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Wifework, "the care and maintenance of men's bodies, minds and egos" is a one-way street, says Maushart, something wives do for husbands at great cost to their mental and physical health, with minimal reciprocation. According to her, even fully employed wives do a disproportionate amount of housework, in addition to "child-care drudgework," "monitoring His physical well-being," "deferring to His agenda in day-to-day conversation," maintaining "His extended family relationships," etc. Maushart (The Mask of Motherhood) counters that he, in contrast, is merely a "volunteer" in the marriage; apart from providing an income, he's really only expected to "turn up" at family events. That such inequality endures at least in Maushart's view despite feminism and economic progress for women, is a question the author explores here. This Australian writer asserts that while men use various denial mechanisms to avoid wifework (like trivializing the importance of cleaning), what's worse is that most wives seem to collude in "maintaining positive illusions" about the inequality in their marriages. Her solution? Readers may expect a call for the end of marriage, but Maushart pleads for the interests of the children, for whom she says divorce is worse than living with marital discord. Instead, she advocates that couples relieve some wifework by assigning broad areas of responsibility (laundry, cooking, etc.) to husbands. And women should expect less, she says; they should realize that "marriage entails a sort of base level of unhappiness that couples need to learn to anticipate and accept." Though that's a downbeat ending for an often funny dissection of modern marriage, it is 100% honest like the rest of this smart and witty book. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

That marriage is a problematic institution comes as no surprise to anyone who's ever been in one or watched from the sidelines. To the spate of books claiming to have the answer to marriage's woes come two thoughtful and well-researched offerings, which take slightly different tacks. In Wifework, Maushart (Sort of a Place Like Home) suggests that the main reason divorce is so prevalent and is initiated by women three quarters of the time is that marriage is simply a better deal for men than for women. According to Maushart, women are too often expected to perform "wifework" the time-consuming and energy-draining effort to maintain men's bodies, minds, and egos. From preparing meals specifically to his taste and schedule to deferring to his agenda in day-to-day conversation, wives are involved, mentally and physically, with husband care. And it's not reciprocated. Maushart has put her finger on a marital hot spot, one voiced among women but rarely publicly. Still, this book isn't about blame but about realizing one aspect of the problem and working to fix it through true partnership, which Maushart emphasizes over any specific advice. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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