These Things I Assume To Be True


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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47 Responses

  1. Matty says:

    How many people these days go straight from living with their parents to living with a spouse? I’d be willing to bet it’s less than when the stereotypes formed, it may even be quite a small minority. There is likely to be at least a stage of living either alone or in a group of friends.

    If people have lived alone this is going to give them experience of being responsible for all housework and the idea that certain bits are ‘not my job’ makes no sense.

    Shared houses are a bit different but without the expectations of a relationship it would be harder to convince housemates you should never do the hoovering.

    Once people get into the habit of doing everything even on a rota it will take an effort of will to move away from this and frankly why would anyone make such an effort?

    In short I think modern life makes rigid gender roles impractical even if they were desirable.Report

  2. Excellent post, Pat!

    One thing::

    I don’t even use a mop, I do it the old fashioned way, hands and knees and scrub until it’s actually really clean. 

    I’m impressed.  I usually just give the floor a superficial once-over with a pine sol’d sponge mop and call it a week.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I wrote that post in our old house.

      Our new house has a *lot* more hardwood.  I cheat a little bit more now; maintenance is Bona and a scrub mop and it’s just the Big Clean where I get down and do the hard work.Report

  3. Sam says:

    Well done.

    I think the thing that gets me now, as a former stay-at-home dad who does the laundry and the cooking and the lawn-mowing and the diaper changing and the bathing of the babies, are the men who don’t do these things things and the girlfriends/wives who are totally cool with this. “Oh, he doesn’t change diapers.” What? WHAT? I don’t know if I’m more angry at them for giving my gender a bad name or more angry at my wife for being less tolerant of me or what. These things baffle me.Report

    • Just John in reply to Sam says:

      From another direction, there’s also what you miss by not doing those things.  I’ll never forget my astonishment on opening that first dirty diaper after the switch from breast milk to formula.  And with diaper changing there’s the entirely different experience of relating to the child as s/he is being tended to, whether it’s diaper changing, bathing, comforting, jumping into a cold shower to take down a spiked fever.

      Or the floor or carpet.  Having been down on the floor scrubbing, once you’re done you really see that floor in a way you never would have if you hadn’t been down there.  I can see why Patrick prefers that method.  Of course, there isn’t time to do this with every single thing.Report

      • dhex in reply to Just John says:

        i’m still a little amazed at how many of my partner’s colleagues within the academy express either amazement or even worry that i take care of my son most nights and weekends (because she’s either teaching or grading or writing in those time slots). i’ve not yet left him somewhere because i was too busy doing “bro stuff” or whatever.

        changing diapers is totally overrated when it comes to the ick factor. not awesome, mind you, but still.Report

        • Just John in reply to dhex says:

          Yeah, I think the ick factor of the dirty diaper itself is pretty minimal, and with disposables there’s no diaper pail stinking up its quadrant.  The real ick factor came upon finding the dog had gotten a diaper out of the trash, opened it and was delightedly lapping away.Report

          • Sam in reply to Just John says:

            The other side of this conversation is the absolutely rank condescension that comes from some women at the idea that men are capable of doing this work. I get as equally irritated at the women who express amazement at me changing a diaper (as if I’ve just recreated the wheel) as I do at the women who ask me, “Yeah, but did you use a wipe?” As if I’m an idiot.Report

  4. Rtod says:

    What’s all this about what chores I should do and what chores my wife should do? The only reason we had kids was so that neither of us would have to do them,Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    Nearly every couple with whom I have ever socialized has been a double-earner. Back in Tennessee several years ago, Mrs. Likko and I had some friends whose economic and household arrangements were such that Wife had a great job that made ample money and Hubby stayed at home and cared for the children and the house. This was a chosen arrangement.

    What seemed odd about it to me was not that Wife was Breadwinner, but that Hubby did not have any employment at all. There was nothing strange-seeming about Wife making the bulk of the money, but my initial emotional reaction was that Hubby ought to be doing something. I reminded myself that maintaining a home and raising children is a time-consuming and effort-consuming task. But irrationally, it didn’t feel right anyway and I chided myself for my refusal to move my thinking out of the 1950’s. I flatter myself that it had it been Hubby who was Breadwinner, I would still have found it odd if Wife had no employment, but the truth is that my early-life socialization would have made it easier for me to accept Wife as Homemaker than Hubby as Homemaker and it was the reversal of gender roles that made me ill at ease until I could consciously redirect my thoughts.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

      How much do you think childcare costs? $1000 a month per kid, to send them to daycare… or something like that — order of magnitude.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Back when my kids were teeny, I had a wonderful client, Sears Roebuck.   At the time, my wife was getting two master’s degrees and working her teacher’s assistant hours toward her degrees.   Sears let me work from home in an era when telecommuting wasn’t nearly as common as today.   Oh, I’d go in for meetings, sometimes, but I phoned in a good deal.   I broached the offer of reducing my rate in exchange for working from home and they loved the idea.

