We couldn't help but wonder:
We've been talking a lot lately about the delegation of household tasks. And while the conversation is obviously rooted in history, society, a traditional gap and the burden of context, one question inevitably comes up: if women want things done right, do they have to do them themselves? As the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus puts it today, "I could delegate more to my husband, but then I'd also have to accept that pasta with store-bought pesto equals dinner. If you want someone else to step up to the plate, you have to live with what he puts on it." And she puts it even more strongly: "In fact, to some extent women are reluctant to yield dominion over the home front even as they become the majority of the paid workforce."
Half of the world believes it's because guys genuinely do not have as high a standard about making sure you get invited to dinner every once in awhile, or having matching socks. It's possible that guys, if they don't care, then it's very hard to impose those standards. Others argue that this is all a plot and the guys are just waiting out the women. I would go for 50-50. Clearly guys enjoy the higher standards-they just don't want to be in charge of them.
I'm not the one to ask; my boyfriend and I both come from the 'wait-as-long-as-is-humanly-possible-before-tackling-squalor' school of housekeeping, whose equality, it could be argued, is certainly a harbinger of some kind of progress - or of our generation's general lack of responsibility. Growing up, my father was indifferent - and to my mother's chagrin, would ask friends over with impunity when the house was in a state she found humiliating. Maybe that was more the core issue: she saw the state of the home as some reflection on herself; my dad did not. Of course there are Felix Ungers who are defined by house-pride and a love of domestic routine. But that's why they're a comic stock character: the trait was regarded as effete, effeminate, humorous.
Discussing the report "A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, Marcus observes,
Both sexes agree that women continue to bear a disproportionate burden in taking care of children and elderly parents, even when both partners in a relationship have jobs," John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira write in one chapter of the report. Here's the interesting subtext, though: Fifty-five percent of women strongly agreed (and 85 percent overall agreed) that "in households where both partners have jobs, women take on more responsibilities for the home and family than their male partners." Just 28 percent of men strongly agreed, and 67 percent agreed. That's a pretty big perception gap.
Marcus suggests that part of this disconnect is rooted in, not just self-congratulation for doing the minimum, but a sort of martyrdom. As she would have it, women want help, but also control. There is, she says, "something comforting in keeping a connection to mundane household tasks even when you're running a major-league research lab. Perhaps younger women don't feel this tug toward domesticity. But for women of my generation, there remains an impulse to live up to the standards of our stay-at-home mothers even as we race out the door each morning." I'd say younger women do, indeed, feel the tug of domesticity - but largely because it's a choice. Canning, knitting, home decor - these have become reflections of who we are rather than the other way around. And the quotidian rites of household maintenance, more than servitude, imply adulthood - which is a whole 'nother kettle of ambivalence.
The Nobel For Brisket Goes To . . .[Washington Post]