Because the universe has a wicked sense of humor, my parents and hubs are both out of town this week. I just got a text from A. saying he was on the 27th floor, having a drink, looking over the San Francisco Bay. I repeat: wicked sense of humor. It is also the last week of class before finals, which means stacks of papers to grade. And did I mention I defend my dissertation next week. (NEXT WEEK. HOLY SHIT.) Not a good time for my support system to be enjoying drinks in some far-off destination.
I sometimes rag on A. about not doing enough around the house, but it’s times like these I realize how much he contributes, and how much I rely on him.
Sure, I sometimes have to goad him into getting off the computer to do laundry or dishes. His method of cleaning Beastie’s room involves pushing her toys up against the storage cubes instead of putting them away. But he pulls his weight. He does it after long hours at the hospital. He’s doesn’t “help” me with house work, as if it were something inherently feminine or wifely. He lives here. He is a part of this family, and so he takes care of what needs to be done.
I like to think my parents are pretty progressive. They’ve always encouraged me to pursue my passions, and they’ve never pigeon holed any of their children (male or female) into gendered roles. Both my parents worked in high-level positions. Both are educated and intelligent, although my mom is a straight-up genius. She’s smarter and more versatile than my dad, and he’s no slouch.
To this day, though, my mom takes care of the cooking and cleaning. When we were growing up, she packed our lunches, scheduled our appointments, and made sure we went to the dentist. My dad paints the walls and makes sure the computers work. They both mow, but he weed-eats and fertilizes. My mom’s job may have been more flexible, allowing her more time to deal with our daily needs. Yet, even when she didn’t have the time, she still took care of the mind-numbing daily chores that someone has to do. Practically speaking, this meant she kept working after a long day of work, while my dad oftentimes turned on the TV. Now, he might have also taken us to basketball practice or a cross country race, but he more frequently relaxed in some form when he got home. I don’t make any claims here about which one actually worked harder, because that’s difficult to measure. I just remember my mom working more.
Here’s how A. and I split up housework:
Me: cooking, dishes, Beastie’s laundry, sundry types of scrubbing, vacuuming, generally picking up.
A: taking out the trash and replacing garbage bags, taking out and putting in trash bins, mowing, weed eating, bug slaying, replacing light bulbs, his own laundry, general repairs.
While these roles are pretty stereotypical, they’re not as rigid as my parents’ distribution. A’s been doing pretty much everything while I finish my dissertation. He oftentimes buys the groceries I use to make dinner, and he will do any other chore I ask…so long as I ask. I used to get upset he didn’t take more initiative, but we’ve got a routine now, and, for the most part, it works.
And, I am home more. I teach part time, research, and write. It’s easier for me to do a load of laundry in between papers. It makes sense for me to take care of such tasks, not because I’m the wife but because I’m here.
So, other married people out there, or those of you with roommates or partners, how do you negotiate or split up housework? Do you find yourself falling into gendered or stereotypical roles?