Andrea Mara

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Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes?

The house went dark. It was like that scene in a scary movie when the baddie cuts all the wires. I look out into the hall – no baddie. Well as far as I could see in the pitch blackness. The kids were all screaming, pretending to be petrified but secretly loving the drama that had broken up their homework session. I told them to stay at the table, and I’d sort it out. Yes. Yes I would.

Straight into MacGyver mode, I picked up my keys – you see, I had a tiny torch on my key-ring, for just this kind of emergency. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, et cetera.

I dragged a chair out to the hall, and climbed up to the box with the switches (fuse box – I think). I shone my tiny torch on the row of switches. One was up, all the others were down. That was a clue. I tried to read the faded stickers that indicate what each switch is for. I could just make out “lights” on the sticker below the switch that was up. Aha!

Light bulb: Office Mum
Light bulb moment

I flicked the switch down. Blue sparks shot out, and the switch flicked back up – by itself. I didn’t scream. But I decided against trying a second time. There was clearly something wrong – blue sparks are never a good sign. I went back to the kitchen to break the news to the kids that homework would be postponed.

“When is dad going to be home?” asked the five-year-old.

“Soon now, he’s on his way I’d say,” I replied.

“He’ll fix the lights won’t he mum?” she asked.

“Yes, daddy will know what to do. He’ll fix it.” Sigh.

I’m really letting the side down here. There’s no reason in the world why I can’t fix this myself, or why my husband is going to be any better at dealing with blue sparks than I am. In fact, I suspect the sparks are not really a problem, and that we just need someone with bravery and/ or common sense to flick the switch. AKA my husband.

Ten minutes later, he arrived home to a dark house. I started into a long story about what had happened, but half-way through, he flicked the switch and the lights came back on. Just like that.

“Oh,” I said, “Yes, I probably should have just done it a second time…..”

“Yay!” said the kids, “Daddy fixed the lights!”

And you know, it’s not just blue sparks – arguably, it wasn’t a terrible idea to wait until there was a second adult in the house to deal with electrical problems. But I’m guilty of reinforcing gender stereotypes in other non-life-threatening situations too.

Like when a toy runs out of batteries. Once upon a time, it went like this:

“Mum, the batteries are gone, can you change them?”

“I’m just making dinner here, daddy will be home soon and he’ll sort that out for you.”

Now it’s more like:

“The batteries are gone – we’ll get dad to change them when he comes home, won’t me mum?”

I’m ashamed. But not enough to start actually getting out the fiddly screwdriver to take off the panel and test 26 non-working batteries before finding two that do work.

Not my tools

And then there’s the TV (and the Skybox and the Apple thingy). Mostly we turn on everything and get out all the remote controls and press eight or nine buttons, and we get TV. Sometimes not. I try plugging in things at the back – scart cables (see, I do know the lingo) and get the kids to tell me if anything comes on. If that doesn’t work, I press all of the buttons on all of the remotes many times over, waiting for some permutation to work.

“When will dad be home?” they say, despondently, sad to be missing even minutes of their beloved telly-time.

“Soon,” I say, “And he’ll sort it for you anyway if I can’t.”

Sorry feminism. I’m really sorry. But the reality is, I’m lazy when it comes to figuring out fiddly things around the house, and my husband isn’t. I give up quickly – he likes the challenge.  I pass the buck if I can, he keeps at it for hours if necessary. Or, seconds, as is usually the case.

Like when he walks into the sitting room, and presses just one button, and the TV comes on.

“Yay! Yay for daddy!” shriek the kids. And I slink away to put the bins out. I’m joking, of course I don’t put the bins out. Sorry.





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