like weld a side of beef to a monster truck, I don't roll up and brand the logo of your enemy sports team on it, so why are you draining my soup?
posted by ernielundquist at 2:57 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


I was very fond of saying to my ex-husband that it was miraculous how so many household objects did not, in fact, require operation by ovaries, but by hands.
posted by culfinglin at 2:59 PM on May 23 [15 favorites]


Imagine if we could go to Home Depot and buy a thing that sorts, launders and puts away your laundry for 20 years. Whereas in today's society a not-inconsiderable demographic think that's what they're buying when they enter a romantic partnership. Like, they literally think that's part of the deal.

I've actually been spending the last week kind of mulling this over - there have been rather a few FPPs devoted to women's labor, servitude, the economics of domesticity. And I'm kind of coming to the conclusion that this isn't an accident, not by a long shot.

One of the weird benefits of being brought up by a family of immigrants is that in some ways, I've always been a little behind the time - the books I was given to read, the cultural mores that were looked up to in movies and television a little old. And it gives me kind of an interesting perspective on how women in America are being treated and have been treated, and the expectations laid on them in the past and the expectations laid on them now.

We focus a lot on the 1950s, as a time when women were confined to the household sphere, and we think of that as the pinnacle of domestic servitude. And that was certainly true - but if you focus on what the 1950s said about themselves, even some middle class households often had what were essentially actual servants to assist them all of the "necessities" of making a house that perfect. Looking at an etiquette book from the late 1950s, I find sections like "Travelling with a Secretary", "Dinner service with one maid" (for an informal dinner), "Greeting Servants at Table" (for the formal dinner), in fact an entire section on servants- "How To Furnish A Maid's Room", "Choosing A Nurse", etc. It talks about how you can make do with (Gasp) only one servant if you have to, for "cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, taking care of the children, etc. etc", and bemoans the fact that only the upper middle class can usually afford multiple full time servants anymore. Even the "Living Without Servants" section talks about women who will "take in" laundry, etc.

So economics changed such that most people really can't afford to hire other people to help them in the house anymore, but the expectations didn't. The expectations as people grew up in that time were created in their own households. The middle class children of the 1950s were the parents of the 1970s - right when women were starting to venture into the workplace in far greater numbers. So you have the start of a lot of male resentment - "why can't you do things like my mother did them", and assuming it's because of work and/or freedom, and there's no real awareness that it's physically impossible for any solo human to do things like a woman with multiple sources of outsourced help or a large household could do things, and that as technology has improved, so have our expectations.

The expectations of one stay at home parent are actually multiple jobs - cook, often chauffeur, child-nurse, maid, social secretary, household manager. These used to be multiple full time jobs, and the burden of expectation that one person will manage all of them and still keep their sanity is actually unreal.

And honestly, yeah, like, I don't blame people for thinking that it's nice when someone else cooks and cleans and drives and maintains their relationships and keeps everything up, because it fucking sucks to do a lot of those jobs. But it's kind of bullshit that the expectation (largely male) is that it's Women's Job to make the house nice by these standards that are literally impossible to achieve unless you're insanely wealthy. The idea that the breadwinner should just come home and enjoy the house, while the stay at home spouse just never gets time off ever, is unfair.
posted by corb at 3:53 PM on May 23 [34 favorites]


" think a lot of people underestimate the it's-never-done-ness of more coded-female tasks, and the weight of that. "

There's some research that suggests higher rates of depression in married women (as compared to married men, in heterosexual marriages) is partially due to women bearing the bulk of the "it's-never-done" tasks, which actually are more depressing and emotionally draining to engage in.

My husband had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment about the female-coded chores in the house (we've had a generally traditionally gendered division of home labor because I've been the at-home parent for several years, mostly it has been fine because it also suits are personalities fairly well -- I like the feeling of the ongoing well-oiled machine of the kitchen steadily churning out meals, even though I do not actually like cooking very much, I like the managing and optimizing of the constantly-running systems and details; my husband prefers discreet tasks that may be enormous but can be finished, which I often find overwhelming), after the baby was born and I was laid up for a while and he had to take over my usual household chores plus caring for the two older children. He was like, "I don't know how you get anything done ever while watching the boys at the same time, and the dishes just never end, and grocery shopping is so irritating, and nobody ever THANKS you, and none of it is EVER done!" I was like, yeah, well, now you know what I've been doing all day when you go to work and come home and say, "Nothing got done, what did you DO all day?" Run on the household chore treadmill just to stay where I am, basically.

He's since taken over doing the laundry so I have one fewer endless task -- although he does not include in this folding the laundry, which to me is by far the most irritating part. As people have noted above, it is very interesting what people conceive of as doing the WHOLE job. I don't know if that's gender-coded (I literally don't know, I've never really talked to anybody about it before now!), but definitely I conceive of the WHOLE tasks as much larger than my husband does. "Doing the dishes" also includes cleaning the counters and preparing the kitchen for the next meal prep session. "Doing the laundry" includes folding it and putting it away. "Taking out the garbage" involves gathering all the garbage, all the recycling, and replacing the liners. Etc. He's much more likely to do just the main part of the task and not all the ancillary things.

One thing I do notice with him doing the laundry, he is more likely to let it build up until there are five loads and do all five loads at once, which I find just overwhelming when I have to fold. I would much rather do a load every day or two and fold as I go along; he would much rather spend one day a week tackling the whole project. (We have three kids, there's a ton of laundry, we do many loads per week.) I'm not sure how much of this is due to my preference for systems that require frequent small work and his for large tasks you knock off all at once, and how much is due to gendered expectations about daily work vs. discrete tasks.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:01 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


he would much rather spend one day a week tackling the whole project

GAH THIS! I also don't know if this is gender coded or something else, but I would much rather Clorox-wipe the toilet and sink occasionally than have to have a huge Clean The Bathroom event on a weekend, but that sort of thing never ever occurs to him. See also: clean-as-you-go during dinner prep. A total mystery to him!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:13 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Well, are you going to start killing your own bugs and changing your own light bulbs, then?"

the new Washington Post motto should have been "Democracy dies in a single woman's apartment"

(what with all the unchanged lightbulbs. darkness, get it? yeah, you get it.)

that's why women have cats, before we are so lucky as to have husbands to do these things. they fight the towering spider vortex for us. we can't do it ourselves, naturally, but cats can see in the dark.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:51 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


We have a pretty equitable work arrangement, and I am a Big Girl when I'm alone and can totally squash my own bugs, but when he's home and hears me give my (very distinctive) Oh God I Saw a Giant Roach squeal, the husband will come and kill it for me.

