• Beg your women's forgiveness and up you get. (Getty Images )
Consider this a warning to men. So men, dear men, the writing is on the wall.
By
Gretchen Miller

16 Feb 2018 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2018 - 3:39 PM

As we circle 50, my friends are still gorgeous of spirit, intelligent, kind, creative and clever, with no blue rinse in sight. We’re reaping rewards for the discipline of our careers.

But there’s this thing that washes into our conversations like a wave, to and fro and ever present.

What could it be?

Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just housework.

It’s just everything. It’s the housework.*

It’s an overwhelming morass of stuff to wash up, pick up, tidy up, cook up, wash up, dust, iron, and wash up again. It’s a tidal wave engulfing, and the lifesaver with the heart of gold has vanished. He’s busy, you see.

The lifesaver with the heart of gold has vanished. He’s busy, you see.

There are many socio-political articles laden with statistics and analysis of the power of the patriarchy, about the history of women’s unpaid emotional and physical labour. But what I want to talk about here is despair - a profound sadness that crushes the soul.

It’s a despair that drowns,  that says, ‘I’m getting older, and I just can’t do this anymore’, ‘I’m too tired’ and, increasingly, ‘I’m too angry’.

Relationships that have brought up children are floundering. Contempt has entered the scene.

This is a gendered conversation. Queer families have different stories and I don’t have enough evidence or personal experience to make even qualitative observations.

It’s a despair that drowns,  that says, ‘I’m getting older, and I just can’t do this anymore’, ‘I’m too tired’ and, increasingly, ‘I’m too angry’.

So, keeping it straight, what I see in my friends,and what my friends see in their friends, and what the thousands of professional women on chat groups I’m in see, is the looming end of these 10-, 20-, 30-year relationships.

Initially the relationships were heady with sex and love and romance and the generosity that came free. Then the beloved kids arrived and the women, on the whole, dived into caring for them.

They were home so they also did the tidying, shopping and cooking - the endless picking up after children. Their careers paused, they took them up again.

But what set in when the kids were little or when they were too love-struck to notice became habit.

The begging for help had started then, the women, raw with exhaustion, cranky and snappy, could be dismissed as overtired and unreasonable.

The begging for help had started then, the women, raw with exhaustion, cranky and snappy, could be dismissed as overtired and unreasonable. A little bit of help and that would quiet things for a bit. Then the slippage returned.

And now the husbands and partners are busy. They're pursuing academic or musical or spiritual enlightenment, the surf or the golf or the drinks down at the pub.

It’s often unpaid but it’s their ‘time out’. They're not home to be companions or to help and when they are and they’re asked for the 25th year in a row to start sharing the load, they pout and sulk or get mean and argumentative.

Yes, even the nice guys are blind to this.

So what I see now is middle-aged women in tears, the sex without charm, the connection estranged.

The nagging they hate has driven the intimacy from their partnership. The contempt flows both ways - she’s a nagging witch, he’s a selfish bastard.

The women tell the story of the kids who follow the father’s footsteps and speak of the rows they have, but then they make excuses.

It’s they who want clean sheets and a floor they can walk on without sticking to it, so it must be their job to sort it out.

They’re ashamed and I’m at a loss as I don’t know what to say.

I offer suggestions but then the excuses come faster, as their eyes get sadder. It’s not possible to change this. They know it. They don’t like their fellas anymore - they stay because of kids and because they’re too tired to leave.

What they want is the men to model decency and to share the burden and companionship.

What they want is the men to model decency and to share the burden and companionship, but it’s become too late, they’ve lost the love and the kids are nearly grown.

So men. Dear men. Do look at the writing on the wall.

You might have to drop some stuff to give your partner some time. You might have to realise that self improvement starts at home. You might have to make a list and then stick to what you promise to do - daily.

You might have to change - profoundly.

And you have minus ten years to get moving. You have missed most of the waves. You’re in the wash. You’re about to have your life turned upside down, not to mention have to do all of it for yourself as you grow older and somewhat less charming. So, beg your women’s forgiveness and up you get.

Start now and do it good.

*#notallmen. #notmyman and #notmyson, and maybe not you, or your husband. But #mostmen.

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