Friday, October 8, 2010

Dads and domestic labour

Yesterday the winner of the Most Mentally Sexy Dad comp, which I helped judge, was announced on Radio National’s Life Matters program.

I think it’s great when something started as a bit of a lark among friends finds, quite by accident, that it has tapped in to the cultural zeitgeist — and that is definitely true of this comp.

It has offered a really positive way in to discussing what can otherwise be such a banal, bogged-down issue for couples — i.e. who does what around the house.

Here is a bunch of couples changing the blueprint for what constitutes a contemporary family life; men who are fully up to negotiating with their partners how things are going to run in terms of work, housework and childcare.

In fact, I think the Most Mentally Sexy Dad competition might be one of the more powerful campaigns we’ve seen in calling on men to move beyond the lip service that gets paid to respect and equality towards acting like they mean it. Not for some abstract ideal, but because it is meaningful to the women and children they love, and gives their relationship a better chance of long-lasting passion.

What was so touching about most of the entrants was their basic awareness that to show true love and commitment to their partners meant sharing the load. In fact, they took this for granted.

These men aren’t just “babysitting” the kids or “helping out” around the home, but fully engaging in the realities of keeping the family juggernaut afloat, emotionally and practically, so that everyone has more time for their own interests and for each other.

Hopefully it won’t have to be such a conscious shift for the next generation, and there won’t be a need for such a competition, great as it’s been.

I also have an article on this subject — the division of domestic labour — in the latest issue of Kill Your Darlings.

The editors have ensured me my next copy will arrive in a plain brown paper bag after the previous one gave my son terrible nightmares. The poor darling thought I was reading a manual on how to kill off him and his sister!

It took me days to convince him that he could trust me enough to tell him what his bad dreams were about. Oh dear…


HannahB said...

Thats so funny about your kids! poor things!

The show sounds great! could i access it in england in anyway, do you know?

Rachel Power said...

Hi Hannah
Yes I'm sure you could just listen to the broadcast online using the link I've given.
There's an American version of the comp going on too. Maybe someone could start up a similar thing in the UK!

Damon Young said...

Nice wrap up, Rachel. Yes, as a feminist bloke, the competition's been very gratifying. And a wonderful excuse to get photographed in my undies.

Speaking of which (photos, that is), I like your new shot.

Sally Rippin said...

Yay, you're back! xxx

Rachel Power said...

You inspired me to get back on the horse, Sally! Sometimes I fall silent for a while (I know it's hard to believe).
And thanks, Damon. Like those pics of you in your undies, too. ;)

Nikkers said...

This is a subject I have grappled with myself. The competition sounds like a great way to raise a very serious issue in a non-threatening way.
I almost melted on the spot when you wrote about the entrants ``fully engaging in the realities of keeping the family juggernaut afloat, emotionally and practically, so that everyone has more time for their own interests and for each other''.
Sounds like heaven to me.
I heard the NSW MP Pru Goward - a former Australian Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner - speak at a local event. She named the division of home duties as the number one issue facing households in electorates across Australia.
I don't doubt her for a minute.

Anonymous said...

hahahaha. The last bit was so funny.
I just got your book The divided heart and can't wait to get into it. Cheers :)

Steve Holmes Boom said...

This is a nice topic 'cause nowadays many guys are doing the domestic thing or they are helping to this thing and is good 'cause a family have to do the different work together not avoid an action only by gender thing.