      Some men are just better suited to domesticity than others.   Even now, I do all the housework and most of the cooking.   Boarding schools and the military taught me to live a strack and tidy life.

      It made sense for me to be a sorta-stay at home Dad.    When she got through with school, I continued to work from home as much as possible, spending a few days a month onsite.    Driving 20 miles each way only to connect to my development environment through a network anyway, remoting ought to be a no-brainer.

      If you get the feeling there’s something strange-seeming in that relationship, your instincts are good.   There’s more to it than meets the eye.

      My wife would get homesick, find excuses to go back to her parents and her home country.   Once she left me and three small kids for over a year.   After three months away, I told her she had a year and a day to return.   She came back four days late.   I stood there in O’Hare and told her I’d stick around until the kids were raised and she could come and go as she liked.   No more fights about coming back.   It was pointless to blame her anymore.   She just wasn’t cut out for domesticity.

      I despise people who tell evil stories about their exes.   There’s always another side to these things.   But I never felt my wife was married to me, somehow.  She just wasn’t wired up to be a wife and mother.   Wonderful person, though.    Someone had to run the home and care for the kids and that person was me.

      It ended.   I went out on the road for seven years, desperately raking in cash against all those years where I’d sold myself cheap.   I charged twice, three times my old hourly rates.  But there’s nothing quite so depressing as staggering down a hotel hallway to a darkened room.  Loneliness is the occupational hazard of that lifestyle.

      Now I work out here in the boonies, back to doing discounted remote work.   I get more done in less time.   I’m putting my g/f through school.   You’d think I’d have learned something, but I’m involved with yet another woman who’s not much on domestic bliss.   Doesn’t matter to me, though.Report

  6. BSK says:

    I love this post.  Excellent work.

    One thing I will say, having studied child development, is that nature does play a larger role in gender norms and roles than the current narrative often allows for.  It is far from wholly determanitive and the genders/sexes are more of a spectrum than a binary, but nature does play a role.  I can go into more detail of the evolutionary reasons for differences in the development of the sexes if people are interested, but I will just say for now that they do indeed exist.

    Of course, anyone arguing that because of these differences people ought to be expected to perform certain tasks, I give them a big STFU.  Some people might be better positioned to do a job; this does not infer a greater responsibility on them as a result.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to BSK says:

      Write a guest post.  I’d love to see a real lit review.Report

      • BSK in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:


        To be honest, I don’t really have the time or inclination to do a full lit review.  I’ll summarize my understanding here, though:

        Going back to hunter-gatherer days, men were hunters and women were gatherers.  I don’t know if this division was biologically based (I imagine it’d be hard to hunt while pregnant or nursing) or socially based, but the divide was there and real.  As such, there was a certain amount of selection for men with the skills required to hunt and for women with the skills required to gather.  Aside from physical differences, this also required a difference in eye and brain development.  Men’s eyes were able to better discern movement whereas women could better discern stable details… think about how important this is.  The guy who notices a twitch in the grass gets fed.  The woman who can see the difference between a safe and poisonous berry doesn’t get sick.

        We see these traits play out in children’s development.  The adage is that girls draw nouns and boys draw verbs.  Give a young boy a crayon and paper and he’ll race the crayon around and talk about the car he’s drawing.  He won’t produce anything resembling a car, because he was more focused on the movement of the car because his young eyes are better equipped to track movement.  Girls draw intricate flowers with many details but which do not move.  Again, their young eyes are better equipped to see the world in this way.  There is also a great difference in how gross and fine motor skills develop in young children, which also play a role.

        My point here is not to say that women are inherently better at housework or men are inherently better at yardwork.  A great majority of gender norms and roles are socialized and it is a shame.  However, there are general differences between the sexes, as illlustrated above, and pretending there aren’t ultimately does a disservice to all.

