Is it EVER ac­cept­able for a man to dodge the chores for 23 years?

As Tony Blair con­fesses he hasn’t done any house­work since 1997, three wives with very dif­fer­ent takes (and a man whose shirk­ing cost him his mar­riage) have a dust-up over the ques­tion ...

Daily Mail - - Front Page -

AS Do­mes­tic ar­gu­ments go, it’s one that’s been rag­ing for decades, and prob­a­bly with the great­est in­ten­sity. Who does, or more im­por­tantly doesn’t, shoul­der the bulk of the house­work in a re­la­tion­ship?

For­mer prime min­is­ter tony Blair reignited the row at the week­end when he re­vealed he hasn’t done any laun­dry or cooked since 1997, leav­ing ev­ery­thing to his bar­ris­ter wife cherie.

But is that cherie’s fault for let­ting him get away with it? And is there such a thing as the per­fect di­vi­sion of do­mes­tic labour? Here, three wives and one man — who made the fa­tal mis­take of never do­ing the dishes — roll up their sleeves and wade into the chore wars …


NOW most men — even the most un­re­con­structed old cur­mud­geons — would at least ac­knowl­edge not hav­ing done any house­work for more than 20 years as some kind of fail­ure. But tony Blair is cheer­fully can­did about his lack of do­mes­tic prow­ess.

no hoover­ing, no laun­dry, no su­per­mar­ket trips. When asked whom he thought had been clean­ing the loos in his seven-bed­room Buck­ing­hamshire pile dur­ing lock­down, he replied sim­ply: ‘umm, cherie, the kids … yeah.’

I must con­fess this came as some­thing of a sur­prise to me, since I would have thought some­one like Blair might have pre­ferred to pro­ject more of a ‘new man’ im­age. But per­haps this is all part of his resur­gent ego: he clearly feels he doesn’t need to jus­tify him­self to any­one or pre­tend to be ‘of the peo­ple’.

And in a funny kind of a way, I rather ad­mire his hon­esty. Be­cause, let’s face it, most men, un­less they are mewl­ing new­born wokelets, se­cretly think house­work is be­neath them.

most men, given a choice, would rather get some­one else to do it. Some­one who ac­tu­ally cares that there’s a nasty ac­cu­mu­la­tion of some­thing un­speak­able at the back of the fridge, or dust dev­ils swirling in the hall­way.

In other words, women. If they can af­ford it, a woman of the clean­ing lady va­ri­ety. Fail­ing that, a wife or girl­friend. In some cases, even their mother. And who do we have to blame for this? Why, our­selves, of course.

Be­cause when it comes to the con­tin­u­ing lack of in­equal­ity on the do­mes­tic front (re­cent fig­ures from the of­fice for na­tional Sta­tis­tics found that, even dur­ing lock­down, with more men at home, they still did on av­er­age an hour’s less house­work a day than their part­ners), we women are just as com­plicit in the con­spir­acy as men. And it’s to do with the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the sexes.

Thereis, I’m afraid, a rea­son the mrs Hinches of this world don’t tend to be hairy-chested blokes. men just don’t have the same stan­dards as women when it comes to mat­ters do­mes­tic.

I mean, of course there are no­table ex­cep­tions, but they are rare and pre­cious finds. most men just don’t care enough to make the ef­fort.

not least be­cause they know that, in the end, we’ll get fed up and do it for them. And we do. not be­cause we par­tic­u­larly want to, but be­cause we don’t want to sleep in dirty sheets, or have our feet stick to the kitchen floor, or wear clothes that smell of mildew.

nei­ther do men, of course. But they know that we care just that lit­tle bit more than they do. And that’s how they get us.

their tac­tics are sim­ple yet ef­fec­tive. they will hap­pily mop the floor if asked to — but they’ll do it so ap­pallingly in­ad­e­quately that you will be com­pelled to do it again.

of course they are happy to cook — but they will use ev­ery last pan, pot and uten­sil and cover ev­ery­thing in such a thick layer of grease that what might have been a night off turns into twice the work.

Is this a con­scious strat­egy? or is it just that they gen­uinely can’t see the dirt in the same way that we do?

