Dilemma: My retired husband won’t do a fair share of the housework

Jo Brand / 21 May 2018

Agony aunt Jo Brand advises a reader who is frustrated that her retired husband doesn’t do more around the house.



Dilemma: Retired husband won’t do chores

My husband recently retired, while I’m still working part-time.

He’s always done a few jobs around the house, such as putting out the bins and mowing the lawn, but I thought that when he finished work he’d naturally do a lot more of the household chores. I still do most of them. What do you suggest?

Jo Brand's advice

I’m going to use the dreaded ‘F’ word here, as I think the feminist movement merits a mention.

First of all, I think we have to accept that men are neither programmed to notice what needs doing, nor inclined to do it.

A new concept feminists call the ‘mental load’ means women carry all the responsibility for the way the household runs. This means men see the woman of the house as the ‘general manager’, who keeps a picture in her head of what needs doing and how often, taking in everything from changing beds to Christmas cards to school uniform to when the dog’s flea treatment is due.

Therefore, as a woman, you can either start from scratch and try to install this ethos in your partner too or you can ask him nicely/tell him/scream your head off at him until he does it. The word ‘nagging’ was invented for this very scenario by a man - because it’s considered to be a women’s problem that they're asking for a bit of help with. Understandable to some extent in the days when the man was sole breadwinner, but not now when both partners often have to pitch in and work full-time and manage a family.

I think a lot of men consider certain tasks in the house as men’s work and others as women’s work. So men’s work is exactly what your husband is doing, plus a bit of DIY, and women’s work is the rest!

I’m not saying every man is like this... just quite a lot of them!

Some women give men a list to work through. This seems to be your best solution, given that you’re probably not in your mid-twenties… in other words, your husband is unlikely to become Housework Hero of the Year.

To use a cliché, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

However, when you’re thinking of letting him off the hook, just bear in mind that women spend 20 more hours a month on housework than men do. 

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