The Wife Drought

By Annabel Crabb

About the book

One would be rather intrigued by the sheer name of this book. It is indeed, an intriguing read and also a revelation in many ways. A hilariously written book with wry humor and punch lines. It was a refreshing read as the Australian author has steered us onto a different path of thinking altogether. We have always spoken about the stark prejudices faced by women in society, but Annabel Crabb brings about what needs to be set right for men in our cultural archetypes too.

Who is it for

Men, women, feminists and egalitarians.

Key takeaways

  1. Revolutionary concept of wife: Wife can be a male or female. A wife, traditionally, is a person who pulls back on paid work in order to do more of the unpaid work that accumulates around the home. If you are working full time, and your spouse is working either part-time or not at all, then congratulations you have a wife. This sort of work goes into overdrive once you add children to the equation, and the list of household jobs grows exponentially to include quite specialized work such as raising respectful, pleasant young people. In olden times, wives were usually women. Which is funny, because nowadays wives are usually women too.
  2. Wife is a professional asset: Whether wives are men or women, they are a cracking professional asset. They enable the busy full-time worker to experience the joy and fulfilment of children, without the considerable inconvenience of having to do the other mundane household tasks that are mammoth in nature. And thus, allows the full time worker to flourish professionally without a care in the world.
  3. Having a wife is an economic privilege: A privilege that far more men enjoy than women. This statement has been substantiated by multiple statistics in the book and is a shocking revelation of the fact that men tend to earn more, once they are married, whereas women are pre-judged because of their dedication towards their family after marriage and thus end up receiving lower salary packages. Women earn less over their lifetimes because they either leave the workforce to look after children or are paid less because of the assumption that they eventually will. Fathers are paid more partly because they are thought less likely to leave the workforce.
  4. The dilemma of working mothers: The feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job to do. Any less feels like you are failing at both.
  5. Dilemma of working fathers: Society also places an expectation on men to conform to the stereotype of male success. Weekends are meant for families. The ladies however in the office don’t seem to get as much grief because after all women are the primary caregivers and that’s just expected.
  6. Turn the tables: We should stop worrying so exclusively about women’s ease of access to the workplace and start worrying about men’s ease of egress from it.Men have trouble asking for time off for the sake of family. For most fathers, the system encourages them to keep on working as though nothing has changed. Why should we so readily agree for fathers to be painted out of the picture. Having a child is a life changing experience. So why does a system pretend that parenthood only changes women’s lives. Why do we spend so much time arguing about what women lose at work and hardly ever about what men lose at home? Is it because what many lose at home is so banal that we don’t assign it any value? And if so, isn’t that rather an insult to the great work of raising children.It feels like a universal experience (raising children) from which fathers are disproportionately excluded.Having a good relationship with your children is valuable and is not a bad investment. Yet we live in a system that consistently in one way or or another discourages men from even attempting to make this investment.
  7. Women are hesitant to ask for pay raises: Every time a woman decides not to ask for a pay raise or to negotiate over salary, it’s not just to sacrifice in the short term but it’s sacrifice that compounds over the course of her career and can cost in the long term, an awful lot of money.
  8. Tiara Syndrome: A syndrome wherewomen work hard and don’t cause trouble, follow the rules and believe that if they keep doing everything right – someone will eventually make them a princess. They put their own needs on the back burner. They would rather leave a job than demand that it be changed to suit them.
  9. Inequality between men and women: We cannot even begin to combat the management oddities and human feeling and so forth without dealing with the reality that that men and women are unequal at work before they even show up. We are so used to not counting domestic work as part of our economy that we don’t accord much relevance when running a diagnostic over the modern workplace. But the tentacles of home are everywhere at work. They are there when a person arrives at work. Has that person left home and proceeded to work in a stately and reflective fashion? or has the person risen at the crack of dawn, waded through a multitude of chores, wrestled children into clothes, shoes, a semblance of oral hygiene and transferred them to school or a comically over priced child care facility and then, fallen through the door of the place of employ.What happens to women at work can never really make sense until it stretches well beyond the work and encompasses what the women are doing when they get home from work. The wife drought both underpins and perpetuates all the other elements that influence women’s experience in the workplace. The tendency of women to take on responsibility for domestic work and the tendency of men not to, is the great rhythm of the workplace that escapes the naked eye. Men get wives and women don’t.
  10. Why don’t men take the job of the primary care giver: Hardly any men take up the job of primary caregiver in the home anyway and of the small band who do, 4 out of 5 have had a formal reason for being there. Children alone are not a sufficient driver to get men out of the workplace. You need something else, be it redundancy or misadventure to actually yank them out of the door.
  11. The contradictory perception for married men and women: Being married as a man, means you are contributing to the stability of the nation and could probably be depended upon to continue doing so, starting with your job. Getting married as a woman, has exactly the opposite effect. The very same factor – the acquisition of a home and possibly children is not expected to make women more reliable at work. It is thought to make them unreliable. Worse than that, a woman who sought to work after her marriage may be considered to be a destabilizing influence both at home and at work. Marriage for men means being paid more money. The phenomena known as the marriage premium is recorded in many countries. For example in Australia married men earn on an average about 15% more unmarried ones.Having a child made women less likely to be employed and less likely to be trusted, promoted and generally thought suitable. But for a father, having a family actually gave them a competitive edge, as it related to stability. Weirdly enough, the very same reservations that were aroused by the discreet existence of children in a woman’s resume (potential lack of commitment, worthiness for a promotion and so on) – are usually actively abolished by the existence of children in a man’s resume.
