Letters

Is hiring a housekeeper the answer for the couple quarreling about division of labor in the home? The readers don't think so.


Salon Staff
November 18, 2003 1:33AM (UTC)

[Readers respond to "Since You Asked ..."]

I've gotta take issue with your advice to the guy who wants his wife to do more around the house because he makes a bunch more money.

Your advice was simply for him to hire a housekeeper. The problem with that solution is that the majority of the money going toward said housekeeper will be out of this guy's pocket. He gets that money from working long hours. He might as well work fewer hours and do the cleaning himself since he's going to be working either way.

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Men or women in a partnership have the right to expect that their mate will do their best to pull half of the weight created by their life together. If one person works fewer hours, and therefore makes less money, they have a responsibility to pick up the slack in other ways -- for instance, around the house.

What's not OK is for one person in the relationship to work fewer hours, and yet reap the benefits of the their mate's hard work then take umbrage when the person doing the supporting asks them to help with some of the domestic duties. This isn't about men vs. women, or trying to stuff one's partner into some box o' domesticity, it's about fairness.

-- Luke

Good God, is Cary Tennis serious? So this princess works 20-25 hours and her husband slaves 65-75 hours, and she expects him to do half the domestic chores, and he doesn't even nag her for NOT doing her share; he's merely begging to be excused from some of them -- to let them slide because he doesn't have the time or energy. Tennis' advice is to hire a housekeeper FOR HER? The question Tennis seems blind to: What does she do with the other 50 hours? The idiot husband doesn't even express resentment for the life of leisure his wife leads at his expense. She slides through life on the pools of his sweat. Sane advice: The husband should stop being a chump. They don't have kids. Find a better woman. One who understands that partnership and liberation are (or should be) the same.

-- Sam Moses

I am staggered that an advice columnist would address a common marital issue that is obviously causing a lot of stress by telling the writer to "hire a housekeeper." When I read the letter, I worried that my husband had gone online to seek advice, as our situation is remarkably similar to the one described by Probably Misguided. This question of household work and division of labor must be incredibly common with two-job households, and for Mr. Tennis to make no attempt whatsoever to reply in a thoughtful way would only be appropriate if the column were titled "A Supercilious Relic of Old Money Mocks Modern Problems."

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What about people who do not make enough money to afford a housekeeper? What about people who feel that there is something ethically questionable about hiring a housekeeper, as it is low-paid, low-status, physically ruinous work that leaves the (usually female) housekeeper too tired after work to try to attend a too expensive night school.

That is the last time I will even glance at his column, unless he tries to come up with a serious and sincere answer, that does not involve hiring others. If the letter had been about people trying to figure out sexual responibilities in a relationship, would he advise hiring a (insert brand of kinky theory) sex worker?

-- Alexandra Henshel

I think you gave "What's fair?" short shrift. Basically, it looks like on the surface that his wife is being blatantly unfair and there's got to be a reason why. The guy says he works 9-9 during the week and then works on the weekends. You really should have told him to talk to his wife about how she really feels about never seeing him, whether he seems married to his job and not her, etc. Or maybe she feels inadequate because she can't contribute her fair share to the bank account. In any case, it looks a lot like her refusal to pull a disproportionate share of the housework, given his disproportionate share of the office work, is a passive aggressive acting out of something. He should find out what it is.

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-- Alexandra HenshelGregg Rosenberg

Doesn't it concern you a bit that this wife would rather have her spouse come home exhausted and devote his spare time to chores, instead of being willing to bend her "principles" a bit and pick up some of the responsibility so they can actually relax together? A housekeeper is not going to solve a basic unwillingness to work for a common good.

-- Laurie Zelesnikar

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This issue has absolutely nothing to do with sexual equality. My husband and I have the same situation, but reversed. I'm the one who works the longer hours, makes more money, etc. We have the same argument, and came to the same conclusion that Cary suggests -- we're hiring a housekeeper. Case closed!

-- Melissa

I have enjoyed your column for some time now. But your last bit of advice to the man working overtime about his nitpicky wife ... well ... you're an idiot. And I mean that in the absolute most respectful way.

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I recently left a relationship over the same dispute. I was working 50 hours a week, supporting my boyfriend and going to school full-time. He was sometimes working, sometimes unemployed, always expecting me to clean the house when I got home.

I'm so very sick of this new over-the-top fairness crap. Feminism has gone too far. If he asks his wife to do more housework because she's home more, he's a misogynistic bastard who is trying to enslave his woman. But when I asked my boyfriend to do more housework, I was a liberated woman who wasn't willing to take any crap. I fear for the day that this woman breeds. What will she do? Leave the baby to sit in a filthy diaper until hubby comes home, because she's already changed her quota of diapers for the day? This woman needs to grow up and get a clue.

-- Michelle

"She says that I chose a job that demands so much of my time, and if I can't find time to pull my fair share, perhaps I need to change jobs. My response to that ranges from 'if I were to change jobs to one that required less hours, we would likely see a dramatic decrease in our standard of living' to 'maybe if you pulled your fair share paying the rent and bills, I wouldn't have to stay in such a time-consuming job.' At this point she either leaves the room for a few minutes or the house for a few hours. "

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My advice to hubby: Next time she leaves the house, change the locks. Whining about housework is a female thing. No guy should put up with it. If he needs sex, he can hire a hooker.

-- Steve L.

Although your answer of "hire a maid" is correct, you were awfully easy on the wife in this letter. The answer to the letter writer's question "is it unreasonable for the person working less hours outside the home to pick up the slack inside the home?" is No! What a bitch this woman is to expect him not only to support her financially (primarily), but also to do an equal amount around the house too. I've seen plenty of these women and believe me they don't know how good they have it. It hardly seems fair for a man to work 9-9 and then have to work at home all weekend too. The whole psychodrama is usually a power and insecurity issue. The women are usually involved in their own internal insecurity battle because they are worried they will be taken for granted. They should get over it! If they LOVE their husband, let him off the hook a little if he is working the most hours. LOVE ought to enable them to do things for their family. I would also suspect she is punishing him (by expecting him to do so much) so that he WILL work less and thus be home more often. But from his point of view, why should he come home more often if it just means more chores? Might as well go do the chores (work) where he gets paid for it.

By the way, I say this as a middle-aged, feminist-leaning (i.e., the EEO kind, not the femi-nazi kind of feminist), widowed, full-time working single parent. Those kind of women make me sick! They bitch about how little their husbands do when they have basically a free ride (sure I'm jealous). And believe me, they are usually "too busy" to do their share in their children's school too. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

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-- Kathy Buck

Today's writer says: "She has a job that she enjoys a lot more than I enjoy mine." Aha! Another Eureka moment.

Along with hiring a cleaning crew, I would strongly recommend that today's correspondent FIND A JOB HE LIKES A LOT BETTER.

That should also help the situation.

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-- Michele Horaney


Salon Staff

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