MFIF community: Help Ms Perplexed


Thought I’d post this to see if I could get some opinions from the MFIF community! I’m in my late 20s and am currently in my DREAM job. Unfortunately, said job is with a charitable organisation, and they can only afford to pay me for 30 hours a week. As I also have a 2 year old boy, I like the flexibility and the time I can spend with him. My husband works really long hours on our company where he is the managing director (I’ve only got my name on there, I don’t really do anything at all).

Let’s also start by saying I wasn’t born with that magical “girl” gene which makes me good at cooking and cleaning, and I think it’s also fair to say, I might be a bit on the lazy side, preferring to stop at “passable” instead of “impeccable” when it comes to both!

so, my darling husband and I have had increasingly more fights as he does most of the cooking (he was born with the magical “girl” gene and has often rescued one of my concoctions).

Is it #MFIF? or am I being hypersensitive, and should learn to cook, and do all the cleaning as I only work 30 hrs?

Perplexed, New Zealand


20 Responses to “MFIF community: Help Ms Perplexed”

  1. crazyladyx5 Says:

    I don’t think it is a matter of female vs. male, but rather of a matter of who works less outside the home. In my personal opinion you should be doing the majority of the cooking (even if it is with the help some already prepared items) and the cleaning because you do work less outside of the home.

  2. ddraigpinc Says:

    Unless your dear husband is saying you should do more of the cooking BECAUSE you’re female, you might want to just suck it up and learn to cook and expect to do most of the cleaning. It has NOTHING to do with being male or female in this situation, it has to do with which one of you has more time away from work and presumably in the home. That would be you in this situation.

  3. trixtah Says:

    The household – i.e. you and hubby – pay for a cleaner to come in for a couple of hours a week. That won’t break the bank. And have the courtesy to do -some- cooking. Don’t make “concoctions” – learn to do a few simple things well.

    I’m afraid that, yes, while the extra 10 hours a week of solo childminding makes a difference (especially if your husband shares it pretty evenly when he’s home), doing some more of the other stuff around the house – e.g. grocery shopping – only sounds equitable.

    As for “girl” genes that make you good at cooking and cleaning, give us a break. The whole point of trying to break down sexism is to get away from ridiculous ideas that women are innately “better” at those tasks than men (I know that referring to genes was a joke, but it isn’t a funny one when people still use biological essentialism as a justification for gender roles).

  4. barefootforward Says:

    I work a job (HS teacher/theatre director) where my hours are in constant flux. During the summer, I either don’t work, or work an easy part-time job. When the theatre season is in full swing, I work 16-hour days. My husband’s job has very routine hours. He and I have a deal: our chores change with my hours. When I’m home over the summer, 90% of the work is mine, all except what makes me visibly ill (the bathroom and the dishes) and what might make him ill (my cooking, which is horrible). When I’m working those 16-hour days, he does absolutely everything.

    IMHO, this arrangement works well. Should your husband have to do absolutely no housework? Absolutely not. But if he works really long hours then, in the name of fairness, a proportionate amount of housework should become yours. (And a proportionate amount remains his!) If you were working long hours and he was not, I would say the same about him. If his cooking is better, have him cook. And, in ACTUAL LIFE (as opposed to HGTV) “passable” tends to be okay. You LIVE there; it’s not a show house. Is there clean laundry? Can you walk on the floor? Are you bug-free? If yes, then you’re doing just fine — and far, far better than my husband and I can manage.

    And 30 hours should NOT be “only” 30 hours. That’s still a lot of work!

  5. shinobi42 Says:

    I think it is reasonable to expect someone who works less to pick up more tasks around the house. It is important to note though that are a lot more things to running a household than just cooking and cleaning. There is yardwork,(if you have a yard) garbage, laundry, grocery shopping, errand running, child transporting, child care, paying bills, managing money, car maintenance, blah blah blah blah. Tons of tasks that are not cooking and cleaning. Maybe there are other things that you already do that aren’t getting counted in the” Household management task allotment” because they are not cooking and cleaning. So I think that’s important to point out what you already do.

    However “i’m not good at this” is the excuse that men have been using for years to get out of doing their fair share of housework. So no, I don’t think it is reasonable for you to expect him to do all the cooking and cleaning because he is better at it than you. But I do think it is reasonable for you to maybe take on some other tasks that he’s doesn’t enjoy and that you may be good at to lighten his load since he is working more hours etc.

