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Cinderellas Among Us – Household Chores in Russian Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in language, Russian for beginners, Russian life

In the US there is a good saying “woman’s work is never done”. Or as Russian women might say делам по дому конца краю не видно (lit. can’t see the end to house work). So what is considered женская работа (woman’s work) in Russian households? Let’s find out and, since house chores have to be done no matter where in the world you live, let’s learn some useful phrases along the way.

Let’s start with распределение домашних дел (division of chores) or figuring out who does what in a household. In Russia, with its more traditional approach to gender roles, most routine chores are a woman’s domain. As some women (and men) say у нас распределение обязанностей – муж зарабатывает, жена на хозяйстве и деньги тратит (our division of responsibilities is the husband earns and the wife keeps the house and spends).

Grammar Note: since chores are by their nature repetitive activities that never end (sigh), we use imperfective aspect a lot unless we are talking about our to-do list for a particular day:

Мыть полы и стирать бельёэто женская работа (To mop floors is woman’s work)

Сегодня мне нужно помыть пол и постирать (Today I must mop the floor and do laundry)

Some of these housekeeping responsibilities include

Уборка (n. cleaning) – some women prefer to have one day a week that they designate as уборочный (adj. cleaning) while others do по чуть-чуть каждый день (a little bit every day). Even though most husbands do not помогать убирать (help to clean) for these ежедневный (daily) or еженедельный (weekly) chores, they do pitch in for генеральная уборка (spring cleaning) since it involves some heavy work and even minor repairs.

Мытьё (n. washing) – whether it is мытьё посуды (washing dishes), мытьё полов (mopping floors) or мытьё окон (window washing) it is a typically woman’s task. I still remember my mom standing bravely on the wide подоконник (window-sill) of our 5th-floor apartment, washing the outside of the windows.

Готовка (n. cooking) – приготовление еды (preparing meals) isn’t always done by women. In fact, many men will boast of their excellent cooking skills, particularly when it comes to шашлык (shish kebab), жаркое (pot roast) or any number of meat and fish dishes. Occasional, typically holiday or picnic, cooking is what many men do eagerly and proudly. Yet the daily duties of preparing завтрак (breakfast), обед (dinner) and ужин (supper) are typically left entirely to women.

Стирка (n. laundry) – ok, to be fair, in the “good” old days of my Soviet childhood, way before my parents bought стиральная машина (clothes washer), my father helped somewhat. Specifically, he helped my mother отжать (to wring) large and heavy items, such as bedding. He was quite exceptional that way, the only man in our entire подъезд (block of apartments) to do so. I guess now that washing machines are no longer luxury items, men don’t help much with this either.

Глажка (n. ironing) – I once did a quick survey of how many of my friends’ husbands knew where their wives kept гладильная доска (ironing board) and утюг (iron). And let me tell you, there wasn’t much difference between American and Russian men on this one.

So what’s left now that cleaning, washing, cooking, laundry and ironing are done? How about покупка продуктов (grocery shopping)? It is not always solely a woman’s responsibility though. Many husbands help, particularly with подвезти до магазина (driving to the store) and поднести тяжёлые сумки (carrying heavy bags). After that, there are just such мелочи (little things) like полив цветов (watering flowers), уход за домашними животными (taking care of house pets), and занятие детьми (here: taking care of children). Oh, and she shouldn’t forget to вынести мусор (take out trash).

Little wonder that at the end of the day women валятся с ног (dropping with fatigue). Oh, and most have full-time jobs as well. So you can frequently hear women using the following phrases to describe this situation of continuous загруженность (heavy workload):

Я верчусь, как белка в колесе целый день, а он приходит с работы и сразу за компьютер – устал, видите ли (I am spinning like a squirrel in a wheel all day and he comes from work and gets on his computer right away because he’s tired)

Вы, Марина, просто святая – на Вас весь дом держится (You, Marina, are a saint – the entire household rests on your shoulders)

Я, как Золушка, в доме за всеми убираю (I am like Cinderella, cleaning after everyone in the house)

Пашу, как лошадь, что на работе, что дома (I work like a horse both at home and at work)

У тебя муж просто ангел – и по хозяйству помогает и с дочкой занимается (Your husband is an angel what with helping you around the house and taking care of your daughter).

Я считаю, что убирать со столане мужское дело (I believe that cleaning up after a meal is not a man’s job)

Вот у Наташи в доме всегда чисто и уютно. Как она всё успевает, просто ума не приложу (Natasha’s house is always clean and cozy. How she manages to get it all done, I have no idea)

Now that you’ve learned these new phrases, tell us what are your least favorite or most favorite chores? Do you like подстригать газон (mow the lawn), мыть машину (wash the car), возить детей на футбол (drive children to soccer practice)? What are some chores that you do that I haven’t included in this post?

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  1. Richard:

    Could a more literal translation of “устал, видите ли” be “he’s tired, don’t you know?”, said in a somewhat sarcastic tone using “ли” for emphasis?

  2. Alexis:

    Ohmygosh, I have a lot of chores-words to learn now. Thankfully my Russian husband knows all the English, so I have some time to commit these to memory. 😀 Or, if I just stop doing chores, do I still need to learn them? 🙂

  3. Rob McGee:

    Я, как Золушка… (I am like Cinderella…)

    The first time I saw the name Золушка, I thought it must be derived from золото (i.e., “Little Golden One” or злой (“Little Evil One”)! But then I found out that зола means the same as пепел (“ash, ashes”), and thus Золушка is a direct translation of “Cinderella”.

    • yelena:

      @Rob McGee Glad you caught that one, Rob. Yes, Золушка is a direct translation. The “Little Golden One” would be золотко. The words зола and золото are related though.

  4. JohnS:

    Пашу, как лошадь — a wonderfully, colorful phrase. Took some investigation to find the infintive to this verb (пахать\вспахать) = to plow. N.B. The translation of отждать should be spelled ‘wring’, i.e to wring (out) the dripping wash, to wring a chicken’s neck.
    Great post!

    • yelena:

      @JohnS John, thank you for catching that! I’m going to fix it. I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

  5. JohnS:

    Sorry, I meant ‘отжать’. I myself can’t spell properly sometimes.

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