The prosecution Amy
I feel that my older brother gets an easier ride than I do. It’s very gendered
I live at home with my mum Min and my older brother Ailun. Growing up, I was told that once I turned 21 and got a job I would have to do my own housework and start contributing to household bills. Recently, I moved back home after university and got a job in finance, and I was happy to agree to it as my mum is a single parent and it makes me proud to help out with the rent.
There’s just one issue I find unfair. Sometimes I don’t have time to do my laundry and ironing, so I’d love it if my mum did it when she had the chance. She still does Ailun’s laundry. He’s 26 and also works in finance. He pays more in bills to our mum but I don’t think that’s why she does it.
Who said I want to be someone’s wife? I’ve just graduated and I want to concentrate on my career
Mum often says: “It’s time for you to grow up. You also have more time on your hands.” With Ailun, she’s like, “Oh, boys need extra help, and he works so hard.” It’s true that he works longer hours in the office but I think he still gets an easier ride. We are a British-Chinese family and I think Chinese culture really favours men at times. When I say to Ailun it’s not fair, he just laughs and says, “Life’s not fair, Amy.”
I think that Mum is really easy on Ailun while being quite hard on me because I’m a woman. She says I need to learn skills in preparation for keeping my own home one day. But who said I want to be someone’s wife? I’ve just graduated and I want to concentrate on my career. Also, housework is something that both men and women should learn.
I’ve brought this up with her and she will occasionally add my clothes to the laundry load but she never irons them. Again, I wouldn’t mind, but she always irons my brother’s shirts. Growing up I always noticed that Ailun got away with way more stuff than me. As soon as I turned 10 I was expected to help out with cooking and cleaning, but I never saw him doing much of that.
I think Mum approaches housework in a very gendered fashion. Now I’ve moved back I can see it more clearly. She needs to treat us equally now we are all under one roof again, otherwise it’s going to cause issues.
The defence: Min
My son works longer hours. Amy is more than capable of doing her own washing
No mother dreams of doing housework for their children when they reach their 20s. I encourage both Amy and Ailun to do their share.
Amy returned from university and now has all these radical ideas. She thinks that I treat her differently from Ailun, when that’s really not the case. Ailun and I have been living together since he graduated from university four years ago. We have got into a rhythm of doing things while Amy’s been away.
Ailun works very hard and earns quite a lot, so he contributes generously to the bills and food. In return I make time for his washing and ironing. I want him looking smart so he keeps his job. I’m proud of both my children, but Amy just entered the world of work and she is not yet in a high-powered role. She has plenty of time to do her own chores, as she works fewer hours than Ailun. I say: “If you were under the same stress as Ailun I’d do your washing, too.” It’s a practical decision, not a gendered one. Ideally I’d like to be doing zero housework for my children. I’m retired and in my mid-60s so I’d rather be relaxing, but I help out when I can.
I don’t think it’s sexist to praise women for doing a good job in the kitchen.
When the kids were small their father walked out on us. We had to divvy up chores so we could get by as a family. Ailun did some of the more “masculine” jobs like taking the bins out, building furniture and helping me with the car. I have always asked Amy to contribute with the cooking and the cleaning. She is quite good at it. She makes dinner for us sometimes and it’s always really tasty. But she also becomes irritated with me when I compliment her home-making skills. I don’t think it’s sexist to praise women for doing a good job in the kitchen.
Men and women are good at different things. That’s totally fine. Whenever Amy starts nitpicking about my behaviour towards her and Ailun, I always think that that time could be better spent organising her own life.
I’m happy that my kids still live at home, but if they don’t like how things work, they are free to move out. It sometimes feels like we’ve gone backwards and they are acting like school kids.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should Amy’s mum do the laundry for one, both or neither of her kids?
It’s hardly “radical” for a brother and sister to be treated equally. It sounds like Ailun has always been given credit because he’s male, and now he’s a rich male too. Infuriatingly, he laughs off the unfairness, and Min patronises Amy for her domestic skills. He should learn these too.
Amy, your elderly mum shouldn’t be doing laundry for either of you, but you can’t control what others do, only yourself. You have modern ideals around the sharing of labour at home so have conviction in them. Be better.
It does seem like there is a gendered component to Min’s approach, but that isn’t an argument for Min to do Amy’s laundry, it’s an argument for Ailun to start doing his own. Both children need to take responsibility – they won’t be living with their mother forever.
Functioning adults should be responsible for their own basic needs, and it’s rather embarrassing when they aren’t. Though Min is guilty of mollycoddling two twentysomethings, both of whom should have more respect for their mother’s home.
Is Min old-fashioned or sexist? Who knows. To keep things harmonious, the best thing would be for Min to do less of Ailun’s laundry and more of Amy’s. But neither of them should really expect Min to do it for them – she should really be relaxing and let them do their own.
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge. In our online poll, below, tell us: should Min do Amy’s laundry?
We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.
The poll is now closed
Last week’s result
We asked whether Benji should listen to his partner Helena and improve his table manners.
36% of you said no – Benji is innocent
64% of you said yes – Benji is guilty