    I also think it is important to point out that cooking and cleaning skills don’t just come from the magical girl gene. They come from practice, learning and experience, some people may have a more natural aptitude, but that’s no reason to expect them to do all the work.

  6. skyhawkmkiv Says:

    I think that whoever is home more should be expected to do a bit more than usual. My mother gives my brother and I extra things to do when she’s working at school. Because, after all, what else would we be doing?

  7. graftonk Says:

    Learn to cook, because it is a valuable skill. It increases ones level of independence both gastronomically and financially, and when you become more skilled it becomes a means of artistic expression.

    But I will differ with most of the comments. Don’t base your division of labour in the house on your outside jobs. Find a way that is agreeable to both of you that does not consider that as a major factor. Otherwise every time your work schedule changes you’ll have some sort of negotiation-battle to fight, and you’ll also be in a position where your husband may find he feels a conflict of interest in regards to your career, when he should be supporting you in pursuing your dreams.

    Also, forget being ‘fair’ because life isn’t and marriage sure as hell isn’t. Any number of psychos will try to codify marriage as “I will bring this into the relationship and you will bring that and it all works out even-steven forever” but the real vow goes: You shall, now and to the end of my days, be the beneficiary of my altruism. Altruism is, by definition, not fair. Cook and clean for the guy because it makes him happy and well, and tell him to stop pretending that it’s your fricking job to do it, because that makes you unhappy and unwell and isn’t true anyway.

  8. sz01 Says:

    No one likes to come in from work and always have to cook. Just share a bit more. So what if you’re not the best cook out of the two of you – neither am I, but it’s putting in the effort with the things you can do that counts.

  9. lilovescake Says:

    My fiancé works 10 hours a week longer than I do. Therefore, I do more of the housework, and most of the cooking (seems mean to get him to cook when he often doesn’t get home before 8pm – but I do make him do the washing up :P).

    Sometimes I get bored of cooking (and laundry, and even filling/emptying the dishwasher), but I suck it up and make something easy/get something ready-made and do it anyway. I am pretty sure I do more than my “fair share” of housework, but I try not to get too hung up on it. I love my fiancé and he appreciates what I do. It’s not about gender, (nor, as graftonk said, necessarily about “fairness”) it’s about what we can do for each other to make each other happy.

  10. notemily Says:

    I’m going to disagree with pretty much everybody and say that everyone is different. You say your husband’s cleaning standards are different from yours. Is there some way you could compromise on this? Like, ask him what are the most important things or rooms to have clean, and then you can do a few of those and if he wants the house clean beyond that, he can do it himself or hire someone. And if you’re abysmal at cooking, your husband can either cook himself or be satisfied with pizza, or whatever else you can order in or make from a box.

    What would you do if you were single? Learn to cook, or get by on packaged or ordered-in food? What would your husband do if he were single? Clean the house, or hire someone to clean it for him?

    But then again, I’m another “lazy” person who doesn’t like to clean. I think of this more in terms of my energy level, which is generally low, so even if I want things clean, I often have to wait until I have enough free time to rest first. I don’t often have enough spoons to cook for myself, either. Anyone who wants to marry me is just going to have to deal with that.

  11. notemily Says:

    In other words, I agree with graftonk.

  12. jesurgislac Says:

    Looking after a 2-year-old child is work. It’s hard work. It’s worth doing well. No one else has said this so far in this thread, so I’ll say it: if what you do in your “spare time” is care for your son, that’s work, not free time.

    But also:

    Anyone can learn to cook: it’s a skill, not a talent, and requires no “girl gene”. Buy a good cookbook with detailed instructions (Delia Smith or Mark Bittman level), read through it to find stuff you love to eat (and your husband likes to eat) and yeah: teach yourself to cook and clean up the kitchen after yourself. You don’t need to become an expert, just to learn how to prepare the basics.

    Furthermore, knowing how to cook is among the valuable life talents which you can pass on to your kid – and he won’t learn how to do it unless he knows that it’s worth doing – unless he sees at least one of his parents preparing food to eat.

    OTOH, if you hate cooking, if you’re going to resent doing it, don’t. (I’d say, give it a fair try first if you’ve really never tried to learn.)

    But rather than thinking in terms of “what would you do if you were single?” figure out what you CAN do as a married couple. Your husband’s good at cooking/likes it. Could it be one of his weekend chores to make a big batch of food which you box and freeze and it’s your job to take it out of the freezer to defrost for dinner?

