A woman’s work is never done. There’s something horribly outdated about this expression but it still resonates with a lot of women - both those who work out of the home, and those who don’t. Often it feels like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done and the constant juggling is nothing short of exhausting.
During recent months, when the nation was in total lockdown, several reports by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) were published demonstrating how the bulk of domestic responsibilities fell into the laps of women. Women, on the whole, undertook the majority of child-care, stocking the fridge and keeping the house in a liveable state… As well as doing their paid jobs from home.
“During lockdown women spent a far greater proportion of their time looking after children compared to men, with the difference amounting to over an hour and a quarter a day,” the ONS said in its analysis. “Although we found there was an equal division of time when it came to activities like home-schooling, and playing or reading with children, the difference came from women spending much more time on activities like feeding, washing and dressing children.”
As old-fashioned as it may sound or feel, and as much as we wish it weren’t the case, this old adage still has some life in it, it seems! Many women find it incredibly difficult to ask for help - or even struggle with how to phrase a request for assistance. Many of us suffer from ‘superwoman syndrome’, where we put ourselves under incredible pressure to be great at our jobs, be the best partner/parent, have a perfectly spotless home… But it’s really hard to maintain. Asking for help is not a weakness - it often a sign of strength.
How to go about it?
Opening the narrative about domestic duties with partners and other family members can often be hard - treading the line between requesting assistance and, what can be considered, nagging (hate that word!) can be tricky. But, the bottom line is, that it’s not solely the responsibility of the ‘woman of the household’ to keep everything ticking over. It’s all of the family’s responsibility and each person should chip in.
How could this look?
Start by providing all family members with a clear view of what’s expected of them. In my house, for example, we have the following expectations:
- The Bare Minimum. This really is the basics: not simply kicking your shoes off in the hall, making sure you hang up your coat and not leave it in a heap, keeping the loo clean, not stuffing empty crisp packets down the side of the sofa…
- The Middle Ground. This includes emptying the dishwasher, putting used plates/glasses in the dishwasher, wiping the kitchen tops, giving the bath a wipe, putting dirty clothes into the dark/colour hampers…
- The Extras (that will make Mum reeeaaallly happy!). This would include vacuuming the stairs, taking the laundry out of the tumbler dryer and then folding/putting away, cleaning the windows (OK, maybe this last one falls into the realms of fantasy!).
If everybody knows what’s expected of them, it becomes their responsibility. These expectations also need to be delivered in a calm way; I’ve found, from bitter experience, that the louder my voice, the less my children seem to hear me. Strange, isn't it?! ;)
Also, something else that works a treat in my house is ‘reinforcing positive actions’ or, as others might say, good old-fashioned bribery! I made a deal with my people that if the house was tidy (no random shoes/knickers/crisp packets knocking around), we’d get a cleaner in. And in doing this it would free up our weekends so we could focus on the fun stuff. It worked! The house is (mostly!) in a tidy enough state for our cleaner to do her job effectively, thus freeing up the weekend for us.
Feeling weighed down with domestic responsibility is not a joy - but there is a solution. Here at Time For You, we’ve got your back! Contact us for more details on how we can help to spread the chore workload and prove that it’s NOT only women’s work but is everybody’s work!