And I let him because they are disgusting and he is a giant-footed person so his shoes are huge and great for killing bugs with.
posted by emjaybee at 4:58 PM on May 23


I not only change most of my light bulbs but I also program them, come up with a name for them and for their room group, test them with Alexa, and then communicate all of the above to him.

And then he goes around behind me setting them all at increasingly weaker, dingier yellows so I spent two weeks getting increasingly worse headaches and thinking I'm going blind in my home office because he's the only person who exists in the world and it's easier to just turn all the lamps down to a single candlepower than vacuum the floor I guess.

Turned my goddamn office lights back up to the brightest warm white and then killed all the spiders I could see now that I don't live in Hogwarts anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:04 PM on May 23 [15 favorites]


I do actually do all the food prep and the dishwashing and housecleaning for my cat and I will do her laundry as soon as she starts wearing clothes. plus I maintain both our social calendars and she doesn't have a single friend I didn't introduce her to myself and leaves all the conversational heavy lifting to me. all this in return for her guarding me from centipedes at night. so I guess I am in as traditional and strict a marriage as anybody and should think twice about judging others.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:05 PM on May 23 [27 favorites]


Clean as you go! Yes. I always feel like I'm getting the short end of the stick when I'm cooking with some guys in the 'you cook, I'll clean' breakdown that seems so generous or fair.

If I cook, I'm habitually wiping and scrubbing and rinsing as I go. There's very little left to do when I'm done cooking because while the sauce was bubbling or the chicken was baking, I was tidying up. And speaking of chicken baking, I put parchment paper on the baking sheet because the time and water and energy it takes to scrub baked on gunk is just...I'm not into it.

So we sit down to eat, and then if I've cooked the guy either does or doesn't just get right up to clean after we've finished. Either way, the first few times he's surprised at how little there is to do. If he has cooked, I try to start cleaning before dinner hits the table because none of the cutting boards have been rinsed, there's raw chicken everywhere, and whatever canned goods were needed have left their steely shells on the workbench, unrinsed. Surely it's that the corn abandoned a carapace and not that the guy couldn't be bothered to swish it out...right?

And 9/10 times, something is cooked on so hard and/or didn't get rinsed before dinner that it's just a bear to clean up.

This is also why, especially in large groups, if there is a division of cooking tasks, I almost always try to get a lock on breakfast. And I make sure the kitchen is at least useable before I go to sleep. I'm up early, and I don't have to clean up after the lunch crowd to get the kitchen ready. I might grouse a little about how I keep cooking the same thing (people keep requesting it, and the Dutch apple baby is delicious, so I don't mind) but it does feel good to have a rhythm down that is relatively easy to wrap up without extra hands, if I have to. (Though I can usually enlist people to help me peel apples the night before, which is a fun social task, and has an end.) I know some folks are annoyed at being directly asked to do a specific kitchen thing. It's almost always guys. Usually there are one or two women who have been just getting shit done. I used to do that. Now I delegate. Honestly, it's better in some ways, but people don't like feeling ''managed' and farming out tasks is also stressful.
posted by bilabial at 5:07 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


I'm domestically challenged. But somehow in my relationship I do more (all?) the domestic stuff and a good deal of the more manly tasks because I'm good at them. Lovely men of this thread who think they share in house hold tasks, you are posting lists of all the responsibilities you take on to help your spouse. Not to be unfair to you or discount your efforts, but I could not list in a comment box on an article what I do domestically. It would be a book. It would be a doorstop of a book. And we don't even have children. And we only have one pet. A cat! Someone in the avalanche of comments here said it well -- men aren't raised to think of doing things for others (or themselves, I guess). I am staring a new job tomorrow. For the first time in eight years I will have to be at work all five days rather than doing my 40hrs in four. I have said have a dozen times in the last two days that errands are now happening on evenings of week days. Not on my days off (when I do my freelance or make art). I love my spouse, but if he says "On monday (one of my days off) you can go to X store and get X item" one more time I might lose it.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 5:09 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


And then he goes around behind me setting them all at increasingly weaker, dingier yellows so I spent two weeks getting increasingly worse headaches and thinking I'm going blind

Lyn Never, would you say he's...

[puts on sunglasses]

...gaslighting you?
posted by katemonster at 5:12 PM on May 23 [29 favorites]


And to be clear, the guys I'm in the shared house situations with never express annoyance at being told how to be helpful. But they do stand around and say 'if you need me to do anything, let me know!' While the stacks of dishes grows and grows.

I'd like for the guys to get together, figure out everything it takes to keep the house rhyming smoothly for 8 or 12 people, and then just do all the things. Preferably while keeping track of whether any of the female identifying people would like a fresh drink.
posted by bilabial at 5:17 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


How do monasteries do it? All-male ships at sea? (The system of "put X on the to-buy list when you take the last X out of the X-FIFOing place" is called the Navy system by Miss Manners, isn't it?)

corb, that's a nice point about servant expectations surviving into the 1950s. I also like The Labour Saving House, written around WWI and planning how (a) gas technology and (b) reasonable standards could make everyone comfortable without servants. (And for a counter-argument, I was just reading a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe idealizing the mental, constitutional, theological, and practical rigor of US colonial Puritans, and one of the assumptions is that housework is scaled so that a single woman of faculty can have a few hours' rest each afternoon to read and think about theology (and, in the case of one matron, mathematics).
posted by clew at 6:14 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


I'm a SAHM. Mowgli is old enough now that he'll start high school next year. And it was after reading the big Emotional Labor thread that I realized I had trained this kid to be helpless around the house, because I did all the things. In the same vein, I had trained my husband to not do a lot either, because I felt guilty if I see anyone doing anything traditionally "women's work", and would take over. And because of the guilt of quitting my fairly well paying career so I could "stay home doing nothing".

After that thread, I sat down with both of them and said, "look, I'm pretty sure it's my fault that we got to this precipice, but y'all, I can't do everything. I can't run the budget, clean the house, maintain acres of property, make sure you and the animals all get your shots, do the laundry, cook all the meals, and run the construction crews that are rebuilding the house after the storm. I'm a fifty year old woman with lupus, and I just can't function on 4 hours of sleep anymore. I have had to turn down a number of paying gigs because I can't fit any writing time into my life. Things have to change."

