It’s not the power behind the throne, it’s the housekeeping behind the throne

Our system is built on unpaid labor

We do it because we like it, right?

A VP (a male VP) sent out a piece about allyship the other day where he talked about how important it is to bring women into the workforce. Something about economic development.

And I wanted to yell, “Because women’s work counts towards GDP only when it’s for an employer. But that doesn’t mean they’re not working when they’re at home!”

If a woman cleans an office, she’s paid. If she cleans her house, she’s not. If she works at a child care center, she’s paid. If she takes care of her own children, she’s not.

That’s a huge issue by itself and bigger than what I want to talk about.

Let’s narrow it down.

As if male executives could reach their positions without someone at home handling the details. For free.

There was a famous divorce case years ago. A GE exec didn’t think his stay at home wife deserved half his money.

Spoiler: SHE DID. She did deserve it.

He claimed his wife she hadn’t helped his career. As if he could have gone to work every day and worked late hours and taken business trips with a minute’s notice without someone at home cooking his food and washing his clothes and raising his children.

Some men are such jerks.

She had also managed his social life and his work social life. She had attended work parties with him and whispered, “That’s John and Jane Doe. Kids are Karen and Chad. Chad just won the sailing regatta.”

She deserved the money for attending his work parties alone.

She also deserved it for supporting him at home alone.

A CEO talking about everyone returning to the office 100% of the time was annoyed that everyone didn’t want to return to the office 100% of the time.

He made a snarky comment about how he didn’t want to commute, either, but that it was part of the job. Another exec made a comment about having to leave the laundry for the weekend.

They are so out of touch. It’s not about the commute. It’s not about the laundry.

It’s about the tiny details of everyday life – helping a first grader log onto the computer and find her class. Helping an elderly parent connect with a doctor online. Watching the kids because daycares are not accepting new customers because daycares cannot find employees.

This thought is not original to me, of course. Helen Lewis wrote a piece for the Times about unpaid labor – why were previous generations more productive than this one?

Because there was unpaid labor taking care of all the details at home.

Our system depends on people – mostly women but more and more, it’s men – dads – doing the work as well.

But the system doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

The System – let’s give it a name – wants to deny that it exists. It wants to pull everyone back into the office and work everyone to death.

Hmmmm. I can’t decide if I am more angry about women being exploited – if I am angry at The Patriarchy – or at the workers being exploited – if I am angry at Management.


Why choose?

I am angry at both.

But mostly at The Patriarchy.

An author I follow – I can’t remember if it’s Caroline Criado Perez or Katrine Marcal (who wrote, “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?”) or someone else – found this story, “Why making women retire later comes with hidden cost: State picks up £5,600 bill for the caring of elderly relatives that could have been covered by women if they were not still working.”

Note that the title is not, “Why making MEN retire later comes with hidden cost: State picks up £5,600 bill for the caring of elderly relatives that could have been covered by MEN if they were not still working.”

  • Reforms which raised retirement age for women have not saved taxpayer money
  • For every woman working 30 hours a week in sixties, it costs £5,600 in lost care
  • Women who continue working reduce care they provide for parents, study found
  • A study of 7,000 women by King’s College London was published yesterday

And then there’s this:, a home health care agency.

The assumption under everything, it seems, is that women will take care of everyone.

And when they don’t take care of everyone, then everyone gets cranky because now it’s women’s fault that taxpayers have to pay more money to take care of the old people that women should be taking care of for free.

It’s not The Patriarchy’s fault for assuming that women will work for free.

I hate The Patriarchy.


4 thoughts on “It’s not the power behind the throne, it’s the housekeeping behind the throne

  1. Rent a daughter. Wait, does that make being a daughter, a paid position? I would love for that to happen. I’m owed some back wages.


  2. Wonderful post! I’m lucky–I’ve had a stay-at-home husband for over a decade, which is why I can manage a demanding job without some of the contortions other professional women go through. But our arrangement is still considered unusual, and it shouldn’t be. I also think about how many women never get to do creative things–paint, write, etc.–or practice them enough to do them well, because they’re constantly being interrupted and exhausted by caregiving responsibilities. How much talent, how many voices do we lose b/c of patriarchy and its demands for women to perform way more than their share of unpaid labor?


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