“I Make More Money Than He Does”

Over the holidays, I made the mistake of bringing up laundry at the dinner table at Sean’s parents’ house. Sean may not have grown up in the evangelical homeschool world of Christian Patriarchy that I did, but his mother doesn’t work outside of the home and his parents have always embraced fairly traditional gender roles, so I really should have known better. Anyway, I simply wanted to know if Sean had started the load of laundry he had said he would, and to let him know that he would have to finish it the next morning because I was going to be out of the house with his sister.

“I’ve never done laundry in my life!” Sean’s father announced, leaning back and smiling as if his comment were funny.

The atmosphere in the room tipped and I felt the brunt of everything that was going unsaid. I was being typed as the overbearing and selfish woman who forced her emasculated husband to do “womanly” tasks like laundry. Sean was being typed as a man tied to his wife’s apron strings, unable to stand up for himself against his wife’s tyrannical demands. My blood began to boil.

I make more money than he does.

The room suddenly went silent. Had I simply thought that or had I actually said it?

“I make more money than he does,” I repeated. My voice held an air of confidence that only anger could inspire, and my chin was set against the criticism. “If we’re sharing the money making, it only makes sense that we would share household tasks like laundry and childcare. That’s just commonsense. It’s not trying to be mean about it or anything, but I really do make more money than he does.” There were sparks in my eyes. I was mad.

I told Sean later that I was sorry if my comments at the table had embarrassed him in front of his parents. He said it was fine – I honestly think he enjoys watching the sparks that fly when I come up against his father. The truth is, Sean is proud of me. He’s proud that I am as successful as I am, he’s proud of my ability to hold my own in a conversation, and he’s proud of my passion. He did tell me that his father spend the rest of the evening making fun of him for making less money than his wife – all in good fun, of course. But he also told me that it honestly doesn’t bother him that I make more money than he does.

All I can think is, what kind of world do we live in that men who earn less than their wives are made fun of and women who work full time are still expected to do all of their family’s laundry? How can anyone think this is good for either women or men? I’d like to imagine that things will be different for my preschool daughter Sally and my infant son Bobby when they grow up, but I’m starting to wonder if we as a society will ever find a way to end these patterns. In the meantime, I suppose, I’ll just have to go on scandalizing Sean’s dad.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Rae

    Every time I see an article online – sometimes even from a “respectable” publication like Time magazine – that’s titled something like “How to handle it when your wife makes more money than you do!” or “What happens when women make more money than their husbands” I can’t help but make a snarky comment that says something like “I need help! My husband makes more money than I do, but I can’t find anything to tell me how to feel about it!”

    • http://www.kisarita.blogspot.com ki sarita

      Great point. I personally really need help. I’ve had a big setback and am being almost completely supported financially by my man and it is demoralizing to me. No one recognizes this as a problem. Ironically, a good friend suggested to me that if I was feeling unequal, why don’t I try to compensate by doing more housework? I had a hard time explaining why I found this an offensive suggestion.

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    Heh. My wife has always been paid between 5% and 15% more than me (both engineers, but she initially had a degree from a higher-prestige school, worked for a better employer, and got promoted into management). Way back at the start, it occurred to me that this was something that was supposed to bother me. Which thought I immediately dismissed as transparently stupid. That only changed this year with the bankruptcy of her employer, and her transition to a part-time retirement career (for a while she was most anxious that she wasn’t contributing financially to the household, and with the kids grown & gone, had no defined role).

  • MM

    My wife makes more than me by a pretty decent amount…other than responding to this posting, or when wife and I are talking budgets/raises, it’s not something I give a second thought to. I honestly don’t see how that could be emasculating, but I’m sure plenty of guys would think it so. Maybe if I was in a relatively low wage job I’d feel differently, but I doubt it…like you said, men are raised with the expectation of being the provider, and income level and ability to provide totally get conflated, so if men don’t make the most, they are perceived as not fulfilling that role.

  • lbnilsen

    I, for one, am grateful to make more money than my (feminist) husband because he is Fabulous @ doing laundry (and dishes). :D Good for you, standing up to the patriarch!

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    I once dated a guy who say that even if his wife earned a penny more than he did, that he wouldn’t be able to handle it. A PENNY. That relationship didn’t last long after that.

  • jaimie

    He’s never done the laundry? Never? That seems bizarre to me. I don’ t care how much money you make. In our home, everyone throws in a load. And folds it too.