And readers, things got better. Have we hit full parity? No, but frankly I know I'm a control freak who won't let go of some things. But Mowgli now cleans his room, and dusts and vacuums the rest of the house. He empties his trash, AND gathers the trash from all the other rooms, replaces the bin liners, and takes it all outside to the big can. He cleans his own bathroom you guys. I never have to clean the bathroom of a teenage boy again. I did the dance of joy upon that realization, I can tell you. And Man has taken on the laundry, and he gets up in the morning and makes lunch for himself and the boy, and he's become both sous chef and dishwasher when I cook.

My house is still in utter chaos, with boxes floor to ceiling in some rooms, and I have no idea where I'm going to find the energy to figure out where everything goes, and how to unpack it all, and good lord, when will this ever end...but I've gotten over the fear of admitting I can't do it all, I don't want to do it all, and ya know what? It's not my job to do it all.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:34 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


Servant expectations survived a lot longer than the '50s. The Brady Bunch, anyone? Alice the maid. The Jetsons? Rosie the Robot. Diff'rent Strokes and Mrs. Garrett, Facts of Life and same, Fresh Prince and Geoffrey the butler. Mr. Belvedere. Gimme A Break. Benson. Most of the popular sitcoms well into the '90s were about families or households with servants. Even shows where there wasn't an actual servant (like The Cosby Show or Family Ties), the main characters were obviously wealthy enough that you never saw them scrubbing a floor or doing laundry--or there were bits around telling the kids to do chores.

And yeah, my infuriated laughter at the pointed questioning of who's going to kill my bugs and change my lightbulbs in a single-woman house is not just about the assumption that I'm not already doing those things, but the insistence that doing those things is hard work. Fuck, if all I had to do to have a clean house was to smack a couple spiders and change a light bulb once every few years, I wouldn't even know what to do with all my free time.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:37 PM on May 23 [10 favorites]


After I posted the above, I realized that if I wanted to exercise good screen discipline (for sleep quality purposes), I better get off the computer. When I got home tonight at 6pm, I filtered a batch of cold brew, loaded and started the dishwasher, fed the cats, made myself a salad for dinner, took some stuff out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge for tomorrow, then played a couple hours of video games. Then shut down the laptop, emptied the dishwasher, filled a water bottle to bring to work tomorrow, and now I'm standing at the kitchen counter waiting for the Brita pitcher to refill before I put it back in the fridge. The closet in my bedroom has 4 laundry baskets in it (sheets, towels, darks, lights) so after showering or changing, I can just toss the dirty items into the appropriate basket and then it's already sorted for washing. In the morning, if I play my cards right, I can toss a load into the wash when I get up in the morning, then put it in the dryer before I leave for work, then fold it when I get home. (With a note on my refrigerator whiteboard, "Fold laundry".) That means fewer loads to do over the weekend, which is nice.

But it's like, even with the few hours between getting home and getting ready for bed, that was still a decent number of chores to complete, and it wasn't even everything I meant to do tonight (I skipped making tuna salad, although I suppose it's not too late). But even a relatively easy evening still includes a good hour or so of chores. It reminded me of that old Reader's Digest anecdote where a woman announces that she's going to bed, and does a bunch of shit around the house, and then a man decides to go to bed, gets up and goes to bed. At least everything I did benefits me personally and almost exclusively (I don't expect the cats to do dishes), but it's still a never-ending cycle of chores and prepping so that I can save time to actually go do my JOB.

Know what videogame I was playing tonight? The Sims.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:07 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


OMG. I just made an interesting connection. The Sims is an enormously popular videogame, but is frequently pooh-poohed as being lame because of its popularity among women and therefore not for "serious gamers". That just made me think of two things: one, do women like playing it because it's like a fun version of the shit we already have to do all day, and two, is it considered a non-serious game by "serious gamers" (read: men) for the same reason that maintaining an actual house well is considered not actual work by "serious workers" (read: men)?
posted by Autumnheart at 7:14 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


"Doing the dishes" also includes cleaning the counters

Omg, it warms my heart to hear somebody else say this. In my small kitchen, the goal of "doing the dishes" is less to provide cabinets full of clean dishes, than it is to remove all the cleanliness-related barriers to using the kitchen. Dishes in the sinks, dishes on the counters, and yes, grime on the counters too. So it used to frustrate me to no end when I would ask my husband to do the dishes so I could cook dinner. Because once the dishes were allegedly "done", I'd be all ready to charge into the kitchen and slam my recipe book down on the counter and get to work...but I couldn't, because the counters were covered with mystery liquids and crumbs and grime. So I'd instantly go from happy and excited to cook, to irritated and resentful because I have to stop what I'm doing to clean shit before I'd even started. Then we'd begin the idiotic argument of "What's the matter? I did the dishes like you asked!"
posted by gueneverey at 7:44 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


"Doing the laundry" includes folding it and putting it away.

What? No! Why would I fold and put away someone else's laundry? When laundry gets done it gets sorted into three piles - mine, the kid's and the husband's - and then we all fold and put our own away (because I'd probably fold his boxer shorts wrong or something)
posted by Lucinda at 7:59 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I just had a good talk about this with my husband. Apparently one area of miscommunication was that he just didn't realize the priority of the tasks I would ask him to do. Especially when it came to stuff like taking out a heavy box.so while there still a bit of frustration as to why it's not a priority that there's a box that needs to be taken out at least we have a way to communicate about it.

But I got him to think about it in terms of this:
If your CEO came to you and said "take this box out" you would figure out a way to do it quickly right? And if you couldn't do it right away you would ask when you needed to get it done and get it done by the deadline right?

And he said yes he would.

So I said, "I am the CEO of this household. We are both technically CEOs but things that are a priority to me are priority to the house."

I think we made some huge progress and things that give real life examples and don't pile on such as this comic are really helpful.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:12 PM on May 23 [10 favorites]


Oh and I also used an analogy of passing the torch. I want to be able to pass him the entire torch of the task and know that it will get done instead of just handing off matches and keeping the torch on my mental load. I think that also made him realize that even when he said he would do something it would still be on my checklist until it actually gets done.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:14 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


I have an actual list somewhere of all the household tasks when we were "trying to save the marriage", and it was 50+ things like helping with homework, meal prep, grocery shopping etc. I asked him to choose what he could take over from me.

He picked organising birthday presents and gift wrapping.

