Thursday, 21 April 2016

Is your man doing too much for you?!?

Anyone who knows me well will probably think the title of this post must be a joke. A man doing too much for me? Am I joking?! Well, bear with me ... because it's not a joke, and in fact I think it's quite important that some of us women start thinking seriously about this, sooner rather than later.

I've said some of us, because I'm sure there are plenty of women to whom none of this will apply. Those who aren't in any sort of marriage or partnership with a man, for a start. Possibly most younger women - (although read on anyway, because I'm willing to bet some of it will still apply to you). Those whose partner is less able, for whatever reason, to take care of things than the woman is. Those who are just very strong, independent women who do absolutely everything for themselves. And if you're nodding enthusiastically now, confident that this last category includes you - good for you. I thought it included me, too, but recently I've been taking a more honest look at what goes on in our house and yes, I have to say: he's started doing too much for me. And I don't think I like it.

What? I hear you cry. What is he, some kind of super-husband who vacuums the mattresses and irons the curtains? Does he cook our meals, do the weekly shop, put on the washing and clean the toilet? Well, no, obviously not. He doesn't do any of those things, and that's partly my own fault because I'm so used to doing them myself, and I carry on doing so, out of habit. So I'm lucky if he just slices the occasional mushroom, under my guidance, and makes me a cup of tea once in a while. But the point is this: if I weren't here, he'd be able to do all those things, no problem. Or not too much problem, anyway. How long would it take him to learn how to twiddle the right dials on the washing machine, or how to put a pie in the oven rather than try to grill it (as he once did when I was away)? I know he can iron. He can hoover. He'd soon learn how to clean the loo and find out where I keep the clean bed linen.

No-one can honestly say they enjoy housework, can they?
Yes, like a lot of women, especially of my generation, the household chores were always mostly my responsibility, and oh boy, over the years, especially when I was working, I admit I've done my share of moaning about that. But since we both retired - he from running his own business, I from my day job but not of course from my writing career, we've kind of shared them - as is only right, in the circumstances. Well, OK, to be more accurate, I still do most of them but he helps a bit more. So why the hell, you must be wondering, am I now saying I think he does too much for me?

I don't just mean that he does the gardening, and the DIY - although yes, he does. I used to get far more involved in both of those than I do now. I was pretty good at wallpapering, although I say so myself, and I regularly mowed the lawn in a long garden we used to have, with an ancient push-mower. Now, though - well, he's a lot stronger than me. And he has more time, too, these days, that's my excuse - I have book contracts, with deadlines, I can't be expected to wield lawnmowers and paintbrushes for God's sake! But if he weren't here, I'd have to take up the brush again, fair enough. Or pay someone to do all that stuff. Or move to a house with a smaller garden!

If someone gets satisfaction from doing a job, far be it from me to take it over from them!
No, it's not those things that concern me. It's that since we've been retired, there's been a gradual creeping takeover of the other things I used to do myself. Booking holidays. Arranging things like boiler service, household appliance repairs and services, looking on-line for new things we need for the home. Comparing deals with utility companies, insurance companies - even sorting the car insurance for my own car. These days I don't know how to deal with simple problems with our boiler or television because he sorts them out. When I realised recently that I don't even know where he - yes, he - gets the replacement filters for our Hoover, it finally occurred to me that this has gone too far. I'm losing control, and it worries me. If he suddenly disappeared, I'd have trouble sorting out those of our financial arrangements that he controls, because ... he's been quietly doing it on his own. Don't get me wrong - I'm grateful! I like not having to organise my own car insurance, for example, because let's face it, it's a boring job and I'd rather write the next chapter of my new novel. But at the same time, it leaves me feeling vaguely uneasy.

I've discussed this recently with some of my female friends who are of a similar age to me - and have been shocked to hear that some have relinquished even more than I have to their men's control. Some don't know where their husbands keep important papers. One has never put petrol in her own car. One or two don't even know how to access their joint bank account on line, don't pay their own credit card bills, don't even access email, believe it or not. All of these things seem quite incredible to me and fill me with horror, but am I, God forbid, headed in the same direction?

Household accounts - definitely not my favourite thing, but of course I'd do them if I had to ... wouldn't I?
And if you're a woman in her thirties or forties reading this, and thinking smugly that this kind of (how I hate the word) dependence, only happens to us, the older generation, and will never happen to you, think again. Because I really do admire the way you run your careers as well as your homes and your children's lives, and the way your men cook, clean, change nappies and come home early for school open evenings. But even so, I've heard some of you making those joking references to blue jobs and pink jobs, referring for instance to taking out the bins or getting the children's tea, as if we were still living in the pre-gender-equality years of my youth. Yes, I realise you're just joking about it - for now. But please don't be too confident that it'll always feel like a joke. Before you know it, he'll be buying the Hoover filters and you won't have a clue where to get them from!

OK, it's not the end of the world, is it, if someone loves you enough to insure your car for you. But I actually do think there's a serious side to all this. If any of us - young or old, male or female - can say we're not sure how we would manage certain aspects of our lives if our other half wasn't there to do it for us, then we're potentially setting ourselves up with a problem for the future. Or, perhaps worse, potentially setting up a worry for our children because one day we might not be able to cope on our own. And as a mum who hates her daughters being worried, that's an unacceptable scenario for me. So I think I need to get a grip on those Hoover filters - and a few other things too - before I finish that novel. Take a look at what your man's doing for you, ladies, and be honest with yourselves. In some ways, we all know it'll never be enough! But on the other hand - is it actually too much?