        This is but one small snippet that examines the physiological, biological, and genetic differences between the sexes.  There are more.  If anyone is interested, I can point towards some literature on the subject

        * I do realize I have been sloppy with my use of the words gender and sex.  I should probably go back and correct it but today is one of those days.  My apologies for any confusion or offense caused by my lazy use of language.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to BSK says:

          … not so sure it’s as clear cut as you’re saying. We’ve got a lot more difference between people from different geographical regions, in some ways, than between men and women.

          And that’s not counting the noticeable mental differences between a maiden and a woman.

          Also, in many societies, most hunting was communal –every body helped.Report

          • BSK in reply to Kimmi says:


            As I said in my initial post, these are loose generalizations and not hard and fast rules.  It is also very possible that the studies the work I read was based on were limited in their application or presumed a universality that the sample sizes do not support.  I’ll have to look more critically at them.

            I should also add that differences in young children are largely erased by adulthood.  However, certain patterns of behavior can become internalized.  If boys are drawn to cars becasue of eye development in their youth, they may continue to be drawn to cars long after their eyes are the equals of their female peers.  But because they had a fascination with cars during a foundational period of their life, the interest stuck, long after the biological rationale ceased to be.Report

        • Chris in reply to BSK says:

          Not to wade into some tall weeds, but the evolutionary just so story is nothing more than that. There’s no real data to back it up.

          There is now a wealth of data showing that gender differences in personality vary pretty widely across cultures. Our methods for understanding not only what differences exist between males and females, but also the causes at several different levels (e.g., genetic, physiological, and cultural) is just now starting to mature, and the best we can say at this point is that personality and cognitive differences between men and women likely have, to some extent, an innate biological basis (in the form of genetic differences, and specifically hormone differences), that they are variable both across individuals and within the same individual over time (e.g., stress exacerbates certain differences in verbal behavior and episodic memory between adult males and females, likely because of differences in the release of sex-specific hormones as a result of stress), and that even when culture is not the primary factor (which it undoubtedly is in some cases), it is a strong shaper of those differences.Report

          • BSK in reply to Chris says:

            Great points.  We need to move away from the either/or, nature versus nurture mindset.  It is pretty clear that it is a both/and, with the proportion of each varying based on the specific tendency and the specific person.

            There are very few absolutes.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

      Some people might be better positioned to do a job; this does not infer a greater responsibility on them as a result.

      Woman is the social safety net of the household.

      If you don’t like it, move to Somalia.Report

      • BSK in reply to Jaybird says:

        Ironically, my home life is quite different.  My wife brings home the big bucks.  I do most of the “housework”.  But I enjoy the housework, for the most part.  Meh.Report

  7. Jeff Wong says:

    If you don’t pee standing up, you don’t have to clean the toilet so often.

    Or pee outside. It’s fun and saves water.Report

  8. Jeff Wong says:

    Evolution and biology are the reason that babies will suck Mom’s tits instead of Dad’s. And Dad should be thankful he doesn’t have to pass a raw cantaloupe out his rectum.

    Context is the big gotcha in evolution. It may be that in an industrial societies, it’s women that are social creatures and better at getting people to do things. After all, they own the vaginas and they grow up learning how to control them.

    Whenever someone talks about gender roles and who should raise the children at home and “Oh BTW clean the house please,” all I see is some asshole who wants to get out of chores and probably secretly hated his mother. If you were cooped up in the house all day, wouldn’t you start to go a bit mad?

    I mean, thanks to the end of the Cold War, billions of people have been added to the labor force. As a consequence, the cost of labor is lower and you can outsource your chore doing. If only Americans were willing take those jobs, more traditionally upright families could get better servant, even with matching races! Don’t have to worry about your kids being raised by someone who will turn them into a secret Mexican. Oh, and the wife will put out more, that’s what the Journal of Cosmo says. It’s all sexy, just look at Downton Abbey.

    The American thing is to look at a situation and make something positive out of it. If anyone is really craving to go to the 1950’s, he or she will be more motivated to make a time machine. That or have another World War in Eurasia. It might have the same results a second time.Report

  9. Damon says:


    A few comments from when I was married:  We had a separation of tasks.  Generally I cut the grass because I had the physical strength to control the mower.  We both trimmed hedges, weeded, and spread mulch.

    I paid the bills because she didn’t like to.  I cleaned the bathrooms, she dusted/vaced the rest of the house.  I cooked and she cleaned up.  We each did our own laundry because I never got her water temp right with her colors. 

    We were a dual income couple.  We had an inside joke and competition on who made more money and who should thusly, “wear the pants”.  It was all in good fun and never changed anything. 

