The Thinking 

Couples Who Share Housework Divorce Much More Often

September 29, 2012


BEN J. writes:

Here’s an article from the Telegraph about a study done in Norway that indicates a significantly higher divorce rate among couples who share housework. You might find it interesting, although you and I wouldn’t need to spend a lot of money doing a study to come to the same conclusion. People are happier in their normal sex roles…who’d thunk it?

 Laura writes:

This supports an observation I have made here many times, and that is, the feminist ideal of men and women doing equal amounts of housework makes neither men nor women happy, despite the stellar exceptions. Dividing the housework evenly involves a level of conscious management of daily life that is annoying and tedious. Things do not flow naturally. The idea that each person should do an equal amount of housework violates the spirit of interdependence that should exist in a home. Also, under the egalitarian model, men are more likely to end up being the inept servants of their wives, who almost always are more attuned to what needs to be done and much more finicky about how it is done. Women don’t like having husbands who are servile no matter how much feminists say they do.

Finally, one of the worst things about this approach is that it implies that housework is unpleasant. Compared to other forms of work, it is quite enjoyable.

—— Comments ——

Terry Morris writes:

Laura wrote: “Women don’t like having husbands who are servile…”

Exactly. Finally a woman, besides my wife, who understands and admits this.

Relatedly, I’ve often pointed out to over-indulgent parent-figures that their children need parental discipline, and they (the children) know it instinctively. Many rebellious children are rebellious precisely because their parents are over-indulgent towards them, failing to enforce standards the children themselves know ought to beenforced. In this sense the children are smarter than than their parents. Or, I guess, more innocent/less corrupted.

But I don’t know what to do about it.

Laura writes:

Your mention of children and their need for authority is related to this post in a way other than the one you mention.

One reason parents have a hard time disciplining their children today is that they (the parents) are exhausted and the egalitarian model of marriage makes them exhausted. As I said, nothing flows. A daily rhythm is hard to achieve. They are also understandably infatuated with their children because they have them relatively late in life, don’t have very many of them and don’t spend enough time with them, so it’s especially hard to say no.

But also, authority in general has collapsed.

Mr. Morris writes:

Hmm. I certainly agree with you that parental exhaustion plays an important role in this, but I wonder – are we letting parents off the hook too easily by blaming their neglect of their children on their being tired from trying to achieve an impossible societal standard arbitrarily established? Shouldn’t parents, as parents, be smarter than that?

Laura writes:

I don’t think of it as letting them off the hook. Obviously, many people choose to have that way of life.And the exhaustion is only one factor.

In general, there are two ways to harm a child: spoiling him or denying him love. Our culture tends toward the former. Authority is shameful.

Jane S. writes:

I am currently sharing a household with two young women around 22 or 23 years old.

Both of them are neat and tidy in their ways. But neither one of them has been taught domestic skills, not even the basics. They don’t know how to mop the floor using a mop. They don’t know how to use an iron. They don’t know how to thread a needle or use scissors. They don’t know how to use household tools or kitchen gadgets. They don’t know how to shop for housewares that make chores easier.

I came in the other day and one of them was trying to dice tomatoes with a paring knife. She said, “this is so hard.” I said, “it’s easier with a serrated knife,” and she said, “what’s a serrated knife?” So I showed her. It never occurred to her to try a different kind of knife.

They can boil hotdogs and heat stuff up in the microwave, that’s about it. They show the impulse to bake brownies and so forth, like you’d expect; but they only know how to prepare things that come out of a box..

I look at them and think, “Happy, feminists?” This is exactly what they wanted.

Some day these girls will get married and share the housework with their husbands. They’ll have to because they don’t have adequate skills to get it done themselves.

Jane adds:

Laura writes: “In general, there are two ways to harm a child: spoiling him or denying him love. Our culture tends toward the former. Authority is shameful.”

That reminds me of something I read once, from an Elizabethan treatise on child-rearing. I can’t locate the passage, so I’ll have to paraphrase:

“Beat your children constantly. Don’t lift the whip from their backs for even a moment. Pampering ruins children–especially daughters. Above all, teach them to EXPECT UNHAPPINESS.”

