Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's not just child-care, it's husband-care

Echidne is doing a wonderful job refuting the argument that women aren't in the hard sciences 'cause we're dumb and wuv the babies too much to get into math. Anyway, she discusses how time issues are an impediment to women joining the ranks, as they are for men.

Second, why would women react differently to a long workweek than men? This is the hidden agenda in this suggestion: it has to do with who is going to take care of the children. So it's very simple, really: according to this hypothesis, women are not in the hard sciences because they need to have more time for family life. Men appear not to want to have a family life to the same extent. Why would this be the case? Here, once again, opinions differ. Some argue that women have a biological imperative to spend more time chauffeuring their children to hockey meets than men do. Others argue that the upbringing we are all subjected to convinces both girls and boys of the necessity for such tasks to belong to women. Or perhaps both of these reasons apply at the same time....

Talking about the "eighty-hour week" is a shorthand way of pointing out that so many things in the academia assume that the scholars have a well-equipped home base to which they return only to sleep. The scholars are certainly not expected to give birth to children, for example, though change in this has taken place in the last few decades. But hard sciences may not look like very hospitable places to a lot of women for reasons of this sort.

I think it's true that women have less time than men, as a general rule. But it's not just because women take on the lion's share of child-rearing. Lots of women who are always really pinched for time don't have small children to raise, so they should have as much free time as men. But, speaking anecdotally of course, it seems to me that this just isn't the case. A good number of childless women and women whose children are grown that I know are still run ragged. And for the reason that Echidne touches on in the 2nd paragraph I quote from her. That would be the well-equipped home base for the working man.

Caring for the working man is still the job of women. Housework, shopping, laundry, and dinner still fall primarily for women to do. After all, a working man should have a nice home to come home to relax to. And he should, he really should. But unfortunately, the women who do so much of this work usually hold down full-time jobs themselves.

It's my personal theory that many women still do the "second shift" mostly by themselves in large part due to the wage gap. I know that I have many guilt pangs about the fact that my boyfriend pays more into the bills than I do because he makes more than I do. Practically speaking, it's the best way for us to do things. Emotionally speaking, it makes it really hard for me to ask him to do the shopping once in awhile. I feel like I can compensate for what I don't make at work by working extra hours at home. Luckily, he doesn't take advantage of this muddle of feelings, so I do manage to squeeze in plenty of free time. But I'm guessing that lots of people, especially those who are raised believing in "women's work" and "men's work" are perfectly fine having women compensate for making 25% less by working 40% harder.

Whether people think it through that hard or not, I know lots and lots of couples who live with the notion that a woman should take care of her man's needs, and if that means she has no downtime because she has a fulltime job herself, well that's too bad. And of course, if challenged, the genetic, traditional and/or Biblical arguments will come out. Women's work and men's work and all that. If women's work is harder, then that's too bad. Take it up with god and/or nature.

I have no trouble believing that some women are simply worn out by life and can't get ahead because of it. For lots of women I know, their only options to lighten their load are to ask their husbands to take on more housework or just cut back on the amount of housework that is done. And neither seems like a real option, since to take #1 is to be a nag and to take #2 is to be a slob. Very unfeminine. God knows I watched my mother struggle with this conundrum my entire childhood.

263 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment on this because as a woman currenty persuing my masters in math that this can't be the only reason. I went from an undergrad program with about 40% females to my masters which is less than 10%. As most people in my situation are single and without children, the decision to not persure further degrees in math must be due to other factors. Though that said after this program it might start to be a larger factor as people start marrying or having children.

Thanks

1/19/2005

 
Blogger zuzu said...

Caring for the working man is still the job of women. Housework, shopping, laundry, and dinner still fall primarily for women to do. After all, a working man should have a nice home to come home to relax to.i

You know, this really bugs me. The idea of living with a man gets less and less appealing all the time.