    • Rosa

      I worked in a big department store in the ’90s, and every few weeks we’d get a sad older man wandering the store trying to buy socks or underwear or sheets, because his wife had died and he had no idea what size he wore or how to figure out how big the mattress was. I suspect a lot of them had to suddenly learn how to do laundry as widowers.

      • Chrissy

        Oh. This is something I hadn’t thought of before, and it makes me sad:(

  • Shari

    I get this from my in-laws too. My husband and I both work full time. He likes to cook, and I HATE cooking, so he does all the cooking. I do all the laundry and manage the finances, and we divide the cleaning and outdoor chores. I think we have a fairly equal division of labor, but his family likes to mock me for not doing it all, I guess. They always make fun of the fact that I don’t cook. He used to be a chef, and he loves to cook, but for some reason I am still supposed to be the one doing it. I see no reason why I should do it all when we both work outside the home full time.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    I make more than my husband. The laundry is my job and I am the one with the duty to make home-cooked meals, but every other single thing about looking after the house is his. From washing the floors to building a new bathroom.

    And these jobs really are his. I don’t tell him when he needs to wash the dishes or when the toilet is looking gross or when I think he needs to install new windows. Because housecleaning is his, he will tell me when I need to put my things away so that he can clean. But I never tell him to clean. Likewise, he doesn’t try to organize me to do the laundry.

    Libby Anne, I think the next step will be when you let Sean take these jobs over completely instead of assigning them to him as tasks. You do more parenting than he does – I suspect much more – and it seems you take responsibility for getting the laundry done as well even if you don’t actually run most loads yourself.

    The fantasy world you dream of where men are not mocked for participating in their households or for having partners with good incomes has existed for decades. You and Sean did not grow up in it but I did and I’m old enough to be your mother. You don’t need to change everyone, you just need Sally and Bobby to understand their capabilities and responsibilities. They will grow up just fine and stare in bewilderment at the old people who try to mock them for behaving like responsible grown-ups. They will choose other responsible grown-ups for partners and will think that’s normal.

    The years with preschoolers in the house are typically both the years with the greatest sexual division of labour and the years that are hardest on a marriage. Things will likely change again for you once Bobby is in kindergarten.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Your house sounds like ours. I do 95+% of the cooking, and most of the laundry, while Mark does the cleaning. I will sometimes load the dishwasher, and regularly change the sheets, but I dont do the floors, or the toilets. He is also doing most of the renovation work – we have worked together on colour schemes and furnishings, but he is doing the heavy work.
      And thats considering for the last year I have been an at-home wife for most of the time.
      We feel its pretty equitable for the housework, and I hope it will continue once our baby arrives in March.

      • Rosie

        And in our childfree house, my husband works and I stay home and renovate! Neither of us much likes cleaning.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Thanks for this, Alison. It gives me something to strive for. While Sean has no problem contributing to the housework, I still assume the position of responsibility and sort of delegate. This is both because we were both raised in homes where the wife was the one responsible for the cooking and cleaning and because Sean is the absent minded professor type and I’m afraid that if I stopped reminding him to do things, etc., everything would fall to pieces! As for the parenting, you are right that I do more of it than Sean does, but part of that has to do with schedules (he works several nights a week), and I don’t think I do as much more of it as you might think. One thing I’ve very much been enjoying with Bobby is that he seems as comfortable with Sean as with me, and Sean isn’t at all nervous about watching him while I go out, be it errands or with friends or whatnot. When Sally was a baby, Sean didn’t seem to know what he was doing, and was almost scared of being left alone with her. With Bobby it’s totally different, and I love that. Oh, and Sean is wonderful with Sally now, partly because he’s become more comfortable with parenting and partly because she’s old enough to listen to his detailed scientific explanations of everything from why there are icicles to why it gets dark so early this time of year. :-P Anyway, thanks for the encouragement!

      • Caitlin

        I highly recommend reading The Second Shift by Arlie Hochschild (if you haven’t already). It inspired me to let go of responsibility. Sometimes that means my husband doesn’t do things. I also sometimes forget to do things. Overall, it works out. I do make more money than he does (in part because he put me through graduate school), but we have always divided housework an childcare more or less the same way, even when I made much less. We divide extra chores based on who has time more than anything else. I can’t imagine telling him he had to do more housework because I out-earn him–and if he had ever tol me that, I don’t think we could be married.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Caitlin –

        I can’t imagine telling him he had to do more housework because I out-earn him–and if he had ever told me that, I don’t think we could be married.

