Parenting, housework and gender roles (#chorechallenge)
January 8, 2016
I was interested to read today that “Everyday Sexism, human rights organisation Breakthrough and the writer and activist Soraya Chemaly have teamed up to create the 2016 #ChoreChallenge. The project encourages households to take note of the chores being done over the next two weeks and then attempt to “gender swap” some or all of them (children’s tasks included) over the next year. Participants can share their experiences and progress using the hashtag #ChoreChallenge on social media, or add them to Breakthrough’s storytelling platform The G Word, using the same hashtag.”
It is not something I’ve really stopped to think about, particularly, which of us does what in the house. I have always believed just as long as we are both (a) contributing and (b) generally satisfied with the other’s input, then it didn’t really matter.
And, to be honest, it is not something I recognise as an issue, although it will be interesting to look further into the tasks we do, although again, if we are both satisfied with the arrangement and are taking care not to teach Pip that a task can only be carried out by a person of a particular sex (which I don’t think we do, as we discuss this and take care not to) then I really don’t see it matters.
We are a traditional household in that we are are a married heterosexual couple with one child born during the marriage and another on the way, and we are a modern normal couple in that we both work full time, pay for our child to go to full time childcare and have a cleaner come in once a week to help pick up the slack. Our cleaner does happen to be female but that is because she came recommended and happened to be female, rather than because we believe cleaning should be done by a female.
We are also a normal modern family in that we see our child(ren) as both of our responsibilities equally and therefore divide, as is practical to our jobs, the school drop offs and pick ups with both of us equally responsible for organising childcare and babysitters where we have evening work events. We also manage between us Pip’s arrangements – M tends to do most of the correspondence with school and with the other parents for parties and play dates, and I make sure Pip has enough clothes with the payments for all of that coming out of our joint income pot. I love clothes and household shopping, so that isn’t really ever a chore, and M makes sure that there is something for everyone to eat every day. He also cooks most of those meals, and takes the lead in the washing up and dishwasher loading – in part because cooking is his passion and hobby. When Pip is ill, we divide up the childcare depending on who has what work commitments and we try and attend all hospital and parents evening type appointments together where absolutely possible.
The remainder of the household tasks do seem to largely break down into ‘gendered’ roles though, although we each do our own ironing should the need arise – I usually outsource mine to the dry cleaners where possible, although I would love a clothes steamer. I do the clothes washing and the bathroom cleaning because (a) I like to be in control and I couldn’t bear for someone else to ruin my cashmere or hang something up so it pulls it out of shape and (b) because M does all the cooking so I am happy to do the washing. I do largely let M organise the car, perhaps in part because he is the owner (only one of us can own it, and he is the one with longest no claims bonus who does most of the driving).
It actually only seems that parental leave is the only thing which falls to gender norms: when it comes to sharing parental leave after the birth of this next baby, it will again be me who takes a career break for a few months, largely because I am the only one who qualifies for any decent amount of paid parental leave, but, also like last time, even if we did qualify for shared parental leave, which we don’t, it wouldn’t be financially prudent for us to take it. It is a dynamic that I particularly find frustrating, as despite starting from a relatively equal starting point in terms of careers, I still earn only just over half that M does.
Where we do differ from gender norms though, is that I will not be the “expert” or the primary carer despite being the one that will not be at work. We both will be in joint charge – decisions were and will be made jointly and we will split care of the children so far as we were able equally, save for the fact that it was and will be me off work for at least 6-9 months.
What do you think? Is this something that we should be giving more attention? Will you be taking part in the challenge?
Photo taken in Copenhagen last summer, apropos nothing