A husband in his forties, very busy at work, takes his wife of about ten
years, to court, asking the judge to hold her exclusively responsible for
the failure of the marriage. What is the reason? Basically, it is the fact
that the woman didn’t take care of the housework, because she – according
to him – didn’t iron, didn’t wash, didn’t cook. It happened in Italy, where
the judge, however, proved the man wrong by pointing out that it is not
only up to one of the spouses to do the housework, but to all members of
the family, so even to the children, in view of a responsible education.
The case brings to the attention the importance of the organization of the
management of the house that could become a source of great contrasts, or
turn out to be the mirror of that understanding, coherence, and harmony
that make a couple happy.
Having overcome the discourse on gender stereotypes, the issue at stake is
another, and has to do with the care of the family, which inevitably also
includes ‘housekeeping’, because that’s what it’s all about: planning,
organization, implementation of tasks, activities, services, rendered for
the good of all those who live together, sharing not only the space, but
life, in general.
Household chores: what the research says
A study by the UK Government Equalities Office in January 2021 found that
men and women are increasingly sharing care responsibilities, partly to
cope with women’s increased professional workloads. Research over the past
two decades has highlighted the benefits of greater involvement of fathers
in caring for their children, with a range of positive effects for
children, from emotional, psychological and educational development to
spillovers into their future careers. In addition, the British research,
referencing various statistics, has reported favorable outcomes on family
relationships such as reduced separations and divorces when there is a fair
sharing of family caregiving duties.
In a recent conference of the Home Renaissance Foundation – an
international research center that promotes greater recognition of work
starting from the creation of healthy and congenial home environments – it
was highlighted how care for the person is the essential condition for
relationships, for the happiness of people, inside and outside the home.
In short, one of the secrets of a good couple’s life seems to be precisely
the sharing of family responsibilities. When this does not happen,
misunderstandings and situations of conflict could increase, determined by
feeling the weight of the entire management of the family. On the other
hand, a relationship in which there is actual solidarity makes people feel
appreciated, respected and, in this way, the potential for conflict and
dissatisfaction is significantly reduced. On the contrary, the lack of
division of household chores can undermine the ‘partnership’ of the
marriage, even to the point of determining its ruin, as we have seen in the
case of the separation of the Italian couple.
Rather than being a series of simple instrumental tasks, chores to be done,
dishes to be washed and beds to be made, domestic work is above all a
complex set of interpersonal exchanges, a reciprocal gift, it is
availability and service, which enable family members to achieve solidarity
and joy, maturing that strength and cohesion which should then enable them
to withstand even the occasional dirty dish, unmade bed and a few extra
grains of dust on the bedside table.