I'm tired of being the loser in our marital chore wars

Chore wars: Who does what around the house is a matter of contention for Lorraine and her husband (posed by model)

Chore wars: Who does what around the house is a matter of contention for Lorraine and her husband (posed by model)

Nowhere are the battle lines of what Mr Candy and I refer to as ‘chore wars’ more clearly defined than on a family holiday. As a couple who both work full time, I hate to admit that we sometimes subconsciously operate a debit/credit system of childcare; this means one of us often gets a little peeved when the other one is doing something that may not involve jobs or children.

Nobody’s actually keeping score of who does what at home, you understand — there’s no captain’s log of time spent with the trio of trouble and baby Mabel; it is more a silent list of ‘moments owed’ that occasionally builds up until one or the other (me) feels put-upon enough to bring it up.

‘I have just cooked breakfast and got them all dressed, where have you been?’ I am wont to ask, as Mr Candy returns to our holiday cottage from a suspiciously long early morning walk. He says he’s been to get the papers, as requested. But I know he takes the beach route and has a coffee in the cafe before his return.

How very unfair, I think, as I fix him with what an elderly friend of mine calls ‘the horse’s eye’ (you have to turn sideways and roll your eye in the manner of a knowing horse — it’s peculiarly unnerving).

I don’t really need him while he is out — after all, we are on holiday and nothing happens before midday — but I am inexplicably jealous of his stolen time.

Of course, I know we are not alone in this cross-checking, but the Americans have just done a survey on it that reaches a surprising conclusion.

Mentally, I reckon I put in almost two hours of extra chores a day; my home To Do list is longer than my husband’s.

Yet, the survey concluded that, in reality, married working mothers do only 18 minutes more chores than their working husbands each day.

Surely some mistake, I said out loud to the dog as I read this. Well, I would have said it to the dog if Mr C hadn’t taken him on (yet another) extra long walk.

According to the U.S. bureau of labour statistics, this 18 minutes is the smallest difference ever in the battle of domestic drudgery between working parents.

Those commenting on the survey said working women have got to ‘let it go’ when it comes to blaming their stress and exhaustion on their men for not doing their bit.


82 per cent of full-time working men said they would like to spend more time with their family

We are no longer doing what used to be called ‘the second shift’. Is it possible that there is a certain martyrdom around motherhood today, which is not justified (crikey, I think I said that aloud, don’t shoot me Germaine Greer)?

Maybe it isn’t actually about how many chores you do as a mum and wife on top of your actual job?

Maybe it is about how you feel about the chores you do. Having discussed it among the other mums holidaying with us, it seems women are much more likely to feel inequality on the domestic frontline, whether they suffer it or not.

There is, perhaps, still an assumption that women take on the brunt of domestic chores, but this may not hold true — it is not an open and shut case.

I guess that while I am wondering why it is always my job to pack for the kids, why I’m the one who remembers to make sure everyone’s swimming costume is a bigger size than last summer’s (including mine) I forget (or possibly ignore) the fact that my husband probably does the same amount of non-paid labour as I do in the pre-holiday frenzy.

It wasn’t until Mr Candy left me and the four children alone in Cornwall on holiday on Sunday (I am on maternity leave so have decided to keep the kids with me while he goes back to work) that I realised how much he does.

All the little DIY projects he seems to disappear off to sort out (‘just off to get a new hub cap for the broken toaster, dear’ etc etc) are actually quite useful.

When he is not here to remove the graffiti of suntan lotion the children have sprayed across the glass balcony or unlock the back door with a tricky and ancient key, life — and motherhood — are just that little bit harder.

And when it comes to major chores, I found out that dialling 999 is something I’d rather he did in his extra 18 minutes.  But more of that next week.

Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle

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