The Ultimate Romance Deterrent

Pamela Chan/

You must have heard the joke – or maybe it was serious – about the woman who says the sexiest offer she could receive is for a man to offer to do her housework.  Even though studies show that women do a higher percentage of housework than their partners, husbands nowadays are helping out more than they ever did.  I don’t doubt that it’s better for a man (or partner – think same sex relationships) to help out around the house.  Doing all the housework yourself would be full-on depressing.  In a recent open letter in the Globe and Mail, we were treated to insight into the home life of Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay. We learned that he does most of the heavy cleaning.

Even after often putting in 16-hour workdays as the main income earner in our household, he does all the sewing (his grandfather taught him), mows the lawn and takes out the garbage and recycling. He does most of the laundry and heavy cleaning in our house. We happily share housework and cooking. We both change diapers, bathe Kian, dress him, play with him and love him. Cameras are not rolling when Peter reads to Kian before bed, or does the grocery shopping, picks up medicine and attends doctor’s appointments. (Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, Open Letter, Globe and Mail)

Visions of the Minister scrubbing toilets, pee stained tile around the toilet (no wait his child isn’t that old yet) and bathtubs, for example, came to mind.

At our house, as well, there’s a constant flurry of cleaning being done by both adults.  The Montessori ideal is that you’d have children participating in all kinds of practical, life activities that including cleaning; however, it’s only recently that my almost five year old could tackle cleaning their rooms (in their own way) by themselves. That’s the theory anyway.

I’m sure if you asked my husband he would argue that he does more cleaning than I do or that his contribution is somehow more significant. Yes it’s that type of household.  Cleaning the kitchen over and over, dragging items in and out of the dishwasher and washer/dryer; cutting the lawn; lawn trimming; weeding; cutting vines; sorting, categorizing, battling and taking out garbage; tackling those peed on tiles; replacing items that have been strewn about; scrubbing crayon markings and other not-to-be-named substances off surfaces; folding a mountain of laundry; vacuuming; cleaning up after cooking; steaming the floors; and, reorganizing cluttered spaces are a few of the tasks that go down at our home.  Sometimes I’ll spend hours working at cleaning only to realize that my husband probably didn’t even notice what I did.  I wouldn’t even say that our home sparkles.  At any given time there is neglected dusting or a bathroom that needs attention.

Most women enjoy cleaning? I don’t care
if you interviewed 15,000 women – Scrubbing
Bubbles – I don’t believe it!

Mostly, though, it seems to me that my husband and I are hauling ourselves around the house and property all the time.  He currently works from home so he has even more opportunities to pitch in.  I try to have a neutral feeling about most tasks- and can even enjoy non-stop weeding – but it all seems to be pure drudgery for my husband.

I know that there are situations around the world that are much more grim. I think of the women who live in large homes with extended family members and spend most of their days cooking and cleaning.  In a way you could say it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be doing all this housework.  When I was single – into my 20s and part of my 30s – maintenance of my smaller and less lived in homes was less complicated.  My mother has always exhibited a Prussian-like exactness to cleanliness in her home and I can see that cleaning shows consideration for the rights of my children to live in a clean home.

While I think about how we tackle the endless range of tasks, I’m reminded of the friends and colleagues who share countless stories in person and online about their busy careers, stimulating family lives, get togethers with family friends, yearly rituals and keen-to-clean personalities. Seriously? You’re rocking your life in all categories AND you love to clean your place from top to bottom?  You clean the knobs on your kitchen cupboards every day? EVERY day?

You know those people who have endless streams of Facebook updates and Instagram pics about going to functions, parties, events, places and spaces? Who’s cooking their meals and cleaning their homes?

What’s that Cleaning Keener?  Oh you have a house cleaner come in once a month.  Of course.  Because we’ve all heard the lectures that couples need to get out and nurture their relationships.  So of course if you’re not working and looking after children you do need that date night time.  Enter the hired help.

Yes this is how it’s done.

But not at our house.

We have this thing called a tight budget and cleaners and babysitters have no place in it.  It’s so tight that today we had a big dust-up over how much to spend on new booster car seats. Five key points were not addressed by a cheaper seat and I fought hard with my lawyer husband – using every big word I could drag out – for the mid-range priced option.   I tried to explain the reason to my son but he just got upset talking about it and fell asleep with tears in his eyes.  This follows a conversation today about how there would be no birthday party with friends because our focus is on buying booster seats.

When I think of that joke about the endless housework I am reminded about a common feeling that all this hauling ourselves about cleaning all the time is a romance killer.  Think romance or something steamier.

Take your pick.

You know those sexy women who cause men’s eyes to turn – on TV, at the office or in real life? You can be quite certain that they don’t enter a man’s imagination holding a bottle of stainless steel cleaner in their hands.  Growing up in a foreign service family, I saw more marriages than I’d care to admit dissolve after a spouse took off with a younger, and appealing new option.  Dollars to doughnuts the drudgery of cleaning and household affairs didn’t enter their relationship until much later.  Or how about those stories of women leaning in while rising the ranks in their career, or networking in 4 inch heels and fascinators while scoffing appies?  Where are the conversations about tackling the tasks on the home front?  It all magically happens it seems.

I think the last record we had for a date night was one evening out in 1.5 years. With no relatives nearby or friends who can step in easily – and no budget for extra help – it’s just us and the constant household needs.  If we’re lucky we’re done by 9 PM and my husband and I can watch a show together.  That’s IF I’ve got it together to start dinner early, do bedtime prep, finishing up the cleaning that I’m focussed on (while my husband tackles dishes) and get the children to bed on time.

Tonight, after a day having at it, there were a few mumbles before bed and I retreated to the kitchen/family room for “Me Time” fast forwarding through shows my husband keeps threatening to delete because I never have the chance to watch them.  My husband had tackled some dishes but there is still much to do. Today I spent ages making a healthy soup with a dozen chopped ingredients – this juicing thing is for the birds – only to be left with a huge pile of dishes and a late start to bedtime for my children.  I had an unexpected opening in my schedule today and tackled the multi-ingredient, chopping frenzy, juicing ridiculousness session to make a supposedly Healthiest Ever soup.  Nobody seemed to like it and I was told to not make it again.

Whenever I speak with one male relative in particular the answer he gives to “watcha doing?” is always the same.


See – it’s not just Peter MacKay who’s cleaning.  We’re all doing it and man is it a drag.  I flat out refuse to iron – which makes me less of a household diva – and dislike cleaning washrooms.

Am I the only one resenting this squeeze into the dull and unsexy world of house cleaning and daily household routines?  It’s bad enough that women become, effectively, invisible after “a certain age”.  Because seriously – I could rock an unbuttoned suit à la Kim Kardashian these days and nothing would be noticed except whether I’ve cleaned the hobby room I keep saying I’ll reorganize.


While thinking about writing this piece, I came across Ricky Shelty’s Struggles With My Marriage piece.  It’s a Must Read. Ricky inspired me to take fingers to keyboard.  Thanks Ricky and cheers to both you and Anne! You’re raising two young children and you’re forging your way in the world of new media. It’s a lot to juggle.

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