It's a sign of our times that I feel required to start with a disclaimer, but here goes... For the sake of my family, my children's happiness and my own desire not to be chucked back into the cauldron of the singles market, I'd like to state for the record that I love my husband. A lot. Most of the time. OK, maybe every now and then. But I definitely love him most - and with a passion that's seismically surprising - on the rare occasions he cooks. Nothing reignites my heart faster than the sight of said husband slaving over a hot wok. And if he proceeds to wash the dishes, the limits of my ardour are endless. Alright - I won't push this too far... The thought of anyone's hubby pootling around with a tea-towel is enough to challenge our power to suspend disbelief. But you get my point. Husband doing domestic chore → increase of love from wife.
Ladies - stop me if I'm going out on a limb here, but was anyone else disappointed with the first few years of parenthood? It wasn't the sleepless nights, the obliteration of a social life, or the total loss of a waist that bothered me. It was the utter imbalance in the home-front workload it heralded. Sometimes I wonder if the glass ceiling we should be most worried about smashing is actually the ceiling at home - because the pane that lurks over the bedroom has nothing to do with salary or status...it's about who puts out the bins and worms the dog.
I'm a writer now and spend my days lumbering between playdates and bashing the keys of my computer. But back in my pre-kid world I had a proper job with challenges and responsibilities and a budget. I worked longer and harder than my partner, putting in twice as many hours and getting twice the promotions. I was used to working in an environment of equals, where the shape and colour of your pants was irrelevant as long as you endlessly thrust your nose to the grindstone. But that was ok, because my husband was a liberated guy and I knew that when I eventually staggered home, dinner would be waiting on the table. So I never expected what happened next.
Kids bring joy but an enormous To Do list. Ours arrived with a ceaseless tsunami of jobs. Suddenly life was an infinite treadmill of administering fluids and disposing of poo. When added to the normal list of jobs that come hand-in-hand with the daily survival of two grown adults and a house, the result was bedlam. It wasn't that my husband wouldn't do the chores; it was just that doing them didn't occur to him. Being a knuckle-down kind-of-girl, I didn't want to nag. Besides, wasn't it obvious that I was drowning in a sea of never-ending tasks, struggling to function on just a few hours' sleep? Didn't he get that I was working 20 hour days, hadn't read a book in ages and never had time for a bath? It was as if he couldn't actually see me scooping up lego and sponging Ribena from the carpet at 10.30pm as he channel-flicked over to Newsnight. But I, on the other hand, paused from my sponging, looked up at my husband and thought, eh?
And I wasn't alone. I know loads of women who were utterly miserable in the first few years of parenthood. Nobody admitted it at first; having a family's supposed to be fab - husbands adoring and supportive. But the truth is, having children is a slog. And at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and we are cursing into a large glass of alcoholic sedation as we graceless bang pans and make dinner, it's not the little herberts who piss us off most... it's the big herbert sat watching TV. OK, so deep down, we knew the lions' share of the parenting would probably fall to us, but we never expected to change ALL the nappies, do ALL the night feeds, as well as all the cooking, cleaning, ironing, gardening, plug-changing, fan belt-fixing and u-bend-unblocking. Wasn't Germaine Greer supposed to have sorted all that?
Don't get me wrong... I'm not anti-men. They're great to look at, and lovely to kiss. And for getting served fast in the pub, they're fantastic! Despite my moaning I really do love my husband, and I know that us women aren't perfect. But what I'm trying to say is this...Ladies, if you find an emancipated, domestically-equal, chore-embracing guy, hold on to him! Love him, cherish him and guard him with a fervour. It doesn't matter if he's got the face of a pug, the muscles of a bunny and the backside of two hairy spacehoppers. He's the domestic equivalent of Brad Pitt, and you, my friend, have hit relationship jackpot! (And he won't even need nagging to sweep up the shards of broken ceiling glass before bathing the kids and sticking on dinner!)
Alice Brown's Lessons In The Curious Art Of Dating by Eleanor Prescott is out now, published by Quercus.