        I totally agree. My point in the conversation with my father-in-law was not to suggest that Sean should be doing MORE chores than me. The only reason I said I made more money, rather than just pointing out that we both work, was to sort of shock my father-in-law by challenging his preconceived notions.

      • victoria

        “I’m afraid that if I stopped reminding him to do things, etc., everything would fall to pieces!”

        Well, that’s possible — but how bad, really, would it be? The house wouldn’t actually explode or anything just because some stuff didn’t get done. And that’s if things went as badly as you feared; they could be better than you’d hoped.

  • saramaimon

    i disagree that because someone makes less money they should do more chores. it seems that whoever has more time is fairer. if both are busy than both should pull their weight.

    • Anat

      Full agreement here. Whoever has more time, whoever is less tired, whoever actually likes the task in question. Earnings have got nothing to do with it.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Oh, I totally agree! I didn’t bring that up to say that Sean needed to do more of the chores, but rather to shock my father-in-law out of his perceived ideas and point out how much of a no brainer it is that we should share the housework, and how ridiculous the idea that I should simply do it all is. The way I see it, it really does have more to do with time – whose schedule permits – and with proclivity. For instance, if one person loves cooking, or if one partner really hates laundry and the other doesn’t mind it, etc.

  • Karen

    Whoever likes (or dislikes less) the task in question ought to do it. I often like to cook, and can muster the effort to do it even if I don’t feel like it, so I cook. I hate cleaning the kitchen, and Husband does it well and doesn’t seem to mind it, so it’s his job. We split most other tasks between us, and it works. How can someone say, with pride, that they’ve never done laundry??? It’s sort of the adult version of saying you’ve never learned to tie your shoes.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Totally agree :) Its how Mark and I came to our original split – I enjoy cooking, he barely knew how (I’m sure I’m allowed to be proud to say I’ve taught him almost everything he knows in the kitchen, right?), so he started cleaning a lot more, which I particularly dislike and he doesn’t mind.

    • The_L

      It’s weird to me, too. My brother has never really done much of what’s traditionally been considered “women’s work.” But he’s certainly put loads of laundry on, and knows why you separate white clothes from dark, how much detergent to use, and how to iron slacks. Because these are skills that adults need in order to survive.

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    If a man told me he had never done laundry, I would have said the same darn thing, lol.

    • Niemand

      I’d tell him I was sorry that he was so lacking in basic life competence.

      • Don Gwinn

        Yeah, that was my thought. Maybe I’m all alone here, but I really thought the rejoinder about money didn’t make much sense. Maybe you had to be there.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Or maybe you have to come from my highly patriarchal background for it to make sense. Because really, trying to tell someone who lives a patriarchal lifestyle that not being able to do “women’s work” is a deficiency really isn’t going to get you very far, because, well, they don’t consider that a deficiency. In contrast, informing my father in law that I make more money than his son does had the potential to shock him into rethinking his belief that women should always and only be the ones doing things like laundry. But really, it was in the moment, and in the moment you rarely spend a lot of time thinking and rethinking which come back you should use. That comes later. :-P

  • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.com/ JethroElfman

    My boy is in the military, and my mom was looking at his ID tags (they don’t like to call them dog tags). She asks what the NR meant. He says, “No Religion — means I’m an atheist”. Hoo boy that set her off something fierce. Then they started in about whether the shootings were because people didn’t want God in their lives. Arguing about religion has become an annual Christmas pastime.

  • LuckyLarry

    In my home, it happened rather unexpectedly. When my wife and I married, I earned roughly 50% more than she did. I was in Sales, she was a bank teller. It never occurred to either of us that she might someday make more than me. After five years of a “traditional” marriage, she landed a job with a major corporation. Her starting salary was within 15% of mine. I noticed, but stayed mum. She never brought it up. After a year, she was gaining on me, and finished the year earning only a couple of thousand less than me. When the new year came, she received a promotion and a sizeable raise. She asked me to meet her for lunch, and nervously “broke the news” to me that she would now be making more money than I did… She was actually worried that I would be upset. I will admit that I felt a little jealous at first, but she was afraid I would divorce her for “upstaging” me… lol… It only hurt my ego until her next paycheck came in… We both benefit from the extra money and all it brings. She has made more than me ever since, and we’re both fine with it. I’m proud of her… And yes I do laundry, cook and help with the housework… But I did that when I was the “Sugar Daddy”…. She can be my “Sugar Mama” for as long as she wants…