The undertow of social pressure and heritage means this had to be a conscious and overt discussion. Aiming for 75% and knowing you'll hit half then is a good strategy, but talking explicitly about it helps too. (So does divorce!) My boys are decent housekeepers now as teenagers, but this is something I need to talk with all of them about, gendered expectations of housework. Pizza night chat!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:15 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


He's since taken over doing the laundry so I have one fewer endless task -- although he does not include in this folding the laundry, which to me is by far the most irritating part.

Not to twist the knife or anything, but I couldn't help but notice he's taken on the parts of the task that are relatively one and done. (Put clothes in basket. Dump clothes in washing machine and turn on. Put wet clothes in dryer) All of these are single discrete tasks that can be finished within 10 minutes. Meanwhile, folding the long tedious fiddly bit, (I am right there with you on folding being the worst) is simply forgotten or not included.
posted by FakePalindrome at 10:18 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I definitely am guilty of doing the typical male "why not just do less?" question with regard to laundry in particular. As a bachelor, I almost never folded laundry - if it had to go on a hanger, I put it on a hanger and steamed it if it got wrinkled while drying, if it didn't have to go on a hanger, then it went in a drawer (or, more likely, went directly from laundry basket on the closet floor into immediate use).

When my wife complains about laundry, I always ask her "why fold socks and underwear - just throw it in a basket or drawer and pick out what you need when you need it?" I admit that it's probably not helpful, but neither do I get a clear answer as to why folding is necessary.
posted by theorique at 5:53 AM on May 24


How do monasteries do it? All-male ships at sea?

THEY TREAT IT LIKE WORK, instead of a "calling" that half the population is supposed to love/know how to do inherently. Also, people who don't do their tasks are punished in both of those settings, whereas most garbage husbands I know get rewarded with less work when they either skip things or intentionally do terrible jobs. Begging an adult man to do a simple task is, for many women, 100x more painful than just doing it themselves and pretending it doesn't matter.

(See also: middle aged men who are SHOCKED when their wives "suddenly" want a divorce! We were so "happy"! We never fought about anything, as long as my wife did everything herself and never bothered asking for help because she knew I would undermine and mock her efforts to do so! I'm blindsided by the fact that being treated as a mother-drudge-concubine wasn't fulfilling for her!)

I admit that it's probably not helpful, but neither do I get a clear answer as to why folding is necessary.

I can't claim to speak for your wife, but allow me to explain a few reasons why reading your plaintive request that she explain the validity of her request made me want to shoot flames out of the side of my face:

-socks folded together are less likely to be mis-matched
-reaching in to grab folded sock pairs takes about one tenth of the time of digging through a pile of unmatched socks, and when you are rushed that time matters
-folded clothes take up less space than unfolded clothes
-most women have different underwear for different outfits/tasks, and having them all mushed in a ball makes finding the correct type way more difficult than if things are folded and easy to sort through
-women are held to sartorial standards in life, and especially in the workplace, that carefree bachelors are entirely exempt from
-A basket of jumbled clothes is another thing sitting out and making the whole place look terrible, and your wife will be the one who gets judged for it if an unexpected guest saw it sitting there
-looking at a physical reminder (laundry basket on floor) that you think her way is "pointless" and that you won't accede to it until she explains it in a way you find acceptable is probably kind of hurtful on a daily basis
-I have literally had family members QUESTION MY MENTAL HEALTH for having a mess in my home, because when men do it they are just busy!!!! and when women do it Something Must Be Wrong
-claiming to have done a chore and only doing 70% of it is not actually helpful, and often feels like an intentional insult ("I thought your way was stupid, and that you are making a big deal out of nothing, so I made the executive decision to do it a less efficient way even though you will be the one who suffers the consequences")
-You know the way you do it is annoying to your wife? And yet you want her to justify her preferences instead of simply complying with him in this very tiny thing as an act of love and service?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:09 AM on May 24 [39 favorites]


To clarify: laundry is not on my list of chores at home, so my wife doesn't ever request that I fold laundry. (tbh, I wouldn't know where to start)

But she sometimes complains about not being "good" at laundry, and she finds the folding stage frustrating, so my suggestion is for her to relax expectations and don't fold if that particular chore bothers her. My intention is to be easygoing and make sure she realises that I am not placing this expectation on her. (I think it probably comes from her upbringing and the other women in her family, who seem to have rather specific expectations about sex roles and chores.)
posted by theorique at 7:01 AM on May 24


Maybe help with laundry or don't, but why you would want her to change her expectations when it isn't even something you have experience or interest in, is very hard to understand. You are asking her to change her attitude and yet don't want to make things actually easier on her.
posted by agregoli at 7:12 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


Which is something I think women do far less often - tell a man who is frustrated over a task to simply change his attitude. Somehow I don't think that would be well received, so why should a woman care for that "advice?"
posted by agregoli at 7:14 AM on May 24 [13 favorites]


so my wife doesn't ever request that I fold laundry. (tbh, I wouldn't know where to start)


this is so hilarible. not the "she never asks so of course I never volunteer" part, because god bless you and your happy marriage, the other part. me, I never fold laundry. I never have. I would fold towels if I had too many for them all to fit on the towel hooks at once and if I had a linen closet to put them in, because they are big and bulky, but I don't, so I don't fold anything. that is what drawers are for, so you can close them and nobody can see your clothes to see if they are folded or not.

but "I wouldn't know where to start" you start by FOLDING THEM. like if you were mailing a letter and the sheet of paper was bigger than the envelope, you wouldn't know where to start to get that fucker in there? You...you fold it. Fabric isn't even like paper where you fold it in thirds because that's THE WAY to do it. laundry, you bend it over and then if it is still too big you bend it over again. that's folding. Folding! should I have an honorary doctorate in the domestic arts or what. the way to do it is literally and completely by knowing what the word means, and they have dictionaries for that. you would have trouble learning Folding Technique if you worked at the Gap as a professional folder maybe, but that's it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:36 AM on May 24 [37 favorites]


"How do monasteries do it? All-male ships at sea?"
"THEY TREAT IT LIKE WORK, instead of a "calling" that half the population is supposed to love/know how to do inherently."


At monasteries, at least, they treat it as both -- daily manual labor is seen as a form of prayer and service to God. As well as necessary work that keeps the place running, AND there's an authority figure with the authority to assign a rota of tasks (which is a little trickier in a marriage/romantic partnership/roommate situation, where nobody's "the boss."). But part of why monasteries work is that household chores are literally seen as part of your calling and as service to God, which makes them important, and worth doing well for their own sake.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


To clarify: laundry is not on my list of chores at home, so my wife doesn't ever request that I fold laundry. (tbh, I wouldn't know where to start)

But she sometimes complains about not being "good" at laundry, and she finds the folding stage frustrating, so my suggestion is for her to relax expectations and don't fold if that particular chore bothers her. My intention is to be easygoing and make sure she realises that I am not placing this expectation on her.


