The Home Stretch, Sally Howard

I wrote about The Home Stretch, a non-fiction book, for The i Paper. It asks why housework remains women’s work the world over, regardless how advanced or feminist the society.

It really helped, in my opinion, to swap chores for a week with Ben. Of course it was an artificial situation, but we did get to see some of what the other gets up to. I could tell - because he told me - Ben was annoyed nothing biggish happened with the parts of our lives that he looks after. I was happy about this, too. Ecstatic in fact, as otherwise we might have been left without car insurance or similar.

The most striking thing I learned was something I already knew, which is that in this part of our lives I am SO GODDAMED LUCKY. And even if I shouldn’t have to feel that way, which I shouldn’t and mostly don’t, my situation is so much better than most women in terms of housework and childcare.

I don’t think Ben quite understands emotional labour. It’s true that I can, and have, work to reduce mine. It’s also true, and undermines him to suggest otherwise, that he spends time and headspace planning for things in our lives, worrying about them, and trying to get them right. But he has not had to divert one iota of brainpower to feeding his family during this lockdown, while I have devoted most of mine to this. It was the family-feeding that felt like the biggest release over the week we swapped chores, but it’s a tough one because of course I LOVE cooking and planning meals. The daily grind however of feeding people the right thing at the right time is bloody exhausting, something backed up by this piece I did on batch cooking at the same time.

Thanks to the batch cooking piece, my freezer is packed with bagged meals, ready-to-go, yet I still can’t work out what we’re having for dinner tonight. Probably because it’s summer and I want a tuna salad and a glass of Cotes de Provence.