Fiona McCade: A job worth having done for you

Letting men feel like Superman for doing DIY is a win-win situation. Picture: PA
Letting men feel like Superman for doing DIY is a win-win situation. Picture: PA
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Allowing men to feel like heroes for helping with domestic chores that require some muscle is a win for women too, writes Fiona McCade

Sometimes, the feeling of powerlessness in the face of an intransigent screw-top is more than flesh can bear. Just last week, I was in the position of simply not having enough muscle to undo a lid.

I tried everything, but nothing worked. My husband was away, my neighbours were out. It looked like the top was not the only thing which was completely and utterly screwed.

So I did the only sensible thing. I gave up, poured a glass of red, phoned a friend and asked to borrow her husband. She sent him over and lo, the pesky lid was putty in his manly hands.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve used this excellent arrangement, and it won’t be the last, because it’s win-win. I get my difficult task done, and the gentleman in question gets to feel a little bit like Superman.

I don’t have the time, or, let’s face it, the inclination to work on my biceps, so I call upon nice men who do. As long as my friends stay in happy relationships, I’m fine. Aren’t I?

Perhaps not. It appears that I may be letting the side down.

A survey of British adult females suggests that more women than ever are doing their own DIY, renovations and other heavy domestic duties, often because they are fed up of waiting for their men to get around to it.

Sixty per cent of respondents said they were now their household’s main labourer and that they had taken up their hammers and dealt with such tasks because “it was the only way to get anything done”. I sympathise, really I do.

When I was young, free and single, I could manage almost everything I needed to do for myself.

Fuses and bulbs were changed, pictures were hung, cars were maintained, and if the occasional, stubborn screw-top had to be farmed out to an accommodating chap, it didn’t change the fact that, on the whole, existence was easy.

Then came marriage, a house, a child and slowly, the amount of stuff to do increased, got tougher and more complicated, started involving serious lifting and power tools, and the man who brought all this into my life is not always around to deal with it.

However – and this is where I part company with my feistier, handier sisters – it has never occurred to me to do it myself.

What I lack in self-motivation, I make up for in self-knowledge. I know perfectly well that I have the upper body strength of a mayfly. I am also unacquainted with the joys of a spirit-level.

If I made a shelf, it would collapse quicker than France in 1940. However, I don’t see the point in being proud, when there are men out there who can help.

Half of the women surveyed said they would not ask their menfolk to give them a hand. Sisters, are you crazy?

Men love making themselves useful, especially when it’s not in their own home.

Perhaps this is the problem, and it affects both sexes. When we’re sorting out our own problems, it’s drudgery, but when someone else asks us to help them, we instantly become powerful saviours.

Just recently, I helped a friend and her husband put up a shed. Granted, I did very little, and spent most of the time eating her homemade cake and staring confusedly at spirit-levels, but afterwards I felt very good about myself.

And, having showed so willing, I wasn’t in the least embarrassed to ask her to loan me her husband for lid-twisting duties.

I applaud anyone who bravely steps outside their comfort zone and tackles a job they never thought they’d have to do, but the fact is that many women feel forced to do this.

We either have no man, or an absent man, and we believe that we have little or no choice.

Another friend of mine has practically rebuilt a house in France, single-handed, while her man works in the UK to pay for the stuff she physically, or legally, can’t do.

I think she is nothing short of amazing, but I would gouge my eyes out with soup spoons rather than go down that road.

If doing this kind of tough work is important to a woman’s self-esteem, and she enjoys it, then fine; but if she’s battling through simply because some bloke has let her down, then there are ways of getting it done that don’t involve carrying a hod. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I prefer to think that necessity is the mother of supplication. Ask, and some nice guy will probably do it for you.

I know I’m not the only person thinking this, because I’ve found several Rent-A-Husband websites, one of which has the slogan: “For those jobs that never get done!” Another one advertises by guaranteeing you a man who will “Never say ‘I’m busy’,” “Never argues with you” and “Always clears up after himself”.

Ah, if only I could find one in Scotland.

I own a copy of the Reader’s Digest Complete DIY Manual, but I’ve found it only helps if you understand it. I can’t see the point in making my home dangerous by attempting to do jobs for which I am clearly too inept and too lazy.

I would rather earn money doing something I understand, then use that money to pay a professional to do something they understand. That way, the job gets done well, and I don’t have to do it. Yet another win-win situation.

My laziness makes me suspect that this boom in handywomen is fuelled not by enthusiasm, but by frustration.

So, perhaps groups of female friends should get together to create DIY circles, in which they lend out their men to each other. Then there would always be help available for lone women, and the men – freed from their own tedious domestic responsibilities – could enjoy being someone else’s Superman.