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      lol, I would LOVE to earn anywhere near as much as Mark… I can but dream of the awesome lifestyle we could afford to have, and the rapid rate of mortgage repayment. sigh.
      I just asked him how he would feel if I managed to earn more than him – a big ask to think of when we both know its highly unlikely – and his response was “hm, yeah. Cool”.

  • Hermann

    I wish my wife made more money than I do! Then I´d stay at home, care for the kids, do the household – yes, I know it´s a lot of work, but I really would like that!

    I earn more – too bad!

    Shalom
    Hermann

  • Gg

    My parents are currently driving me insane as my father is unemployed while Mom still works full-time so all of his sexism is clearer than ever….the saddest part is Mom not understanding how his hateful and childish behavior cannot be validated by his wounded pride. I wanted to say more but now I’m all worked up……I really don’t know what to do with his misogyny. I’m really proud of my grandmother though–she isn’t validating his demands like everyone else…

  • Stony

    My mother-in-law had the vapors when I did not quit my career to look after our infant when he was born. She made noises that she meant “either one of us”, her son or me, but it was clearly and loudly aimed at me. Nine years later, I still have my industry job/career, going on 24 years this month, and my husband has changed jobs several times. I have a higher degree than he and have always made more than he, which bothers him not at all. It would have been ridiculous to risk my job and salary but we never got her to think outside her traditional roles. The funny thing is that she has always worked! She has taken whatever job came along when they needed money, but that was different?

  • kaboobie

    My husband makes about 2/3 what I do. We each wash our own clothes, the only exception being if one of us is doing a load of whites and the other has one or two white items to throw in.

    My husband also does the bulk of the grocery shopping, and all the cooking. This is because 1) his schedule (7-3) is more conducive to shopping and food prep, and 2) he likes to cook, and is good at it, whereas I am not.

  • kaboobie

    I forgot to mention, for most of my life my Mom worked outside the home and my Dad worked from home. He is now semi-retired with a part-time job, but he still does all the laundry and grocery shopping as he always has.

  • Christine

    Libby, I’m assuming that you were only mentioning that you made more money than Sean does to shock your FIL?

    I suppose that we’re a bit of an unusual case, but my husband and I never had any clue who’s making more (it’s him now). We always just put all the money into shared accounts (I have my own credit card for individual credit history, I’m not completely screwed over if something happens to him), and never really paid attention to who put it there. I’m always shocked that there are still people who live by that sort of old-fashioned nonsense. When we started dating it was brought up that the guy traditionally paid for dates, but that was just because he wanted to make sure that we were on the same page, in case I was expecting him to pay and felt overcharged by sharing. (I doubt we would have dated for long if that was the case).

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Libby, I’m assuming that you were only mentioning that you made more money than Sean does to shock your FIL?

      Yes. It’s not something I bring up all the time or anything, and if I’m, say, annoyed that I’m washing dishes again even though it’s Sean’s turn, I might point out that we’re sharing the money earning but I would never point out that I make more, because honestly, I don’t see that as that relevant. What’s relevant is that we’re sharing the money earning, so we share the housework, not who makes more or by how much.

  • Tess

    I make less than my boyfriend, yet he still does my laundry (in addition to always doing his own) not infrequently. We usually do dishes together. My goal is to one day manage to remember that there are dishes and laundry to be done before he gets to them. :)

  • Niemand

    A friend of mine told me once that at one point she was working two jobs and her husband was unemployed. One day she came home and found him on the couch watching TV. He turned to her and said, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” She decided that whatever it was it would have to wait until after she called the lawyer.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Good call by your friend :)
      I admit to having done similar a few times this last 6 months, but I blame having been really ill with all-day morning sickness. It was more, he would come home, ask what was for dinner, and I would tell him it was whatever he wanted if he would prepare it. Boy did I feel guilty, but at least we both knew it would (hoopefully) be a short-lived circumstance)

  • Anne

    This post has rattled around in my head for a bit and I’d like to repeat a few points made above and add another: your mother in law is the truly insulted person here and I’m worried that you contributed to it.

