I’m a doer. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I have a never ending to-do list for myself on which ‘prolonged relaxation’ is not an option. I totally get that this is part of who I am and I do not set the same expectations for others. Idle is simply not a good state for me. My husband, on the other hand, has managed to perfect the art of relaxation!
All through the ages women bore the brunt of household chores; cooking, cleaning, child rearing, but this routine was established in a time when women worked only in the home, so it made sense. The males, traditionally the primary breadwinner, ‘hunted the food’ and we just cooked it and kept the home fires burning. Over the decades women entered into the workforce, now contributing to the household finances, but the housework still needed to be done so they just doubled up their abilities. It’s not that men are incapable of doing housework and raising a family; it’s just that they don’t want to. It’s more a matter of priorities.
After a long day at work a man wants to relax and unwind; decompress. That there’s laundry to be done or bathrooms to clean is of little import to them because it’s not a priority. They’ll go without clean socks for another couple of days, and “the bathroom looks fine. Besides if you clean it now, it’ll only get dirty again when I shower later.” So is it a matter of standards, or are men just not as stressed about maintaining a household as women are?
I remember years ago when my children were little, I worked evenings and my husband worked days. I’d spend my daylight hours cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing a healthy home cooked meal for him to just warm up with the kids because I felt a certain responsibility for my family and my home. He felt no such responsibility, at least not to the extent that I did. In fact, on the rare (and I mean really rare) occasions when I was unable to prepare a healthy dinner for them he’d raid the fridge and whatever he found was dinner. Salami and leftover rice was on his menu more than once. Sometimes he’d spruce it up with ketchup and you know what?……..they survived! In fact, my kids really liked their ‘dad nights’ because they could pretty much eat what they want and they got one on one time with daddy. He played silly games with them, let them stay up past their bedtime, and on more than one occasion they dodged bath time (cause he didn’t feel like it) He still read them stories, he bought them ice cream, and he teased them mercilessly, and does to this day (the teasing, I mean). When I picked up an extra shift that meant he had to cancel his golf game to babysit, he packed up the kids and took them to the golf range with him. He’d cut down a couple of clubs to fit their size, bought them a bucket of balls, gave them a quick lesson and let them play. When they tired he gave each a juice box and a bag of chips to keep them quiet while he hit balls.
I suppose in hind sight we both did the right things. I kept law and order in the home, and he maintained status quo, i.e., he did the bare minimum to ensure the children were safe and keep me happy. Regardless of who was home and who did what, we managed to raise 3 healthy beautiful children and had some laughs along the way. (I still think he got off easy!) The children remember me for being the heavy, but also for instilling tradition and family values, and they remember him as the nice guy who let them have junk food and shielded them from mom’s rages. (we women are so screwed as a demographic!)
My husband recently worked 2 days in the garden (because I made him) then catches a cold (which he blames on me for mercilessly forcing him into menial labour). He takes to his bed as he convalesces until he gains enough strength to face the world again,,,,, or until dinner is ready, whichever comes first. He has to have breakfast in bed because “everything hurts”, (wow, that’s some cold) He desperately needs cold medicines, poor baby, so I walk to the store to get them and he gratefully swallows the pills, wincing with each gulp cause his throat hurts. (oddly enough he has no trouble swallowing his rye and ginger while watching the golf channel,,,,, from bed of course.) By late afternoon he has made a miraculous recovery,,,,just in time for one of his buddies to come by for dinner and watch ”the game.” (boy, those are some pills! I’ll have to get me some!)
After dinner, and while I’m cleaning up, I notice the wind has picked up and my lawn chairs are flying across the front lawn. As soon as I’m done with the dishes, and when I take out the garbage, I gather the stray chairs and secure them in the garage. My husband and his buddy are firmly engrossed in ‘the game’ and miss everything. There could’ve been a tornado and the only thing they’d notice is that dessert has yet to come. And it would’ve come sooner……had I not stopped to write this blog. I’ll serve it….eventually.
You know, I think he played this just right. He did what he had to do to keep me and the family safe, healthy, and happy and he did it by exerting minimal effort. That it worked just tells me maybe I did too much. Maybe I created tasks that didn’t need to be. In my quest to be the perfect wife and mother I probably took on too much, and expected too much. He did what he felt was needed and expected of him and by most standards and those of our children, it was enough. He’s a great dad, and even greater husband, and an all-round great guy. And he did it all with exerting virtually no effort,,,,, go figure!
That there is an inequality of domestic chores even now, I have no doubt. Women still bear the brunt of running a household and raising a family, but I will acknowledge that the tides are shifting. Men are cooking more, and they want to. Parental leave is now often shared with fathers – fabulous! (no way my husband was going to stay home and be Mr Mom but that’s just him) and the trade-off is that women can enjoy careers outside the home knowing the home fires will remain in tact and if they don’t, maybe we just need to change our expectations. Life doesn’t need to be exhausting – we make it so, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my ‘less than energetic’ (unless it comes to golf) husband! The laundry and bathroom can wait. Leftovers are fine, even if they aren’t nutritionally balanced. Turn up the music even if it disturbs the neighbours, and keep your shoes on when you come in cause eventually we’re going to vacuum anyway. In short, lets live life without dictating it.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my children’s father. I’m slowing down, taking it easy, ok, easier… and I’m learning to accept that what others can accomplish is enough. Life is too short to stress over the details. I will likely continue to over tax myself because that’s me and I need constant activity, but I will also accept the limitations of others, because that’s them, and it’s the best they can do but…..I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,,,,,, in my next life I’m coming back as a man …….. I need the rest!