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? That kind of advice wouldn’t go down very well today. Yet the Elizabethan era was not known as a gloomy time when people were mostly depressed. Quite the contrary. It was characterized by its vigor and creativity. They produced brilliant art and literature. They dressed gorgeously. They entertained sumptuously. It was an age of exploration, adventure, discovery and invention. If you offered them a taste of our cultural output–fast food, television, rap music–no doubt they would think that we were the ones who were horribly deprived.

It took me a long time to learn what an evil thing it is to spoil a child. It also took me a long time to see a certain courageousness in the Elizabethan approach to raising children. You can teach them not to expect unhappiness, but they will get it, whether they are prepared for it or not.

Laura writes:

I’m not sure how many Elizabethans followed such austere advice, but cruelty to a child is a great sin and often kills the spirit.

John Purdy writes:

Jane S. writes: “the Elizabethan era was not known as a gloomy time when people were mostly depressed.”

True, but life then was more like “A Clockwork Orange” than “Little House on the Prairie” or “Upstairs, Downstairs”.

 On the subject of sharing housework, well, I did that with other men, sort of like the Army, but I never did that with any woman. I’m sorry but they’re just too finicky and it’s almost as if they hate systematization. I was lucky, in that, all the women I was with were highly accomplished homemakers. The loss of those skills will have bad consequences for everyone, I’m sure of that.

Laura writes:

The systematizing tendencies of men are another reason why they are not suited to doing half of all housework. Men miss the big picture because they tend to want things to work like a smooth-running machine. My husband, for instance, has a system for loading the dishwasher. I don’t want anything to do with it (the system, not the dishwasher). These tendencies probably stem from many thousands of years in which women were frequently interrupted by children and men had more opportunity and need to focus.

Paul writes:

Men and women cannot share household chores equally. We don’t think alike at an intuitive level. People that don’t think alike usually cannot perform equally. As Laura says, women are more finicky about chores. Similarly, men perform many chores more roughly than women.

Fixing a copier glitch (as opposed to a break) is an example of a chore. These overpriced, bloated tangles cannot consistently perform as the first photocopier (or even the earlier Thermo-fax machine) that was invented over a half century ago by Xerox. In any event, the man investigates, knowing from experience that the tangle might need to endure a few blows for having the nerve to defy a being with opposable thumbs. Cursing follows when the tangle remains defiant. Rough openings and closings should (will?) follow. Then the woman, if readily available, is told and helps. Otherwise, the man continues to use his physical abilities and bull-rushes to find another copier.

The woman approaches the situation mildly and attentively. The man is merely a spoiled boy trying to find something “lost.” She meanders about until she either finds the solution or shrugs while saying, “It’s broke.”

The inequality is magnified when the woman becomes involved during the man’s efforts at fixing the tangle. In my experience with fixing various types of tangles, I proceed rapidly and forcefully. But the woman perceives this, not irrationally, as rough. So after two or more times hearing, “You are being too rough” or “You are going to break it,” I retreat politely and bull-rush to find a working tangle. Sometimes I return to find the tangle is untangled.

Finally, if the tangle thwarts the woman, the man is required to be part of the solution. The woman does not ask; she drags.

Terry Morris writes:

To add a little humor to the discussion, I have a friend whose wife works at a full-time job outside the home against his desire. Whenever the household chores invariably become neglected and pile up beyond a certain point determined by him to be “too much,” he puts on a woman’s apron and begins cleaning, washing dishes, re-organizing and so on in his wife’s presence.

He says she will “ignore” him until she can no longer take it, at which point she snaps “take that apron off, you look stupid!” He says his response is “Why do you think I’m wearing it? I feel stupid!”

While this is funny when he tells it, it doesn’t seem to be getting him very far insofar as it seems designed to shame his wife into doing the household chores. He seems to do this sort of thing on a fairly regular basis so if I were him I think I’d be searching for a more effective method.

But come to think of it, I’d never before thought to apply Auster’s “unprincipled exception” to the division of household chores. lol

Laura writes:

That’s a riot.


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