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The House Dad Chronicles: Why Ironing Really Is Women's Work!

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
The House Dad Chronicles: Why ironing really is women's work!

When I became a reluctant house dad two years ago after being made redundant I was determined to earn my keep in domestic labour terms, if not financial.

One of the chores I took on was the ironing. This was unfamiliar territory to me. In my single days (sighs, wistfully!), I'd keep my jeans under the mattress and the only times I'd lift an iron was to press the front of my shirt and cover the rest of the crumpled mess with a suit for work.

When I wasn't at work I'd look – as my very eloquent dad used to describe me – like a 'bag of s*** tied up'. But I didn't care. I figured if any woman was ever going to be attracted to me, it would take a lot more than a run over my attire with a Phillips Steam to win them round.

But being out of work changed all that. I needed a purpose; I need to feel useful. And so, in between job-hunting and school runs and loading and emptying dishwashers, I was determined to become the best ironer the male of the species had ever seen. Not the grandest ambition, I grant you.

I set about learning the dark arts of the steam 'n press with a gusto I'd once brought to my job as a publishing executive.

I mastered a shirt in less than a minute (do the yoke first, or maybe last, I can't remember), so I moved on to sheets and pillowcases. Easy as pie. And then my three children's underwear (a cinch – just pile them high, turn the iron to full steam, then press down with all your body weight).

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For this devotion to the ironing cause, I was ridiculed. Tweeters and commenters on my blog threatened to send round the men in white coats. I was even interviewed on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, such was my passion for all things pressed.

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And not only that, I was bucking a trend. According to research by Philips PerfectCare, in four out of five British households, all the ironing is done by mums – ironing for a total of four months of their lives and getting through an ironing pile the height of four London Shards.

The survey of more than 1,000 mums revealed that 39 per cent of dads had never spent any time ironing (lucky so-and-so's). And only three per cent of teenagers helped out with the dreaded chore.

Gemma McHenry, from Philips PerfectCare, said: "There is a huge pressure on women of all ages to make sure they and their families look the part – it's a sign of whether they are coping or not. Creased shirts are not an option and therefore these women find themselves constantly at the ironing board."

The key phrase here is 'pressure..to make sure they and their families look the part'.

Because as much as I took great pride in my ironing panache in the early days, as the weeks and months went by, I started to take short cuts. Laziness crept in. I'd cram underpants into drawers, hoping my wife wouldn't notice.

And for a while, she didn't, until I started to singe her chiffon shirts and rub her pleated skirts up the wrong way.

Then one Saturday, after taking my kids out for the morning, I returned home to find my wife in front of the ironing board, brandishing the appliance.

The radio was playing in the background and she had a smile on her face.

"What the...?" I exclaimed. "Th-that's my job," I added.

"Oh don't worry. I thought you could do with a break from it," my wife replied.

And then, after a mini-Spanish Inquisition, she finally confessed that my ironing wasn't up to her standards. Over the weeks and months, she'd seen my ironing passion dim and my creases increase.

She didn't quite use the phrase my dad had used, but she implied that both she and our three children had started to look like sacks over overflowing manure.

What's a house dad to do? Protest that she was letting down the cause of feminism and that she was her only worst enemy by voluntarily tying herself to the ironing yoke?

Or just let her get on with it and use the extra time for a pint and the football at my local pub?

Hmmm, dilemmas, dilemmas. Cheers!

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