• Women have the ‘Oh dear, the toilet paper is on its last sheet; must replace it immediately’ gene. This is entirely absent in men who have the ‘Oh dear! Can you pass me a toilet roll, love?’ gene!
• Men can balance an infinite amount of rubbish in the bin, without noticing it is full.
• Women are missing the parking a car in between two straight white lines in an empty car park gene.
• Men have an anorak gene, which triggers a lecture on thermo dynamics when asked a simple question requiring a yes or no answer
• Women can smell old trainers at 100ft; men have to hold them to their nose.
• For men, 2am is time for sleep. For women, 2am is time for a discussion about where our relationship is going.
• When men want something they ask for it. When women want something they make a point distantly related to the subject and wait for a response.
• Men need a round of applause for emptying the dishwasher. Women think ‘E’ on the petrol gauge means enough.
• Women pee together. Men do not acknowledge, let alone speak to each other while peeing.
• Women have a gene that enables them to remember every outfit they have worn for the last two decades. Men can’t remember what they wore yesterday without looking at the floor next to the bed.
Do you agree with any of these?! I’d like to pick up on the references to housework in those statements because I think one of the differences is the amount of time that each sex spends on housework, particularly when they are married. I read about a study recently that said that a man who gets married gains five years more free time than a man who is single, because the married man’s wife will do all the housework for him. I have no idea how accurate that study is or how they worked it out, but something about it rings true…
It does make me wonder what will need to happen before housework is more equally and fairly divided between men and women. Maybe there’s more expectation now that housework should be shared than in my mum’s generation. But a conversation with a minister a while ago revealed that he meets many women in their early thirties suffering from emotional exhaustion from trying to enjoy a job, look after children and run a household. And these women are Christians - shouldn't we be demonstrating a better way?
Every year there are reports by insurance companies with a vested interest in showing how much it would 'cost' to replace a mum. The last one I saw said that on average working women spend 53 hours a week doing housework - just what do they find to do in that time? There must be an awful lot of women ironing underpants and shining the leaves of their houseplants. Housework is a necessary evil in my book - unending, unnoticed and unenjoyable and therefore should have as little time spent on it as is hygienically safe. But, this report claimed, working men do half as much. Do you think that’s true? Where are they? I'd love to meet them.
We used to have a scale in our house against which we measured the culinary expertise of various male friends. It ranged from 'doing a Douglas' which meant cooking an excellent meal with obvious enjoyment and providing stimulating conversation to accompany it, through a 'Paul' who had a limited but delicious repertoire of home-made curries and Haagen Daz ice-cream. It included a 'Bertie' who feebly offered to make coffee as his contribution but needed help even with that, and a 'Grant' who had never cooked for his family and was proud of it. Needless to say the Berties far outweigh the Douglases.
When my first son was little I went to a work conference early, and my husband was to join me a day later with our baby. A colleague asked if I had packed everything for my husband to bring. When I said no, he said he would never have married a woman who expected him to pack his own case. I wonder if he ever asked his wife if she wanted to be married to a man who expected to be treated like a child. She isn't anymore, anyway as sadly their marriage didn’t last.
You see that is the issue for me. I know the explanations of dividing up roles and each partner doing the jobs they enjoy or are good at but surely no one in God's creation has the gift of ironing. It is a loathsome task so shouldn’t everyone do their fair share? I agree that we should be doing things for each other and not keep count of who has done what but why are more men better at being served than serving? And don't tell me that a day at work qualifies you for an evening in front of the TV while your spouse spends the evening in front of the sink - I have done both and it doesn't.
I have often thought I would like a 'wife' - someone to magically do all the unending looking after that needs doing, so that I wouldn't have to do it. It occurred to me recently that I used to have that when I was little – it was my mum! So isn’t there something a bit strange going on when guys expect their wives to do for them what their mums did when they were little boys? Looking after yourself - cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and all those multitudinous tasks that fall into the category of housework - is a part of being a responsible, mature adult. Couldn’t you argue that to do all that for someone else is to keep them immature and dependent and to deny them the satisfaction of growing up?
After all, when men live on their own they don’t have to employ someone to change the loo roll for them; they don’t break down if no one applauds when they empty the dishwasher; they will empty the bin rather than let it overflow! Housework is a boring issue, but it does have a major impact on the amount of free time, energy and head space we have to spend on being creative, dreaming dreams, connecting with people and so on. Just think what you could do with those five years of free time if someone was doing your housework for you, or the two and a half years if you shared it all out equally!
Jenny Baker is a writer who hates ironing and loves being cooked for.