Look, I say this with love: I know you are trying to be a good dude and a good partner. But everything you are saying here is still contributing to the central problem this piece describes, which is that you are given the luxury to tap out, and she isn't. You telling her that she can, and that this expectation is coming from her past and not from you, doesn't actually set her free or change anything. She's not answering to you. But the forces she is answering to are forces that you could help stave off-- but you aren't. You are telling her that she's wrong to sense them, and then being done with it.

You wouldn't know where to start? Read some blogs with laundry tips. Listen to people here who are telling you these forces are real and their reasons for their standards are real. Folding socks isn't some mystical feminine practice handed down through generations of our foremothers. It is the same as matching games that we give to toddlers. It is putting things that look exactly the same together and tucking one inside the other one so they stay together. It is paying attention to the way the people we love handle their belongings, and treating those belongings with the same care to give them a break without introducing chaos to a system that we don't have to understand.

When someone I love hates a chore because it is tied into longstanding emotional trauma, my response is usually "let me take care of this for you whenever possible", rather than "just stop caring about the foundational wounds to your psyche this chore reifies, easy peasy". I do this for my roommate, who I just met last year. I do this for coworkers who I don't particularly like. But you think it is reasonable in a lifetime partnership? This is literally the mental block that is being described in the FPP.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:38 AM on May 24 [36 favorites]


There's a ton of youtube videos that will teach you how to fold stuff. Or cook. Or clean things. Or any of this. There are even youtube videos that will teach you how to fold a fitted sheet, which I still suck at but I keep doing it anyway. It's not origami. How do you start? Try google, or paying attention to how you find things and reverse-engineer them.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:42 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


. Folding socks isn't some mystical feminine practice handed down through generations of our foremothers.

excuse me but my great-grand-foremother abandoned a promising surgical practice to quest through the Himalayan mountains in search of the Ancient One, and when they offered to keep her as a sock-folding apprentice for seven arduous years at first she angrily refused, but in time grew to recognize the wisdom that was offered her and the value of this life's work that so few can truly master. as I noted above, I refused to follow in her footsteps, but I inherited the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, and as long as I guard it with my life no mortal man can see my unfolded garments through the barrier of the dresser. but I can see others'. oh yes. I can see.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:44 AM on May 24 [20 favorites]


(I mean, I don't know about longstanding emotional traumas of my coworkers, but "you find this task excruciating and I find it slightly boring at worst, let's switch" is still basic courtesy when multiple people have to split up various responsibilities. I simply cannot understand why this minimum level of "how to live in a world with other people" is so absent in SO many marriages of the people I know and love.)

At monasteries, at least, they treat it as both

Sure, but I mean, they treat it like work in that if you fail to complete your work, there are consequences rather than rewards. That saying "I don't like this so I won't do it" isn't an option. That intentionally doing a bad job is treated as an affront that wounds the whole community rather than the adorable fumblings of a hapless manchild.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:44 AM on May 24 [12 favorites]


There's a ton of youtube videos that will teach you how to fold stuff.

Hell I'm impressed you haven't learned folding by osmosis, having certainly unfolded shirts before and probably walked through the GAP at the mall every now and then when someone is refolding shit.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:46 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I think folding is, like the thank you cards in the emotional labor thread, something that non-participants don't see the value in but still has value. In this case, folding significantly reduces wrinkling in stuff like t-shirts (and yeah, you may not care about whether your t-shirt is wrinkled but believe me you there are people in your life that will judge you for it and they will judge women harder than men) and it increases longevity in fragile clothes like sweaters because they aren't being pulled every which way. Plus it makes it easier to find things in a drawer, and (depending on technique) allows more things to fit in the drawer.

I'm a crappy folder and I hate it SO MUCH but my clothes-handling life is measurably better after those loads where I get my act together about folding. Otherwise it just causes other stress down the line.

I think this is true for many, many of the "fussier" domestic labor tasks.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:46 AM on May 24 [10 favorites]


On knowing where to start:

No one cleans the refrigerator, as I've mentioned here, except me. Ditto for the pantry. Ditto for the bathroom closet. Basically, anything where a bunch of people's stuff aggregates and breeds clutter, and where part of cleaning requires making decisions about things that are not yours.

Why, I've asked. Why not just bash away? Well, since there's maybe an old can of moldy beans in the refrigerator, or an old heel of bread in the pantry or a dried up tube of hair gel in the closet...what if someone is saving that? How to know? If you threw away the moldy beans and it turned out that someone was saving them, it would be your fault! Better not to clean anything. You could throw away the obviously moldy/empty stuff and ask people about the rest, but that would be a lot of work!

And similarly, how does one even clean a refrigerator? What special, arcane techniques are required? You could just take the shelves out and wash them, what if you did it wrong? Frowner, of course, was initiated into refrigerator cleaning as an AFAB child...

Oh, and the other part? These special pantry-cleaning and refrigerator washing techniques are too ineffable to be communicated by mere words, so when I say "well, I learned to clean the refrigerator by taking all the shelves out and washing everything" or "just throw away anything that's obviously bad and put anything that you're unclear about on the counter for everyone to look through", that's not enough instructions. Still too confusing! Still too much potential for error!

Now, I believe that people truly do feel confused and hesitate to start, because I often hesitate to start tasks when I'm uncertain myself. But at the same time, it's important to ask yourself "what will happen if I do wash the crisper wrong or throw away a heel of bread that was being saved to feed the ducks?" and internalize that the worst possible outcome is needing to fix something or redo it. "I might have to re-wash the crisper if I leave it covered in soap suds" is not actually a justification for not trying.
posted by Frowner at 7:58 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


Yeah, maybe my "coaching" is counterproductive.

Insofar as this example is turning into a case study of the OP, I guess I just want her to know that I don't want her to feel any pressure from me in this area - I really do want laundry to be easier and less bothersome for her. That's why I proposed [what I thought was] a short cut to reduce the workload. Perhaps that was wrong. Most other areas of household chores are fine and low stress for us and we divide tasks up in a way that we mutually agree is pretty fair, so this one stands out as a little bit of a challenge.

