Unpaid Work Has Mega Value

As a feminist, I have always thought my relationships should be 50-50 — meaning each person should do 50% of the work in the relationship and pitch in to make things work. That has always been my ideal, but it never seems to work out that way in reality.

Lately, I have taken on a lot of the chores in my home.  My partner has been working a lot, and, right now, I am unemployed. But she also has health issues and it’s hard for her to do chores. (Not like chores are easy for anyone; I don’t know many people who like doing them.)

Chores are often physically demanding, repetitive, and boring. Chores are hard work! If it were up to me, it would be paid work. I always say it’s paid in a different way — in clean clothes, clean dishes, clean litter boxes, and happy people and animals.

One of my political science professors once told our class that the majority of toilets are cleaned by women. My partner is a woman, but I still clean the toilet. It kind of bothers me that she doesn’t do more chores. It has always been a sticking point in our relationship. It is true that more women do housework then men in relationships. Often, women are expected to work and take on a “second shift”— cooking, cleaning, and tending to children, their partners, and maybe even their elderly parents, too. It’s too much to expect from anyone. And it’s not right that our society puts that burden on women, alone.

Part of me wants to straight rebel against that notion. But being in a same-sex relationship didn’t suddenly free me from chores. Unfortunately, chores don’t get done by themselves. I have had to shift my perspective on chores dramatically in order to accept my situation.

Instead of resenting my partner for not doing many chores, I had to see that she just isn’t physically capable. And for now, although I loathe them, I am capable. Furthermore, the satisfaction I get is from having a functional home is immense. I contribute by using my labor to keep my home running well.  I value my family and doing chores is a way to take care of them.

Unpaid work is very important and should be valued more by our society. Think what would happen if no one did chores! We need to recognize how important our unpaid labor is and be proud of the work we accomplish inside our homes. Reframing chores from a degrading role to one of purpose has been key for me. Once I started realizing this, it became easier for me to do chores, and I let go of much of the resistance I had. Chores have to get done, and I am proud to be the one doing them.

My partner appreciates my efforts, too. She also helps make meals — and she’s a great cook. Together we are making it work. It may not be 50-50 in every way, but it’s working well enough for us.


Tina Phillips

is a social worker who enjoys writing, advocacy, good food, and thrifting. She lives in Oakland, CA with her partner, Rachel, four cats, and their dog, Miss Piggy. You can read more of her writing on her blog at http://tinasradicalrant.blogspot.com/.

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