Hands off my drill bits, woman! As the WI urges women to tackle DIY, one couple reveal why they'll NEVER swap chores

The Women's Institute is introducing DIY courses for its members. But are men ready to lay down their hammers - and do their wives really want them to lend a hand with the laundry? Here, Tom Rawstorne, 38, and his wife Charlotte, 37, who live in Kent with their children, explain why it's not a good idea.


So the WI is planning to move into DIY? I've got one thing to say to that: N.I.M.B.Y. And I'll go further than that - not in my back yard, not in my garage and not in my house.

I've lived with my wife for 20 years and in all that time she's never picked up a hammer, paint brush or spade in anger. Once, in a rush of blood, she attempted wallpapering.

Credit where credit's due, she got the paper on the wall - but it was upside-down.

Tom and Charlotte Rawstorne

Battle lines drawn: Charlotte is happy to cook and change the baby's nappies if Tom does the DIY jobs around the house

On another occasion she measured up a room for a carpet. Only she got her feet and inches muddled and ordered a piece so modest in size that it wouldn't have covered a doll's house floor.

I'm not saying Charlotte is lacking in intelligence. If she really wanted to, she could, like WI members, learn to fix a leaking tap and erect shelves. But she doesn't want to.

She, like me, realises that sometimes the age-old domestic stereotypes are worth sticking to.

And through an exaggerated demonstration of inability we have validated the other's (relative) ability.

Put it another way. The wife wants a bedroom decorated. She hands me a picture from Homes And Gardens. I suck the air in through my teeth, squint at the image and shake my head slowly from side to side.

It's a big job, I tell her. You're looking at a week's preparation. I'd like to do it, I say, but we've got three young kids to look after, her parents are threatening a visit, and there's all the housework to sort out.

And so begins the dance. A month later, I start work on the room. She's looking after the kids, the in-laws have been cancelled and the ironing pile has miraculously vanished.

I seal up the door with masking tape and gently start to rub down a window frame. Eight hours later, covered in dust, I will emerge to a hero's reception.

The result of this horse trading - which some feminists may regard as hideously regressive - is Charlotte gets the room re-decorated and I get a bit of peace.



Would you swap household chores with your partner?

Would you swap household chores with your partner?

  • Yes 871 votes
  • No 508 votes

Now share your opinion


The ability to glean satisfaction from a repetitive and mundane task is something men excel at.

My wife rarely cuts the lawn. When she does, she'll spend the next week wittering on about how she wished she'd married someone rich she'd known at Oxford because 'he'd have a gardener'.

I, on the other hand, in much the same way as I get satisfaction from painting a room, get satisfaction from cutting the grass. Were it not for man's ability to derive pleasure from something so dull, the world as we know it would not exist.

According to Anne Harrison, from the WI in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, the skills will teach women to do 'simple five-minute jobs around the house rather than paying someone'.

Five-minute jobs? There's no such thing. The other day I put up some coat hooks. This is how it went:

  • 9am: Get in boiler suit. 
  • 9.05am: Gather up drill and drill bits. Search around for screws. 
  • 9.10am: Put down dust sheet. Realise I have forgotten spirit level.
  • 9.15am: Return with tools and ask wife where exactly she wants hooks. Argue. Mark up wall with pencil. 
  • 9.20am: Go and find extension lead for drill. 
  • 9.25am: Watch wall of 200-year-old home disintegrate beneath drill bit. Drive to shop for specialist fixing. 
  • 9.45am: Return and fit hooks. 
  • 9.50am: Proudly show wife hooks. 
  • 9.51am: Storm off after wife asks: 'But why did you put them so high?'


Charlotte Rawstorne

Domestic bliss: Charlotte is happy with her role within her home

Let me give an example of how things get done in our house.

Last month, I went out and bought a beautiful antique mirror, the finishing touch to our recently decorated ensuite bathroom.

When Tom saw it, he refused to put it up. Then he ranted about how we didn't need a beautiful antique mirror.

The old one is fine, he told me, even though it's so scratched it's like peering into a puddle when I put my make-up on.

As a result, the mirror is languishing in the spare bedroom and will probably be there for several weeks until I nag Tom into submission.

But I know he will give up in the end and out will come the power tools.

It was thanks to my manipulation skills that the bathroom got a much-needed overhaul in the first place.

For weeks, I left expensive bathroom catalogues lying about until Tom, fearful of a big spend, offered to do it himself.

So why don't I just short circuit all this and learn how to wield a drill myself?

That's surely the thinking behind the WI's decision.

But much as I want the mirror up, I draw the line at doing Do It Yourself myself. At the risk of infuriating the women's libbers, I've long since decided such tasks are men's work.

I can't really see the benefits of marriage if you have to tile your own bathroom as well as doing the cooking, ironing, cleaning, shopping, childcare, school runs and so on.

Getting things fixed is one of the few perks you get for living with someone who never puts the toilet seat down and sneaks off to watch cricket whenever the baby's nappy needs changing.

And as much as I might pretend I want Tom to do more of the traditionally female domestic chores, secretly I don't. In the same way that I have managed to avoid DIY, he avoids these jobs like the plague.

It's not that he can't do them, so much as he makes it clear I can do them better. His ironing is painfully slow and, he claims, causes him to 'overheat'.

He can cook, but demands total silence when he does. As for dealing with the laundry, he can load the machine but feigns ignorance when it comes to sorting out what emerges.

I am interested in making jam. Potting up marmalade. I'll even sew if I have to. But give me a paint brush and I come over all lethargic.

I simply don't have time for the hours of preparation which my husband tells me are essential for a 'perfect finish'.

When I recently had half an hour to spare between unloading the washing and picking up the children and decided to paint the children's table pink, I needed to get the job done fast.

Except I forgot that eggshell paint is the sticky, gloopy stuff that doesn't wash off, and before I knew it I was running out of the house, hands covered in pink paint, screaming for white spirit.

A French guest at our wedding gave me this advice. Employ a cleaner, always wear beautiful underwear and never admit you can change a lightbulb.

I haven't done so well at the underwear, but I know the bonuses of having my own handyman. DIY keeps Tom out of my hair for hours. How else would I shop for shoes on the internet at weekends?

Having just made a batch of Seville marmalade, I know that's far more enjoyable than painting the hallway (Tom's next chore) or insulating the loft. Said task involved crawling into a tiny cavity with rodents for company. I was at the bottom of the ladder with a cup of tea and a rewarding smile.

Don't get me wrong. I tell my daughters they can do anything boys can. But when it comes to mending things, Daddy's their man.

Two weeks ago, they learned this valuable lesson for themselves. Tom was away and there we were, eating supper, when all the lights went out.

Cue several seconds of high-pitched girlie screaming while I fumbled around for a torch. I made my way to the utility room, all three children hanging off my legs, and as I grumbled and tutted at the fuse box, my seven-year-old declared: 'Mum, I know exactly what we need. We need a man.' And she's right.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now