Jane Merrick: If you want a washboard stomach, get a washboard

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The Independent Online

Of the time my partner and I spend arguing, 90 per cent of it probably consists of bickering about housework. So, on Friday morning, rushing to get our daughter to nursery and then on to work, we were locking horns over who should change the sheets. After wasting valuable time snapping "it's your turn" at each other, we finally settled on a compromise: he would remove the old bedclothes and I would put on new ones.

As we both work full-time, we should probably split the household chores like this, but I have to confess that he does more than me.

Sometimes his zeal to keep the place tidy borders on the infuriating – I get a glass out of the cupboard to fill it with water, but before I make it to the tap I'm distracted by something else and he's put the glass away – but then he's probably infuriated by my messiness.

On my side of the bed is a foot-high pile of newspapers and books which I insist are my current reading, an argument which collapsed as easily as the pile itself when we discovered an invitation to a journalists' drinks party from "Prime Minister Gordon Brown". It is true, I do not keep a good house. My partner frequently jokes that, never mind attending finishing school, I need to go to starting school.

This chaos extends to my car. When I had a flat tyre recently, the AA man said my boot, full of old newspapers, political press releases and junk from my old flat, was the messiest he'd seen in 30 years of call-outs. Trying to reach the spare tyre underneath layers of debris was a bit like examining rock showing the stratified fossils of geological ages: there was something from the 2010 general election campaign, then newspapers from 2009 and 2008, and we finally dug out the tyre hidden under David Cameron's 2005 leadership campaign speech.

So it is little surprise that a survey by Saga last week found that women of my generation have waists six inches wider than those of our grandmothers. The 1950s housewife burnt 1,000 calories a day doing chores which involved more physical effort than today's housework.

Now it is washing machines and efficient vacuum cleaners that do the hard work. In the early 21st century, there is now the opposite of housemaid's knee, which might be called career woman's tummy. But what's wrong with that? I felt sorry for the British beach volleyball women, pictured playing outside Big Ben last week, whose stomachs looked completely normal to me but, it has been unkindly pointed out, are not as flat as the washboards their grandmothers would have used 60 years ago. Even the taut six-pack of Jessica Ennis has been labelled fat. Come on.

Then there are those of us who do hardly any housework at all. Some might say we suffer from lazy cow's bottom, but I say we don't have the time to fit in changing the bed linen between children, work, and arguing with our other halves.