This woman’s work is never done, it seems

Ellen and her son get to grips with the housework

Ellen and her son get to grips with the housework - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

This weekend Chore Wars – as I have dubbed the ongoing battle over domestic duties in our household – erupted into full-scale hostility.

It started yesterday morning with a plate on the kitchen worktop. A plate caked with the crusty remains of a meal I had lovingly cooked my husband the night before.

“I take it there was just too much effort involved in opening the dishwasher to pop this in?” I muttered sarcastically.

“It’s hardly a big deal,” came the response as the plate was unceremoniously deposited in the machine with an unnecessary slam of the door.

My righteous anger bubbled over.

“And while we are at it,” I said between gritted teeth. “I believe you still haven’t mowed the lawn and it looks like a jungle out there.”

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As if to cement my point, the puppy let out a yelp from the back garden at that very moment and it took the children a good five minutes to find him among the weeds.

“If it annoys you that much,” my husband replied, “you could always do it yourself.”

I haven’t spoken to him since. I’m so fuming with indignation that it may take me some time to cultivate a suitable repost.

You see, in our home we each have a very set list of chores from which we never deviate. It has sort of evolved, as these things do, without any kind of discussion or agreement.

We have pink jobs and we have blue jobs and mowing the grass falls very firmly in the blue category.

Other blue jobs include putting out the bins, removing spiders from the bath, taking sticky lids off jars, investigating strange noises at night, unblocking the lavatory, fixing broken toys, building flat-packed furniture and anything car-related.

The pink job list includes washing clothes, remembering birthdays, treating headlice, pairing up clean socks, cooking, baking, making the school packed lunches, dusting and booking the babysitter.

Changing bed linen, paying the bills, binning out-of-date food, attending children’s parties and being the parent on duty during any sleepless nights of child sickness also fall in the pink realm.

Up until recently we have each played our part and all has gone smoothly.

Then a month or so ago my husband started a new job in London. This means he starts his day at the crack of dawn with a two-hour commute and returns home after the kids are in bed after another two-hour commute. Poor him, I hear you say. How exhausting for him.

Well, I beg to differ.

We all get up at the same time but between 6.30am and 8.30am he enjoys a coffee, croissant and a read of his paper on board a peaceful train while I am single-handedly wrestling two kids into school uniform, walking the dog, making breakfast, cleaning up and doing the school run before heading off to work myself.

In the evening, my husband watches a selection of downloaded films on his iPad during his journey home. Sometimes he even sips a cold beer in First Class. Meanwhile I am helping the children with homework, making tea, bathing them, reading to them and tucking them in and then running the Hoover round and preparing another meal for his return.

Now I appreciate I sound like a moaning old harpy but, although I accept that I have to pick up the slack in the domestic domain simply because he is not around to do his usual share, I am more than a little peeved about it.

Especially because he doesn’t seem to notice a) what has been done in his absence or b) what still needs doing every weekend.

“We work hard all week,” he moans. “Weekends should be a time for just having fun not steam cleaning the carpets.”

It’s small wonder that a survey has found that sharing domestic chores is one of the major factors in happy marriages.

As I may well point out to my husband later (when I can bring myself to speak to him again), if unreasonable behaviour is cited as a reason for divorce, it’s more likely to refer to one partner leaving a wet towel on the bedroom floor every single morning than it is to them having an affair.

The study found that couples row 104 times a year about mess with women spending 17 hours a week on average tidying to their partner’s measly four.

However, according to another report, a large percentage of those ladies take on more than their male counterparts simply because they are perfectionists when it comes to their homes.

You can forget pink and blue jobs. According to the research, millions of women across the UK spend three extra hours a week redoing chores designated to their partners which they think their partner hasn’t done properly.

These include not rearranging sofa cushions tidily, failing to wipe down worktops after washing up and loading the dishwasher incorrectly. Ouch. This sounds like me.

Certainly there have been times when my husband has tried to help me by making the bed only for me to tut disapprovingly and remake it. Properly. To my own exacting standards.

So yes, as the old adage goes, a woman’s work is never done. But then again, there’s another saying which also has a ring of truth: If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself.

n Please email me at or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.