Since my daughter has returned to the workforce after maternity leave, I have been babysitting for her a couple of days a week. As she lives in Melbourne, I go down to her house the afternoon before my shift starts so I’m up and ready to look after the two little ones first thing the next morning.
All this is to say that just like a journalist in the Middle East I’m effectively embedded in her household, thus enabling me to observe the distribution of labour while both parents are working full time. (Heaven forbid that I should write an article and tell the world about what goes on inside their home).
Actually, I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the egalitarian nature of their household. I spend most of my time with my mouth open as I watch her millennial man scoop up his babies, change their nappies and put the dinner on. After my son-in-law has done the dishes, he often lies on the floor and acts as a human adventure playground while his two babies crawl over him and scream with laughter.
Whenever I point out to my daughter how lucky she is to have such a wonderful partner she looks at me puzzled. This is what all the blokes do nowadays, she tells me. And I’m also not allowed to give him praise for doing what should come naturally.
I tell her how bloody awful and unfair the distribution of labour was in “my day.” This was when women were considered to be lucky to go out and work in the first place. Once we found a job it was generally our responsibility to find the scant childcare that was available, as well as do all of the household tasks, of course.
The sharing of household tasks seems so much fairer now, but if you do some online research many Australian and overseas surveys conclude that women are still carrying the heavier load. Many blokes are doing a sterling job, but apparently they still have a way to go.
On another level, this conversation about equal workloads in the home may seem irrelevant when we stop and look at domestic violence statistics. Or is it? Perhaps it’s the case that the day the blokes are cheerfully mucking, it will be the same day that they no longer feel entitled to murder, bash, rape and generally disrespect women.
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