Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Keeping Mum: How much time is spent on household admin?

How much of my time is actually spent doing admin rather than playing with the kids?
Photo / Thinkstock
How much of my time is actually spent doing admin rather than playing with the kids? Photo / Thinkstock

The screaming could probably be heard from the outer suburbs. I had wangled some time away from the house to visit another house - the slaughter house (in fact, my very nice dentist) and in the course of a one-and-a-half hour appointment, had received a grand total of three parking tickets.

On top of the $700 bill for the dentist, it made for one expensive morning. Two of the tickets were for $12 a piece, which is bad enough, but one was for the whopping figure of $200. It turns out that while I had registered my car, I hadn't gone as far as affixing the blasted label on it. Pinged!

It got me to thinking about the sheer amount of household administration that goes with running any home, and how much of my time is actually spent doing that sort of stuff rather than lolling about in autumn leaves with the kids or doing finger painting. Paying bills, getting kids to immunisation appointments, filling out school forms, feeding the kids and planning all this takes up an inordinate amount of time.

I am a stay at home mother too, so I am acutely aware of how much of my life is mired in household management.

At least I have the time to do it, I guess - even if a lack of sleep is responsible for forgetting half of it. I have to wonder how working women manage it (and yes, I know many fathers do this stuff too but lets be honest, it is normally the woman that is the household CEO). When do they get time to plan ahead for all the minutiae that comes up constantly - or are they, in fact, far more organised because they have to be?

I've been reading constant iterations of the so-called 'mummy wars' in newspapers recently - working mothers and SAHMs pitted against each other in the never-ending battle between good and evil and so on. The key point for me is that the women arguing this point are those with the luxury of choice; the rest of womankind have to just get on and do whatever economics dictate. While we can easily point to the good and bad points of either choice, all of us actually have to run a household and this is probably the most difficult task to achieve of all - whether you are SAHM striving to give your kids a certain type of childhood or a working mum striving to hang onto your career for the future financial good of the family.

It's the task that's almost the most thankless, but arguably, one of the most important for the quality of family life.

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

Read more by Dita De Boni

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