This also reminds me of a Garrison Keillor op-ed piece about how Thanksgiving was such a great holiday because "you just sit down to it." Sure, it's great if you get to sit on your ass watching football all day while someone else makes the meal.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Anon, you have a point, and there is a lot more going on in the way that girls are educated early. But part of that is that we are brought up from early childhood to be careful not to overcommit to our careers because there is the chance that we may have to give up all that hard work in order to take care of a man. I know that when I was growing up, my parents, my stepdad in particular, was always warning me about this activity or that by saying, "How is that going to look when you're old enough to start dating?" Granted, he never explicitly said that my studies would get in the way of my dating life, but he did imply that my introversion, which is a good personality trait for someone who is a big reader and probably a good trait for a scientist, would hurt my future.

Zuzu, I see your point. It's frustrating, but the fact is that men can make choices. Not to puff him up or anything, but this Christmas, I wandered into the kitchen post-dinner to find my boyfriend drying dishes with my mom, my aunt and my grandmother, just chatting away. I picked up a dishtowel and joined in, but damn him for guilting me into it. The thing that really made me happy was how natural it felt. No subtle demands that we act like he's a prince amongst men for being a good houseguest.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger Pseudo-Adrienne said...

zuzu said: "The idea of living with a man gets less and less appealing all the time."

I agree one-hundred percent. I will never live with a man who expects me to be 'Miss Stepford', and do nothing but cook, clean, and fuck him on demand. I still can't believe that there are men in this day and age who believe that those are solely 'women's duties'.

That Summers asshole of Harvard is just pushing more social gender stereotypes down people's throats. Worst of all, down the throats of his own female students, whom I'm sure are trying to prove all of those old stereotypes about women in math and science to be wrong. Perhaps he's just intimidated by the idea of women in math and science and not in the kitchen.

Newsflash boys; NOT all women want to be "domestic-goddesses" and NOT all women give a rat's ass about being making you a nice hot meal every night. Neither are all women obsessed about mommies. Some of us don't buy into the "women are too emotionally hysterical and irrational to succeed in math and science, or even have a career, and thus all women really want to be mommies instead because it's easier" stereotypical bullshit.

Summers and antifeminist men and women who share his views enjoy beating down women whenever we make an accomplishment in a previously male-dominated field. And they always use pseudo-science and bias sociobiological bullshit to do it.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger yami mcmoots said...

Oh, how I wish the second shift were just a wage gap thing! I make more money than my boyfriend and would *love* for him to feel guilted into doing an extra share of housework... but no. I think it only goes one way.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger heydt said...

Amanda, your young gentleman sounds very much like a... well, you know.

Note to self: work harder to emulate Amanda's boyfriend...

1/19/2005

 
Blogger emjaybee said...

We are in the generation of women who are benefitting from the preseonce of more feminist-raised men, but who still have a lot of un-learning to do. I mean both men and women here.

Growing up, I absorbed lessons about responsibility for housework and domestic problems that my husband did not. He is more than willing to do his share, but it has taken years of living together to transfer more of that responsibility to him, to make it more equal. I have had to educate him about the complexity of basic domestic arrangements, and he has helped me rethink what is really important and what is an unrealistic standard for how we should live. Should our house have to look immaculate all the time? Probably not. Is his conception of acceptable tidiness still a little different from mine? Yes. But now it differs more in focus (he can't stand piles of dirty clothes, I have a thing about paper clutter), so we bitch at each other about different things.

Housework is a strange beast; it is neither a fulfilling full-time job nor something that you can ignore completely, unless you want to live in unhealthy and unpleasant conditions. Women have been responsible for it for so long that handing it over to someone else can still feel strange. It is harder to educate someone on how to clean a toilet and how often it should be done than to do it yourself. I like to think that the next generation of women will benefit even more from a better division of labor. If I ever have a son, he will learn basic cooking and cleaning and be responsible for his own tidiness, just as a daughter would.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger Phila said...

Slightly OT, but the comment about lack of time is a really good one. It's a huge cause of problems between people. There's the fact that people need to work more hours, but long commutes are increasingly a problem too...I used to have a two-hour commute (four hours total per day). It's devastating in ways that you don't always think about at the time. Never again!