    Each couple’s income and each couple’s chores are a matter for that couple. Feminism is about men and women being able to chose those roles freely, including traditional models. Your in-laws probably made the best decision for her to be a SAHM and him to be the breadwinner considering their relative income potential and skills going in to the marriage. By dropping the “I earn more” bomb, you may have devalued their arrangement and her work within it.

    I also agree that I hope your FIL gets some life skills under his belt before he becomes that guy in the department store. I would understand him commenting that he’d never done laundry, but I can’t understand why anyone would boast about it. That’s like saying “I don’t drive,” “I can’t boil water,” or “I’ve never written a check.” My math is really rusty, I’m not afraid to say it, but it’s sure not something to boast about. But people can actually get through life without driving, boiling water, writing checks, or knowing advanced math, where we all dirty our clothes every day. To boast about that is to boast that you have pawned off cleaning after yourself to someone else, which devalues his wife.

    And when you went to defend yourself, I fear you did the same.

    The next time he boasts about being utterly incapable of functioning as an adult on his own, I’d suggest admiration for his wife and curiosity for how he’s managed to exist this long without picking up such a basic skill.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

    Each couple’s income and each couple’s chores are a matter for that couple. Feminism is about men and women being able to chose those roles freely, including traditional models. Your in-laws probably made the best decision for her to be a SAHM and him to be the breadwinner considering their relative income potential and skills going in to the marriage.

    Absolutely. My father in law has a very high powered job that takes a great deal of time, and he couldn’t do that without my mother in law being there to do everything else – the housework, cooking, laundry, kids, etc. I have no problem with their arrangement, and it doesn’t bother me that my father in law has never done laundry. I could easily see the same scenario with a woman in a very time consuming and high paying job having a “house husband” who does all the housework and the brunt of the childcare to keep their family running.

    By dropping the “I earn more” bomb, you may have devalued their arrangement and her work within it.

    I disagree. I didn’t say that I have a problem with their division of labor. I merely pointed out that, unlike the way they do things, my husband and I share the money earning, so it only makes sense that we would share the housework. My in laws know that I work. And yet, my father in law thinks I should also be doing all of the housework? That assumption is what I was targeting. If I was staying at home and my husband was working full time, I would have no problem with the assumption that I should be doing all of the laundry, just as if my husband was staying at home and I was working, I think it would be natural to assume that he would do all of the laundry.

    That all said, I don’t know for sure how my mother in law perceived of the exchange, and you’re absolutely right that another way to address the situation would have been to make fun of my father in law for not knowing how to take care of himself.

    • ERB

      I think your reply to your father-in-law’s comment was succinct and effective in getting several points across at once (trying to be nuanced is often a conversation killer). Additionally, you know him in context.

      However, I had a similar reaction to Anne. You didn’t say “That’s too bad, because it’s a really important job. It can take a lot of practice to get good at.” Both your father-in-law’s comment and yours focused on traditionally male “positives”: he devalued doing laundry and you glorified earning money. While there shouldn’t be anything intrinsically male or female about doing laundry or earning money, isn’t that there *is* some connection the issue feminism is (hopefully at it’s heart) trying to combat? Sometimes feminism seems to buy into the sexist idea that “male” is inherently better.

      That being said, I don’t think you should have said anything different. Just that it’s frustrating.

    • http://valuesfromscratch.blogspot.com Marian

      Really? It doesn’t bother you that your FIL has never, ever done laundry? I understand not being upset at the general arrangement of household management. It does make sense for some couples to have an at home spouse, and the at home spouse should naturally do most if not all of the household chores. But never? Not once? Has your MIL never had a bad case of the flu where she was down for a week or longer? Has she never been postpartum? Never been away on vacation?

      That’s the difference between “I rarely if ever do the laundry”–okay, household management decision, and “I’ve never done laundry”– not okay, as it shows that his view is that its her responsibility to do the laundry no matter what extenuating circumstances there are. I hope that when he said “I’ve never done laundry” he really meant the former statement… because if not, how sad for him and how much sadder for his wife.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Good point re. her being sick, etc. Knowing my father in law, I think he was being at least a bit glib about it. He goes camping and such, I doubt he’s so helpless as to have honestly never done laundry. The way I really should have phrased my response to you is that it wouldn’t bother me if someone never did laundry except for special occasions (i.e. spouse sick, or out of town, etc.), if that was their arrangement and agreed division of labor. As a matter of course, though, that the woman simply does the laundry because she is the woman – no. Sorry for being sloppy!

