Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Jobs at Home: Who Does What?
When I was growing up, the jobs around our house were pretty gender-specific--in a traditional way. My mom did the cooking and the cleaning--with some exceptions. Dad did pancakes; Dad grilled outside with charcoal. Dad also did most of the driving (though Mom did some, too, on long trips)--and he would always be the one to start the trip and to finish it--"taking her on in," as he used to say. Mom also did the wash--though she quickly taught each of her three sons to do it, as well, and we soon became responsible for our own clothing. Mom also taught us to make our own school lunches. Mine was not hard: peanut-butter sandwich, apple, brown bag--voilà!
Mom did the income taxes (I've posted about this ordeal before); Dad cut the grass and shoveled the snow (until he taught us how to do it). Dad did odd jobs around the house, though I was surprised at his general ineptitude: He'd grown up on a farm but still seemed curiously unable to do even the most basic carpentry and plumbing without the assistance of Cecil B. DeMille.
By the time I was ten or eleven, they were both working full-time (Dad a professor, Mom a junior high and high school teacher), so the more jobs they could bequeath to their sons, the better for them. If not, of course, for us. I recall (not with pride) that I assumed new family chores with the greatest resentment. I was a kid, for pete's sake! Why did I have to work? Farmboy Dad must have thought he'd sired three remarkably pathetic wusses.
When Joyce and I married on December 20, 1969, I got a few quick lessons in what was going to be the New Way. One early evening after we'd returned from our honeymoon (New Orleans!), after supper, I did what my father always did: went into the living room, turned on the news, and waited for my wife to clean up the dishes.
Joyce walked in, sat down in another chair, started watching the news, too. (No way she could have cleaned the kitchen yet.) I had the naivete and temerity to ask her what she was doing. I like to watch the news, too, she said. And you made just as much a mess as I did at supper. Let's both clean it up after the news. I felt the waters of the Rubicon washing over me.
I also remember that she got up exactly one morning early in our marriage to make my breakfast before I went to work. From then on, if I wanted to eat breakfast, I took care of it myself. I managed.
Since those early years, our jobs have evolved and even shifted back and forth. I do almost all the cooking now, but since our tastes don't always, uh, agree, she sometimes makes something other than (or in addition to) what I'm making. She loves veggies far more than I, so she usually makes something other than the bland old corn or peas or beans that I prepare. I also do all the baking--bread, every week. Holiday breads and rolls, etc.
I do the outdoor grilling, but with none of the panache my father had. We still share the post-meal clean-ups.
I do the income taxes (well, I prepare our records for the accountant).
Joyce does the wash. Takes things to the cleaners. She likes to work in the yard with the plants.
I do most of the snow shoveling--though she likes to get out and do some, too. We've had a lawn service for the past decade or so. We are responsible for our own "areas" of the house (studies, bathrooms, etc.). We change the bedding together. We try to keep the house picked up--sharing that responsibility as well.
On long car trips I like to start off and "take her on in." I probably drive a bit more on those trips, but it's fairly equal. Joyce recognizes this as some sort of Primal Male Need of mine and does no more than gently tease me about it now and then.
At the movies, I buy the tickets; she buys the treats. (I sometimes make out very well here.) We take turns buying coffee and soft drinks--not in any rigid, formal way. But it works out.
I do most of the family finances, though she has her own accounts and, like me, uses Quicken to keep track of things.
I help her with computer issues (when I can).
We proof each other's writing. Offer suggestions (which she takes with far, far more equanimity than I).
I rub her shoulders. She does my nails.
I buy the paper for our printers.
She keeps me alive.