Maybe we should outsource to a wash/dry/fluff/fold service - if neither one of us particularly like or want to do laundry, and our to-do lists are packed with other chores, it might be best just to take an especially onerous task off the table.
posted by theorique at 8:07 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Strange but true stories of household chore avoidance: I've always had to get roommates or friends to help me when it comes to cleaning the fridge, because leaning into the refrigerator gives me massive claustrophobia. I can handle pretty much any other household task, but this makes me panic and it's really hard to deal with, especially if I am alone.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:09 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


There are even youtube videos that will teach you how to fold a fitted sheet, which I still suck at but I keep doing it anyway.

Previously, but I'm still pretty sure the correct method is to wad it up and stuff it on the shelf. Or do laundry in the morning so that the fitted sheet will be dry by the time you need to put it back on the bed. [offer does not apply in damp climates]
posted by asperity at 8:10 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Folding socks isn't some mystical feminine practice handed down through generations of our foremothers

I can testify to this because my wife will not fold socks. I'm not sure she ever had folded socks before we started commingling our laundry, in fact. She had a drawer with loose socks! What kind of shit is that? No, that will not stand. So I fold all the socks, always. And she is happy with this arrangement because it turns out that folded socks are better.

These threads are actually always a little weird for me since I was raised by a single mother (my expectation: anything you want done, you must do yourself) and my wife's parents are, while not exactly hippies, farther down that end of the spectrum than most of our peers' parents, so her expectations for most things are pretty loosey-goosey.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:25 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of stuff I don't fold, simply because most of my clothes for actually leaving the house are on hangers, but unfolded socks means I have to scramble to find matching socks, which is hard enough with the natural disappearance rate of socks.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:36 AM on May 24


I solve the whole sock problem by only owning one kind of socks at a time. All socks match all other socks, if you lose one sock, the remaining sock still matches all the other socks, any two socks you pull out of the drawer are a matched pair.

(Well, two, but my athletic socks are white and my regular socks are black, so I don't tend to mix them up much.)
posted by jacquilynne at 8:56 AM on May 24 [7 favorites]


This thread is just ridiculously timely for me. I took a sick day from work yesterday so that I could cook for the week and clean the house. Because last weekend was busy with social obligations, and this coming weekend is also busy with social obligations, and apparently I'm the only adult in the house who noticed that there wasn't any food. Feeding my kids McDonald's every night for the next two weeks isn't an option. So, "sick" day. And let's not even get into what the female half of a cishet couple will do on her sick day at home (when truly, legitimately sick) vs what the male half will do.

But what I really came in to say is how do you have this conversation about mental load with someone who has an anxiety disorder? Because as soon as I start talking about all of the stuff I'm keeping track of mentally, the conversation devolves into all of the stuff he's keeping track of. Except the stuff he's keeping track of are all of his own anxieties, insecurities, fears. But not like, you know, figuring out if we have food to feed the kids.

Truthfully my husband is good about division of work. His mom worked and in fact the whole family had to work I the family business so he gets the idea that we are a team. Some of it I've given up on; like, I don't care if he dusts the furniture before he vacuums, and I don't care if he vacuums the middle of the floor but not behind the furniture, because he's making an effort and if my standards of cleanliness are higher then I accept that I have to do the work if I want it done my way. But I do care that he blows off my standards as not mattering, or being ridiculous (because I know what he doesn't seem to know, like the example above about lax standards resulting in roach infestation). And I do care that he doesn't express any gratitude for the fact that the kids always magically have another size bigger of shoes available when their feet grow, because I prepared for that shit and bought the shoes six months ago when I saw them on sale. And I bought them on sale because part of my mental load is keeping track of all of his anxieties and fears, a big part of which is money. But he doesn't keep track of my anxieties and fears, a big part of which is food insecurity, and the need to have cooked food in the house.

Gah, I'm rambling. I just really can't figure out how to get this through his head. Send him this thread? If he even did read it, the conversation would be "but I fold the clothes!" and not all men, etc etc. I've heard "you just have to ask me" more times than I can count. And still, after asking umpteen times, still three times this week I've had to ask him not to leave trash on top of the counter. Right above the trash can. Gah!
posted by vignettist at 8:57 AM on May 24 [12 favorites]


laundry, you bend it over and then if it is still too big you bend it over again. that's folding. Folding!

In Casa de Lucinda there is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to fold (a) pillowcases, (b) towels, (c) cloth napkins and (d) sheets.

Guess which one I do! (hint: it's not the one that the majority of the posters in this thread seem to do)
posted by Lucinda at 9:00 AM on May 24


Oh the comments about who bears the consequences of wrinkled clothes. As cishet women, it's not just our own clothes that people judge us for, but those of our partners and children as well. So dudes. When you are going out to meet your mom for brunch or showing up for work in khakis that were obviously balled up and a shirt that has a weird crease in the collar, (many/most) folks are (probably) wondering what is wrong in our relationship that I don't care (enough) about you to see to your appearance.

This extends to ear hair. I don't want to give a shit about your ear hair, but you can't see it, and you don't care enough to just use the trimmer in there once a week. So instead, I'm using my brain lump to notice your ear hair, and mention it to you delicately. And damnit, then you're probably handing me the trimmer because you can't see in your ears.
posted by bilabial at 9:13 AM on May 24 [14 favorites]


Except the stuff he's keeping track of are all of his own anxieties, insecurities, fears. But not like, you know, figuring out if we have food to feed the kids.

As a woman with physical and mental health issues that require tracking, I don't magically have someone else looking after me so I can focus on these issues and I would never expect my girlfriend to do that for me, though there's some negotiation about what I physically have trouble with. I've had very bad anxiety for quite a bit of my life, and no one swooped in to clean my place or feed me or make sure I paid my bills. I manage them and I manage my job and my household and whatever else has to get done. I'm a dirtbag dyke as mentioned above, but I know what I've got around for human food and I don't ever run out of cat food. Beyond this, I work in the disability field and most people with anxiety disorders still manage to carry the mental load of self-care and looking after their kids. It can be a big stressor, but people manage it because they have to. One of my ex-girlfriends has very severe anxiety and has always managed her home, food, and personal appearance adequately. I do not know what to tell you, except that focusing on his anxiety may be making it worse and that if it's so bad he can't manage some of the mental load of household management, he should probably see about changing or increasing his meds so that this becomes manageable.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:35 AM on May 24 [9 favorites]


When you are going out to meet your mom for brunch or showing up for work in khakis that were obviously balled up and a shirt that has a weird crease in the collar, (many/most) folks are (probably) wondering what is wrong in our relationship that I don't care (enough) about you to see to your appearance.

