Katy Guest: It's official - housework makes men happier

Who cares whether guilt or fear of nagging drives them

Katy Guest
Saturday 30 June 2012 19:19 BST
Pinny on, pancake over ... the 1950s
man slaves over a hot stove
Pinny on, pancake over ... the 1950s man slaves over a hot stove

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the scientists at Cambridge University who have proved conclusively that doing more housework makes men happier. Professor Jacqueline Scott and her ace team of academics based their research on data from the European Social Study, which surveys 30,000 people in 34 countries. They found that men feel happier and domestic arguments are reduced the more male partners take on chores around the home.

The scientists don't know whether to attribute this to the men feeling less guilty, or to the women not nagging them so much, but the important point to remember is this: it is scientifically proven in a large-scale experiment conducted by a real live Professor of Empirical Sociology from Cambridge. I love you, Professor Scott, and I'll do all of your ironing for a month. Or rather, I'll persuade a man to do it, and then we will all be happy.

As a feminist and a rationalist, I believe in equality and relying on evidence, so I am not now going to bang on about how all men are lazy and don't do enough housework. But I would take a bet that in most households there is one tidy partner, who knows the place for everything and prefers everything in its place, and one who wouldn't notice if there were no clean socks, slime moulds were growing in the shower tray, and bluebottle eggs were starting to hatch in last night's Bolognese (to use examples plucked entirely from imagination).

The lazy partner is not necessarily a man. For instance, Lady Gaga clearly doesn't do the washing in her house or she wouldn't have just paid £85,250 for an Alexander McQueen ivory silk tulle frock. You just know that the first time she wears it she'll drop chilli con carne down it, or tear the hem while running for a bus, and who's going have to put it in a hot wash then?

Because the partner who does less housework genuinely could not care less about the carnage, and would probably not contract botulism from the maggots in the Bolognese, it is difficult for the partner who is clumsy and quite likely to slip on the slime mould and break a limb while naked in the shower to insist that the carefree partner does some sodding cleaning occasionally, or spoons all the Bolognese into individual Tupperware portions to freeze it handily for later.

It is, technically, only fair that the person who is irrationally antagonised by seeing keys, coins, bottle tops and copies of the New Scientist strewn all over the floor should be the one to pick them up and arrange them into neat piles on top of other random objects of similar sizes. And anyway, should the tidy partner ever suggest that the messy partner might like to take an interest in the state of their home and their gastro-intestinal safety, the messy partner will only start up again about getting a cleaner, which will result in the tidy partner contributing towards a stranger who comes round once a fortnight to wipe half-heartedly around the bath, and then still being the one always to jump up and wash the ice-cream dishes before the cat gets to them. Even worse, the tidy partner will inevitably find him or herself having to manage the cleaner, and ultimately fire the cleaner when it turns out that the cleaner doesn't mop under the New Scientists, and won't stoop to ironing, not even the odd pair of trousers when there is nothing else to do because the tidy partner has done all the cleaning before the cleaner arrives.

Frankly, I'd rather contribute to a team of academics at the University of Cambridge, and bribe the New Scientist to print their research. Maybe, just maybe, it will then occur to messy people to put the magazine back on a shelf after reading it.

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