Sharing the Load – Equality, Fairness and Hanging Out the Washing

By Victoria Vanstone

I’m annoying. I’m the sort of person that doesn’t put lids on things properly. I’m the one that balances a fresh roll of toilet paper on top of the empty tube. I hate folding washing and my bedroom looks like a troop of wild monkeys have had a costume party in my wardrobe. Clothes spew out of draws and dresses are flung over the end of the bed. I will do anything to avoid hanging things up and go to great lengths to steer clear of the washing line.  

I’m also not one of those women that drives home at speed when black clouds threaten rain. I love it when the washings out getting rained on… It means I don’t have to put it away. It can stay there all I care, clumped together with dye dripping on to the ground, covered in bird shit and getting a faded line across the middle. I’d rather my clothes were ruined than spend the time running around in the back garden like a headless chicken, dropping broken pegs on my baby’s head, throwing socks at a basket. 

Instead, my ‘poor’ husband does the pegging out of my grey underwear, he spends Sundays doing lady chores, things I should do according to the strict rule book of life. Unfortunately for my ‘poor’ husband, I don’t adhere to old school cultural procedures made up by men with inferiority complexes back in 1880.  

No, I rebel against this archaic system by not doing ironing.  

My ‘poor’ husband takes out the bins, does the washing up, pegs out the washing and puts it away, then I force him into giving me a foot massage and making me a cup of tea. 

“Oh the poor man” – I hear you cry. 

Hold your sympathy people! 

When we met, I warned him. I said, “If you marry me, don’t ever expect me to iron your shirts. I’m not that sort of wife.” 

He laughed. We both did.  

I think he thought I was joking. I think he thought I would forget those words and be attending to his crumpled attire the day after he carried me over the threshold.  

Er, no.  

First of all, I carried him, and secondly, I do not joke when it comes to chores. 

But, not long into our marriage, he got a job that demanded a crisp shirt. He left it out on the hanger before he went to bed.  

I jumped out of my skin when I saw it. It looked like a ghost. Perhaps the spirit of the suffragettes hovering over me! 

I stared at it, it loomed and I pondered its creases. 

I think he wants me to iron it, I thought to myself. 

The only time he’d ever seen me touch an iron was at university when we were 18. I was ironing out some screwed up rizla papers that had got damp in the back pocket of my jeans, preparing them for the big spliff I planned on building. 

And now here I was, 17 years later, confronted with this crumpled dilemma. 

I felt a rumble in the pit of my stomach as centuries of repression hit the back of my throat. 

My husband walked into the room, looked up at me and then started to retreat backwards as my look of scorn impaled his soul. 


“No darling,” he said  

“I was just putting it there so I could do it.” 

“Ah, well,” I say, “that’s ok then.” 

I wasn’t sure if he’d cleverly avoided an argument or if he actually had been planning on doing it himself.  

Whatever his intention, my deranged expression was enough to make him never ask me to iron anything ever again. 

There have been a few moments like this in our marriage. Moments where expectations had to be addressed and outdated concepts revised.  

Because a marriage, one that lasts, is about equality. 

Fairness and distribution of the workload. 

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