    (OTOH, I’m totally in agreement on: if neither of you likes cleaning, hire a cleaner to come in for a couple of hours a week. Then cleaning the house becomes merely pick-up work, not a big job.)

    It sounds like the two of you need to sit down and talk about the basic chores that both of you feel need doing, and which of you SHOULD be doing them, and which of them can be passed on to outside labor – like the cleaner. Not just “housework” “cooking”, “child care”, but all the other aspects of running a joint household. Who checks the bills and the credit card statements? Who tracks house repairs and upkeep?

    Also: Your kid will not be two, and exhausting, forever. Right now if you’re the child’s only carer on weekdays when you’re not at work, because his father is working long hours, that should mean the father puts in his stint of childcare at the weekend, and you get to do more chores that are difficult to do and watch a kid simultaneously.

  13. blackrose01 Says:

    I think it’s a matter of playing to your strengths, if he’s the better cook then he should do the cooking and as a compromise you can do the cleaning, you should split childcare so that you both get time with your son; make sure you both feed him and play with him and bathe him. You could alternate on the less fun jobs like cleaning the bathroom, you do it one week and he does it the next. In the meantime why don’t you take some cooking classes and maybe surprise him with a meal once in a while? If you aren’t good at cooking that’s fine, but a basic knowledge is always good, even if it’s just leaning how to probably boil an egg, lol.

    This is how my parents did it when I was growing up and it seems to work well, it’s all about doing what you’re good at and meeting each other half way.

  14. perplexedreplies Says:

    Thanks guys!!!

    *sigh* i agree, I am being a bit lazy and guess I just needed to hear it from a random community of like-minded people.

    @trixtah, regarding the girl genes comment, I was attempting to be tongue-in-cheek but it didn’t come across very well… no offense intended everyone!!!

    I think what I failed to mention is that, yes I do take care of my son on the “day off” i get a week, which I guess could equate to 8 hours… and I am also enrolled at university to get a postgraduate qualification, but I never count that, as it is a choice I made myself. So while my husband is physically at work for more hours than me, I find that my “free” time is not as “free” as I would imagine.

    Thanks for all the tips on cooking! I must admit, I do feel guilty that I don’t really know how to cook, whether that is a traditional upbringing that insinuates I should know as a female, or just the physical need to be able to nourish my new growing family…

    Thanks again guys!!!

  15. notemily Says:

    Why is school a less valid thing to do with your time just because it’s a choice you made? You should own that choice. I can’t imagine trying to be in grad school, work, and have a kid at the same time. That sounds like a ton of work. Your husband should respect that.

  16. withig Says:

    Just because you aren’t in an office doesn’t mean it’s not work. I’m in the reverse situation where I work full-time at the lab (academic research), and my boyfriend is at home, and officially unemployed. He’s developing an open-source platform that he hopes to sell when it’s ready, but that will take another year or so. Still, I consider his work just as much work as mine (and we both sit 8h in front of a computer every day, so there’s not much actual difference). I would factor in how physically demanding each of your tasks is: if his office work consists of sitting at a desk all day while you run around taking care of your child, it stands to reason that you would be much more tired in the evening than him.

    Anyway, I would think that as a baseline, both of you should be doing half the work. I am just as bad at cooking as you (and no, a cookbook and some practice is not the magical solution most people seem to think! but if you’re OK with having little variety, learn to make 2-3 simple dishes that all of you like really well, and screw the rest) and my boyfriend hates cleaning with a passion, so we just split along these lines. For the rest (i.e. laundry), to each his own.

    An interesting exercise you might do to evaluate who really is doing more work would be to simply chronicle what you are doing each day for a week (or more if there’s a lot of variety), without any a priori judgment (for instance, it would take some debate as to whether picking up the rattle and making sure your kid doesn’t hurt himself while playing is work or play.) Your husband is probably not concretely aware of what exactly you do when he’s not around, and you are probably distorting the durations in your recollection. Just scribble it down, from “13:32 – 13:49 : checked facebook” to “15:22 – 16:09 : laundry”, at least you’ll have a real basis for discussion. If there is an actual imbalance, or you see each other doing tasks that could be swapped to be more to your liking, finding solutions will be much easier 🙂

  17. peachesandfreckles Says:

    I’m in a very similar situation. I do not have a child, but I am married and work only part time while my husband works full time. I end up doing most of the housework, which I also didn’t get “the gene” for, and pretty much all of the cooking, which thankfully, I am good at.