Anyway, around my place we sort of negotiate who does what on a given day based on who's more wiped out...which means that about half the time, BOTH of us are too exhausted to cook or clean. The GOP talks about saving marriage, but the amount of time and effort it takes to get by in this country has destroyed far more marriages than any number of gays could.

1/19/2005

 
Blogger FoolishOwl said...

As I understand it, in the marxist account of the basis of sexism, the prescribed family model requires women to do most of the necessary labor to reproduce labor power, without the bourgeois having to pay for any of it. The trick is that women are made to feel obligated to do it without thought of any reward.

Equalizing tasks between men and women is necessary, but not sufficient, to end this problem.

1/20/2005

 
Blogger Catarina - the Swede said...

This is why one of my main relationship advice is to never move in together with someone who hasn't lived on his/her own for a substantial amount of time. (I do not count "eating dinner at your parents every night while mom does your laundry" as living on your own.)
Unless people are complete slobs they will then have learned how to cook, how to clean, how to wash up, pay bills etc. Useful skills that you don't magically forget about when you move in together with someone.
This goes for men and women.
I can safely say that me and SO do pretty much 50% each. (Including garden and car work.) He's way taller than me though so there will always be some tree-cutting that will be his work until we buy a higher ladder. :)

1/20/2005

 
Blogger SaraS said...

Just for one other twist on this - figuring out "who does what" in a relationship can be tricky even when you *don't* have to deal with the expectations of male/female gender roles.

My partner and I are both women and have struggled with this on and off for years. There have been times in our relationship when I worried that I was behaving like some sort of stereotypical male chauvinist when we argued about this!

I have always made more money than her and also worked longer hours, so I frequently did find myself expecting that she would pick up more of the slack at home. Basically resolving this seems to require constant negotiation. There are a few jobs that seem to stick with one person - she makes breakfast in the mornings, I always scoop the cat box (which is ironic since it wasn't my idea to get a cat, but that's a different story...)

The bottom line is that housework sucks - I've never met anyone who LIKES doing it. Finding some way to get it done when no one in the house really wants to can be a challenge - regardless of the genders involved.

1/20/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think cooking is fun. Gardening can be fun too, IMHO (though not mowing the lawn.). The rest of housework (the cleaning, making beds, etc), though, sucks as SaraS says.

An issue I wonder about is cases in which there are genuine differences on how clean is necessary. I generally agree with the principle that couples should share housework equally -- if they agree on a common amount of housework. But what if he is fine with unmade beds and she isn't? Note that this isn't "he claims to be fine with it because he knows she'll make them, saving him the effort," but rather even if he were living alone, he wouldn't make his own bed.

I proposed a system for solving this problem to my mother: housework should be divided equally up to the point where the house is cleaned the the standards of the slobbier partner, then the remaining housework is done solely by the neater partner. Or, there are more than two people, say three, all three do the housework needed to get the house up to the level of the slobbiest person equally, then the two neater people do the housework necessary to get it up to the level of the middle person, and then the neatest person handles the remaining increment alone. So, if 9 hours of housework attain the neatness level of the slobbiest person, 15 hours attain the neatness level of the middle person, and 20 hours attain the neatness level of the neatest person, then the slob should do 3 (9/3) hours, the middle person should do 6 (9/3 + (15 - 9)/2) hours, and the neatest person should do 11 (9/3 + (15 - 9)/2 + (20 - 15)) hours.

Being the neat person of my house, who's always telling us, "why can't you just look around the house and see what needs to be done and DO IT?!!" my mother disagreed with this. I think she believes that the neatness standard attained should be set by the neatest person in the house, then the housework divided equally from there. This violates my (self-interest influenced) views of fairness, however. :^)

Julian Elson

1/20/2005

 
Blogger FoolishOwl said...

I'm glad Julian brought that up.

