By: Revanche

Letting the Menfolk Handle It? An Examination of Gender Roles

August 23, 2011

PiC’s sold his car!

This brings down the total final cost of his/Doggle’s chariot to just about $3000.  (Give or take, I was … not listening to the registration cost update…. for some reason. “Husband/wife frequencies” have set in. For those not familiar with the phrase, I’m jokingly referring to the supposed phenomenon that people stop listening to their partners after marriage.  We really do fail to listen/hear each other because we’re not really paying attention but we just repeat later. Don’t worry, it’s just a running joke.)

It occurred to me, as I was walking the laundry to the bedroom and half listening to the whole sale process update, that I’ve become remarkably hands off with certain things. Then I wondered if I’m leaving those things that are typically left to the menfolk.

Thinking back a year or so to the back-home household, I did everything that I had time for no matter whose domain it might fall in:  Searching for grocery bargains/couponing, debt payoff, savings, investing, planning for the future, deciding when to buy, sell, fix and maintain the household vehicles, repairs around the house or arranging for them to happen: all the money, all the time, all my area.  There were certain tasks I delegated when I ran out of time, but nothing’s out of my territory.

But time is finite, things have to fall out to others and I had to start trusting that someone else could take the reins.  Sharing a household up north, I’ve stepped back to let PiC set the pace rather than just jumping in and doing everything.  There was no reason, and certainly it wouldn’t be sane, with another able-bodied and fully capable adult, to take on a second household’s responsibilities solo.

But we never really discussed who would do what, formally or directly.  We just did what needed to be done, day to day and month to month.   I started thinking about why it was that I left the car stuff to PiC. Was I just ceding the car stuff because it was a “guy thing”?

How do we divide our labor?  

We’ve trended toward the things we like best or doing the things that achieve the goals that are most important to us.

I enjoy cooking, cleaning as I go, and serving meals.  It’s a thing my dad and I enjoy doing but he always took the lion’s share of the responsibility since I worked more than 60 hour weeks.  Now with just the two of us, feeding ourselves isn’t really a choice and I’ve lucked out that PiC’s got an easy palate to please to boot. It also takes less out of me than vacuuming or washing floors if I’m not overly ambitious.

I love finances enough to overcome my reluctance to talk to people after a long day at work, but it’s really important to correct any financial charges or fees, and get the lowest plans so I do all the financial negotiations.

PiC loves Craigslist – I hate it. I don’t like browsing or using it. He loves Craigslisting, doesn’t mind dealing with people at all, and looooves looking at cars, specifically, and furniture.  So he’s our resident used things buyer. He also really loves a clean house, or needs it more than I need one in comparison to, say, rest, so he’s the vacuum and floors master.

He’s a great sous chef but he hates new recipes while I get bored with making the same food over and over so we try new things together occasionally but oftentimes I just take over the kitchen entirely.

Physical limitations come into play so that affects the division: I’m not hauling all the heaviest stuff upstairs, but I’m the fastest errand runner/grocery shopper and laundry folder ever.  And of course I’m the CFO-consultant (ahem, control freak) before any major decisions are made.  (Hi, Chariot.)

We split the laundry and the Doggle duties. I really enjoy laundry duty but we have different ideas on when it should be done. He prefers to do less frequent washing but it all comes out to the same amount of washing.  He catches just about all the Doggle walking, we share the Doggle bathing, but I do almost all the Doggle doctoring.  Fair?  Sort of. Each to their own strengths on that point – it’s because Doggle pulls like he’s in the freaking Iditarod much of the time and that’s rough.  Doesn’t mean I don’t do it, just that I do it less often.

At the end of the day, I can’t say that we don’t observe some gender biases.  I doubt they are specifically because of our sexes.  We weren’t taught to do certain things because we were born male or female, though my parents did decline to teach me how to play a guitar because I was too little to hold one.  We tend to play to our strengths and preferences according to our values.

How are chores split in your family?  