    This doesn’t bother me because it is simply practical. I have more hours at home, so I can get the housework done while he’s still working. Then when he gets home, we can relax.

    It also doesn’t bother me because I know it isn’t about gender for him. A year ago, our situation was completely reversed: I was working 40+ hours a week at a demanding job, and he was a student with classes only 3 days a week. So, the house work and much of the meal preparation fell to him. He never complained once.

  18. Merely Academic Says:

    You aren’t being lazy at all! And how does your education “not matter” or “not count”? It sounds as if you have no spare time at all – you’re working 30 hours a week, handling child care on your “day off” AND doing a postgraduate degree – and your husband is trying to make you feel guilty for not being Martha Stewart into the bargain.

    Here is the deal: if you’re cleaning the house, you clean it to YOUR standards, not his. If he’s not happy with that, he can go over it and bring it up to HIS standards. But it’s not your job to polish the floor with a toothbrush because that’s what hubby wants.

    As far as cooking goes, keep it simple. Anyone can boil rice, broil a piece of fish and nuke some broccoli, and presto, it’s dinner. It’s not gourmet but it is nourishing and it’s food. If your husband isn’t happy with that, again, he can do the gourmet stuff.

    Having a child is more work than anyone ever expects before they have one, and it takes some time – I mean it took me until the kids were about 5 – to realise that there really isn’t as much time, and there is a lot more mess, and the most important thing is child care, not cleaning or cooking. And both of you have to adjust.

    I am betting that 30 hours work + postgraduate degree on your part = however many hours your husband is self-indulgently putting into the business. I am betting furthermore that you folks are not counting any duties except cooking and cleaning in the “hours worked” column. Spend a week, or two, noting exactly how many hours you DO spend cooking, cleaning, child care, garbage, yard, grocery shopping, ferrying child back and forth to appointments, running household errands, everything that is really a “household duty”. Note the same for your husband. I’m betting you’re putting in a hell of a lot more than he is, and on top of a workload that is every bit as time-consuming as his, when you count the postgraduate degree (and you must).

    And my guess is, damn straight, it’s YFYF – you are feeling guilty because you think you “should” be handling everything because you’re a girl. Well, you shouldn’t.

  19. parclair Says:

    Let me get this straight: You work 30 hours, go to Uni (min 10 hours per class) and you’ve got a toddler. Your husband does “all the work”. There’s some talkin’ that needs to be done.

    I want to agree with all the folk that say “play to the strength”. (Merely Academic has a full list)

    You and your sweetie need to have a sit-down about job sharing. So, he cooks, you clean up the kitchen. He doesn’t want to cook, do take-away.

    In my house, my hubbie keeps things picked up and neat, I do the deep-cleaning (dusting (yech), scrubbing down the kitchen, the toilets (yech) and hands-and-knees floor scrubbing). We do share the cooking, but that’s because we both don’t mind.

    I pay the bills, he does the filing and taxes.

    We never had kids, but I’ve been auntie to many toddlers. With the work they entail, everyone’s expectations for a “clean house” have to be lowered. (My sweetie never could deal with the messes and noise that toddlers create)/

    If you do have the money, a housekeeper/amah and take away is the best solution.

  20. scrivener212 Says:

    Since both of us hate housework, both of us like things clean, and both of us carried creative careers as well as day jobs in the beginning, we came to an agreement: whoever hated it undone the most took care of the job. As we got a little better with regard to income, we hired someone to come in a day, now two, a week, for the cleaning. As I began to do better financially, I started ordering out and stopped cooking. He loves to cook, and that’s what he does.

    It sounds to me like both you and your spouse-creature are pulling heavy loads. These are the days of frozen meals: make up big pots of soup, stew, spaghetti sauce, and freeze one-night servings in individual bags so you have fast meals when you both drag yourselves home at night. Ditto big batches of rolls, cookie dough, etc. Make sure he comes home a couple of nights a week for story time, because kids NEED dad-time. Arrange splits of time and chores that work for both of you. And it’s worth giving up a few extra bucks to get someone to come in even twice a month to clean the bathrooms and kitchen. Spread the work out–it’s easier on everyone!

    There is no “girl gene,” as the others have said. I haven’t been able to keep a tidy set of nails since I was born; I cooked because I was forced to. Kids make me look for exits, but I’ve been pooped on by birds, cats, and kittens, and I just don’t care. I bring in the income; my husband cooks and takes out garbage (and handles the information technology). You can work it out!

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