The gender divide, the communication chasm

Posted on: 10/02/2011

vegadsl /

It’s taken me years to really get this.

When I say, ‘Darling, would you mind doing the dishwasher?’, my lovely man happily obliges.  He empties the dishwasher.

If I’m really lucky, he’ll fill it again.  Might even press the start button.

What he does not do, because I did not say it out loud, is, clear the counters, wipe the surfaces, rinse out the sink and sweep the floor.  Though he does occasionally empty the bin without my asking.

Why do we say one thing and mean a whole lot more?  Is it because asking him to do all those things – even though I do them myself five days out of seven – is too much of an imposition?

There’s the whole division of labour thing going on here for starters.  I’m the stay-at-home mum; he’s the breadwinner.  On the face of it, it should be me doing the chores every evening.  He’s working frighteningly hard, and though my ‘job’ starts at seven in the morning and doesn’t stop till bedtime, I do at least get to slow down a little in the daytime.

So should I even be asking him to help at all?  Where does my role as housewife end?  And where does the studying fit in?

When I started this post, I was thinking that the problem was in the communication.  I don’t say what I mean. I should articulate more.  I should clarify that when I say ‘please would you do the dishwasher’, what I mean is ‘please can you clean the kitchen’…

But then if you look at it from his perspective, he’s knackered and just wants to go to bed.  So do I, of course, but when is my day more tiring than his?

When we argue about it, which can happen often when we’re tired (it’s almost like we pull the same old argument out of the drawer and go through the motions, then go to bed with it still unresolved), it’s very much a point-scoring exercise.  After all, who is more tired?  Who is more deserving of going straight to bed and leaving the clearing up to the other one?

Seriously.  I don’t have an answer.  This is why we keep arguing about it.

I read somewhere that arguments between married/long-term couples are usually about one of three things:

  1. Money. There’s only so much in the pot.  How to spend it is always going to be a tricky issue. I remember my own parents arguing about this constantly.
  2. Sex and/or intimacy.  It’s so personal, it can be hard not to take offence if something isn’t working, or you’re not on the same wavelength.
  3. Division of labour. We’re all working so hard ourselves, we don’t see the other person working hard too, and what we don’t see we are more likely not to acknowledge.  (I’ve actually done an activity for this in my antenatal classes, it’s that common an issue in parenting)

Number three is the biggest problem for us.  Not that it’s terrible, you understand.  I know of so many people who don’t lift a finger with the housework but play with the children all the time, and vice versa.   My lovely man is most definitely a participant on all fronts.

It’s just a question of who peels themselves off the sofa when we’re both dog tired.  And just how much can we be expected to do.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.   With any luck, and with any clever tips from you, the next time we get this argument out of the drawer, we’ll actually resolve it.

And with any luck I’ll get better about articulating what I want and not expecting him to mind read.

Well, maybe.


6 Responses to "The gender divide, the communication chasm"

Having been both the salaried partner and the stay-at-home partner at different times I can’t say I found either role particularly less tiring. In both cases there are days where you’ve really completely had enough and there are still things that need doing.

How true. And insightful to get a male perspective. Thanks Dom!

Ah Sacha this rings a bell with me. It’s hard being a SAHM. Do all the chores fall to me seven days a week, 365 days a year or should they not.
I compare my life to painting the Forth Road bridge. All my time, it seems, is taken up with lots and lots of small and mundane tasks that need repeating day after day and don’t really get me anywhere except to the evening and a collapse on the sofa in front of yet more crap TV!
Paid work was more rewarding. There was wages, and a sense of achievement which domestic work provides only fleetingly. Like when everyone actually eats something I have cooked or I sit in a tidy room for half an hour before everyone gets home and ruins it!
I have no answer to the who does more argument. I guess it’s about appreciating all that everyone does from earning money to cleaning nasty toilets. And saying “Thank you” for it…
And men can’t mind read as you say, they need a list. And a large pat on the back for doing it….even if it is somethinng one does everyday without comment ever being passed.
That was a rambling post of no help really… But you are not alone!

So, so true. Sometimes all you want is a bit of appreciation!

Very insightful on the three issues. I must admit I take my lovely husband for granted in the division of labour stakes.

Thanks. It’s just too easy to take each other for granted, isn’t it?

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