Why I, As A Man, Don’t Do More Housework
Okay, so I know I’m supposed to do more housework. In fact, since I read a lot, hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded of this fact by one source or another. Depending on the day, I’m reminded that I’ll get more sex in my sexless marriage if I do more housework, or that my marriage will improve. If I value my wife’s happiness, I will bloody well do more housework. It seems that, regardless of what I think or feel, regardless of how I might construe fairness, I need to do more housework.
So, since I know all these facts and I try to think of myself as a reasonable and fair man, why do I persist in not doing the housework I’m told I should do? Some of the reasons I will give here are peculiar to my relationship and some, as I understand it, apply to heterosexual men in general. (I am bisexual, but nevermind.)
I already feel I do a good bit of housework. I’ve read over and over again that men underestimate how much housework they do. Far be it from me to argue with research studies, but part of the difficulty is how we’re defining “housework.” My wife does most of the shopping, cooking, and laundry. This sounds like a lot, but when you consider how often we order in, eat out, or one of us brings home dinner, it is less than it first appears. I do the dishes, take out the trash, and am solely responsible for dropping off and picking up both of our children from daycare and extracurricular activities. Though my wife birthed and nursed our children, as they have grown older I have spent more time with them, and my wife less. Since research studies insist my wife does more, I won’t argue, but if there is an inequality in quantity it isn’t significant.
My wife and I have different standards. This is a big one. Women complain all the time that men don’t do chore X, and that as a result they end up doing it. This is unfair, and I recognize that. The problem is, as I say, that my wife and I have very different standards. Let me give a current example. There is mold on some of our curtains. This bothers my wife to no end. It requires taking pictures of the curtains, contacting a cleaning service, taking down the curtains, taking the curtains to the cleaners, and putting them up again. My solution would be simply to take down the curtains (they are inside curtains). Simple, to the point.
When I do a housework job my wife corrects me, does it again, and gets angry it wasn’t done her way. This is related to the one above. This has happened with diaper changing, my own attempts to make food for myself, and my aborted attempt at helping with the laundry. I am willing to take a certain amount of correction, and am even willing to do it again, but my wife insists that I’m an incompetent and she has to it again, her way. At the same time, she’s furious that I’m doing so little.
Doing more chores does not get me more sex or a better marriage. Sorry, but I’ve tried the experiment countless times. When I do more chores this seems to serve as a reminder of those chores I didn’t do. There seems to be a happy medium — I do enough to keep her happy, but not so much that she gets upset. Sex in our marriage has disappeared and more chores hasn’t rekindled it.
Men who do chores are NOT sexy. Over and over again, like the thrumming of a bass drum, I hear about women telling me about their stay-at-home husbands who get paid less and do the housework (or who don’t do the housework). The point is, women make it clear that men who stay at home are not desirable, at least not before they pair up. Yes, it’s true we meet in all different kinds of ways and combinations. Variety is the spice of life, and vive la differance. Yet the heroes of female fantasy and Bumble apps are not the men who stay home and do the dishes or burp the babies. Women want this after the marriage, but generally not before. But if you’ve spent years being socialized that sexy as a man is being rich and powerful, well switching from your day job to being the lonely dad at the playground on Tuesday afternoons isn’t easy. Frankly, aside from martyrdom and the wish to stop the endless lectures about mansplaining, there is no real incentive to do more chores.
My wife does the organizing but I do the emotional labor. This one may be peculiar to us, but my wife, like most it seems, is the organizer of family things: playdates, music lessons, staycations, finances, airplane flights. But when it comes to physical affection or talking about how to improve our marriage, that’s my thing. I give her the kisses, the good mornings, the how was your day? I do the listening about her shitty colleagues and the assholes she has to deal with. She knows little or nothing about my work and mostly doesn’t ask. On our date nights, I am the one who tries to come up with solutions to make our marriage better.
My wife’s career always came first. I moved twice for her career. Her moves for me: zero. When I asked for help or understanding with my own work obligations I was met with lectures about how men’s careers always come first. When my female boss refused time off for me at my job when we had our first child, I was being selfish because I wouldn’t keep risking my career for hers. When I made massively less money, I was still responsible for half the bills. Her career was our business, but my career was my business.
Lectures about housework are counterproductive. I hear so many lectures about what I am doing wrong as a man and a husband. Apparently I am infinitely privileged. Therefore, however much I am doing, it is never enough. I am never allowed to be tired, I am never allowed to be disadvantaged; I am never ever, ever, ever treated unfairly, but I am always treating others unfairly regardless of the actual situation of our marriage.
I am making more money now and doing fewer chores and my wife seems a lot happier. Equality is complicated.