Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: 'Supportive' still needs a bit of help

How's my help-the husband campaign going? Well, the dishes have caused a problem - so watch this space

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

It comes as no surprise to this supportive wife that women still do two-thirds of the housework, even in homes where they are the main breadwinner.

Research in Britain shows that despite the feminist movement and greater equality for women in the workplace, at home we're still mopping, and washing, drying and folding, sweeping and vacuuming.

Ever since I started my one-woman (not one other woman has told me this is a good idea) crusade to be a supportive wife in my household a few months ago, the elephant in the room has been the fact that I still work to earn a crust.

The model I have adopted of a 50s housewife who spends her day entirely devoted to the feeding and upkeep of her husband and children is all very well - if you have nothing else to do.

Running a home without having to be one of two breadwinners is a valid existence.

Time to fuss over that persistent stain on the white tablecloth. Time to use a tablecloth because you washed and ironed it, ready and waiting. Time to polish silverware, hand wash crystal and really get into some slow cooking.

Last week, I was rushing to get ready to go out to a concert of classical music. My husband loves classical music and this is something we do together.

I had just made jugged hare for dinner (so 50s) and spent the day writing a million words about a million things.

He too had spent the day writing a million words about a million things. Our computers were exhausted and looking forward to a night off.

I raced into the kitchen, dressed up and ready for a night out and found him sitting at the table reading his iPad. A well-deserved half hour off before we launched into the night.

All I could see were dishes in the sink waiting for me to tend to them, and all I wanted was to be able to sit for half an hour with my iPad, too. I just needed to sit down and have a breather for the first time that day.

I'll spare you the discussion which took place about "helping out". But it did go on a bit, involved accusations of ape-man behaviour and my pre-menstrual state hung in the air like a bad omen.

It comes as no surprise then to discover that research also tells us that men whose wives do most of the housework are more likely to argue about it. Apparently women accept it as their lot even though it makes them unhappy and men feel guilty.

Here's the thing. Before my supportive wifeness, my husband and I shared housework. Whoever was free put the washing on, stacked the dishwasher, mopped the floors. There were no hard and fast rules, we just shared it about and some weeks one of us did more but that was because the other was flat out on a deadline.

And the reason for this is that I wouldn't have it any other way. When you meet someone who you think might be right for you, part of the right bit has to be that he can wash dishes.

Early on in any relationship you watch and observe. Does he get up and do the dishes after you've made him a spectacular meal or wait for you to do it? Can he make a bed or are his sheets months old and crusty? When you go around to his house is his washing hanging on the line or did his Mum just drop it off cleaned and ironed?

Good looks, great sex and a sense of humour can go a long way in a relationship but knowing his way around a dishcloth and a vacuum cleaner come in much more handy when you're a career girl.

When I started writing this column a friend asked me to address the case of a wife who does all the housework but also brings in all the cash while the husband contributes nothing.

My answer was simple. A partner who doesn't contribute in any way by working or doing housework needs to be shown the door.

Meanwhile back at my supportive wife experiment, you may wonder why I'm bothering. If I'm finding it so tough, why keep it up?

And I'll say to you, good question. I'll get back to you next week.

- NZ Herald

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