Husbands and Housework – An Intercultural Perspective

A few years back, a study in America which concluded something very interesting about which men help their wives more, and if so, how much. Essentially, it said that the main determinant was dependent upon how much the man’s friends help their own wives.

Reading this conclusion was a light bulb moment for me living in North Africa, and being married to a local man.  I then realized that many aspects of my husband’s behavior seemed to follow this same indicator.

As regards housework, when we lived in America, my husband did help, including doing dishes (which he had never done before), running the vacuum, or helping out with chores when I asked.  However, when we moved back to North Africa, his idea was to never lift a finger again–and especially not to be SEEN BY OTHERS to be doing any sort of housework.  His solution was to hire a full-time maid.

Having a maid is not all it is cracked up to be.  It can be helpful if the maid is dedicated to her job, but in most cases, maids need to be trained extensively and supervised constantly.  In my experience, only 20% of maids are able to work well and independently without constant supervision.  We had about four good maids in 25 years, and the rest were mostly disasters.  Before many women here had an education, many intelligent women were maids.  Now, with women who are intelligent enough to stay in school, the women who become maids are near the bottom of the barrel in dedication, or intelligence.

Our most recent maid was here for three years, and was still not able/willing to learn to prepare an adequate meal (with much help and training), would not clean adequately, lied about things, stole small items continuously (yes we talked to her about it many times), and took advantage of us in many ways.  Finally, my husband decided to fire her when the last straw was that over a period of a year, she began refusing more and more parts of her regular job.

In our case, due to my becoming disabled with severe mobility issues, I am no longer able to do cleaning, laundry, dishes, or cooking on a gas stove (I am still able to work from home several hours a day at a desk and with clients).  This has been the case for the past three years, and will continue to be the case in the future.

So this time, by firing the maid, the result was all of the housework fell upon my husband.  He works full time, and was mostly used to never lifting a finger.  (Of course most women are working full time and normally spend two or three hours a night doing chores around the home daily, in addition to their job.)

My husband has picked up some the slack, pretty minimally, but I mostly try to just say, “Thank you,” and keep my mouth shut (and nor does he want any of my suggestions). The house standards have now fallen quite low, but he does manage to cook about three meals a week.  He washes the clothes and hangs them outside on the line a couple times a week.  He vacuums every ten days or two weeks, and partially cleans the bathrooms a couple times a month.  He waters the garden (he has gardeners come once a month).  He cleans the cat boxes a couple times a week and now takes out the trash daily.  Beds were  changed after five months (never had to endure this before in my life).

Doing some of this work, I do think is important for him.  Even if we hire another maid in the future, this time, HE will have to train and supervise her.  When one has never done the work, it’s difficult to appreciate others’ work.  Before, he had no understanding of what was involved.

It’s good for all of us to learn new things, especially when they help us to be more competent in our own lives.

–Lynne Diligent

One Response to “Husbands and Housework – An Intercultural Perspective”

  1. Jim Jansson Says:

    I work extensively around the house and am not aware whether or not my friends do likewise, The topic just never comes. However, I can see in some societies, apparently so in North Africa, that there must be a real social pressure exerted on husbands not to work on household chores.

    Like

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