  12. Contrary assumptions of men and women as fathers and mothers: The assumption is that men and women will respond differently to becoming parents. Men do not adjust their work pattern very much at all when they have their first child in fact if anything, they increase their work hours.Women shrink their house work hours when they work full time and increase them when they have children – they respond rather elastically. But men seem to be bound by some kind of unwritten household rule which keeps them at a stagnated pace of household work, no matter what else is going on.
  13. A Really Easy Answer to the Feminist house work problem: New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, in a 2013 essay entitled ‘A Really Easy Answer to the Feminist House work Problem’, gave a simple recommendation: ‘Do less of it.The assumption of much of the feminist commentary surrounding household chores assumes that there is a correct level of cleanliness in a heterosexual relationship, and that level is determined by the female. However, the standards have changed. There exists no agreed-upon definition of “what has to be done” in a household.’Housework is perhaps the only political problem in which “doing less” and “not caring” are the solution, where apathy is the most progressive and sensible attitude. The solution to the inequality of dusting wasn’t dividing the dusting; it was not doing the dusting at all.’
  14. Definition of housework: Part of the problem, in the housework wars, is a definitional one. What is housework? And what is the baseline amount of it that needs to be done in order for a house hold to function without risk of septicaemia, structural collapse, vermin or juvenile delinquency.Men tend to define taking kids down to the park as housework equivalent to their wife spending two hours doing laundry. The definitions of house work and childcare can be naggingly subjective.Whether baking home-made biscuits to take to a friends dinner would classify as house work which according to your spouse maybe an irrelevant task?How can an argument be had over fairness and equality of work, when each party has a different idea of what constitutes the necessary work requiring fair division? Is it fair for party A to be annoyed with party B for not doing half of the window washing, when party B has never even noticed.Mothers and fathers do different types of child care. Mothers are likely to do the bits that are not flexible timewise. Whereas dads are much more likely to include things like play time, reading stories, sports and so on.Every well-managed household is full of such minor insanities. In a world of assumed responsibility, you get credit for doing things that are viewed as additional, but no credit at all for things that are supposed to be your bag anyway.
  15. Why does the definition of housework differ for men and women: If these things are done badly, it is more likely to be seen as the woman’s failure. If a child is not properly cared for, or a house is filthy, the onus for such laxity will be directed at first instance to the woman. This explains why women and men might have differing institutional standards of cleanliness. They have differing amounts of skin in the game.For a man, the question of how clean a floor needs to be is entirely a matter of personal comfort and utility. For a woman, the judgement is a little more nuanced; that a dirty house will be viewed as her dirty house, not his. Hence, her standards may be artificially inflated by community standards.
  16. Decision for women to get back to work is often stacked up against the child care fees that will be incurred, should she choose to earn that salary: Some would tout this as a cost benefit analysis.When the decision is about whether a woman will go back to paid work, it’s her job that hangs in the balance, and her salary that is stacked up against the child care fees that will be incurred, should she choose to earn that salary. They are hinged together by the economic decision facing the household. But cost-benefit analyses are regularly a close-run thing in matters of household strategy. People continue to buy houses even in ruinously overheated markets. Or spend vast amounts of money on private school educations, sometimes going in to debt or substantial short-term adversity to do so. Because they have faith that the benefits, in the long term, will outweigh the up-front costs. However, somehow the calculations about women’s salaries often exist in a different strategic space. A woman who takes leave from work to have a baby and then elects not to go back to work at all, gives up more than the ticket value of the immediate salary she would have recovered on her return. She gives up her capacity to win further advancement. She gives up the personal professional relationships and networks that might otherwise have yielded opportunities for promotion. The salary foregone is far, far greater than the figure punched in to the household calculator at the point when the decision is made. Such is the cost of human assumptions.
  17. Household work and competency: The fact that a man trying and failing to do house work is still funny demonstrates how deeply we still believe that domestic work is a female sphere of competence. It is funny when a man is left to look after children. It is funny because it is still kind of unusual.Men want to get out of it, women get conned into it situation. Expertise in parenting is like expertise in absolutely anything else. You collect it, as you go along. And when one parent is given early opportunities to amass competence then the parent quickly becomes the expert. And then it takes quite a bit of application for the other parent to keep up.
  18. Wife worth: House work does not count towards the best known measure of national productivity, the gross domestic product, even though women spend an average 33+ hours a week doing it and enabling the other spouse to be at his productive best.
  19. Feeling lucky: Why do women with a helpful spouse often feel like they’ve won a lottery while men with a helpful spouse may just as well go unnoticed.How many mothers do you know who routinely wrangle two or three children by themselves while the fathers are at work or travelling? It is so common as to be utterly unremarkable. No one would ever track down the date and remind the father of his good fortune. That arrangement is not lucky. It is unfortunately considered normal.
  20. The truth about assumptions: One of the most comfortable things about assumptions is that they don’t feel like assumptions at all. Mostly they just feel like the natural way of things. People do not ever ask working fathers “how they do it”. That’s because they already have a pretty good idea how he does it and they are usually spot on. The truth is that doing things differently from the norm does tend to feel weird and looks weird to others and that’s why most of us avoid doing so.If workplaces were equally accepting of men who take time out for family, they would be no reason for men to feel awkward about asking. And if men were as common as women on the playgroup circuit then the assumption that raising children is women’s work would be less dominant. We are shaped by assumptions after all but they need not be set in stone stone.Humans are humans we usually find it easier not to change. And that’s why for all the changes that the last five decades have held for women, the change for men have been scandalously narrow. Men continue to be over represented at work and underrepresented at home.

Published by oberoimehak

Full time mother and overworked lawyer who likes to spend the 25th hour mulling over life, spirituality, parenthood, relationships and other creative pursuits that crack its way through her over enthusiastic brain. Follow me if feminism, women empowerment, spirituality or just the basic dogmas imposed by the society; intrigue you.

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