My experience has been that, in shared living situations, the neatest person inevitably does most of the household work, and ends up resenting it. If it's a mixed gender household, it's usually (but definitely not always) a woman who is most concerned with neatness, and ends up doing most of the work. (I've been the neatfreak and the slob in different situations.)

To make matters worse: if one person things the house needs to be vacuumed daily, another weekly, and a third person monthly, #2 and #3 are never going to actually vacuum, because #1 did it already.

It's hard to get around the fact that the slob benefits from frequent housecleaning done by someone else, even though the slob would be satisfied if the housecleaning wasn't as frequent.

I'm not sure what the remedy is for the problem. But I do suspect that many people, women especially, are socialized to expect more cleanliness than is really necessary.

1/20/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a woman who was an electrician come to my domestic violence group(I work at a shelter)to talk about non-traditional work. She made good money($40/hr) was in a union, worked long hours at times/like 60 or 80, other times was laid off for a month.
The women asked her what was the hardest thing about her job, she thought for awhile and then surprised us by aswering "not having a girlfriend or a wife".
She said when they worked long days the guys all had the women in their life doing their laundry, cleaning their houses, scheduling their appts., taking care of their kids, cooking them food etc. After a 10 or 12 hour workday noone at home expected the men to do anything but eat and park in front of the TV with a beer.
She had a boyfriend and kids, boyfriend was not a live-in boyfriend. She said alot of the guys were in her same situation only their ex had the kids and their girlfriend came over and cleaned their house etc. She was really envious of this advantage they had.

1/20/2005

 
Blogger Ron said...

True story - Two weekends ago, I was cleaning the shower naked. I save it for last so I won't get soaked rinsing the tile & I can shower right afterward. My bethrothed had to call a couple of friends and tell them about her nekkid BF cleaning the bathroom.

I'd love it if my GF made 100K+ a year. I'd quit my job & take care of the house if that was the case. Trouble is neither wants to have to work that hard week after week.

I'm neater than her. Unlike her, I can't stand dirty floors and unmade beds. She has much higher standards for food & likes to cook. I will eat anything just to refuel if left on my own. So I do most cleaning, she does most cooking & shopping; we split the laundry. It helps to keep the resentment down knowing the other does things too. We are both better off for having the other in our lives.

1/20/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this argument with my mom (who thinks she is neat. She is not.) a billion times: that if I REALLY REALLY LOVED HER, I'd clean to her standards to prove my love. I in turn try to explain to her that if I don't badly care on my own whether or not every single smudge is gone, it still won't be cleaned up to her standards. Honestly, if one person cares so much more that things be as neat as they want them, then they're gonna have to do it themselves. Period. It doesn't work to harass and harangue others into doing it your way, because they won't succeed at it. If that means that Mr/Ms. Neatnik does a lot more cleaning than the slobs, then so be it. The Neatnik's the one who wanted it that clean in the first place.

I am so incredibly glad I haven't shacked up with any of my SO's. I hope I never get stupid enough to do it, because they'd probably kill my slobby ass.

1/20/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree that the neatnik should just get stuck with all the cleaning to the neatnik's standards (and I've been the slob). For one thing, as has been pointed out, this means that the slob doesn't even have to do the work of cleaning to the slob's standards, because the neatnik has always done everything before it gets dirty enough for the slob to clean it.

On the other hand, "if you cared enough you'd just know what needs cleaning and do it" doesn't work. The slob won't see dirt the way the neatnik does, and, really, who can be blamed for not reading someone else's mind?

What makes more sense is to talk together about what work you think needs to be done, and how often. Then you can either: A) Give the slob some tasks that the slob actually cares about, where the slob's standards are actually higher than, the same as, or maybe even just somewhat close to, what the neatnik's standards are. Then the neatnik should leave those tasks to the slob, stay out of them, not insist on redoing the slob's work. Or else: B) Agree explicitly that certain specific tasks (say, vacuuming, or scrubbing the toilet) should be done at a certain specified frequency (maybe the neatnik's preferred frequency, or maybe just a compromise between what the neatnik would want and what the slob would want), and that the slob will take on certain of these tasks. And, again, as long as the slob actually does the tasks at the desired frequency, the neatnik doesn't jump in and redo the slob's work. Or perhaps the slob and the neatnik could trade off on the tasks (then at least sometimes each area actually gets cleaned to the neatnik's standards, and sometimes it doesn't, but the neatnik has the satisfaction of not being the one doing the work).

