Opinion: Why men should do less housework – not more
The other day I read about a fascinating study. Apparently, husbands who refuse to do any housework, and heartlessly leave it all to their wives, tend to earn higher salaries than those who do their fair share.
Dr Brittany Solomon, of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, offered a simple explanation. Men who won’t do housework, she said, “are more self-interested”, which “allows for greater job involvement and, ultimately, higher pay”.
Naturally many people will be appalled. They will conclude that society remains shamefully sexist. And they will express disgust that husbands who shirk their duties in the home are, in effect, rewarded for it.
As a husband myself, however, I would venture to draw a different conclusion. The clear logic of these findings, it seems to me, is that all wives should urgently encourage their husbands to do less housework, for the good of the household finances.
It may sound unfair. Yet the lesson of the study is inescapable. The lazier the husband, the more he earns. And everyone in the household can benefit from that. Bigger TV, flashier car, more expensive presents at Christmas. Better holidays, too, assuming that we’re ever permitted to go on them again.
To date, this landmark investigation does not appear to have received the public attention it deserves. Once word has spread, however, it would not surprise me if practical, hard-headed wives across Britain start taking a very different attitude to the running of the home. Instead of scolding their husbands for not doing enough around the house, they will scold them for doing too much.
“Get on your fat, lazy backside, and stop emptying that dishwasher!” they will snap. “And after you’ve finished not doing that, make sure you don’t cut the grass! And for pity’s sake, remember not to put up those shelves in the spare room!”
Terrified husbands will tremble on the sofa, hardly daring to bin their empty beer cans for fear of rebuke. They can only pray that a handsome pay rise will swiftly follow, so that harmony can be restored.
Admittedly, some wives may harbour suspicions about the findings of this study. After all, there must be exceptions to the rule. For example, what about husbands who already do no housework, yet earn very little?
It’s a good question. But I suppose a low-earning husband could logically argue that, if he were doing housework, he’d be earning even less. So making him do housework would entail a level of financial risk that his family cannot afford to contemplate. In short, therefore, he must be left to lounge in front of the football in peace, or penury beckons.
Of course, plenty of husbands manage to do their share of the housework while still earning good money. Take Philip May, husband of Theresa. During the election campaign of 2017, the couple told The One Show that they divided the chores into “boys’ jobs” and “girls’ jobs”. Philip May, for example, would take out the bins.
As he held a senior position in the financial sector, we can be certain that, despite these domestic exertions, he continued to draw an enviable salary. But in light of this new study, it’s hard to help wondering whether, had he not taken out the bins, he might have earned even more.
Would his wife have minded taking out the bins for him? Possibly not. At the time, after all, she was stuck in a miserable, lower-paid job which she never seemed to enjoy, so household chores might actually have come as a welcome relief to her. Taking out the bins is surely far more pleasurable than listening to Mark Francois bellow about Brexit.
Critics will argue that we should end this domestic inequality. According to a recent study in Ireland, it starts in childhood. Girls help out with chores far more than boys do.
It would certainly be fairer to make boys pull their weight. But after hearing about the study from America, parents may well hesitate. What if their son’s belching, nose-picking indolence heralds a future of lavish wealth? What if that mound of unwashed socks, that overflowing bedroom bin, that long-forgotten bowl of rancid Frosties foretell career success beyond the family’s wildest dreams?
Beneath that shiftless, reeking exterior may lurk the next Musk or Zuckerberg. So forcing the boy to do his own washing could ultimately cause untold damage to the economy. Not to mention the washing machine.
It’s possible that some readers will think my argument both revoltingly chauvinistic and nakedly self-serving. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. My motivation is entirely noble.
I want only the very best for my family: the nicest house, the finest luxuries. To that end, we shall need more money. And if that requires me to put my feet up this weekend and duck out of scrubbing the bath, then that is a sacrifice I am prepared to make.
I’m just going to suggest it to my wife. I’m sure she’ll be very understanding.
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