Cleaning up: one reason why divorce rates are falling…

why divorce rates are fallingI have a theory that one reason why divorce rates are falling is because husbands and wives are together taking on both roles, setting aside the traditional approach that certain jobs are allocated by gender. Thus in contrast to the 1990s, we women no longer are expected to do all the washing, cooking, cleaning and ironing, as well as holding down a day job. I remember how in those years I used to stay up with Ben when he was a baby, sometimes through the night. I had to deal with the housekeeping, baby care, shopping and cooking.  I also had to go to work and be a lawyer, like my husband.  It was incredibly hard work. I said then and still believe now that the pressure of women trying to do everything  and go out to work, was one reason for the rise in divorce rates. Times have changed. The tasks that were once done by one spouse, are now done by both or swapped over altogether. Men are far more in touch with their “feminine side” and conversely, women are far more in touch with their “masculine side.” With both parties boldly daring to cross that divide, resentment can disappear out of the window. Couples become more aware of the stresses and strains upon the other and help one another. They are more tolerant of each other, and more likely to stay together.

That’s my theory, anyway.  To my amazement earlier this week, I heard the presenters on Galaxy Radio saying the same thing. One listener phoned in to describe how his wife had changed the tyre on his car – “no problem” – after he couldn’t!

And things have changed too at the Stowe household. There was a major catastrophe at the weekend. Forget volcanic ash from Iceland. This was far, far, worse. At 0905 hours on Saturday morning, the tumble dryer broke. Like the parrot in Monty Python, it “ceased to be”. Alone in the house, I repeated to myself the need to remain calm, despite the full load of wet washing stuck inside the drum. I called the service number and was told that nobody could come until Thursday.

“Thursday!” I exclaimed. “Thursday? Don’t you understand this is an Emergency? We can’t manage until Thursday! ”

There was, however, nothing to be done. I moved my Wattbike into the garden and began cycling. I tried to take my mind off the catastrophe by focusing on my new fat self – a result of my recent holiday. As I cycled, I felt worse and worse. Thankfully my husband returned home just as I finished the first 20 km.

“You can’t have a bath towel for a shower until Thursday”, I shouted to him, pedalling furiously as he emerged from the car. “The dryer’s broken and we can’t dry any washing until Thursday. You’re going to have to use a face towel.”

My bemused husband, who had already showered that morning, locked his car and asked what happened. “The dryer has gone to heaven. There is a load of wet washing inside it and nothing can be done until Thursday”, I puffed. “Why, oh why, does this always happen to me?”

My husband walked into the garage and reappeared with a clothes line and some pegs. That was a surprise! I didn’t know we had them! He said that he didn’t need my help. He put the clothes line up, went into the house and came out a short time later with a basket full of wet washing.

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My husband: patiently riding to the rescue!

I couldn’t help it. “But that’s not going to solve the problem until Thursday!” I was almost out of breath by this point, because I was on Wattbike’s Level 4. He gave me the funny look he reserves for certain occasions, didn’t say a word, patiently hung out the washing and went back into the house.

Just then my son Ben pulled up and proceeded to take three enormous bags of washing out of his car. I couldn’t believe it. “What on earth are those?” I called.

“It’s my washing, Mum. You always do it.”

“Don’t you know there’s a crisis?” I said. “And another thing. Why do we bother with holidays when they cost too much money and make us fat, and we have to cycle like lunatics to get rid of the fat?”

“Sorry!” said Ben. “I’m not cycling and I’m not fat. You are cycling far too hard  – and you aren’t fat, either.”

Despite changed attitudes, it was clear to me at that moment that men don’t always get the situation as quickly as we women. “I meant that the dryer’s broken and we’re in a major crisis. How on earth can I possibly get through three loads of your washing? Where am I supposed to dry them?”

Ben looked at the washing line and gave me the same funny look as my husband, who came outside just then. “Ignore your mother”, he sighed. “Bring your washing inside please, Ben.”

And so the men of the house came to the rescue. By the time I’d had my shower, using a face towel to dry myself and another face towel to dry my hair, Ben’s washing had all been done and the clothes line was completely full. The first load of washing was dry; my husband had unpegged it and was folding it neatly. I made myself a cup of coffee and a light lunch. My husband and Ben had eaten theirs: toasted goat’s cheese sandwiches with a side salad. I peeled an apple and ate it with a piece of cheese my husband had bought at Tesco last week. “Sainsburys”, said my husband. “Oh, I thought you bought it at Tesco?” I said. “You weren’t there”, said my husband.

After lunch I went for a snooze. First I watched my team Leeds Rhinos beat Hull in the fourth round of the Rugby League Challenge Cup. It was a great game and we totally smashed them. When I woke up I realised it was late afternoon  and the washing was still outside. I went downstairs to bring it in and found the place deserted. The dogs were staring mournfully at the spot where Ben’s car had been parked.

Ben and all his washing had gone. The washing line had been put away. Our own washing, nicely dry, was piled neatly on the side in the kitchen. Half an hour later, my husband came in from the David Lloyd gym, excited that he had managed 60 minutes at Level 16 on the evil Kilimanjaro Climb, beating everyone out of sight. He proudly produced a face towel which he had used to dry himself and intended to reuse on Sunday. Then he started to make the dogs their dinner.

“Have you seen my towelling robe?” I asked. “The one that was, um, in the dryer?”

“I hung it over the radiator in the downstairs bathroom before I went out” he replied, patiently.

I rushed to find it.

“You men are so useless!” I teased. “You left the bottom of my towelling robe trailing on the floor.”

Yes, thank goodness, times have certainly changed!

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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