As long as no one thinks I'm responsible for my husband's jorts because THOSE ARE ALL ON HIM
posted by Lucinda at 9:42 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


and that if it's so bad he can't manage some of the mental load of household management, he should probably see about changing or increasing his meds so that this becomes manageable.

Girl, trying to convince him that he actually has an untreated anxiety disorder and that he needs medical intervention has been another part of my mental load for years. He's kind of finally starting to come around to the idea that it's not me not paying attention to his anxieties enough that are creating his anxieties and making his life worse. I was able to convince him to be medicated a couple of years ago but it only lasted a few months because he didn't like the way the medication made him feel, and I've been too busy taking care of small people to work on this issue with him more. It's a process. You'll probably see an AskMe from me in the not too distant future about options for medications. Because it also falls to me to do this research for him.

I swear to god, the end is nigh.
posted by vignettist at 9:43 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


May I just say, hugs all around for them that wants them.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:56 AM on May 24 [7 favorites]


"How do monasteries do it? All-male ships at sea?"

My husband was in a monstery-equivalent (Catholic lay order, I know it sounds oxymoronic) and they had house meetings about chores and it was part of living in community...and...get this...the women's order came over and cleaned for them, too.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:57 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


I'm just realized, I'm tending your ear hair and I don't even shave my own armpits.

What is this I can't even.
posted by bilabial at 10:02 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


"what will happen if I do wash the crisper wrong"

Finally, something I have the expertise to address. I have washed the crisper wrong and by "wrong" I mean if the refrigerator is in such an odd location in the kitchen that I had to take out the entire crisper drawer to wash it completely while scrubbing the inside of the rest of the fridge and then by some trick of physics it became impossible to put back in no matter how hard I, my wife, or her friend who came by that time tried.

So what happens when you wash the crisper wrong is that some time later when you decide its time to scrub the inside of the fridge again and ask your wife to let you know if anything in there looks like trash but is not, you are immediately instructed by her to never wash the inside of the refrigerator again. But we can fix it if I can just take the door off. I got the schematics off the web and it doesn't look too hard. Absolutely not. Okay.

I know this sounds like the abovementioned shitty husband malicious compliance or some sort of cautionary tale about doing housework but it's actually just an extremely dumb story I never thought I would get the perfect opportunity to relate.
posted by griphus at 10:38 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


OHMYGOD the day off thing. I took a mental health day a few weeks ago, because we'd had a few busy weekends in a row and I hadn't gotten to grocery shopping or laundry or picking up dog food or any number of other errands/chores that needed to be done. And it was a lovely day out, one of the first of the spring, and I decided fuck it, I deserve to sit on my damn porch with a beer and called in sick. (When I told my boyfriend I was taking a mental health day, his first response was "Must be nice.")

I know because I posted on instagram when I finally got to the point of relaxing on my porch drinking a beer: it was 3pm. And I still had to cook dinner, and the dog starts asking for his evening walk as early as 4, so I had basically ~1 hr to relax.

When I told my boyfriend this, his response was to attempt to be supportive - why did you do all that work, you should relax you deserve it, you always do chores on your days off, etc. But relieving the stress of those tasks hanging over my head was better for my mental health than relaxing and knowing they still need to get done. It's a fundamentally different worldview that I don't know that he shares and can be frustrating sometimes.

I realize some of this is just my personality. For me, having fun is hard if I know there's stuff that needs to get done - especially stuff that is better done now because it saves future stress. Like going grocery shopping so we're not buying lunches while at work and ordering takeout again for dinner while stressing about money. Or taking the car to go get the 30lb bag of dog food during the day so we're not doing it at night when traffic sucks and parking in our neighborhood is tight and I have to drive around the block to find a spot. I guess in theory I could let go of some of this stuff but I'm almost always trying to get things done at a time when it's most efficient and effective for the household as a whole.

griphus, the crisper drawer thing is real! The house I used to own had a side-by-side refrigerator tucked into a corner/cubby such that neither door could open past 90degrees. I managed to get the crisper drawer out once and could NOT get it back in without removing the shelves in the door and even then it took 30 minutes and impressive tetris skills.
posted by misskaz at 10:46 AM on May 24 [9 favorites]


That is exactly the kind of fridge we have and exactly what happened here and while my own Tetris skills have bestowed upon me the ability to be the sole human on planet earth who can fill a dishwasher correctly I was never able to get the drawer back in.
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


It's more about a relationship problem that boils down to "Do not expect your partner to be the keeper of all knowable facts"

UGH, thanks for this!! I've been wondering whether I should feel bad about calling out my partner for asking random fact-based questions and just sort of idly expecting me to google the answers, when he also has a pocket computer on which to google such answers.

The reason I'm wondering is because I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually expect me to google? Like, he's just peppering me with questions because his brain (anxious, ADHD) is peppering HIM with questions, and they must go somewhere, and he knows it would be rude to be tapping away on his phone when we're on a walk so he ... just says the things?

But I don't think I feel bad anymore; whether or not he actually expects me to be a flesh-bound Siri, it's how it comes across, and even if it's just him bleeding off the pressure of his mental state, it's still asking me to absorb and manage that instead of engaging with that mental loop and managing it himself.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:52 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


while my own Tetris skills have bestowed upon me the ability to be the sole human on planet earth who can fill a dishwasher correctly

Dad?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:55 AM on May 24 [18 favorites]


a flesh-bound Siri

Dibs on this sockpuppet name.

Also fridge washing protip, if you take your glass shelf out, don't temperature shock it by washing in hot water and rinsing in cold.
posted by clavicle at 10:57 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


TIL that cleaning the fridge is not just something people do in bleach commercials.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:01 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Once I folded a fitted sheet so perfectly that I took a picture of it and posted it to Facebook. The gods have never shined on me again.
posted by AFABulous at 11:08 AM on May 24 [14 favorites]


I always found things like this interesting because growing up my (extended) family seemed to divide up house labor pretty fairly and I thought I just kept meeting a bunch of traditionalist weirdos in the dating world that had some quaint notion of getting married to some woman to keep house and home for them. I thought they were the minority and my family was the norm.

