5 reasons why Phoebe Buffay is the best character in Friends
5 reasons why Phoebe Buffay is the best character in Friends

Grace McGettigan

Try out this simple spicy chicken and chickpea curry bake tonight
Try out this simple spicy chicken and chickpea curry bake tonight

Meg Walker

15 underrated Netflix gems that will distract you from the news
15 underrated Netflix gems that will distract you from the news

Jennifer McShane

How to forgive, release and move on completely
How to forgive, release and move on completely

Niamh Ennis

10 IMAGE staffers on their all-time favourite jeans
10 IMAGE staffers on their all-time favourite jeans

Holly O'Neill

Scaling and sustainability: Join our two most popular panels at this year’s IMAGE Business Summit
Scaling and sustainability: Join our two most popular panels at this year’s IMAGE Business Summit

IMAGE

How to make the leap to quit your job
How to make the leap to quit your job

Esther O'Moore Donohoe

The secret to great brows according to Irish people with excellent eyebrows
The secret to great brows according to Irish people with excellent eyebrows

Holly O'Neill

This Irish family’s Puglia renovation is a gorgeous combination of old and new
This Irish family’s Puglia renovation is a gorgeous combination of old and new

Megan Burns

Mastering menopause: the expert guide to skin treatments
Mastering menopause: the expert guide to skin treatments

Melanie Morris

Image / Editorial

A Woman’s Brain Is Rewired When She Becomes A Mother. Men’s, Not So Much


by Jessie Collins
30th May 2017
blank

Mother holding daughter

There are a lot of pretty knackered mum’s out there, who are doing way more than their fair share of the parenting workload. It’s time we fought back, says Jessie Collins, for all our sakes.


Five days. Five days I have been looking at the dirty griddle pan, as it gets moved from the counter back into the sink, and out again. It is becoming a fungal experiment, and a social one too. And I am not backing down.? You see the griddle pan was used in a solo run by my other half to cook himself a nice juicy steak (which I had bought) which he also accompanied with a cheeky red while he ‘babysat’ his children, in our own house. And since I returned home that evening at the rock ‘n’ roll time of midnight to find the detritus of the day’s events – kids dinners, clothes, toys and general crap still strewn around in what has become an all too familiar greeting ?? the griddle pan has become the Rubicon, and I am refusing to cross it. It can grow a whole colony of putridity and I am not going to clean it. It may seem silly, it may seem small, but it’s important.

There has been a lot written recently about the gender workload and also what is known as the mental load – and it is, I wager, other than equal pay, the final frontier in real equality for women in western society.? A mother’s post went viral last year when she wrote a shout out to herself on the blog, Love that Max, ?I am the person,? wrote Ellen Seidman, a wife and mother of three, ?who notices we are running out of toilet paper, and I rock.? After which she went on to list every way in which she keeps the show on the road and pretty much every mother will have recognised what she was talking about. Sociologist Lisa Wade wrote about it in Time, in a piece entitled The Invisible Workload that Drags Women Down.

The Time article also cited a study from 1996 which found that women do more of the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of childcare and household maintenance. They do more of the learning and information processing (like researching paediatricians) – that’s the truly invisible work. Which is where couples come undone. It is the unseen stuff, the unrecognised slog that means lunches are planned and packed, dinners are batch cooked, outfits laid out, socialising organised.

One of the most read posts on the Guardian.com this Monday was a comic by French feminist Emma called The Gender Wars of Household Chores – in which sweetly rendered cartoons demonstrated just how easily this dynamic becomes established between couples, with the mother not only carrying out a large amount of the household chores but also the planning and organising of them. ?The problem with that;? she illustrates, ?is the planning and organising is already a full-time job. At work, once I started managing projects, I quickly stopped participating in them. I didn’t have the time.?

In most studies done around happy relationships, household chores is in the top three highest-ranking issues, with only fidelity and sex coming close. The just published New York Times’ best-selling author Jancee Dunn’s new book, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, looks exactly at this. ?It’s the dirty little secret of parenting: many of us will fight after we have children. And it will sometimes get ugly.? And what are parents fighting about?? Who is doing what. Ohio State study of working couples who became first-time parents found that men did a fairly equal share of housework – until they became dads. ?By the time their baby had reached nine months,? writes Dunn, ?the women had picked up an average of thirty-seven hours of childcare and housework per week, while the men did twenty-four hours – even as both parents clocked in the same number of hours at work. When it came to childcare, moreover, dads did more of the fun stuff like reading stories, rather than decidedly less festive tasks such as diaper duty (not to mention that they did five fewer hours of housework per week after the baby arrived).?

Though she focuses a good deal on the daily chores itself, it is the highlighting of her partner’s ability to still float about in the ‘single guy bubble’ that really struck me.? The revolution in the brain of a woman when they become a mother is nothing less than Copernican, but for many men, it seems, not so much. And it is the reorganising of your neurology that allows all this unseen work to happen. That synaptic space where mothers start to preempt all needs and forecast for weather of all kinds – physical, metaphysical, emotional – that space becomes our terrain, our constant inner dialogue.

Yet maybe technology will come to our rescue, the internet of things promises to automatically order fresh milk when we run low and generally predict our every need. Maybe it will contribute to a further emancipation of women, which surely the dishwasher has definitely had a role in, and I am forever grateful to mine. But I am pretty sure someone is still going to need to know that football practice has been changed to Tuesday’s and last week’s kit is still rotting somewhere in a corner.

The renowned feminist author and thinker Fay Weldon was recently interviewed by Kirsty Wark for BBCs Newsnight programme, where she admitted that feminism hadn’t quite worked out as well as she had hoped, and not all women were doing so great on its current set up. ?You look out on the street and I see them carrying their shopping still, and struggling to get their children from the nursery and to pay their mortgage and the general anxiety with which everyone is living and I really feel they shouldn’t have to.? So do I, even it means making a stand, one griddle pan at a time.

Also Read

alternative asthma treatments
EDITORIAL
Three alternative asthma treatments to try this hayfever season

Approximately 80% of people with asthma also suffer from hayfever, which can make summer days a nightmare. These three alternative...

By Grace McGettigan

Mandy Moore pumping
EDITORIAL
Mandy Moore climbed an active volcano at dawn… while pumping

Hiking a mountain and breast pumping – now, that’s what we call multitasking at its finest. Mandy Moore enjoyed an...

By Sarah Finnan

blank
EDITORIAL
“A slap in the face for all the victims”: Outcry over Bill Cosby’s release from prison

This is why rape victims think twice before coming forward, writes Amanda Cassidy He was once known as “America’s Dad”...

By Amanda Cassidy

blank
AGENDA, EDITORIAL
No, the Olympics haven’t given athletes ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds

Despite some media coverage, the beds are actually focused on sustainability as opposed to intimacy restrictions. Recently, distance runner Paul...

By Jennifer McShane

blank
AGENDA, EDITORIAL
When speaking about ageing, we should follow Julianne Moore’s lead

Actress Julianne Moore is tired of all the cliched tropes about female ageing. The way we speak about it; the...

By Jennifer McShane

blank
EDITORIAL
‘Totally allowed but totally shouldn’t: Welcome to the Great Irish Pandemic Paradox’

In a time when cool heads are needed – it’s more than the current heatwave that’s melting minds, writes Amanda...

By Amanda Cassidy

blank
EDITORIAL
‘Quite interesting’: Princess Anne comments on The Crown

We’ve all heard that the royal family don’t exactly gather round to watch The Crown, but one member has shared...

By Jennifer McShane