6 Responses to “Letting the Menfolk Handle It? An Examination of Gender Roles”

  1. mOOm says:

    Snork Maiden cooks, does most food shopping and drives. I clean the kitchen and house, deal with all finance, and navigate (She can’t find her way anywhere, I don’t have a driving licence). I am likely to fix things and deal with people fixing things etc. We each do our own laundry and take turns with bed linen, tea towels etc. It’s based on comparative advantage and what we like to do.

    BTW we got a publication accepted to be published by your company. My coauthors have published previously with them (different series though). Yeah, I’m being deliberately vague.

  2. Peanut and I do split a lot of things by gender, but it’s also by interest/ability. I do most of the cleaning and laundry, for example, because my standards are a bit more exacting and I care that they’re done my way. He’s responsible for cooking, technology, and floors. We do dishes and finances together. We don’t have traditional outdoor “male” chores like yardwork at this point, but when we do, most of that will probably fall to him with me helping some. He’s the “muscle”, like getting someone towed when they’re parked in our rented spot, but I’m the “manager”, researching and booking doctor/dentist appointments or plane tickets.

  3. Great questions!

    It does make sense to have some division of labor in the household because it’s more efficient. If, God forbid, the household should break apart, each couple will have to learn or higher out, but that’s probably ok.

    I hate anything to do with floors, so DH does those. We do laundry together because it’s more fun that way. I do most of the paperwork, though he does taxes. Other stuff we’ve been fine with either of us doing bits at a time. I would never have imagined such a loose system would work, but apparently we’re both responsible and stuff.

  4. LOL! I love this and your last post!

    When you’ve been living in a gigantic shack with a north and south forty all by your lonesome for awhile, you come to appreciate division of labor.

    It’s also possible to come to appreciate, very much, a man who doesn’t conceive of labor division along gender lines (literally: SDXB once told me the garage and yard were his territory and I was in charge of everything inside the house!)

    My father subscribed to a theory that was quite extraordinary for a blue-collar man born in 1909: he once said to me, “There’s no such thing as women’s work or men’s work; there’s only work.” He saw it all as just one big job to be gotten through, willy nilly.

    When he was home from the boat (he was a merchant mariner), he would help my mother with all kinds of “women’s work.” Mostly I can remember that he regularly scrubbed the floors. And he cheerfully did the laundry. Meanwhile, because he was at sea most of the time, my mother handled the household finances…even though he considered the community property “his money.”

    He was a very handy fellow, and until he reached advanced old age, he had considerable physical strength. He loved to “putter around the house,” as he put it: that meant he liked to do all the handyman work.

    I think you have to find what’s comfortable for you. But really: whoever is handling the money, the other person needs to be following along carefully. The worst things happen when one person doesn’t have a clue and the person who does have the clue dies, becomes incapacitated by a stroke or injury, or leaves.

  5. I made a post about this awhile ago:

    The main thing that I struggle with, in terms of fairness, is that even if the work load is even, I am definitely the one who handles the tasking for the things we share. I am 10x more likely to say “Ok, we need to do this, this, this and that.” It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel like I’m responsible for “managing” it all. But I also know that organizing and planning is a strength of mine and a weakness of his, so I don’t know if we could change it without coming up with a more regular routine. (I’m not great at sticking to routines.) I mean, I know at some point T would see something needed to be done, but not until the very second that it MUST be done and cannot be delayed.

  6. Revanche says:

    @mOOm: A belated congrats! It’s keeping me very busy 😉

    I like basing chores on comparative advantage, though.

    @Little Miss Moneybags: I thought that higher standards in specific areas might make a difference.

    @nicoleandmaggie: Imagine that, being responsible. 😉

    @Funny: Hah, that’s right there’s no such thing as gendered work!

    And I do insist that when I take over the money, PiC needs to have regular check-ins with me.

    @stackingpennies: You maybe need to stick T with an extra chore to make up for your overall management chore 😉

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