|Pic credit: the Italia voice|
So, when an email landed in my inbox this week listing toys that can aid development at this age, I was quite chuffed to see it's now a good idea to buy mini household items to make him feel as if he's helping. So off I go to amazon and find...
Yes, you've guessed it - a pink dustpan and brush set with the word 'girls' in the title.
To be honest, I'm so used to seeing this kind of stuff now, I can't even be bothered to get angry. If I did, buying clothes for him would put me on blood pressure tablets. But, just to reiterate, I don't see why this toy can't be unisex. Much as I loathe the pink for girls/blue for boys separation, I found a blue dustpan and brush set and was relieved, even if it didn't have 'boys' in the title. Why? Because the Wollstonecraft I've read has stayed with me and I think anything that will get young boys into the habit of helping out from an early age is a good thing. I don't want my son to ever consider housework solely as a woman's job. And, in terms of shaping the future, the marketing of the pink dustpan and brush set is a pretty big deal. The lot of women really needs to improve.
Apparently eight out 10 married women currently do more household chores than their partner while just one in 10 married men does an equal amount of cleaning and washing as his wife. Speculation about the high divorce rate never seems to take this into account. It's not just a trivial bit of data. I cannot tell you the number of times friends have moaned to me about their partners, sometimes on the verge of tears. And I'll never forget a conversation I overheard at the gym once between two 60-something women, both planning to file for divorce because their husbands had retired, yet they were still doing the bulk of the work at home.
However, it may not just be laziness. In her book Half A Wife, Gaby Hinsliff talks about how, for women, housework tends to be emotionally loaded in a way which isn't true for men. For men, the washing-up needs doing. For women, the washing-up needs doing because the house needs to be a home. Doing the washing-up isn't cleaning dishes. It's an act of love for the family. Hence the frustration when the man doesn't exhibit the same love. There is some truth in this I think. Also, I think we're looking at a failure of feminism to recognise that maintaining a home is of itself a job which takes up time. Who's meant to do this stuff if no one's in? If women are out at work too, then surely men and women both need to do less hours to cover all bases so we don't all have nervous breakdowns? I read a brilliant forum post on Mumsnet this week where a woman said how she wanted to scream each time someone told her to leave the housework. Until tomorrow? Until the housework fairy came? She had a point.
Our generation of women has it tough I think. We're on the frontline of cuts and we're not helped by feeble paternity leave and an awful childcare situation. Wollstonecraft believed that the home was a place of education - where future generations could be shaped in terms of how they view gender and that this could have enormous consequences. Which is why I'm all for doily-dusting. And never buying a toy from the firm marketing the pink dustpan and brush.