Book Review

The Wife Drought: Why women need wives, and men need lives

review by Liz Benson

In ‘The Wife Drought’, Annabel Crabb has penned a clear-eyed look at the problem facing working women and men in this country: mainly that the men who get ahead at work usually have wives at home taking care of housework and childcare, while women rarely have the same advantage.

Of those women who have managed to carve out significant careers and raise families, most continue to face questions and judgement around how they can leave their babies at home and who’s looking after the home (as if men were incapable). The truth, for Australian women at least, is that the more they earn, the more they contribute to the running of the household, which is counterintuitive and completely the opposite to what men have experienced since the Industrial Revolution.

First written in 2014 but still highly relevant, The Wife Drought is factual, complete with statistics and anecdotes, especially from the world of politics with which Annabel Crabb is intimately familiar. It’s by turns funny, wry, and incredulous as Crabb ponders why we still haven’t solved the issue of equality at work. The tongue-in-cheek answer seems to be to issue everyone with a ‘wife’. Real, concrete answers are still hard to come by, however, and The Wife Drought doesn’t pretend to have the solutions. In fact, this book mostly reaffirms what most of us already know: that women are still paying a high price for participating in the workforce while the men who want to help them or relinquish the traditional breadwinner role still face resistance from their peers, employers, and even their own (mostly outdated) views on masculinity.

Quote from the book:

“Why do women with a helpful spouse often feel like they’ve won the lottery, while men with a helpful spouse seem unremarkable?”

The Wife Drought: Why women need wives
Annabel Crabb
Ebury Press, 2014