Or maybe there's some other approach that I haven't thought of. But, to be fair to the neatnik, it has to not involve the neatnik just doing all the work, and to be fair to the slob, it has to not involve expecting the slob to actually see dirt the same way the neatnik does.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

1/21/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Well, you always do what we do around my house, which is leave long lists of chores already done today by the list-maker behind, so the list-reader feels compelled to complete more tasks. Healthy competition, that's all.

1/21/2005

 
Blogger ScottM said...

My girlfriend and I are moving in together at the end of the month and we have the same problems, inverted. She's passionate about her job, which has long hours at times (or long programming at home, as required), while I decided long ago that at 5 it was my life.

So far, things have worked out well. We often get together at my place because she's ashamed of her mess, despite the fact that I ignore it. [And I mean really ignore it; not a haughty "I see it but won't mention it".] So, if 30 year olds count as the next generation, then here's one couple where society's expectations are shattered.

[Caveat: After the divorce, my brother and I stayed with our father exclusively. From 10+ dishes were expected, from 13+ a night of cooking and turns at laundry were expected. The neatness (actually an aversion to clutter) manifested in response to his complete inability to throw things away, making housework long and painful. Some of these elements may be necessary to create men who take on a truly fair share of housework...]

1/21/2005

 
Blogger Trish said...

I am not a neat person. I think that stems from my reaction to my mother's excessive cleaning. She is the Lady Macbeth of Housecleaning. My husband used to be much more anal about housecleaning, but has learned by living with me to tone down his standards. Now, he's much more relaxed about it.

I haven't taken down the Christmas tree yet. I've been actively avoiding it. I hope I'll get up the energy to have it down before next Christmas. Heh.

I agree that in most relationships involving children that mothers overall tend to take on the lion's share of their care. That's one reason many moms don't rise in their careers as much as men, including fathers. It's also why moms overall tend to get custody of the children upon divorce. Most parents agree to this without needing a judge to make the decision for them.

1/21/2005

 
Blogger Sapphire7 said...

A few months after my husband proposed, I FREAKED OUT. I told him I didn't want to live the same empty life as our parents. Both our mothers had jobs (not really careers) and they still had to cook and clean and manage the household. I told him I WOULD NOT live like that. He agreed to anything - as long as I would marry him. So in love. He didn't have any expectations. We worked it out. The key is communicating your needs up front.

It turned out I was right. I always thought I would work and I have a good career (though not necessarily at the current job). He hated his job but loved doing his freelance graphic artist work. When the babies came, he quit his full-time job to be with the kids and do the freelance thing. He does not parent or manage the house the way I would, but he does it his way. That works too. (BTW, he was raised by a feminist mom and 3 older sisters.)

As far as the money goes, I think it depends on how the household finances work. When people are married, the whole thing usually goes into the same account. The decisions should be based on the higher good of the family, not on what each member produces. If an unmarried couple has the same agreement, then each member should have an equal say, regardless of salary, as long as the best interests of the family are served. If you're together, you should work as a team.

I have no idea how it works when people live together and split expenses. I am not trying to be old-fashioned. I didn't live with my husband because we were in college before we got married. I would not join finances with someone unless it was a long term sure thing. I work too hard. I'll give you my heart but don't ask me for money. ;)

1/21/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

I hear you Saph, but for some people, it's just unfeasible to keep separate expenses and maintain their standard of living.

1/21/2005

 
Blogger lawrence krubner said...