    • Anne

      I’d totally back you up 100% if you simply left it at “we both work, we both do chores.” It’s the paycheck comparison that got to me. It’s totally understandable in the heat of the moment, but I think it plays into the same notion that your FIL had — that earners don’t do housework. You know them, you know the context, but “who does X more” is a topic that misfires easily, even when your inlaws aren’t there. On another note, my parents were very traditional when I was growing up, but after the kids were raised and dad retired, he learned how to do laundry and cook. Your FIL may surprise you in a few years.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Thank you for your thought provoking feedback! I’m working on a post for Saturday that will address this issue. I really appreciate the points you have made here – and also the gracious tone you’ve taken as you’ve made them. Constructive criticism is a valuable thing. :-)

  • http://writingawayfromgod.wordpress.com Writing

    Just the other night, my partner’s mother asked me how our new washer and dryer were doing. After telling her that her son would know better than I, since he does the laundry, her response was “oh, that’s not how it is here.” Conversations with her are constantly riddled with gender roll assumptions. It’s hard to include the disparaging emphasis she used in her laundry response when writing it online, but it was there. I’m trying to practice a standard response to any comments like that: “it’s funny how different things work for different households, huh?”

    He and I make about equal salaries, with his just a couple thousand higher per year (but he’s been in the workforce longer). We both work full time. We both have certain tasks at home that we’ve fallen into because one person likes them more than the other. He usually cleans more, and does 90% of our laundry. I handle our joint finances, making sure the bills and mortgage get paid on time. We reevaluate what we do every so often to make sure it still makes sense.

    I think more and more, our generation (and some of the generation older than us) are letting these gender-specific ideas go—at least in practice, even if they still comment on them. But, there will always be the Patriarchal Christians (and other religions), and even just “traditional values” people from less patriarchal denominations like the Lutherans and Missionary Alliance ones my partner’s parents have participated in during his life that try reinforcing their own beliefs on the younger generation.

    When we have kids, I hope that our own children see from our example that gender roles aren’t a vital part of society—I’m certainly not the Proverbs woman. And, we can hope that our children take our values to heart, but as someone who has rejected her own parents values (or at least the religion they base it on), unfortunately there is the possibility they won’t.

  • http://alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Another thing that influences the way couples divide up chores and household maintenance is the fact that most people spend some period of their lives single and not living with their families of origin. Don’t cook? Don’t eat. Don’t do laundry? Be a slob. Don’t look after your car? Don’t drive. Both men and women clean their own toilets just because they need cleaning and nobody else will. These habits don’t necessarily change once they form a household with a partner. Both men and women assume that these tasks are part of being a grown-up because they took them on when they left home. In another culture and another time they might assume they’re part of a gendered partnership because they took them on when they married and left home.

    • Emmers

      Not really – I know a whole cadre of young men who just get takeout and live in squalor. (Like, the-toilet-is-orange levels of squalor.) Presumably they get their cars maintained?

      Hopefully your comment is more typical of the world though…

    • Ms_Morlowe

      Yeah, I shared a house with a few lads last year. Ironically, it was my first time living away from home for an extended period, while they both lived in student accommodation for college…and yet, I had to show them how to use a washing machine because they took their laundry home to Mammy at the weekend. (Though, in fairness, this is almost definitely because of Irish Mammy Syndrome, and not Men Do Manly Things Only, since they never expected me to do any more than my fair share of any chores.)

  • http://carloscabanita.blogspot.com Carlos Cabanita

    Along my three marriages, there have been situations where I’ve earned more money than my wife, others less, even times when I’ve been without a job and she shouldered most of the costs. There was never a problem. I’ve been taught by my parents not to do a thing at home, but I’ve been lucky with the women I loved, that had none of it and forced the poor lazy me to do my share. And in the process they made me a better man and a better father. My second ex even said, as goodbye: “I like your cooking”…
    I translated this post into Portuguese and published it in my blog:
    http://carloscabanita.blogspot.pt/2013/01/eu-ganho-mais-dinheiro-que-ele.html
    Your name and a link to the original are provided, naturally. If you do not agree, say so and I will unpublish it immediately.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      No problem! I’m glad you found it interesting enough to take the time to translate it! :-)

  • saraquill

    When I was young, my mom and her friend told me that if I ever ended up making more money than my husband, I should pretend otherwise. I could not get and answer as to why, other than they thought it was important. I disagreed.
    Years later, when I brought this up with my sweetheart, he told me that if I ended up earning more, he’d be proud.

