Who takes responsibility for…

posted Monday, June 7th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Who takes responsibility for household and childcare tasks where you live? My qualitative interviews with over 20 mothers in South-East Queensland (so keep in mind a quite small sample) says it is primarily them, not their partner. Some women took almost full responsibility for anything related to the household – bills, shopping, cleaning, cooking  (except mowing/bins) and childcare – appointments, activities, and care of children while other households showed much greater degree of sharing. But when it came to responsibility for the tasks, even when men did them, the responsibility for doing them  seemed to often fall on women’s shoulders. By responsibility for tasks - it means  you are the organiser and the one who either does it or makes sure it gets done.

Here’s a small example from our household. Possum has recently started taking piano lessons. It’s only 1/2 an hour, 1 afternoon per week. Doesn’t sound like much of a time burden, and I acknowledge she is really privileged to be able to partake as her grandparents have helped to pay.  But the work by me to organise this weekly activity included searching around for an appropriate teacher by talking to other parents and following up a lead to a music teacher I met a few years ago. Emailing and ringing  that  teacher. Checking schedules to see where piano lessons would best fit in to our week. Driving her there, buying the workbook and other materials, talking with the teacher, getting payment details. Waiting until the lesson was finished, driving her home. Finding someone in our neighbourhood who had a piano she could practice on, doing her flashcard homework with her, taking her to the neighbour’s house for practice. Scouting out where to buy or borrow a piano…etc you get the drift.  I call this ‘responsibility for’. Last week, Mr G, Possum’s dear dad, took her to her piano lesson, which was great as I had a meeting at uni. He forgot the workbook, flashcards & cd, but he got her to the lesson on time. But did he take responsibility for the activity? Jury is still out.

So why is responsibility for important? Well it seems to be a  contributing factor to feelings of time pressure, stress and work-family imbalance .

I would love to hear your experiences of ‘responsibility for’ … It’s another potentially  important dimension of WoLFi.

2 Responses to “Who takes responsibility for…”

  1. Whenever I read these types of posts I always think “Yes! That’s me I take all the responsibility!” Which is both true and not true. I am responsible for the day to day running of the family, which is a situation largely of my own making I think, although hubby didn’t fight it. (We are cis/hetero nuclear with a boy and girl child).

    He does a lot of the outside work which I don’t wish to do and also does pest disposal (of rabbits mainly because although they are a feral pest I don’t have the heart for it [often the cats injure them when they catch them]). He is also responsible for bringing in the main income which allows us to enjoy the lifestyle we do, which is a pretty major responsibility in itself. We could live on my wage if he didn’t or was unable to work, but it would be a big shock to the system.

    Housework wise, I swear he just doesn’t see the mess the same way I do. He can proudly tell me that he’s cleaned up, and I can see where he’s been, but still spend an hour or so putting things away, wiping that down, putting that back etc. I think that’s just me though and how I like things. We could live perfectly comfortably with the standard he cleans to, I just don’t want to.

    I also leave reminders when I am away from home – pack the lunches, feed the animals, clean children’s teeth, make sure you have the kids bags for preschool and school. Not because he’s likely to forget all of it, just if you forget one of those things it’s a real pain in the neck to go back.

    Really, I think I take primary responsibility for a lot of things because I want to make sure it gets done how I want it. It can be frustrating at times when he could feed the cats but doesn’t notice that the food bowl is empty but will do it if I ask him to. I suspect that I have brought this on myself by always doing it so he didn’t have to think about it. I have stopped ironing his shirts though. Even if he has run out of ironed shirts he has to get out the ironing board and do one before he goes to work.

    (sorry for the long comment)

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