As a young girl, I was taught a lot of things.
To braid hair, to colour between the lines, to knot friendship bracelets, to wipe from front to back, to choreograph all of Madonna’s dance routines in my loungeroom.
But none of these lessons in creative arts and hygiene help when you’re in a dark wet corner of the backyard, awkwardly wielding a spanner, trying to replace a gas bottle.
It turns out gas bottles have a left-handed thread and no amount of swearing or Madonna dancing will help you if you don’t know this.
Since our grandmothers’ generation, women have made serious inroads into smashing the glass ceiling (15% of CEOs are female, so there is a way to go). But what about the grass ceiling? Who mops the floors and who mows the grass? Who gets the instantly-gratifying outdoor jobs which solicit kudos from neighbours and foot traffic – those heroic public tasks that stay ‘done’ for days? And who is lumped with the endless mountains of washing and dishes – the thankless private domestic purgatory which never, ever, ever ends?
According to the 2016 census, one in four Australian men did no domestic work in the week prior to being surveyed. Absolutely nothing. On average, Australian women spent between five and 14 hours a week cleaning, cooking, and shopping. The average bloke spent less than five hours doing the same.
But that’s just part of the picture. The ABS doesn’t ask household members the levels of satisfaction and esteem derived from those hours.
Who cooks every family meal except for when there is a backyard barbecue audience in attendance? Who holds court over the outdoor grill, and who toils alone in the trenches preparing salads? Cos, you don’t make friends with salad.
Maybe you are a Single Mum Warrior Queen and have everything covered. Maybe you are in a same-sex relationship and gender roles don’t apply. Maybe you form part of a super-couple for whom gender-based labour division doesn’t cause deep relationship rifts and resentment.
But for those women who find themselves frustrated by their lack of independence, empowerment and general satisfaction in their day to day activates, I give you this list:
13 must-see YouTube tutorials* to empower and liberate mothers from domestic doom
*Warning: There may be some mansplaining.
Change a Gas bottle
Let’s start with that aforementioned gas bottle. I have a theory that the reason why more women don’t take command of the barbeque is because gas bottle management is considered a ‘masculine’ job: ‘Little lady, those bottles are heavy, metal, and covered in important red warnings’. Truth is, you don’t need a penis to wrangle gas. You just need to be taught. Here’s to a lifetime of someone else making the salads while you’re busy being Goddess of The Grill-plate.
Change a flat bike tyre
Teach yourself, teach your daughter, and cycle your way out of dependence on cars and blokes.
Fix a washing machine
I remember when I fixed my first washing machine with some simple lid jigging. I felt immortal. These days, it costs almost the same for someone to come to your house and attempt to repair your machine as it does to replace it with a cheap new appliance.
While you won’t be able to fix it every time, there are a few easy troubleshooting exercises that you should try before giving up. One really easy way to fix your machine is with some simple lid sorcery. This video uses appalling typography, but the tips (including the lid trick) are great and it covers most easy-fix solutions.
Belly dance your way to liberation
Who are you deep-down? Cinderella or Ishtar the Dancing Goddess? Try this. Refuse to iron anything that isn’t for a wedding, funeral, or job interview. Replace every minute you spent at the ironing board with belly dancing tutorials. Hip isolation exercises like this can also replace boring kegels exercises — so you won’t piss yourself laughing when a family member asks where their ironed shirt is.
Learn domestic violence is not your fault
ABS’s personal safety survey shows that one in 11 Australians have been subject to violence by a partner since the age of 15 — the breakdown is one in six women and one in 20 men. I’ll repeat that: 1 in 6 women are subjected to violence from a partner. NSW Police know one of the factors preventing women from seeking help is the perpetrator’s insistence that the victim is somehow at fault. Domestic violence is never your fault, which is why they made this video.
Another handy tip is this: Police can now record domestic violence video evidence at the time of an incident, which relieves the victim of the emotional burden of giving evidence in court. It’s also more effective as evidence. If you are given the option of giving a written statement, or a video statement, take the video option if you can.
Fold a fitted sheet like a Queen
Fighting regularly with bundles of elasticised sheeting will fill you with despair. You are better than that. This is the only video I could find which went slow enough for me.
Ask for a raise
In the 1970s, psychologists coined the phrase ‘imposter syndrome’ as a way of describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. They theorised that women were uniquely predisposed to the impostor phenomenon, “since success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalised self-evaluations.”
Basically, women are more likely to think they don’t deserve success.
This is crap. This video will take you through the steps to justify and ask for a raise or promotion.
Change a car tyre
Teach yourself, teach your daughter, and make sure you have all the stuff you need in the car. Even if you have Roadside Assistance membership, this is a skill which you or your kids may desperately need at some point in their lives. This tutorial is both practical and hilarious. Pay no mind to the misogynistic trolls in the comments section.
Build a house
Or maybe just build a little part of a house. A 45-year-old US mother, Cara Brookins, and her four children built a house in 2008 using YouTube videos. She had fled an abusive relationship and had nothing to lose. Inspirational.
Learn that breastfeeding doesn’t come ‘naturally’
A breastfeeding tutorial makes the list for one reason. It shows that for millions of mothers breastfeeding didn’t come naturally. Over 3 million women watched the video below. And that’s just one of the hundreds of online tutorials on the subject.
You are not a failure if breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally or even at all. Neither are the other millions of mothers desperately googling ‘How to Breastfeed’ and ‘How To Settle a Baby’ on their smartphones in the middle of the night.
If you live in Australia and would like help with breastfeeding, visit www.breastfeeding.asn.au or call 1800 686 268.
Outsource getting the kids to sleep
Kids will hold you hostage forever with their distraction techniques when you try to get them to sleep. How many hours of your life have you wasted in negotiations with these sleepless little terrorists. Enough! Put on this video and leave the room. Return after 15 minutes of bellydancing practice and a miracle might well have occurred. It also works for sleepless grown-ups.
Change a car headlight bulb
This will save you a heap of money and it’s not that hard. It also means your car isn’t at the mechanics forever.
Finally learn to Vogue, or whatever it was you always dreamt of
I lied before about perfecting all of Madonna’s dance moves as a child. The Vogue choreography always alluded me. But dammit, there is no way I’m leaving that project unfinished. Also, listening to that song as an adult, the lyrics now read like a sleep-deprived mother’s lament:
Look around everywhere you turn is heartache
It’s everywhere that you go (look around)
You try everything you can to escape
The pain of life that you know (life that you know)
If you’re telling me you don’t have time, then perhaps review those ABS statistics. How many hours of unpaid domestic labour are you doing a week?
And more importantly, how many of those brought you joy, liberation or satisfaction?