Monica Dyson: Home truths about housework for men

A couple sharing the household chores.
A couple sharing the household chores.
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A woman in Berkshire made a pact with her husband which made headlines around the world.Although she already had four children and had undergone a sterilisation, she was desperate to have a fifth child and was prepared to undertake a costly and possibly unsuccessful reversal of the procedure.

Her husband agreed after she made him a promise that he would not have to be part of any of the chores associated with babies, like feeds or nappy changing or indeed household tasks like cooking or cleaning.

She had the reversal, had another baby and presumably is happy. Except for the fact that her husband, who is working his socks off has commented that their finances are precarious to say the least with the pressures of so many children to support.

In many of today’s households this has always been the arrangement ,even when a woman has a full-time job.

She is still expected to take responsibility for all the household chores and child care.

I must admit that it is more usual in this day and age for men to take their fair share of household tasks and apparently almost a million men in Britain are choosing to work part time with two thirds of all dads regularly taking their children to and from school.

That would never have happened in my father’s time. But there are still the young men who consider that, if they go out to work, then they have done their bit.

In the 1950s homemaking was considered a woman’s highest calling. It was the pinnacle of her life.

All a mother could want for her daughter was a man who could afford to look after her and provide a comfortable standard of living while she was relieved of the onerous chore of having to find a job. To have your child ‘make a good marriage’ was important and something that could be boasted about. Even in 1950s schools, there was great emphasis on looking after your man.

A 1950s Home Economics text book actually gave advice on ‘How to be a Good Wife’ The goal was to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband could relax in body and spirit.

Men didn’t even think that washing dishes came into 
their list of masculine tasks, let alone any kind of child care and it was a brave man who could be seen pushing a baby in its pram.

The majority of women do now work outside the home and they are often responsible for everything that happens in the home, like cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing.

They do the shopping often in their lunch breaks and are responsible for the organisation of everything from child care to sending birthday cards.

But it’s getting better. I mean, what would our fathers have thought of the idea of becoming a house husband?