Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Women's Work

In most marriages, the division of labour along gender lines is most likely to be as unique and individual as each relationship.

There are however, old fashioned gender stereotypes that still persist which suggest that men take care of things like the finances and the maintenance on the family car. They put garbage out and they mow the lawn.

Women supposedly do most of the rest of the daily household tasks.

In my marriage, the division of labour has never exactly been "traditional".

For instance, I have always managed our finances. I assume that my role is not completely typical because, anytime we have ever sat down with a bank manager or financial advisor, they make initial eye contact with us both, and then proceed to address my husband directly and me in a much more token way.

It doesn't seem to matter whether there is a man or a woman on the other side of the desk.

They all seem to assume that my husband is the principal decision maker. In reality, my husband takes no interest in money matters. If you were to call him up right now, and ask him when our mortgage was up for renewal, he probably tell you to phone me instead.

Maybe because there isn't as much of a precedent, I often take a more novel approach to certain stereotypically male-oriented tasks. The last time we bought a car, I shopped all the local dealerships online and picked out two used cars that were exactly what I was looking for.

I then proceeded to go into the first dealership and make a low-ball offer on the car I wanted site unseen. The sales guy was completely caught off-guard. He kept insisting we go out into the lot and review the features of the car in question. I kept telling him I wasn't willing to waste my time looking at the car until the price was more in line with what I wanted to pay.

Most recently, the bulk of my free time has been devoted to shopping for a new boiler (we have antiquated radiators in our 100 year old house).

I can just imagine what you are probably thinking. Wow Jennifer! Boiler hunting! Life doesn't get much exciting!

All I can say is that someone had to do it, and the job fell to me.

Searching for a boiler is not nearly as easy a task as buying a more popular forced-air furnace. Boilers are rarer these days (in Ontario, at any rate), and finding someone reliable to service and repair our old boiler has been an ongoing challenge since we moved in to our house over 10 years ago.

Late last year, the principal pump on the boiler failed and we have had partial heat ever since. Dreading the whole business, I put off finding a replacement. Then a cold snap motivated me into action.

I have made lots and lots of phone calls in the last few weeks.

The first company that came out to see the job left, and was almost never heard from again. Then late last week, I got a formal letter from them saying that they were "too busy" to quote on the job.

Too busy in the middle of a recession to make thousands of dollars in sales? Good riddance to them!

Another company was reluctant to send out a salesman unless my husband was home. When I insisted that I would be making a decision on a new boiler by the end of the week, they relented and sent a saleswoman out to meet with me.

Though I am no expert, I could tell that this woman didn't have a clue about gas-fired boilers.

Still more calls!

Then finally a week and a half ago I found someone who seemed to know what he was talking about and was even willing to give me a bit of a break on the price.

They are coming out to install the boiler today, and with any luck, we will have real heat in the house by nightfall.

Oh the pure luxury of it! I can hardly wait.

To illustrate ramblings, I am using the colors pink and blue. Are there any other colors that come with more gender baggage?


  1. Hi Jennifer
    Very fun and interesting post. My husband actually does the more traditional role of being in charge of finances, but that's because numbers have never been my forte. My joke is always that if I had been a bank teller, people would have either been millionaires or broke, because of my fabulous calculations. Bravo to you that you take on this role. Living in a 100 year old house must have many challenges, including finding a new boiler but good for you! It's happening!! Our 25 year old furnace is having issues so we are also on the hunt for a new one. Good thing to have heat during a Canadian winter, eh? :) As far as colours go, pink and blue are pretty much the traditional gender differentials but I also like yellow and purple. BTW - gorgeous photos of the roses. Thx.

  2. These pale pink roses are really wonderful and look very romantic. But I'm not a pink person at all, go more for the blue and purples, actually I love all colours.
    Good of you to go hunting for a boiler, but I suppose you have to unless it should be starving cold in your old house. These technical things I happily leave to my husband he is good in it, but like you I'm the financial manager, I always have been and I like it, would not dare to leave that to my husband. Mowing the lawn is my work too and taking care of the garbage mine too. Oh, I'm thinking what is my husband doing here.....hahaha!

  3. This post was a pleasure to read! Our last house had a boiler, and all the old rads and I loved that about it. The boiler was a monster! Your husband is one lucky man, and mine too, cause same applies here ;-) I draw the line at mowing lawns, garbage and recycling duty.

    Pink and blue...absolutely stunning photos.

  4. Same here - we both work full time so whoever gets home first cooks and completes chores. At weekends I'm as likely to lug wood around and unblock drains as he is to vacuums and do the shopping. However, I draw the line at car maintenance and he won't do the ironing! We both sort the finances. A true partnership is fair division of labour and should be whatever works for a couple.
    I've enjoyed this thought provoking post and hope that my sitting on the fence isn't seen as the colour yellow!!

  5. Hi Jennifer, I can relate to the attitudes as Iv'e come across some really bad ones from the male population, especially when it came to renovating our house, which I was left the unpleasant chore of doing. Working with a budget, trying to find suitable tradies, having to deal with bad tradies although there were a few that showed respect and realised I was the one handling matters. I have even seen bad attitudes about gardening, women gardeners are not as good as men etc. Glad you have your heating sorted.

  6. I´ve always handled our finances and stocks/funds - I enjoy it and I´m also good at it, so that came naturally. My hubby cooks 90% of our meals since I´m not good at that (I´m really talented at eating though, haha).

