Too many women “infantilise” their husbands, leaving lists of instructions and not trusting them to run the household when they are away, the head of a leading girls’ school warned today.
Vicky Bingham, head of the £18,000-a-year South Hampstead High School, said male domestic ineptitude was a myth and women should loosen their grip on the household to prove to their daughters they do not have to be perfect at everything when they grow up.
Mrs Bingham, whose school is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, said many working mothers were still micro-managing home life despite holding down demanding jobs.
She said: “I have known friends leave instructions for their husbands on ‘Looking after the Children’ when they have been away on business. I have listened to them lament apparently having to micro-manage decisions about coats, socks, carrot batons, baths and homework, on top of very demanding jobs.
“Even if fathers are shouldering their fair share of chores, it seems that many women of my generation still carry the mental load, and believe that if they didn’t the household would fall apart.”
She added: “What kind of blueprint are some of us providing for our daughters by infantilising men?”
She warned that “extreme multi-tasking” had become a point of feminine pride, and “busyness” was a badge of “professional and maternal honour”.
The head, who is married with a nine-year-old daughter, was even told by female friends that she was “brave” and had her husband “well trained” when they found out that he was organising their child’s birthday party. He also holds down a demanding job. Mrs Bingham said she did not believe that women were by nature better organisers than men, but it had become expected of them.
“Women still assume the mental responsibility for remembering the uniform, the birthday presents, world book day costumes and play dates,” she said. “It should be a shared thing.”
This expectation on women to be perfect on all fronts was putting girls under too much pressure. Last year she scrapped report grades for “organisation” because it encouraged girls to think that academic success was down to having beautifully organised notes.
She said she had hope for the future because young men were becoming more concerned with balancing life and work, and fathers of pupils at her school were as involved in their daughters’ education as their mothers were.
She said: “At a recent assembly to our students, I reminded girls not to bother trying to please everyone all the time. There is no value in trying to live up to perceived ideas of female perfection.
“As I told them, you can’t be amazing at everything, or at least not all the time. You have to be happy with what you can do, and just let the rest go.”
She said her belief is not an excuse for students to become sloppy, but rather they must learn when they need to “nail it” and when they can cut corners.
Article first appeared in the Evening Standard, March 2018