If I were be­ing gen­er­ous, I’d say the lat­ter, but more of­ten th­ese days I think it’s the for­mer. ei­ther way, the net re­sult it that they wear us down. Be­fore you know it you’re tak­ing care of ev­ery­thing your­self just be­cause, well, it’s quicker and eas­ier.

the only way to break this cy­cle is, I’m afraid, tough love. You have to be pre­pared to let the wash­ing pile up, the cat hairs ac­cu­mu­late, the lay­ers of grease mul­ti­ply.

But how many of us are will­ing to live like the sink scene from With­nail And I? cer­tainly not me. Per­haps our best hope is for the next gen­er­a­tion. Dur­ing lock­down I have made it my mis­sion to in­volve my son in more do­mes­tic chores, in the hope that he will grow up into the sort of man who knows one end of a wash­ing line from the other.

I can’t say it’s been the eas­i­est of ex­pe­ri­ences. But he does at least now leave the bath­room the way he found it — which is more, quite frankly, that can be said for his sis­ter.


Dur­ing our 13 years to­gether, my ex- wife did most of the house­work. I saw ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with that. Af­ter all, it’s what I’d grown up wit­ness­ing my mother and grandma do.

It’s prob­a­bly why I thought my wife was an un­rea­son­able nag ev­ery time she’d re­mind me of ev­ery­thing she did around the house. my grandma and my mother didn’t com­plain like she did. OK, I didn’t do much but I did more than my fa­ther ever had. What was her prob­lem?

Yes, I’m ashamed to say, I re­ally did think like that.

my wife got pro­gres­sively more up­set with me. I’d leave a drink­ing glass by the sink in­stead of putting it in the dish­washer. She in­sisted that it mat­tered. I in­sisted that it didn’t. I was con­fused about how some­thing that seemed so petty to me could ac­tu­ally mat­ter so much to her.

I got pro­gres­sively more con­fused and de­fen­sive. then, one day, she packed a bag and our four-year- old son in the car and drove away for ever.

I thought she was a cruel and heart­less quit­ter who be­trayed me and our fam­ily and I cried more than I thought an adult man prob­a­bly should.

I started blog­ging about it in an ef­fort to work through

com­pli­cated thoughts and feel­ings. I never imag­ined any­one would read it or care. In 2016, af­ter a cou­ple of years of writ­ing, I pub­lished a blog post called ‘She Di­vorced Me Be­cause I Left Dishes By The Sink’. It went vi­ral and was shared mil­lions of times — which pro­pelled me from di­vorced in­ter­net blog­ger to ac­ci­den­tal selfhelp writer.

In that post I wrote about how the penny had dropped. On the sur­face, it was about the un­fair di­vi­sion of labour. In re­al­ity, it was about my lack of re­spect and care.

Man­ag­ing house­hold du­ties is a mas­sive in­vis­i­ble men­tal load that af­fects wives and moth­ers at a pro­foundly un­even rate. It’s ex­haust­ing when you’re the only one tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­mem­ber­ing ev­ery­thing. I com­fort­ably left my wife alone to worry about all of this stuff. I did what­ever I wanted, and waited for her to ask me to do things. This is what chil­dren, as im­ma­ture de­pen­dents, do to their par­ents. When adult part­ners do the same, we are break­ing our prom­ise to love, hon­our and serve our re­la­tion­ship. My not putting my used glasses in the dish­washer was tan­ta­mount to say­ing: ‘I don’t love you or care about you enough to do some­thing you think is im­por­tant.’ My ex-wife was hurt and be­trayed and it made her leave. And in my jour­ney to fig­ure out what went wrong, I came face to face with my­self and fi­nally fig­ured out who was re­spon­si­ble.

Af­ter I wrote my blog post, com­plete strangers con­tacted me to say that my story sounded eerily sim­i­lar to theirs.

Men wrote to tell me they in­stantly started do­ing the dishes and thanked me for sav­ing their mar­riage. Women wrote to thank me for prompt­ing im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions re­gard­ing the state of their re­la­tion­ships.

So, if your part­ner asks you to do a house­hold chore, just do it. It mat­ters to her and it should mat­ter to you, too. I learned that les­son the hard way.


BY RacheL JOhN­sON

JuST as no two eye­wit­nesses ever give iden­ti­cal ver­sions of a grue­some mur­der, so it is with house­work. My hus­band Ivo in­sists he punches well above his weight in the chore wars. In his mind, he did all the night feeds, changed all the nap­pies . . . and when I still over­hear him boast­ing about this decades later, I have to fight the urge to howl like a ban­shee.