  • Noelle

    If my hubby didn’t do the laundry, I’d probably just keep buying more underwear.

    I don’t remember at what point in our relationship we divvied up chores. It must’ve been in the early pre-kid days. I don’t mind chores that involve scrubbing with soap and water with my own hands, so I took on dishes and bathrooms and the kitchen, etc. If I didn’t do them, they wouldn’t get done. I also have a different level of what I consider acceptable messiness for kitchens and bathrooms. His standards on this are much lower. So again, my job. When we first moved in together, I was the student and he had the job where he couldn’t wear jeans. I could last weeks before washing clothes, but he couldn’t. So he became the laundry man. Dinner preparation fell on whoever was home in time to start it. That usually fell to him. Turns put he’s a much better cook, to the point where visiting family now assumes he made the entire meal even if I did the cooking. Vacuuming became his job because we only did it if we were cleaning for company, and I’d be busy scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen at that point. He became the writer of checks and the manager of finances because he’s OCD and likes spreadsheets and numbers, and I had such a chaotic schedule I’d lost track of time and would’ve forgotten to pay things on time. Neither of us likes to dust, and so that doesn’t get done ever. No ironing either. When we had kids, I didn’t have the option of staying home if I wanted to complete my training, and he wanted to quit and stay home. I was making more than him at that point, maybe 50% more. When I completed my training and got a real job, my starting salary was 5 times what he used to make. It’s currently close to 8 times what he used to make. He supported us while I went through school, I support us now. Child care is split the best we can. He gets the brunt of it when I’m at work, but I take it on at home. He does all kid doc visits, runs to the school to pick up our son if he’s not behaving, I take our daughter to dance class. He mows the lawn. I plant stuff and neglect it until it dies (aka gardening), etc, etc, etc

    We don’t tell each other to do these things. I don’t remember if we did when we were younger. Someone asks if he or she needs a hand. It’s just the way things are.

    This isn’t how he grew up though. His mom did all the cooking and cleaning until his parents divorced when he was a teen. I had lots of household responsibilities as a kid because I was the eldest in a large family. I like this split better.

    • AmyC

      “If my hubby didn’t do the laundry, I’d probably just keep buying more underwear.”

      Lol, that’s pretty much my situation. I absolutely hate doing the laundry, but I don’t mind cooking and doing the dishes (usually). So we split up the household cleaning and we do laundry together on the weekends (he also hates doing it). I spend more days at home then he does though (I work mostly nights), so I tend to get more cleaning done just because I’m home and I get bored. The unfortunate part is that we’re both pack-rats, so no matter how much cleaning we normally do, every month or so we have to go through the apartment and throw/give stuff away.

  • lilac

    My husband and I run into this *all of the time*, mostly with his parents. I work full time, while he stays home with our daughter during the day and works part time in the evening. Easily 80% of the time, if they have a question about her care or her progress they direct it to me. They get a little squirmy when I give answers along the lines of “Well, this is how she is in the evenings; (husband), how is she during the day?” Husband has also run into a fair amount of gender discrimination in trying to find a local stay-at-home-parent group: most of the ones around here mean “mom” when they say “parent” and “not working outside the home EVER, how could you do that to your babies!?1!?” by “stay-at-home”.

  • John A

    Your anger and your observations are understandable and correct. But it could have been done without putting your partner in a submissive role. Had this been a man telling his wife he made more so his wife has to do the housework it would have been considered abuse.

    When you share a household your husband allows you to make your money by keeping up the house. therefore your money is not your money. It is your and your husbands money regardless of who makes it.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      You are right that I could have responded differently, and perhaps should have – I admit that in today’s post. However I would point out that I stated not that my husband has to do all of the housework or even most, but rather that we share the housework. In practice, I actually do more of it than he does, in large part because we were both raised in families with stay at home moms who did most or all of the housework, and those patterns are hard to break even though we both work and ideally seek to share the housework equally.

  • Pingback: A Mea Culpa; On the Devaluation of Domestic Labor


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X