Over 30 years married - I know about the housework divide...

As she gears up to celebrate another wedding anniversary, Ailin Quinlan ponders the divide of housework
Over 30 years married - I know about the housework divide...

THE HOUSEWORK DIVIDE: “I think it said women do 71 more minutes than men. A day? A week?” Picture: Stock

AN elegant card from my mother-in-law (the only one who ever remembers) stood next to a vase of daffodils, two glowing yellow candles and my grandmother’s china. It all looked really nice, I thought with satisfaction, as I finished setting the table for our wedding anniversary dinner.

A starter of slow pork in a barbecue sauce with a side salad of avocado, garlic and diced red pepper with a dash of olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar was planned.

This would be followed by steaks with home-made pepper sauce, tiny, buttered peas, home-made roasted potato wedges and a green salad.

The dessert was to be artisan vanilla ice-cream dotted artistically with Maltesers and decorated with a home-made creamy chocolate sauce, a sensitively romantic touch, I felt, which recalled how we had first met over a bag of the sweets at the age of 17 and 19 respectively.

There was wine. There was garnished, lemon-scented water in a fancy bottle. There were proper water glasses and delicate wine glasses and the best place-settings. Everything was on schedule.

The floor had been swept again, the furniture shone, the curtains hung sedately in their places. The room looked beautiful. I went upstairs for a few seconds to change out of my food-splattered tee-shirt. When I returned, a heap of clean, damp underwear had been flung onto the table, knocking over the anniversary card and lying dangerously close to the candles. A tangle of damp, unpaired men’s socks lounged over my artfully arranged salad bowls. Some half-dried shirts had been heaped onto the chairs. Several others had fallen on the floor. Clumps of sawdust led from the dining room floor through the kitchen and onto the back door rug.

I stared balefully out the window at the shed in the back yard. My husband had spent most of the day there. 

He was, he said busily, making some doors for the cupboards of my son’s room. These doors have been in the offing since my son had moved into his bedroom at the age of three. My son, now nearly 25, has since graduated from college and moved away from home to a job in the city, but today my husband had decided to start making proper bespoke wooden doors to replace the cheery sunshine-yellow caterpillar-decorated curtains which have hung across my son’s bedroom presses for more than two decades.

I made a guess. Clearly realising that he had been a bit overly preoccupied with his cutting and his sanding and his Wilbur Smith audio-book which he had been listening to all day on his new headphones, my husband would suddenly have remembered the fact that it was almost 5pm on our wedding anniversary and he had hardly seen me all day.

He would have recalled that he had earnestly promised to help out a bit more with the housework, seeing as I am still struggling a bit with the effects of Long Covid. Seeing as I am barely making it through each working day since my return to my job only a week previously, and going straight to bed as soon as I get home. Seeing as I am still attending the oxygen chamber for treatment a few times a week. Seeing as, despite all of that, I had mentioned that I would prepare a wonderful and labour-intensive dinner to celebrate our lives together.

So he had galloped out of the shed, across the yard, clumps of sawdust falling from his boots and his heavy fleece and marking his progress from the back door through the utility room, across the sparkling kitchen and into the adjacent dining room which I’d just swept and polished before laying the table. 

He had taken a look around, clomped back out into the kitchen, naturally walking the other way around the back of the kitchen table and leaving many, many more lumps of damp, matted sawdust on different parts of the kitchen floor.

Next he had a quick check to see if there was anything that he could be credited with doing while I was out of the way. Noting that there was a fair bit of laundry airing on the two clothes horses in front of the kitchen burner, he had helpfully pulled it all off, leaving the empty clothes horses standing in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Then he had clomped in his sawdust-matted fleece and work-boots all the way back into the dining room to drop the (still damp) heaps of laundry on my beautifully-laid anniversary table where, he figured, I would be most likely to notice his efforts and from where I could then presumably collect them, fold them and put them neatly away upstairs all the while thinking about what a wonderful husband I had.

Quickly flinging some drying shirts over a few of the chairs, he had departed, tracking more sawdust across each of the floors before disappearing back across the yard to wait to be called for his dinner.

A short time later, as he arrived in for his slow-cooked pork and avocado salad starter, a news segment came on the radio about on the findings of a new study about the female to male ratio regarding the doing of housework. 

I think it said women do 71 more minutes than men. A day? A week? I can’t remember. Either way my husband was quite affronted. 

Ridiculous, he observed righteously, adding that he had always done his share and that he agreed entirely with the male listener who had texted in to the radio show to say what this study showed was that men were simply more competent than women and took less time to get jobs done.

“Oh yes,” I said, quietly returning the damp laundry to the clothes horses (it was our anniversary after all and I have been married more than 30 years).

“Absolutely.”

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