No point. It’s a los­ing game. Even though I breast­fed three chil­dren till they were six months old, who am I to cor­rect him?

I would say that I did 80 per cent of the child­care and do 70 per cent of the do­mes­tic chores (and I am only say­ing 70 per cent in or­der to avoid a row).

Like Theresa and Philip May, we have slipped into a retro, 1950s di­vi­sion of labour, with boy jobs and girl jobs. He gets in the logs from the wood­shed. He does food shop­ping. He un­loads the dish­washer in a for­lorn man­ner, half ex­pect­ing a fan­fare that he knows will never come.

When our youngest, then aged six, once saw him suc­tion­ing some cob­webs with the hoover noz­zle, he burst into tears. ‘Daddy!’ he cried. ‘ Why are you do­ing Mummy’s work?’

Let the record state: like Tony Blair, Ivo has never put on a wash — in his case since 1992. He bun­dles his clothes into the wash­ing ma­chine, then stands there help­lessly, ask­ing: ‘What but­ton do I press?’, un­til I set it.

If left to his own de­vices, he would eat the same at ev­ery meal: frank­furters and salsa with jalapeno pep­pers. So I also do the cook­ing and, it has to be said, the clean­ing.

He may deny this but I don’t think clean­ing as a con­cept has ever struck him with any force. I have never seen him with a pair of Marigolds, squirt­ing Toi­let Duck, or mop­ping a floor, scour­ing the sink or de-gunk­ing the fridge.

There’s a rea­son for this. I gen­uinely mind about how tidy and clean the house is — and he doesn’t. His cleaner quit as soon as we got mar­ried, telling me: ‘Ivo is not my prob­lem now.’

I some­times won­der whether if I wasn’t here, he would live like a vagabond painter to the point where Chan­nel 4 might come call­ing to make a doc­u­men­tary called The Old Eto­nian Who Never Threw Any­thing Away.

But, how­ever much I may whine and grum­ble, I know it’s yin and yang — and I se­cretly wouldn’t have it any other way.



My HuS­BAND jokes with friends, ‘ Bel doesn’t know how to use the Dyson’ – and while it’s not strictly true, I don’t bri­dle.

What Robin re­ally means is that if I see dead flies on the car­pet of my pre­cious li­brary, a fes­toon of spi­der webs high in a corner, or (worse) the ev­i­dence else­where of one of our three dogs be­ing taken short, I come over all help­less and call out his name.

Our own cosy di­vi­sion of do­mes­tic labour means house­work is his very own.

Our lovely, and adored, cleaner Tina comes once a week, as she’s done for about 13 years, but dur­ing lock­down ( of course) she stayed away, on full pay, so I had a will­ing man to clean win­dows and floors.

My beloved Mr Prac­ti­cal doesn’t mind at all and even shoos me away from wash­ing pans and glasses be­cause he dis­likes my slap­dash ap­proach.

Robin is a per­fec­tion­ist as well as a mod­ern man. He thinks it per­fectly nat­u­ral that I’m the bread­win­ner while he keeps our whole life afloat — in­clud­ing pay­ing bills, car clean­ing, man­age­ment of work ac­counts, putting bins out and wash­ing on, and mend­ing ev­ery­thing from a bro­ken ear­ring to a storm- dam­aged fence. He is my rock. But in case you think me lazy, let me say cook­ing and iron­ing are

I gen­uinely en­joy iron­ing. Robin and I like to go food shop­ping to­gether, too, but dur­ing lock­down he went alone a few times ( be­ing younger, so not classed as vul­ner­a­ble) — only for this dif­fi­cult wife to look askance at his pur­chases.

My hus­band and I are equals, but it wouldn’t work if he thought I felt some­how ‘en­ti­tled’. No: I value his in­nu­mer­able prac­ti­cal skills as much as my own lit­er­ary ones, and re­spect those who, like him, are good at house­work.

My beloved grand­mother took im­mense pride in her own shin­ing brass and pol­ished fur­ni­ture — and I’ve in­her­ited her pride in home­mak­ing.

Be­fore univer­sity, I had a job as a kitchen as­sis­tant in a pri­vate school, lodg­ing rent-free with one of the teach­ers in ex­change for clean­ing her house.

So yes, I can do it. But why would I, when I have a won­der­ful man who knows I’m more use­fully em­ployed read­ing a book?

Work di­vide: Tony and Cherie Blair

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