We can (house)work it out
Lori Borgman | Monday, Oct 8, 2012
You can be sure I don’t want the husband reading the Norwegian study that found couples who share housework equally are more likely to divorce. We don’t share housework equally, but the husband does vacuum about four times a year and I don’t want him to quit now, claiming it jeopardizes our marriage.
I’m not one of those wives who want my husband doing 50 percent of the housework. I couldn’t stand the pain. You’ve not suffered until you’ve watched the man iron a shirt. I’m not saying he’s slow, but grass can grow faster.
His specialty in the kitchen is making rugelachs, rolled dough filled with cinnamon and sugar. The end product is good, but by the time he’s finished a dusting of flour and sugar covers the entire kitchen floor. On the upside, it’s good for dancing.
Like most couples, we shared housework more before we had kids. Come to think of it, that caused one of our first disagreements. I thought we should clean every Saturday and he claimed dusting that often would wear out the furniture.
Once the babies started coming, it was divide and conquer. We each took to our respective spheres and stayed there. I rule the domestic arena and he fixes things. And if he can’t fix something, he refuses to admit it and a week later I call a professional.
I have tried to imagine an egalitarian 50/50 division of the housework. Do you make a chart? Do you keep track of who last took out the trash? Set the table? Unloaded the dishwasher? Moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer?
What if the balance tips 40/60? Maybe that’s when you pull the plug on the marriage.
No dimension of marriage is truly 50/50. For a marriage to work, both parties have to bring their full game. You don’t keep score on each other in a marriage, you keep pressing toward the goal.
If a kid gets sick in the night, he is as capable of throwing the sheets in the wash as I am. If he’s working a lot, I can fire up the mower. If other demands have left me in a bind, he knows how to clean a bathroom. He actually does a more thorough job.
For the most part, due to how we are hard-wired and for the sake of efficiency, we have staked out traditional male and female dominions. We own them and enjoy them. That said, I’ve never replaced the air filter in the car, but if I had to, I could. We ascribe to the Nike philosophy of marriage. If there’s a job to do, just do it.
Our son-in-law and our future son-in-law are nearly always the first ones to help clear the table and clean up the kitchen after a big family meal. They see a job that needs to be done and they do it.
Then again, maybe they’re helping clean up to make sure I’ll keep cooking. I will.