London - Anyone trying to combine a job and a family has enough on their plate without advice from rich Americans on the best way to share the housework.
Yet a controversial new manual titled Getting To 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All will be published in Britain next week, after being a huge hit in the US.
What’s offensive about books such as this is their assumption that men must “do more”, to redress some mythical imbalance in their relationships. In reality, most working women I know have chosen to allocate chores and duties in a way that suits them, because (often) they are better at them.
Men shouldn’t be expected to clean, cook, load the dishwasher and do laundry, to achieve some ridiculous quota of 50/50 which will magically equal happiness and regular sex.
We want our men to do the things that keep them smiling, the tasks they are good at, which give them a sense of achievement. I would never have a rota, or a score card pasted to the back of my laundry room.
The female authors of 50/50 worked in the banking industry, so we can assume they were highly paid and could afford staff and helpers.
And the introduction to the book is written by Sheryl Sandberg, the boss of Facebook – so she’s not short of the cash for a nanny or two, either. It’s easy to have a life plan when you’re rich.
Yes, women do more in the home than men, but let’s not whinge about it – no amount of setting quotas or nagging or brandishing this handbook will make any difference. In fact, it might make men dig their heels in and rebel.
Actually, I almost feel sorry for working men – women under 30 are earning more in certain jobs, they are better educated and highly confident. While young white men, in particular, are a source of concern – so many are under-achieving and lack self-esteem.
The reason women lag behind in our 30s and 40s is because of child-rearing. It’s not fair, but it’s our choice. We go back to work because we need the money, but also because we want to be stimulated.
The question of division of labour in the home is complicated – a study of US families in which both parents work concludes that although women do 16 hours of housework a week compared to men’s nine, and 12 hours of childcare to men’s seven, things looked different when the hours spent working outside the home were added in.
Men racked up 42 to women’s 31, so when all the working hours were added together – that is equating chores and childcare with paid work – men did 58 hours to women’s 59 each week.
In Britain, more than three-quarters of all married women may do more housework than their partners, but this is a generational issue – younger women do less and their partners more, and modern dads spend up to two hours a day with their children, compared to just 15 minutes back in 1975.
When you have children, you can draw up as many plans of action as you like, but when you return to work that plan will be shelved. Work today doesn’t end when you leave the door of your office or workplace – modern communications mean you have to be available 24x7.
How many ambitious workers have the guts to turn off phones and ignore emails for a whole weekend while doing strictly 50 percent of the chores?
Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer caused a storm when she dictated that staff should work from the office, not home. Although criticised, she was right – work needs to be contained, to happen in a designated place, not invading every aspect of your private life.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where bosses expect us to be on call and we jump like lemmings, in case we are seen as weedy, not up to scratch and are placed in the human recycling bin.
As that is the case, I would not impose any quota on my relationship – no percentages for initiating sex, sharing chores, cooking or even horrible “date nights”. Once you start treating a partnership like a business, one of you is going to fail. – Daily Mail
* This book will be in South African stores later in the year.