MY husband and I are a thoroughly modern couple. He cooks, I bring home the bacon (in the figurative sense, of course).
I also cook and he also brings home the bacon (still in the figurative sense). Heck, my hubby even makes a mean challa.
Yes, when my husband is the one producing Shabbat dinner with a flourish, there is no place for sexist attitudes in our household.
And yet we still have a clear gender division over the way many aspects of our household are run. And we are not alone.
We have many friends who practise varying degrees of egalitarianism, including more than a handful in which the hubby is the main cook and bottlewasher, yet there are some chores whose gender segregation is still as ingrained in 2017 as they were in the 1950s.
Take for example, driving. I can drive. Fairly competently. In fact, my job means I am no stranger to driving long distances, to motorway driving and to handling treacherous road conditions.
Yet whenever we go out socially, my husband always takes the driving seat. And I am happy with that. In fact, 99 per cent of the couples I know at 99 per cent of the functions and dinner parties I attend, have men in the driving seat.
And I must add that while my female friends might moan about hubby not doing enough household chores, I have never heard any of them complain that he always insists on driving.
Most of us seem content to let them. Even to beg them to drive if necessary. If men are always in the driving seat, women are always the social secretary.
That’s just the way it is. Men will never make the phone calls or even send the texts to invite other couples to an evening at home.
Men won’t accept invitations, referring all such offers to the “social secretary”. They certainly would never dream of organising playdates for their kids.
Yet this reluctance to arrange get-togethers does not extend to the workplace, where they seem perfectly capable of getting colleagues or clients together in the right place and the right time. But a social event? Speak to the missus.
There are other jobs that men never do. They might vacuum, load the dishwasher and do the weekly shop, but it’s invariably Mum who takes the kids to the doctor or dentist.
Recently, a hospital consultant caused a national furore when he praised a father in a letter for “manfully” stepping in to take his child to hospital when the mother was unwell.
He was accused of all manner of sexism, but the truth is that it is usually the Mum who “womanfully” deals with the kids’ medical appointments.
But there are equally some jobs that women don’t do. We don’t empty the bins. And we don’t deal with spiders. I am quite sure that if there is no man around, women do deal with these chores perfectly ably (“womanfully”?), but if there is a bloke within reach, then that is their job.
Many men do cook now, but their efforts are regarded as Herculean by many guests. My husband can produce a perfectly nice lasagne for a dinner party, but when he does so he is regarded with the same awe as we might bestow on a doctor who has single-handedly discovered the cure for cancer.
The women coo over it as if it’s a newborn baby, peppering hubby with expressions of such admiration that you might imagine he actually invented the recipe.
“Oooh, you are so clever” and “how do you find the time?” they flutter. Yet when I produce a perfectly passable sticky toffee pudding, there are no expressions of amazement, no queries as to how I managed such a feat and no comments on my exceptional wifely virtues.
There are other gendered jobs. Need a lightbulb changing? Usually the job of the bloke. Putting oil in the car or air into tyres — also man’s work. As is mowing the lawn and washing the car.
But men don’t do the less “visible” stuff. The cleaning, sorting the laundry, picking up the toys at the end of the day. Ironing, too — I have yet to meet a man who does the family ironing (though they may iron their own shirts if need be).
Men also don’t do family packing, whether that be the kids’ clothes for the family holiday or their bags for school the next day.
That’s invariably women’s work. In fact, most of the day-to-day kids’ stuff is women’s work; liaising with school or nursery, filling in letters about school trips, sending kids in with the required accoutrements for various themed days — all Mum’s work.
So why, when both genders are clearly capable of doing it all (as demonstrated by the many people who function perfectly well without a partner), do we still have this stubborn gender division when it comes to household chores?
I shall try, womanfully, to come up with an answer to that conundrum.