I read an article a couple of months ago, about how men still take on the lion’s share of DIY tasks, and women are still in charge of domestic chores. (On a side note, isn’t DIY a domestic chore because it happens in the home?) I’m conscious that things at home have a great impact on young children, and this includes the division of labour between parents.
In our house, I like to think things are sort of equal, although they may have been a bit more equal before we became parents. Aside from the typically sexist division of laundry and bins, I think we’re pretty fair. I tend to keep upstairs today, and together we keep downstairs clean. Laurie cleans the kitchen every night while I put Ebony to bed, and though she can’t see him doing it, I make sure I always tell her what he’s doing.
I think it’s important that children see equality from a young age, and this means it’s important to each take on chores and jobs around the house. Well, that’s my excuse at least. Ebony knows that Laurie goes out each day to work, but she also knows that I work from home. I don’t want to fall into the trap of making certain things seem like female jobs, which is difficult when I am at home all the time. There are people who believe that simply by staying home with Ebony, I am setting her up for a life of believing a woman’s place in the home. I hope not, I want her to believe she can be and do whatever she likes. My mum stayed home when we were little, and worked around us, as I do with Ebony, and I can’t say whether this affected my decision not to return to work when my maternity leave ended. I can say that I enjoyed having my mum around so much when I was little, and that I feel lucky she was able to be there to take me on adventures every day.
I think my parents’ roles were split in a more traditional way than ours, my mum seemed to take on most of the cleaning, but my dad was always fixing things or doing DIY. The smell of sawdust always reminds me of my childhood, because my dad would often be sewing wood, hammering nails and generally turning the house into a workshop. I’m guilty of relying on my dad for DIY to this date. He’s always round at our house, pulling floorboards up, fixing the boiler or gluing things back together.
After reading the article about how three quarters of men still take on most of the DIY, I decided it was high time I set a good example for Ebony. I decided to put up some spice racks because our kitchen is tiny and cupboard space is at a premium. I bought some plain racks from Ikea, and put them together as soon as we get home. Then we went out to Homebase to buy some primer and paint, because I wanted the spice racks to be white. It took a couple of coats to get the right finish, and during this time I probably taught Ebony that spray painting indoors is a terrible idea, spray painting without putting protective coverings down is a bad idea, and spray painting in your new jeans can only end in tears. After these invaluable lessons had been learnt, it was time to put the shelves up.
I was perched on the kitchen surface, next to a tool box and electric drill, as Ebony looked on from the kitchen floor. I would like to report that she looked on in amazement as I confidently put the spice rack up and talked her through the process. In fact, she was preoccupied playing with spices and wasn’t paying much attention to me. Which is probably for the best, since I was mostly either on the phone to my dad, or staring dumbly at the drill.
By some miracle, the spice racks went up and were (sort of) both level (ish) and (almost) aligned. I’m not sure that Ebony learnt much about feminism, but she definitely learnt that if you keep saying “Mummmmy? Mummmmyyyy? Mummy?” while I am holding a large power drill into the wall, I will cry.
The next job is the laminate flooring, but I’ll probably do that on a day when my dad is round, just in case he wants to help.