Nearly every morning, I find my husband’s bowl and spoon on the counter or in the sink. Most of the time, his cereal box is out, too. Never mind that he quietly and politely closes the shower door and leaves lights off for me so I can sleep. Never mind that he helps get the kids moving and the dog fed. I see that cereal bowl and get pissed. Listening to my fellow suburbanites lately, I hear them engage in the same magical thinking, that HE is this or that, while I am clearly downright fucking perfect. It got me thinking, are we really doing more? Or do we just think we are? And, more importantly, how can I climb down from my precarious high horse and get on with it?
The media has dubbed this gender-differentiated conflict the “Chore Wars.” In TIME’s article, women and men participate in roughly the same amount of day to day “work” as calculated on an hourly basis including paid work, child care and housework. This is actually the closest amount of time spent “working” that men and women have ever achieved in recorded history! Isn’t that fabulous! So, why do we still feel like shit? Well, take a deep breath. Because we may have to collectively eat some crow here.
This is an entirely self formulated equation so I boast no research here, but I have gleaned some insights from writers like Gretchen Rubin, who writes the “Happiness at Home” blog to accompany her book.
A lot of it is about the ask. Or non-ask, known as martyrdom. Do you ask for help when you need it? Or do you stand quietly and fume while others sit around completely oblivious to your near-meltdown? And when you ask do you do it like this?: “Maybe SOMEONE could have eyes and see that the dishwasher needs emptying!!” I feel your frustration, but it’s all in the ask, friends. That kind of request is more likely to inspire an eye-roll than the kind of get up and go behavior you are looking for.
Men and women are different. Were you aware of this? Because it’s been kind of well documented. Men, on the whole, do not see the need to carry 5 items upstairs at once. Generally speaking, they are people who are more prone to projects, taking their time to sort it out. Women are predisposed to fast, get-it-ready-for-guests cleaning. Space is too limited to characterize the vast differences of men and women but suffice it to say that they exist and you would do well to recognize them, and not ruminate on what-the-hell-is-he-thinking. It makes you stressed out and your face will turn all wrinkly and irritable. It’s not sexy.
The more you do around the house, the more unnoticed it is. It is a small dose of relief to come to the realization that the people around you expect you to do what you do. Have you seen these “moms on strike” on reality shows or talk shows? They decide to stop doing what they normally do, and after about a week of mile high laundry and flies buzzing about the dishes, some people in the house start to sense something is different. I can’t imagine a more virulent form of self torture than watching the people in your household sit around while filth piles up. Which leads us to the next thought…
Others do not give a shit about the things that you give a shit about. Recently, I let go of the requirement that my children make their beds everyday. Maybe it’s the fact that they are in bunk beds now and the unsightly clump of used bedding is not as noticeable, but I realized that it was really not important to them. I continue to make my bed every day, because it matters to me. You really do have to choose your battles. Your mom was right. Just as there are things that my husbands deems very important (how the dishes are stacked in the dishwasher), I must try to respect those if I want him to respect the things that I think are important (a clean counter before bed).
We are prone to thinking that we do things better, and more often. Do you put much thought into how your partner repaired the shower? No, but I am sure that you are acutely aware of how well you cleaned that same shower once said repair was finished. In our brains, we have a bias toward the more positive aspects of our own behavior, to the point of overestimating how much time it took, how well it was done and how much credit we deserve for it. Seriously. It’s called optimism bias and all humans do it.
So in closing, I must say the following which for me, is the truth.
I do not do more than my husband. (More than my children, yes, but they are coming around thanks to a united front from us). In looking at the list of things he does and things I do, neither is more important. And on top of that, I think we spend about the same time “working” around the house or out of it in the grand tally. But…
I do spend more mental energy perseverating on what needs to be done. Making lists and turning over the ins and outs and possible outcomes of every little detail in my mind. Also, being a woman, I am evolved to react to a situation based on my awareness of my environment and other people. I believe that when my husband sits down to watch the game or read the paper, he does just that. Oh how I wish I could do that! However, I will watch with one eye, think about what I need to do the next day, plan out the kids lunches, strategize a plan of attack on how to get a babysitter for Saturday, mull over what to get for the birthday party, what to make for dinner, agonize over what I said or did at some point during the day, etc etc. All that thinking is sometimes exhausting and I wish I could shut it off. And that is why, in my opinion, I get pissed off and feel like I am doing more. Because I am doing more. More mental work.
How ’bout you?
Thanks again to Mt. Hood Mama for the gorgeous photo.