Behind every useless man is a woman under siege

Reality: More women are juggling careers and home life

Stressful: More women are juggling careers and home life

We were in bed the other morning when Himself told me about his dream. He was on a ship in high seas fighting off some invaders. 

I had also had a bad dream. In mine, it was Christmas Eve and my sister's family turned up from Australia and I didn't have enough bedding. 

The key difference between these His'n'Her dreams is that my nightmare is all too real. 

This column prefers to steer clear of crude generalisations about the differences between the sexes.

But I am on safe ground when I say not many chaps are losing sleep worrying about the extended family's Yuletide duvet provision. 

In fact, when Bob Geldof sang: 'Do they know it's Christmas time at all?' several million women must have wondered if Sir Bob had their clueless husbands in mind. 

You might think that women joking about men not pulling their weight around the house is as old as Mrs Moses nagging Moses to unblock the kitchen sink  -  'If you can spare some time from parting the Red Sea, darling.' 

Not according to The Female Breadwinner, a piece of research published this week.

According to Dr Rebecca Meisenbach, working women are advancing the myth of the 'useless man' so that we can hang on to our feminine identity. 

Meisenbach's theory is that career-orientated women feel so guilty about not being a good wife or mother that they tell tall stories about how their partners have to be told to do chores.

'By directing the housework done by their husbands, they maintain a sense of control over the traditionally feminine sphere of the home,' she reports. 

Is there a Mr Meisenbach, do you think? Has Rebecca ever managed to get him to take his stuff upstairs without at least three personal reminders and the promise of some gender relations after Match Of The Day? 

My own theory, based on close study of dear friends, is that sexual equality has led to a crazy double-shift for women.

We may be allowed to do the jobs our dads did but, by and large, we have retained our mother's domestic responsibilities. That is a hell of a lot for one person to have on their plate. 

So if Mum occasionally behaves like a barking regimental sergeant major with an obsessive compulsive vacuuming disorder, it's not to make herself feel like a good wife.

It's because she knows that, if she doesn't nag, then toilets will remain unflushed, baths will wear their Plimsoll line of grime and ancient oranges in the fruitbowl will turn into mouldy green Martians from Dr Who. 

When the working woman jokes with a group of girlfriends about having to do all the Christmas shopping herself, it's not because she thinks she has a particularly 'useless man'.

It's because shared laughter makes her feel less alone with a sometimes unmanageably heavy burden. 

Dr Meisenbach may be on to something when she says we women are scared to relinquish dominance of the domestic sphere.

But what is that fear about? Mums who don't spend enough time at home are accused of being power-crazed creatures who put their professional ambitions above their children's welfare.

Yet if they request flexible working they are chastised for being a drain on full-time colleagues. 

What is dismaying is that everywhere I look I seem to see articles rubbishing the efforts working women make to balance their lives.

Maternity leave is derided as 'putting your Ugg boots up for 12 months'. Ring any bells, ladies? No, me neither. 

Earlier this month, Jill Berry of the Girls’ Schools Association said that girls must not grow up expecting to ‘have it all’.

I wonder if Jill Berry saw that portrait of Margaret Thatcher unveiled in Downing Street this week. With her magnificent hooded eyes, she looks as coolly lethal as a peregrine falcon that has just spotted a fieldmouse.

How soon we forget that once we had a female PM. A woman who made the men who came after her look useless.

Was the Iron Lady also the Ironing Lady? Did she joke about Denis not having a clue how the house ran?

Did she dominate the Cabinet and then go upstairs to the flat to tidy her own kitchen cabinets? You bet she did.

Instead of publishing daft studies about the way career women do down their men
to make themselves feel better, how about acknowledging the heroic juggling act millions of mothers pull off every day?

In the words of an impressive female multi-tasker who once lived above the shop in Downing Street: ‘If you want something said, ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman.’ 

Still glorious, but still so vulnerable

Susan Boyle

Naive: Susan Boyle

As I write this, I am listening to Susan Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed A Dream, which is predicted to be No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Certain tracks give you the same goosebumps and lump in the throat as Susan's soaring debut on Britain's Got Talent.