Eventually I realized that my family was not the norm. At my grandfather's funeral last year I realized something that I believe led to not thinking of housework as gendered - all 4 of my grandparents lost their mothers in early childhood. This was in the 30s and 40s and luckily they all had a dad that stepped up to work, keep the kids alive, and keep the house from falling down. I guess they all just learned to do stuff when they saw stuff had to be done because there is no one assumed to be responsible.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:14 AM on May 24 [12 favorites]


Once I folded a fitted sheet so perfectly that I took a picture of it and posted it to Facebook. The gods have never shined on me again.

Two more miracles and you can be a saint!
posted by bile and syntax at 11:14 AM on May 24 [18 favorites]


I can relate to WeekendJen; I always thought my family was normal and I was running into unusually sexist people when I went out into the world. My mom and aunt were both "woke" by feminism in the 70s and they didn't want me and my sister to be shunted off into traditional role. They weren't shy about complaining that the endless tasks of cooking, cleaning, and caring for kids added up to a huge pain in the ass. This was a big factor in my decision not to have kids, and not to become obsessive about cleanliness. It seemed really oppressive. My sister, on the other hand, thought that by marrying a progressive feminist male she could have an egalitarian household. Not so! Despite both of them wanting things to be different, the fact is that his job pays more, so she stays at home with the kids. What she could make in her field would be just enough to pay for daycare anyway...you know the drill.

My lack of being a socially acceptable female has certainly afforded me time to work on my art. Also, with being ADHD/on the spectrum/depressed/anxious etc. I don't have the emotional wherewithal to worry about doing more than basic tasks. I cook (usually with a crockpot) and clean, but I don't fold any laundry except socks; it all gets hung up or put in a drawer. My partner and I shop together, and he (with a similar mental health profile) does the chores about half the time. Our house is clean enough for us, but we both clean the hell out of it when people are coming over. Our relationship does have some traditional aspects, but few compared to what my mom, aunt, and sister deal with.

But! I pay a price for not fitting in. I'm sad that I don't have many female friends and I think that must be part of the reason; I just can't relate to a lot of female culture. I'm seen as a weirdo, and I think some people (my sister for one) think I'm just very self-centered. And sometimes I wonder if they're right and question whether eschewing so many of society's values has been worth the loneliness. And I'm bitter that if I were a man, I'd certainly be given a reprieve for being a creative, messy person--maybe even admired for it. And I have proof. My uncle is basically a vagabond/hermit and is beloved by all for his endearing quirkiness. So I think, as women, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. I think my chronic depression is rage at this, that has no other place to go but inward.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 11:54 AM on May 24 [14 favorites]


I just can't relate to a lot of female culture

I didn't realize how much of women's lives, and women's culture, revolves around dealing with male sexism in relationships until I realized I didn't have to do it anymore. And even without having to deal with it in my personal life, I still have to deal with it everywhere else, every day.

My favorite gag in season 3 of Kimmy Schmidt is *SPOILER?* Gretchen trying to be a female cult leader like a man, only to find the only press she can get is "who wore it better?" coverage in tabloids while her herd of adolescent boy virgin "husbands" destroy her compound and drive her insane.

Like, yup. No escaping it. Sign me up for Bitch Planet, I guess, idk.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:19 PM on May 24 [26 favorites]


> Dude, my husband is a stay-at-home-spouse and I tell everyone I know how awesome it is and they should all definitely get one. (Just a joke, people!)

As a stay-at-home-spouse, I'm not seeing the humor.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:33 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


"How do monasteries do it? All-male ships at sea?"

The military has drill instructors and boot camp, and manuals with explicit steps for the care, feeding, and maintenance of shared space, belongings, and equipment. There are consequences for not following those procedures, and they're generally unpleasant. You learn to take care of people you're held responsible for pretty quickly. People that think men are somehow incapable of cleaning, have never seen a barracks.
posted by culfinglin at 4:22 PM on May 24 [9 favorites]


Once I folded a fitted sheet so perfectly that I took a picture of it and posted it to Facebook. The gods have never shined on me again.

I'm pretty good with fitted sheets if they're not jersey knit. Those babies have a mind of their own. I'm not above folding them around a square of cardboard if I have to, to make a tolerably neat stack in the closet.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:55 PM on May 24


>> Dude, my husband is a stay-at-home-spouse and I tell everyone I know how awesome it is and they should all definitely get one. (Just a joke, people!)

> As a stay-at-home-spouse, I'm not seeing the humor.


People have been saying for years that having a stay-at-home spouse is awesome, with varying degrees of humor and/or anger. From 1970, published 1972 in Ms. Magazine: I want a wife.
posted by Lexica at 4:57 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm familiar with that essay. I don't like it. I think it worsens the problem it's trying to fix.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:33 AM on May 26


While I am suspicious of Jordan Peterson WRT to other things he says, he has a great hypothesis about commonality in religious thought that I think is germane here. This is probably nothing new to those who know religion and philosophy better than me (not hard!), but it was new to me, so people who are more learned about philosophy can use whatever person or reference point they want...

Anyway, he talks a lot about "truth" as a bulwark against both order & chaos (in balance, e.g. yin/yang) and how one way to "be truthful" to the cosmos is to clean up your messes. This is meant in the sense that one *knows* what is dirty, or what is being left unfinished.

If you pay attention to your thoughts, you can feel the unwashed countertop or the laundry or the unresolved conflict or the pile of papers is impinging on you. Some people are more sensitive than others, sure, but once you are aware of the task and it's significance, you will know how important it is to do it. And each of these little things, when fixed, help to bring about a progressively higher truth. Handling the little things allows you to handle greater things. This is perhaps a bit mystical, but I do think there is some truth to it.

When a guy only does the dishes and leaves the counters undone -- he is not doing it intentionally, but it is not unintentional either. There is a choice being made to leave something undone. It is a choice to push the world towards chaos rather than order. Similarly, taking on what should be someone else's tasks is not a given, but a choice to push towards, sometimes excessively, persistent order rather than allow temporary chaos (which allows the status quo to change). And every time you make that choice, it makes it easier to make that choice again -- for good or ill.

I feel like this fits right into EL, that EL is a subset of that. Because the chaos is not just a countertop undone, it is the relationship done or undone once enough countertops are dealt with or not dealt with. It is the micro decisions adding up to a slightly more macro choice. It is the macro choice manifesting itself in the micro and simultaneously the other way around, as habit.

I clean a lot more than I used to.... :-)
posted by smidgen at 2:46 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


Smidgen, your comment reminds me of this passage from Krista Tippett's On Being interview with Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen:

DR. REMEN: "We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. REMEN: And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you."
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:11 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


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