Readers Speak Out About Housework

by Abby on August 8, 2011

Women Around the World

picture by © joans heartart

If you’re like me, you really enjoyed those episodes of “Oprah” where she’d talk to women around the world about what their lives are like. So, for instance, the woman from Denmark or wherever would talk about her awesome maternity benefits and the woman in France would talk about how she bikes everywhere instead of driving and then they’d run out of time so the poor Japanese woman only got to talk about her robotic toilet. You know those episodes?

Well, I got something even better: an e-mail from one of my readers, Khadija, a Indian mom living in Singapore. She writes:

I have a 2-year-old and am expecting my 2nd boy in a few weeks 🙂 Like you, I too gave up a corporate job for life at home with my boy. But life here is much easier simply because almost everyone has a ‘full-time live-in maid’ to do all the work, take care of the kids, grocery shopping, etc. — in short, everything! The cost of hiring them is pretty reasonable too, never more than $300-$400 a month. Almost all condo apartments here come with a ‘maids room’ and a separate bathroom for them.

Isn’t that fascinating?! My response to this was a) is it too late to register for kindergarten in Singapore, and b) how crazy are Americans? I mean that seriously: Are we the only people in the world who not only think we SHOULD do it all, but that doing so, with as little help as possible, is a badge of honor?! (For reference, see again the NYT Motherlode blog post, “Never Mention the Housekeeper.”)

My post on housework and happy marriages struck a nerve with other readers, too. Ali wrote:

If I’m feeling overwhelmed or just don’t care to vacuum or tidy up (I usually do these), I just ask my husband, nicely, if he can do it for me. He always says “sure,” and not passive aggressively. Although we shouldn’t have to ask (they should just do it!), it alleviates a lot of my frustrations and stress. I even have no problem offering a sincere “Thanks, Babe” afterwards. After all, he offers me simple thank-yous for cooking and other daily duties.

How simple is that? Ask for help, get it, and say thanks. Brilliant!! Sure beats stewing over why men can’t read minds. Or multitask.

However, it goes both ways. Libby, who says her husband is “awesome about helping around the house,” wrote:

What REALLY gets me is how many of my friends say how LUCKY I am that my husband does this stuff. Don’t get me wrong – I fully appreciate my husband and I tell him that a LOT. But not once has anyone ever said how lucky he is that I do what I do. It’s just expected that women do all this – but if a man does it, we need to give him thanks and praise and should be grateful. … I have no problem giving credit to my husband – I just find it odd that the same isn’t done for the women/wives/moms.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: not ONCE has anybody ever come up to me at the pool and said, “Are you here by yourself with both boys? Wow, good for you! Giving Daddy a little break, huh? What a great mom you are! Your husband is so lucky.”

Jaymie wrote:

I am grateful that my husband is good about shared responsibilities. There are some chores he does, some I do, and some our son does. I think natural inclinations (I am the compulsive organizer, for example) and time (I am home more than he is) makes an impact, too.

First, congrats on putting your son to work! And that is SO true about natural inclinations. No matter how much I nag remind him, my husband isn’t as vigilant about picking up around the house – because he simply doesn’t notice the clutter or care as much about it as I do. Not to mention he spends 8+ hours a day away from the house and doesn’t have to look at it! So clutter control, like it or not, is mostly my domain.

And finally, Jan chimes in to give us some much-needed perspective:

As a single mom, it all falls on me even though the kids have their chores. I wish I had someone who picked up at least 10% of the housework. That would feel like a vacation for me!

So whether we fantasize about moving to Singapore for a live-in maid, having a partner to share the chores, or simply having someone say thank-you to US, we can all agree on one thing: caring for a house and kids is a BOATLOAD of work.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello August 8, 2011 at 8:15 am

Your post this past week made me think a lot more about what I do around the house in terms of helping out and not just sitting in the LazyBoy (so aptly named) and watching TV or punching away at the laptop.

I mentioned that we share a lot of chores, but, in all truthiness, it’s probably 65-35 in favor of the Lovely Miss TK. I did make more of an effort this past week and we even talked about it some so that may count for a few little points. 🙂 I was informed that once I retire, I better be enrolling in a cooking school so I can do better than PB&J sandwiches for my “specialty”.
Soooo, you are making an impact out here in Lazy Guy Land and I promise even more “Thank You’s” this week for sure.

By the way, we really do have to adopt the Singaporean ways, then we’re all off the hook.


Abby August 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I am so happy to hear that, Lou! And I’m sure the Lovely Miss TK notices & appreciates every little bit. 🙂

And I bet you would love cooking once you got into it. That includes grilling, you know — men, fire, meat, what’s not to like?


Lou Mello August 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm

If there is a ball to chase in the fire, I’m all in. YeeHaw!


Ali August 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

I’m not in the camp that believes I SHOULD do it all, I simply just can’t afford it =(

In Canada, daycare, nannies, and maids cost a small fortune!


Abby August 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I know, it adds up. Although I will say we had a cleaning service for a while & that was worth every penny.


Kim August 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I feel guilty that I should keep a better house since I am home all day, but then I have to remind myself that I have two jobs: taking care of my girls and my writing. I don’t know why my brain tries to make me think those aren’t ‘real’ jobs, because they are. I think I’ve just been told by so many people that I am “Just” a SAHM that I have to keep telling myself, being a SAHM isn’t easy, it’s work, hard work, and I’m not talking about being a homemaker (because I definitely don’t make our home spotless), I’m thinking of a SAHM who is focused on the children 🙂 I cherish every moment I get to write and don’t want to give it up to keep a more orderly, clean house. Having said that, I wish I could afford to have a cleaning service come!


Abby August 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Kim, read this post by one of my former students, a fellow writer-mom: She addresses a lot of the issues you mention. Personally, I’d rather play w/ my kids than vacuum, too. 🙂


Mary Kate August 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

We’re still trying to work out those weekly chores but one thing we have down pat is whoever cooks gets to mostly sit out for the cleanup.


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