Monday 17 November 2014

Domestic democracy

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Stay-at-Home Dad and I had our first tiff the other day. It was over the washing-up of all things. I was so angry with him, I wanted him to leave the house and never come back. When I'm like that it's usually because I'm in the wrong, although that only becomes apparent a few hours later. In the heat of the battle, I am Joan of Arc, hounded and persecuted for my moral stance. 

A work of modern art from Nice Museum of Modern Art
Girls: more loafing and less chores
Our disagreement grew out of Saturday night suppers. Recently I've been inviting Stay-at-Home Dad (SHD) over with his twin girls for pizza and X Factor. It's part of our soft campaign to get the kids used to the idea that we're an 'item'. It was all going swimmingly until SHD happened to comment that Middle Child wasn't pulling his weight in the washing-up department. Was this because he was a boy, he wondered out loud. Was I over-indulging him? 

Oh, simple man! Don't come between a mother and her child. So instead of reflecting upon his observation with the maturity of my years, I rode straight into battle. Who was he to judge me with his mild-mannered girlies who dutifully removed their shoes every time they entered the house? He should try dealing with boy-flavoured exuberance (tweenie testosterone) on a daily basis. Frankly I was doing well if I managed to persuade Middle Child to drop his socks in the laundry basket. Most days I found them down the back of the sofa.

"Calm down!" SHD told me (again, don't tell Joan of Arc to calm down - will this man ever learn?). "I'm only pointing out that you are teaching your son that chores are for girls and loafing about is for boys." The Maid of OrlĂ©ans went quiet for a moment of belated reflection. "It's called domestic democracy," he added rather smugly.

SHD had a point, not that I was about to admit it. I had spent years watching my ex-husband loafing about on the sofa with the Sunday papers, while his poor mother worked herself ragged in the kitchen. Was I unconsciously perpetuating the status quo? 

Bribes for chores

Over the next week, I worked tirelessly to transform Middle Child (MC) from a domestic slouch into a god(dess) of Nigella-like proportions. Using an elaborate system of bribes, I had him making his bed, emptying the dishwasher and laying the table. By the following Saturday, we were clean out of Haribo and my pocket money bill had nearly exceeded my monthly income, but how proud I was when MC jumped up to ferry everybody's pizza plates to the dishwasher. It was a victory for single mothers everywhere! 

"Mum," said Quiet One in her most strident voice, "It's not fair! You never paid me to clear the plates." SHD raised his eyes to heaven and mouthed the words, domestic democracy. "Don't be silly," I snapped. "Our great democracy was built on backhanders. How do you think the empire got started?" Then, to assuage my conscience, I sent Quiet One off to loaf about on the sofa while I tied her brother to the kitchen sink.

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam

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