The Problem With Housework Isn’t Your Partner — It’s Capitalism

But seriously, they should just empty the dishwasher every now and then

Annaliese Griffin
Forge
Published in
5 min readApr 22, 2021

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Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

I think things are fairly equal in my marriage. I make most of the money. My husband does almost all of the cooking and more of the daily child care than I do. I run admin. He deals with lawn and car things. The rest we tag-team in a haphazard way that mostly works out. Still, we argue over division of labor, and we both spend some time feeling put upon.

But lately, I’ve come to believe that feeling resentful about the work I do at home is distracting me from my real source of stress: capitalism.

Our culture of constant work centers the paid economy, insisting that unpaid labor is secondary. But caring for your life, caring for your people, making a home, connecting with your neighbors, and strengthening bonds that help you thrive in the world is work, and it is often joyful work. I’ve come to actively love it because it’s labor I do for my family, and for myself, that exists beyond the reach of capitalism.

There’s power in reframing our idea of what housework truly is. If you want to stand against the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, start by putting your own economy first. After all, not everyone gets to find deep purpose in their job, but the unpaid work of the home has the potential to provide deep meaning to anyone, if we can appreciate it.

The household as economic system

To embrace the meaning in housework, and to unlearn the resentment that can come with it, I’ve been turning to an essay titled “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine” that Wendell Berry, the poet and farmer, wrote in 1989. He critiques the modern household, and partnerships within it, as focused solely on consumption. He offers another way to see things, identifying a “productive” household that “makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of…

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Annaliese Griffin
Forge
Writer for

Annaliese Griffin is a writer and editor who most recently led the Quartz Daily Obsession, an award-winning newsletter. She lives in Vermont with her family.