Work, Love, and Couples

The Guardian has a feature in which anonymous people submit letters they don’t have the courage to send. It’s a bit like when an office worker spends Monday afternoon pecking out a scornful email to the boss without actually clicking send, except now there’s an outlet for it.

This example is from a man who exhausts himself as a lawyer while his wife looks after the children at home. He’s bitter about this because he’s shouldering the family’s financial burden alone and can’t see a sign of it stopping:

I don’t think I can do this for another 25 years. I often dream of leaving my firm for a less demanding position, with you making up any financial deficit with a job – even a modest one – of your own. I’ve asked, and sometimes pleaded, for years with you to get a job, any job. Many of my free hours are spent helping with the house and the kids, and I recognise that traditional gender roles are often oppressive, but that cuts both ways.

It’s easy to dismiss this as the sour grapes of privilege (boohoo, the poor man with his social mobility) but when you think of work as a curse, as I do, instead of a gummy medallion, one can sympethise. It’s also a reminder that the benefits of gender equity aren’t exclusively for women but for the whole of society.

If this couple left the traditional breadwinner/homemaker gender roles in the dustbin of history and shared the duties of moneymaking and domestic work, I think the whole family would be a lot happier.

This is about society’s shitty attitude towards women and its exoneration of work. Through these idiot values, we’ve come to look down our noses on housework and parenting as if they weren’t vitally important, and arrived at a labour market where it’s difficult to find rewarding part-time work. The result is a shadow society of unrewarded home-makers and an aboveground society of burned-out husks.

Things are changing but far too slowly.

Funnily enough, my next Idler column (Idler No. 50) is about how cohabiting couples can help each other escape the rat race as a domestic tag team while staying in love.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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