    Later, the wife got a big fat promotion and made much more than me.  Guys would ask me if I had a problem with this.  My response:  Why would I? 

    None of the above was strange to me.  It only seemed natural and was how we did things in our house.  How others did it wasn’t important to us, but looking at the text above, we sorta found the same path.Report

  10. Gene Callahan says:

    The sexual division of labor appears to go as far back in human history as we look, and to have existed in every society. But, if you’ve decided it’s not a good idea, then out with it!Report

    • So was the idea of women being property.  We’re kind of doing a whole remodel.Report

      • Gene Callahan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “So was the idea of women being property. ”

        False. A much, much more recent idea.

        “We’re kind of doing a whole remodel.”

        Yes, I know. Pretty f***ing arrogant, isn’t it?Report

        • “Yes, I know. Pretty f***ing arrogant, isn’t it?”

          Is it?  I confess, I’ve never thought if it that way.  If anything, I might have thought telling other couples they should only divide their own household chores the way you think they should would be the arrogant point of view.

          This is probably a po-tay-to, po-tah-to thing.Report

          • Gene Callahan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            “If anything, I might have thought telling other couples they should only divide their own household chores the way <em>you</em> think they should would be the arrogant point of view.”

            Hmm, but it wasn’t me who was doing that: it’s you and Patrick. It’s YOU who is “doing a whole remodel,” and telling everybody how all the work needs to be divided up.Report

            • “It’s YOU who is … telling everybody how all the work needs to be divided up.”

              Did I do that?  I hadn’t thought that I had.  Perhaps you could show me where I said that.  I was pretty sure I believed that any household should feel free to divvy up jobs as they see fit.  I was pretty sure I believed that if a particular division of labor works for your family and makes everyone happy, it’s a good plan.

              But that’s just what I think I believe.  You would obviously know better.Report

              • Gene Callahan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “Did I do that?  I hadn’t thought that I had.”

                “We’re doing a whole remodel.”

                Often the left hand does not know what the right is doing.Report

              • Yes.  And the “whole remodel” is that we have moved to a system where it is ok in certain circles for a woman to do yard work, or a man to cook.  And I do think this is totally fine, if that’s how a couple wants to separate the household labor.

                This is very different from me saying that women have to do yard work, or that men have to clean.

                I think you are assuming that I believe things that I do not.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                That being said, unless I am reading you incorrectly, we do disagree.  I think you are arguing that a woman must do a certain kind of household chore, and a man must do the other, and to vary from that is…  actually, I don’t know how you’d describe it.  Poorly reasoned?  Wicked?  Against nature?  I am not sure, so let’s just say “not the best choice.”

                I don’t see anything wrong if a husband wants to cook or a woman wants to do woodworking in the garage.

                I’m not sure that there is much use in dishing too far into this.  You’re unlikely to convince me that I am wrong, and vice versa.  As I said, I think it’s a po-tya-to, po-tah-to thing.Report

          • Gene Callahan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Think about it, dude. Patrick sets out a whole bunch of rules telling everyone else exactly how they ought to divide household chores. You quite explicitly declare yourself competent to do a “whole remodel” of 100,000 years of human evolution, and remake society according to your whims. But *I’m* the one telling other people what to do!Report

            • You want to argue with Patrick, that’s cool, I’m happy to leave you space. He and I are not the same person, though.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Gene Callahan says:


              I think you’re reading the post incorrectly. About all I said was that people ought to talk to their household partner and make sure the division of labor was fair, and challenge themselves to do different things than they are perhaps comfortable with, today.  I don’t think either of those is particularly draconian or even outside the bounds of decent advice.

              If you’re reading that as me laying down the law, okay… I guess.

              I will say this:

              The sexual division of labor appears to go as far back in human history as we look, and to have existed in every society. But, if you’ve decided it’s not a good idea, then out with it!

              This, right here?  You need a citation for this.  You might be a longstanding cultural anthropologist with a list of massive research projects longer than your arm, but I kind of doubt it.

              In any event, the non-sexual division of labor goes from “quite a long time ago” too… from somewhere between 400,000 to 250,000 years ago to about 12,000 years ago without much in the way of change, depending upon where in the hominid tree you’re going to stake out “human, for all intents and purposes”.

              If you’re going with, “It’s NATURE!”, then I suggest you go back to being a hunter-gatherer.  After all, our species did things that way for 238,000+ years before we started trying out organized planting.  Agriculture has been around not very long, in human evolution (not to mention that post-industrial society has been around for even less time), about 1/20th as long.Report