Who does more chores in your house? TANYA GOLD tries a new app to see11/16/2023
Who really does more chores in your house? TANYA GOLD and her husband Andrew have always argued about who bears the domestic brunt – but when they tried a new app, the results stunned them both
I always thought I had the perfect husband: that is, he does everything for me. When I listen to married friends moan about their useless, selfish partners who never cook or look after the children, I think, ‘How can you tolerate this?’ Why don’t you throw him out and replace him with a paragon like mine?
So I was sure my husband would be the winner when it came to the age-old who-does-more-household-chores debate.
Everybody’s talking about the new Share The Load online tool that asks you to input the hours you spend on various tasks — not just cleaning, but gardening, DIY, cooking, childcare, admin, driving, dog walking and laundry — and produces a definitive answer, which I won’t reveal just yet.
Statistics suggest about 65 per cent of household chores are done by women, presumably down from 99+ per cent in the olden days. I thought modern women did even more than this — they moan that they do in surveys; 72 per cent say they do the majority — but this was never an option for me.
We are all our mothers’ daughters. I wasn’t raised to be a domestic drudge, and chores are boring. My mother had a brilliant career as a historian and teacher and she brought us up alone. She is superb at sewing — as her mother was — but she never tells people she can sew in case people ask her to, and she would rather read a history book. Or ten history books.
I always thought I had the perfect husband: that is, he does everything for me. I was sure my husband would be the winner when it came to the age-old who-does-more-household-chores debate
Everybody’s talking about the new Share The Load online tool that asks you to input the hours you spend on various tasks and produces a definitive answer
Statistics suggest about 65 per cent of household chores are done by women, presumably down from 99+ per cent in the olden days
When I was a child, she paid a neighbour to clean, dropped the laundry off at the launderette and filled the fridge with ready meals. Friday night was takeaway curry. Sunday lunch was a Chinese or at my grandmother’s, who did clean her house — well, slightly. She preferred to play gin rummy.
My mother was mildly irritated when, as a child, I left a bowl of cereal under my bed and ants moved in, which surprised me. But she only really cared if I excelled at school, had good manners and dressed properly.
I never expected to be a woman who makes what is called a beautiful home.
Even when I lived in a studio flat, I had a cleaner, which is shameful (though I paid her properly), and I ate all my meals out.
Food shopping, food preparation, cleaning up? Just for me? What’s the point? I later discovered that I spent my house deposit in Italian restaurants.
Ten years ago, I married a man I fell in love with over a joint of lamb — he dusted it with flour, at which I marvelled — and had a child. My husband can really cook. He courted me with beef bourguignon, profiteroles, chocolate sponge cakes and potatoes dauphinoise and, forgive me, I ate it all up.
If I am my mother’s daughter, he is his mother’s son: he doesn’t accept that cooking from scratch is a thing (‘It’s called cooking,’ he says) and he likes to garden. Our garden is a marvel from God, and I love him for it. In June, I stare at his roses for hours.
I found out I was pregnant on our honeymoon, so we had no time to bed in with household chores, so to speak. I remember asking him to mop the floor when he moved into my tiny studio flat in London and, five minutes later, he was sitting on the sofa while blood flowed from his toe.
The act of mopping had led to an injury and his toenail had fallen off. His message was clear: give me a mop and I will produce something to be mopped up. That is the last time I saw him hold a mop.
But he is brilliant at childcare: far better than me. His mother and aunts were teachers, and he has the patience that I lack. He is tender, fair and emotionally present. I am childish, obsessed with work and selfish. (‘You will love Prime Suspect,’ I told my son, as I switched it on during my first solo childcare shift.)
I cooked my boy a meal ‘from scratch’ once and it was so boring I never did it again. He didn’t seem to like it much, either. I bought food pouches. Once, taking the baby to a literary festival, I left all the food pouches on the train and had to leave him with Alan Yentob, the BBC’s cultural maven, while I restocked at the chemist.
Alan said, ‘I’m good with babies’ — and he was, much better than me. The pouches weren’t enough without my husband’s ‘from scratch’ meals and the baby cried with hunger. My husband had to pick us up from Wales.
He is still better than me at childcare, though the baby is now ten. I take our son to Winter Wonderland and miniature golf and the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, where I told him that the last person to swim in the Roman Baths died because bacteria swam into her eye, and he screamed with fear and had to sleep in my bed. My husband plays cards and rugby with him and teaches him to garden. They make paperchains at Christmas and set fire to miniature Viking longships. They craft.
We share the laundry and loading the dishwasher, and I change the beds, or they wouldn’t be changed
I know I am lucky: well, luckier than most. He painted the garden wall. He sanded the kitchen counter-top. He lays rat traps in the attic and doesn’t tell me about it
I pay the mortgage, book holidays and theatre tickets, speak to people so he doesn’t have to, and complain about the dirt
I work from home, and my husband doesn’t, so if I didn’t cook supper each day, we would all starve. I’ve got better at cooking, though I still resent it: there’s only so much pleasure you can get from peeling an onion. He tries to get me to order food online, but I think supermarket deliveries are depraved. I’m not sure why. I prefer to shop in the village, which is more expensive, and time-consuming.
Then I walk the dog and talk on the telephone to my friends. I also tend to the houseplants.
We share the laundry and loading the dishwasher, and I change the beds, or they wouldn’t be changed.
He does almost everything relating to outdoors (though I like deadheading his roses.) I will not touch the chickens — he cleans the run — though I do talk to them, and project feelings on to them that they do not have.