    The interesting thing is that my father in law can´t even boil an egg and my mother in law has never paid a bill - but both their sons has left the money thing to their wives and do the cooking themselves. Isn´t that funny?! :-)

  7. I have a far better grasp of finances than my husband. I agree so annoying in the bank. I would love to have been at the car dealership. I actually had one salesman ask me if I could drive.

  8. In our family in the old days the women took care of the house and the men looked after the outside. How things have changed - well, maybe not that much. It is hard to break away from the old traditional way of how couples work things out. I suspect if I passed away before my husband he would have a real struggle to manage - he has never used the washing machine or ironed - or shopped for food etc. - Need I say more. Beautiful roses Jennnifer.

  9. I've had the same experience -- with finances, home renovations, a new boiler for my first house and landscaping. It's so sad. Of course, the way I was treated by the male estimators from 3 local landscapers led to me becoming a much more serious gardener. I guess I should be thankful because I now work for a nursery. Hang in there. Your roses are beautiful!

  10. Hi Jennifer....I am so lucky because my hubby has no problem doing things that would tradionally be considered a "womans chore". For example, he loves to cook (and is really great at it) and I hate to cook. I really like to see a woman who can take charge of things....we've come a long way!!

  11. While we fall into many of the gender roles that are typical we have role reversal most times in this house...I am an administrator in a district and am used to leading and making big decisions...I have finally found a school district that can work with a a strong capable woman... maybe there is hope.

  12. Sometimes, men just don't get that women make the decisions. Before I started gardening at this house, we called a professional landscaper. Just said "this is what we want, give us a price". I, of course, was the one that was to make most of the decisions, since I knew more about plants. Never heard back from him. Ditto on the guy we had come to screen in our porch. (Never did get the porch screened in.) Finally, I told my husband that he was going to have to talk to roofers, painters, etc. because we really needed some of that work done and for some reason they don't believe I'll be the one writing the check! (Actually, I'm not - my husband takes care of all the finances, and he cleans the house, too, because he does better at both of them!)

  13. :-) :-)
    What a wonderful post this is, jennifer, and your photographs are absolutely gorgeous!

    P.S. I do the car shopping too, and I'm really pretty good at it!

  14. Hopefully you have a working boiler now! :) It's too bad you had to go through so much to get the work completed.

    Beautiful photos!

  15. What a pleasure to hear from a strong lady who knows her stuff! Isn't it a shame that in this day and age we still suffer from the same old stereotypes.

  16. I loved your photos. I pinned one of them to my gardening board. I was very self sufficient prior to being married but my husband struggles with the fact that I can and will make decisions about pretty much anything I set my mind to. The car shopping is my husband's job though~ he rocks that department!

    I am also struggling with a similar situation with my yard as you had with your boiler. The whole situation was brought upon us by our neighbor and now we have an RV sitting on top of our yard. It hasn't been easy to find someone who wants the job because it isn't going to be an easy fix. It is quite frustrating.

  17. Men have quiet and comfortable life, when women have all work on their shoulders. You're good wife, Jennifer! Nice roses!

  18. Hi Jennifer, I smiled reading your post. The finances are the same way here, I take care of all bills and banking, too. I try to keep him up to date on what's going on financially in case something would happen to me, though. Good for you on the car shopping; neither one of us is good at bargaining with dealers. I'll have to hire you to find a good deal for us! The furnace must be a very frustrating ordeal; we replaced our ailing oil furnace with geothermal three years ago and it was an adventure. We're glad we did, but there's a lot of work involved. The first furnace guy we called wasn't interested in speaking to me at all when he came out to the house, but the second one treated us as equals, so guess who got our business?

    I don't know why most people automatically assume they should speak to the man of the house and ignore 'the little lady'. And, as I get older, I now notice how age discrimination comes into play, too. I took my mother to the bank the other day and the teller only spoke to me and not Mom. I finally said, "You can talk to my mother, she understands what you're talking about. I'm just her driver today."

    I love the roses, too!

  19. It looks like you are well supplied with Whoop Ass, too! I always keep a can handy. I'm the one who always deals with contractors, repair men, and pays all the bills. Responsibilities should be divided by aptitude not gender.

    Those rose photos are incredible! :o) I'm so glad you got the boiler replaced.

  20. Hope you are nice and warm by now with a lovely new boiler!
    I think we are quite traditional in our house, husband does most of the finances, after all, before he retired he was a bank manager! But don't get me started on woodcarving, why does everyone think that he has done them all!! Even when I was teaching woodcarving at night school, some of the older men were a bit reluctant to be taught by a woman until they found that I really did know what I was talking about!
    Beautiful roses, by the way!

  21. Ugh it can be difficult dealing with men in a business situation. There are a lot of sexist pigs out there, especially in the redneck south. I know that sounds negative but it's so true.

    I take care of the finances and my husband cooks. I still like to bake though. :)

  22. In my household I do pretty much everything related to the home. Hubby works and I do the rest. Even? Certainly not. Sometimes I get the ball rolling and then he will take over for practical reasons, like boilers, where he might know something about them. Hope you have heat now.

  23. Your photos always make me want to bury my nose in the bouquet and inhale the lovely fragrance. As for your gender roles, rock on!! Now that we are retired...actually HE is retired, I have been a 'kept woman' for a number of years, he is doing the floors. Of course floors include indoor power tools...steam mop, rug cleaner, vacuum...etc. Since he was in the military I had to take on all aspects of tending to money, house, yard and all that went with it. I did have a German mechanic ask him to bring me for translations...my German was better than his. hahahah

  24. Jennifer your post made me smile, still gender bias .........


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