Belfast Telegraph

Try school runs, and not school dinners, for a change Jamie

By Jane Graham

I laughed when I read about Jamie Oliver complaining that, despite taking "sufficient weekends and holidays a year for any British woman" he doesn't feel he is adequately 'thanked' by his wife Jools.

"You could take another week off and it wouldn't make any difference. You'd still get a bollocking."

As any mum juggling a busy brood and a husband with a time-consuming job will tell you, this is well-trodden domestic warfare territory.

Many men, especially if they're the main breadwinners, feel that taking a few weeks off every year and squeezing in a bedtime story or a school drop-off should make them immune to further demands.

On the other hand, women who end every day frazzled by a diet of school runs, ballet lessons, doctor's appointments, cooking dinners, homework, throwing out burnt dinners and concocting second efforts - fitted around, for many of us, paid work - think their husbands enjoy a superior freedom and a blissful ignorance about their wives' day-to-day.

When the men in these situations get to the end of their working day, they want to switch off and get their shoulders rubbed and their dinners delivered while watching Silent Witness (or in my own case, A History of Cathedrals) with minimal conversational interruption.

As Jamie Oliver admitted, when it comes to explaining his reasons for heading to the States to educate American tubsters about the benefit of broccoli, he gives more time to journalists than his wife. "If I come home and give her the 360 on everything I'm doing, then that's another eight-hour day," he opines.

You have to admire his honesty. And thank him for a helpful insight into the reason so many of us women feel like MI5 controllers trying to extract secret information from highly trained agents when we ask our husbands what they've been up to that day. They're tougher to crack than five-year-olds.

But the truth is that, contrary to the popular belief that women babble on about the school's new lunch policy and Jordan's new nose just to stop men enjoying Top Gear, our need to chat to an engaged adult at the end of the day is just as strong as a man's need to relax in stressless silence. Especially if, like me, your daylight hours are spent at home or on the school run, with human interaction usually precluding anyone old enough to legally drive a tractor (14, if you're interested, though you have to stay on the farm).

I have sympathy for Jools Oliver, despite the millions.

Jamie says when he knows a big jaunt abroad is looming his approach is to "try not to tell her".

Does he just wait for it to dawn on her at midnight that he's not coming back that day?

For me, not taking all your allocated holiday leave is a betrayal of your family. I confess I get riled when my husband springs another London trip on me, because I know I'll be a burnt-out heap with a foggy head by 8pm and I probably won't speak to an adult from breakfast until bedtime.

How must it feel if your partner works away half the week?

And then there are the single parents getting their kids successfully to school every day, dressed and fed - a heroic feat that I have nothing but knocked-out awe for.

I don't know who's right. But if men made more effort to talk, meaningfully, after 8pm, they might find themselves more frequently rewarded after 11pm.

Not a promise, just a thought.

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