Many intentional communities fix the number of hours that people have to work, and include housework in that number. This is absolutely brilliant and does a great deal to even the playing field for women. For instance, the commune know as Twin Oaks, which is in Louisa, Virginia, insists that all members must work 45 hours a week. Domestic chores like cleaning the bathrooms and washing clothes can be counted toward the total (as well as can the for-external-money jobs like making yogurt to be sold at local organic food stores). No more 80 hour work weeks. At first people look at the number of hours to be worked and think that 45 hours is too much to ask people to work, but I think for a lot of people, especially women, when they realize that the number includes a lot of domestic chores then they realize life at Twin Oaks actually involves less work than what they'd work if they lived in the suburbs in a single family household containing just one nuclear family.

On another note, a friend of mine waited till she was 41 to have her first baby, and now she has a 6 month old. I asked her what she thought was the single greatest problem facing women when it came to raising children. She answered with 2 words: "nuclear family." It's worth remembering that the nuclear family is a modern invention, only 100 years old, and traditionalists who defend it go against tradition in doing so. For a few thousands years, raising children was an undertaking engaged in by a wider group.

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Buying a good bed is one of the most important purchases you can make when it comes to back pain relief. Nine out of 10 say their bed is more important to them since they developed back pain; 98% agreed that a good, supportive bed could help a bad back. 82% of experts felt that the right bed could help prevent back pain.
"If you cannot rest properly and sleep well, this hinders recovery from back problems."
A firm, supportive bed, not a hard one, can do wonders to ease and even prevent bad backs. Only 22% of sufferers had bought a bed classed as �orthopaedic�; while 28% describe their bed support as �medium�. Only 6% of experts would recommend an orthopaedic bed to patients.

Three quarters would be prepared to spend more than �500 on a new bed: compared with just 36% of the �normal� population. Nearly one in 10 would pay more than �2,000 for a new bed to get the comfort and relief they need.
Back pain sufferers are twice as likely as the rest of the population to own a new bed - 50% have beds that are less than five years old compared to the national average of 24%.
88% are satisfied with their choice � but 16% said they would get a better quality one next time; while 9% would opt for something firmer; 5% said they would choose a softer bed and 4% wanted a bigger one.

Sufferers are three times more likely to replace their beds when they no longer feel comfortable (65% compared with just 20%).
31% own a king size bed compared with 11% generally. Separate mattresses zipped together are also popular with couples whose support needs differ or who are easily disturbed by their partner's movements. top
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Choosing the right Bed: Bedcare
Proper care will keep your bed in good condition. Always read and retain manufacturers care instructions and ask your retailer for advice, too. Otherwise, the following tips will help you to get the best out of your bed during its natural life.
Use a washable, protective cover to protect the mattress (and pillows) from stains. Barrier fabrics for allergy sufferers are also available.
In the mornings, throw back the bed clothes and leave the bed to air for 20 minutes to allow body moisture to evaporate.
Turning your mattress over from side and side and end to end every few months (every week for the first three months) helps upholstery fillings to settle down more evenly. Some more luxurious mattresses, with much thicker layers of fillings designed to mould themselves to the contours of your body, may retain signs of these impressions, despite turning.
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Don�t leave polythene wrappings on a new mattress - dampness, mildew and rotting could all result from a build-up of condensation.
Vacuum your mattress and base from time to time to remove fluff and dust. This should be carefully done so as not to dislodge fillings or damage tufts. Open windows while vacuuming -especially if there is an asthma sufferer in the house.
When tackling stains, use mild detergent and warm or cold water. Never over soak a mattress or base.
Putting a new mattress on a base for which it was not intended, a new mattress on an old base or a board between the mattress and base can impede comfort and reduce the useful life of the mattress - as well as affecting any guarantees or warranties.
Out with the Old: Once you�ve bough yourself a new bed, make arrangements to have the old one disposed of (many retailers will do this for you). Don�t give it to the children, relatives, guests or neighbours. If it wasn�t good enough for you, it�s not good enough for anyone else, either. In fact, it�s a veritable health hazard - get rid of it
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