I am a feminist. I am passionate about striving to achieve gender equality in our communities, politics and organisations. I want my daughters to grow up to reach their potential and not be disadvantaged or overlooked in any way due to being girls. So why can't I change a tyre on my car? And why don't I care?
I found myself thinking about this last week when I ended up on the other side of my local town with a flat tyre - waiting for my husband to come and rescue me. Afterwards, I found myself thinking why? I mean, I'm sure I could change a tyre if someone showed me how. I just have no interest in learning.
And it's not just tyre changes I leave to my husband. He also takes responsibility for the bins, lawn mowing, maintenance, finances, dog and cars; I manage the kitchen, laundry, cleaning and childcare. We do help each other out as necessary, but if he's in charge of the children all day this is accompanied by a detailed list of instructions and I have been known to wheel the bin to the end of our property on bin night - but only if he's away overnight. These are also our designated areas for organising extra domestic support, whether it be for the ironing, cleaning, childcare or a building job. Talking to friends in heterosexual relationships, they all have a similar split. And some couples are known to differentiate jobs into "blue" and "pink" categories. I know of only one girlfriend who is confidently capable and willing to change a tyre.
I prepare people (mostly mothers) that have taken an extended career break to relaunch their careers. One of the most emotive parts of our relaunch workshops is when we ask women to think about their domestic arrangements and how these will need to change to fit their new working life. We prompt our clients to have conversations with their partners and other family members about who does what around the house and the need to share out some of the tasks to create the space to have a job or run a business. Afterall, women continue to take on more than their fair share of domestic chores. These conversations can threaten the status quo and trigger a fear of change.
I've noticed that the more successful domestic changes have come about through careful negotiation. So we have started teaching returners how to negotiate and ask for what they want. Useful skills to have when re-entering the job market to counteract the under-paid and under-developed employment opportunities for women with a gap in their c.v..
In creating a long-lasting domestic partnership, it's important that each partner has defined roles and is valued. Whilst we are able to take on each other's responsibilities (even if a bit of nut unlocking would need to be learned) having a division of labour helps stable, happy households to continue and thrive. And I'm happy knowing that it is my husband's domain to deal with any tyres that need changing ... and if he's not around, I can call the lovely people at the AA.
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