Who’s In Charge of the Home?

When I sit down to write, I have to make myself ignore all the things that need to be done around the house. It’s not hard. I have an amazing capacity for tuning out housework. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the way you look at it, so does my husband. The upshot is, our house is badly in need of TLC, because neither of us puts a priority on chores. The good thing, for me, is I don’t have a husband who expects me to take care of everything that has to do with our home.

It hasn’t always been that way. My first husband reasoned that since he was out earning a living and I was staying home with the kids, the housework was all my responsibility. Of course he didn’t value it as highly as his job. No matter how much I did, it was never enough to make us even. Because as long as one thing was out-of-place or unfinished, my job was never done. And when you have four kids under the age of six, believe me, there is always something out-of-place or unfinished.

I started to work outside of the home during my second marriage. I even did the same kind of work and worked the same number of hours that my husband did. But when we came home from work, he vegged out and I got dinner. I also did the grocery shopping, the cleaning, the laundry and general pickup. When I pointed out that he wasn’t helping me with any of the chores (he did cut the grass), he pointed out that I had four daughters who needed to be doing “that stuff,” effectively letting himself off the hook.

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Banksy MaidI have a slew of housework to do today; I’m trying to prepare myself by writing about it. (Yes, I’m well aware of what I’m really doing.) In the ’60s and ’70s it was popular to call housework a political act, but I have come to feel differently since I married my husband. I now see housework as an emotional act. In my previous marriages, I toed the line when it came to doing the housework: I did most of it, if not all of it (except for the few successful times I was able to get my kids to do any). In other words, my husbands didn’t do diddly. But I accepted my ascribed role because I wasn’t emotionally ready to rebel against it (or more accurately, against my husbands).

But now I’m in a marriage where my husband doesn’t expect me to do anything. He’s actually better about the housework than I am, because he’s the one who keeps up with the laundry (a chore I detest). He also does most of the cooking. Before he started working full-time, he did all of the cooking. I’m unofficially in charge of the kitchen, which is why it’s in the state it’s in today. The last time I thoroughly cleaned it was when I had a friend coming for lunch (I won’t tell you how long ago that was). I admit that it felt good to have everything in order and clean (on the first floor, that is.) But normally, I just look past the clutter and dust bunnies. And I think it’s because my self-concept no longer depends on how clean my house is.

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