HOW many batteries does the average family get through? Judging by how often a toy is yanked from its box only to find it's missing four AAs, probably a fair few. But not ten a week. Which is the number of lunchboxes a two-child family consumes between Monday and Friday.
The comparison is illuminating because according to this survey of 3,000 couples, battery changing is a daddy job in most homes and lunchbox-packing a mummy job. Other stuff couples apparently think is dad's responsibility includes teaching children to ride their bikes, playing sports, disiplining children: mothers, meanwhile are washing, ironing, doing the school run. Look at that list and watch the last 40 years melt away like it never happened: there is little on either that the average Seventies dad, in all his unreconstructed glory, or Seventies housewife wouldn't have done.
This list puzzles me, because we all know families who aren't like that (plenty of them read and comment on this blog). Perhaps all the families in which daddy makes the sandwiches while mummy is out addressing the United Nations were just too busy to do the questionnaire. Perhaps fathers aren't quite comfortable admitting to doing what was traditionally women's work.
But these findings suggest that at least in some families, social change hasn't run very deep at all. Men do more of the 'hero' jobs - fix the beloved toy when it breaks, to a chorus of adulation - and women more of the 'taken for granted' ones. Men take care of the one-off or infrequent tasks - building a treehouse, anyone? - and women the chores that get done several times a day, like cooking. (Interestingly, cleaning isn't on either sex's list: are they nobly scrubbing the loo together, or delegating to the au pair?)
Both sexes end up with an equally long list of chores, which might look fair, but they're not putting in an equal number of hours. Yet seven in ten mothers apparently thought this was a fair deal: why?
One reason could be that mothers are more likely than fathers to work part-time or not work, so might think it's reasonable for them to do more of the so-called 'second shift' at home. But if so, that raises an interesting chicken and egg question. Which comes first: women's desire to spend less time in the office (leading them to do more at home) or women's getting lumbered with more at home (leaving them too knackered to work long hours)?