A woman with no experience of the world sings like someone who has had more than her fill of that world. Susan's body-language and conversation may still be childlike, but in her music she is transformed. 

So why do I find myself still praying that things won't go wrong for this delightful Scotswoman? 

Mobbed by fans while appearing on America's Today show in New York, Susan sang her heart out.

But she also gurned, made strange, disconcerting movements and furiously sucked her thumb. I felt on edge just watching her. 

How long will it be before SuBo says or does something that scandalises politically-correct Americans?

How long before her 'silliness'  -  the vulnerability of someone with learning difficulties  -  once again becomes a cause for concern? 

Despite all her millions, Susan Boyle has refused to buy the kind of mansion Leona Lewis has just acquired.

Instead, Susan is buying her old council house because she says that her cat, Pebbles, would hate to move. 

Is it possible for such naivety and simple decency to survive the cataclysmic impact of sudden global fame?

I really hope I am proven wrong. I hope Susan can be happy living the dream she dreamed.

Can Abi Relate to Lady Macbeth?

Best of luck to Abi Titmuss, who is trying to put her glamour-model days behind her and taking on one of Shakespeare's most murderous female roles in Lowestoft.

Sounds like it could be quite a novel interpretation of the part.

'I don't think Lady Macbeth is a bad person,' says Abi. 'Maybe she is just trying to revitalise her marriage?'

Let me see. Telling your husband to murder his boss when he comes to stay? Even the marriage counsellor at Relate might struggle with that one.

Divorce cakes are just so tasteless

Has there ever been a more tasteless, halfbaked idea than the divorce cake? 

Truly, it seems, there is now no event so painful or shaming that you aren't encouraged to feel good about it. 

One cake shows a marzipan groom gleefully kicking away a bride who is clinging on for dear life. Another has a wife plunging a knife into her husband's back with a pool of red-icing blood. 

What next, the terminal-illness doughnut? Or the unemployment souffle which collapses as you watch? 

No one seems to have asked what children are supposed to do with a slice of their parents' divorce cake. Choke on it, presumably.

Why teenage girls are suckers for a vampire


Romance: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in New Moon

On Friday night, I found myself at a local cinema acting as chaperone to 14 hyperventilating young ladies.

Those of you who don't have a teenage girl lying around the house may have missed the fact this was one of the big moments in the history of Western civilisation. 

It was the opening day of New Moon, the feverishly-anticipated second film in the Twilight series, part two of the romance between teenager Bella Swan and the vampire Edward Cullen. 

Edward died in the flu epidemic of 1918, but he is looking pretty hot considering. 

In the new movie, Bella gets a second boyfriend. Jacob, a part-time werewolf, spends much of the film stripped to the waist. I was observing this for research purpose, you understand. 

My daughter is not the only one in the grip of an obsession. For tens of millions of girls  -  and their mums suffering the first mid-life teenage crisis  -  Stephenie Meyer's books are a case of love at first bite. 

The Vatican has just condemned the latest film as a 'deviant moral vacuum'. How wrong can you get? 

What's astonishing about the Twilight phenomenon is how chaste and innocent it is. 

Edward daren't get too close to Bella in case he unleashes his inner vampire and goes for her jugular. Jacob can't get too close in case he eats her by mistake.

Two gorgeous guys  -  yet the poor girl can't even get a proper snog! 

The cinema was packed with teens from a prematurely-sexual generation. Girls who, we are told, will happily post raunchy pictures of themselves on Facebook.

Yet they were caught up in a romantic yearning no different from that of their predecessors who screamed their hearts out for the young Sinatra or the mop-topped Beatles. 

My daughter and her friends are in love with the idea of being in love. Stephenie Meyer has tapped into a profound hunger for romance and chivalry. 

To experience protectiveness and old-fashioned restraint, my daughter and her mates have had to fall for a 108-year-old vampire. 

Living boys, please take note.

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