The chickens are useless. They do not lay: the Share The Load tool would give them both zero. When our chickens die — surprisingly often — he buries them in the chicken graveyard in the garden and plants azaleas over their rotting bodies. He is considerate, as I said.
I know I am lucky: well, luckier than most. He painted the garden wall. He sanded the kitchen counter-top. He lays rat traps in the attic and doesn’t tell me about it. He pumps up bicycle tyres, takes out bins, organises insurance, and a pension apparently, and he pays the bills.
I pay the mortgage, book holidays and theatre tickets, speak to people so he doesn’t have to, and complain about the dirt.
Which brings me to our only ongoing and consuming crisis: cleaning the house. Or not cleaning it.
Our house is untidy, and he will not clean it. Neither will I, for fairness — and laziness. Cleaning is the opposite of a creative act. It doesn’t make something, it takes something.
If his friends are coming to stay, I can say: clean the loo, and he will, because the wife is posh. That’s once a year. Otherwise, the vacuum, duster and mop are alien to him.
Our son says: ‘Wouldn’t you rather be happy than have a clean house, Mummy?’ Of course, he is right, or, rather, he is wrong. I have simply given up.
Sometimes I am OK with it. Other times I repeat my favourite line from Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity to myself: ‘Don’t talk to me about hatred if you’ve never been married.’
So I was intrigued to see who the Share The Load tool concluded does the lion’s share of chores in our house? My husband and I filled it in together, negotiating.
Five hours’ gardening by him per week. Four hours’ childcare, again by him. And so on. To my surprise, it showed a 52/48 split, just like Brexit. I won by an inch.
I thought my husband would win easily, but the fancy tool on the Starling Bank app disagrees. Which means I lose. My fantasy that I have a husband who does everything has wilted somewhat.
I apparently excel in dog walking, food shopping and cooking: if I were better, I would have to do it more. He shines at gardening, DIY, childcare, admin, and driving me and our ten-year-old son around.
Which brings me to our only ongoing and consuming crisis: cleaning the house. Or not cleaning it. Our house is untidy, and he will not clean it. Neither will I, for fairness — and laziness
I was intrigued to see who the Share The Load tool concluded does the lion’s share of chores in our house? My husband and I filled it in together, negotiating
To my surprise, it showed a 52/48 split, just like Brexit. I won by an inch
So, I am luckier than most British women, who aren’t lucky at all.
If I did clean the house, of course, my narrow 52 per cent victory from Share The Load would rise to the 65 per cent average: bang on the nail. Middle of the bed. Normcore. I would have a common marriage, and I can never let that happen. I would rather live in filth than be a slave to any man, even my husband. It’s not what I was raised for.
I am happy, though, that, with one caveat — our house is not clean — we have an equal marriage. I suppose that makes us feminists, though with very dirty feet.
Tanya’s husband Andrew Watts says:
This app could have been made for us: my wife likes complaining about how the house needs tidying and I like statistics — and outside the cricket season, housework averages will have to do.
We filled in the form together, and I carefully started rehearsing arguments — you can’t count your seven hours of walking the dog as equivalent to my seven hours in the garden!
I’m digging and planting and fighting with brambles, and you’re standing on a beach chatting to one of your cronies while the dog runs in circles round you — until we came out more or less even.
At which point, I decided it was a completely accurate representation of our marriage.
It hasn’t always felt like we shared everything. When our son was born, I only worked evenings: so I looked after him during the day, and Tanya put him to bed just as I was going out to work.
I am luckier than most British women, who aren’t lucky at all. If I did clean the house, of course, my narrow 52 per cent victory from Share The Load would rise to the 65 per cent average: bang on the nail
I am happy, though, that, with one caveat — our house is not clean — we have an equal marriage. I suppose that makes us feminists, though with very dirty feet
I work from home, and my husband doesn’t, so if I didn’t cook supper each day, we would all starve
This made sense: it meant that Tanya had time to write her articles about how the patriarchy was oppressing women, and I could do what I would have done anyway. I spent my days pottering around parks and coffee shops, but with a baby in tow, so it didn’t seem like idleness, and I would get random passers-by praising me for being a super-dad.
Even so, Tanya would come home and demand to know why I hadn’t vacuumed. ‘Amanda has two — count them! Two! — children and she still manages to have a spotless house!’
And I would reply that Amanda managed to have a spotless house because she dumped her children in front of the telly while she mopped the floor.
Tanya still complains that I prioritise giving our son a childhood from the 1950s ahead of tidying up. Only last week she was grumbling about fragments of horse chestnut scattered all over the kitchen from where I’d been drilling a hole in his best conker. (It’s now an undisputed 10er, but he’s run out of opponents.)
She’s right, of course: tidying up is low down on my list of priorities. As Joan Rivers said, you make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. At least with DIY there’s an endpoint in sight — although I had just finished painting the last wall of our house when Tanya decided that, she fancied a change in her study and which of these (identical) shades of blue should she go with?
There are some jobs Tanya won’t touch: gardening is one. For her, the garden is that green blur between the car and the front door. I have given up on trying to persuade her, after I asked her if she minded clearing up the patio after I’d been weeding so I could have a shower; I came out to find her with the vacuum at the end of an extension cord.
And then sewing: Tanya claims she doesn’t know how to. So when our son comes back from Cubs with another badge — his uniform makes him look like a North Korean general — it’s me that has to sew it on. I wouldn’t mind but sewing is genuinely harder for men: I have looked everywhere to find a thimble to fit my fingers, but I might as well try to get into jeggings.
You’d have thought that having the Home Help badge would mean that the boy could take over. But until he does, Tanya and I will just have to muddle through.
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