I Do the Housework
Why millions of men can’t muster the empathy to understand this issue shocks me.
I’m a college educated white male. I have a deeply satisfying professional and personal life. I’m primarily responsible for washing dishes, cooking, cleaning bathrooms, laundry, and general house cleaning. There are days when it is joyful and there are days when it feels bleak and oppressive. I can not imagine what lifetimes of this work felt like for women of my mother’s generation. How it must have driven many women mad.
They had a lifetime of this work forced on them. They had no choice. This was work which grew exponentially with each birth, many of which were unplanned. I’m looking at just few years of the current arrangement for a family of three. My mother did it for seven people for decades.
If I had to stare down the forty year tunnel of endless childcare and housework that my mother faced, knowing full well my economic security hung in the balance, and that my husband neither would clean nor cook, I’m not sure I would survive it.
Men, just do all the fucking housework for a year. Do all the planning, shopping, childcare and spousal emotional support which that work entails. Only then will you fully understand what I’m asking you to see. You will understand how utterly bleak it can look to know it will go on for decades and that the person who professes to love you is cool with that arrangement. It’s a wonder that the billions of women trapped in this position have any affection to offer their husbands at all.
The reactivity of women about men not doing their share of housework is born out of the lived experience of cleaning a bathroom for years only to watch it get wrecked by people for whom your work is so normalized as to be invisible. I know. I experience this weekly. And the “you knew what you were getting in to,” argument is bullshit. No one should be expected to do all this work alone and unaided just because they want to raise a family.
I have the luxury of having negotiated my agreement to take care of the house. This is a very different circumstance. For some women negotiating an agreement like this will fit for them. My partner Saliha is our primary wage earner. My having agreed to this arrangement (and being grateful for it) does not change the drudgery or endlessness of it. The seeming invisibility of my work.
If my partner just automatically assumed I would do all cooking and cleaning, childcare, that regardless of my career demands I would have no choice to do otherwise based solely on my gender, I can not imagine how sickening, exhausting and oppressive it would feel. Why millions of men can’t muster the empathy to see this shocks me.
House work is not automatically optional for any man. It is a moral failing to see it otherwise.