Sunday, 11 July 2010

on housetraining boys

ACCORDING to today's papers, a 29-year-old man has held his mother hostage at gunpoint on the grounds that she wouldn't do his ironing. He didn't want to do his own, apparently, because 'it's woman's work'.
Only in America, obviously. But it did set me thinking. I doubt my son will grow up into a homicidal loon with overly high domestic expectations (not least because I don't even iron his stuff now). But I wonder about the attitudes our boys absorb towards housework.
A recent survey from the Children's Society suggested most teenage kids now do hardly any chores: three quarters of 11 to 16-year-olds have apparently not loaded a washing machine, something a supervised toddler can do. It's unclear whether both sexes were equally useless or boys did less than girls, but anecdotal evidence usually suggests the latter.
I used to be adamant my son wouldn't grow up assuming domestic stuff was women's work, for the sake of any poor future daughter-in-law: my generation may have battled in vain to convince our partners the fridge isn't restocked by pixies, but we could at least bequeath housetrained sons to the next generation.
Three years on, I'm not sure I succeeded. The small boy's love of machines means for a while nothing thrilled my son more than stuffing washing in the tumbledryer, but the older he gets - and the more interesting machines he discovers - the more interest has waned.
More worryingly, with a female childminder and a mother working part time from home, it's mostly women he sees doing domesticated things. I won't be doing his ironing when he's in his 20s. But I'm a bit worried his poor girlfriend might.


  1. This is incredible, what has the world come to? When a 29year old man will hold his own mother hostage at gunpoint over ironing!!!!
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  2. This is a serious issue I think because people often refer to our society as a 'post-feminist' one, which infuriates me because it is still women who are doing the vast majority of this stuff. Men still do not really believe that it is equally their responsibility - they don't - I don't care what anyone says.

    I am also trying to domesticate my boys which I am also finding a bit of an uphill struggle - in the end it's always easier just to do it yourself rather than spend half an hour arguing about why they should do their share - but of course then you feel guilty for perpetuating the status quo. Christ is there no end to this mother guilt!

  3. Things are no less complicated if you are raising girls. If you make the domestic tasks you feel that you are perpetuating the problem, and if you don't, you feel like you are raising spoiled princesses.

    There seem to be two philosophies when it comes to kids and chores. Make them, and bribe them.

    The "Make them" camp says "a family is a team and everybody should pull their weight". The downside of that is, as the commenter pointed above, that you end up having to argue a lot.

    The "Bribe them" camp says that exchanging privileges for chores trains kids for their future role in society. The downside of that is that you end up with work-to-rule kids that won't do anything without payment.

    It's a hard issue even before you throw the gender complications in.

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  5. I don't have to worry about my boy, his bedroom is military in neatness and he doesn't balk at ironing. It's the girl who's room is a tip and whose clothes are heaped in a pile. Until I pick them up and wash and iron them. Can't help myself.

    We've agreed at 16 she'll be responsible for her clothes. Let's see what happens then...suspect it'll be more of a challenge for me than her.

  6. When my son was at nursery, he was asked what his mum did (and dad presumably) and he told them I was a cleaner! That's what he'd seen me do I guess. Not that there's anything wrong with being a domestic engineer. But I vowed then that my children would see me as someone with interest and activities outside the home and that they would learn how to look after themselves. Now that they've seen their dad do the same domestic chores as me, as he's finished his current job and starts a whole new career in September, I'm hoping that will help too!

  7. Gappy you put your finger on it - I keep falling for the 'oh god it'd be quicker to just do it myself' thing. which is, of course, EXACTLY the thing grownup men rely on you saying to get out of housework. easy to see how it starts young....interesting what monzegirl says about seeing who does chores as well. suspect it's not just about what getting kids to do chores, it's about which of their parents are seen to do them (especially for boys modelling themselves on their fathers).

  8. 快樂與滿足的秘訣,就在全心全意投注於現在的每一分,每一秒上..................................................

  9. 人類的聰明,並非以經驗為依歸,而是以接受經驗的行程為依歸。..................................................