For many decades, there existed an unspoken but clear delineation of duties around the house between my husband and me. We both worked pretty demanding jobs, at least time wise, and so we did the household chores in which we were proficient. We shared equally in child-rearing, primarily because we both loved being parents.
Our division of labor started very shortly after we were married. We had talked about sharing jobs equally and sort of decided to “switch off” so that neither of us got “stuck” doing anything we didn’t like. This worked well the first week when I shopped and cooked and Matt did the laundry and cleaned.
The second week, Matt shopped and I cleaned and did laundry. First of all, I don’t enjoy either of these tasks. I tend to take the shortest route to completion and this somehow resulted in a wash load that included his t-shirts and underwear with one of my red sweaters. In short, he ended up with pink t’s. Meanwhile, he detested shopping, but gave it a good try. He proudly came home with generic (and, I might add, one-ply) toilet and facial tissue and various canned goods without labels. They were quite a bargain, but we had no clue what was in them. In that moment, we agreed that henceforth, he would be in charge of cleaning the house and doing the laundry while I would be in charge of cooking and serve as procurement specialist. I did the oil change appointments, dry cleaning drop offs and pick ups, grocery shopping, filling the gas tanks, and any other errand that needed done.
This system worked excellently for us for 31 years. Even after we “retired,” we both worked either part-time or short term jobs, so our household chore list didn’t vary. During these years, we did our best to teach our son both aspects of these chores, in order for him to gain independent living skills. That all changed last fall. For the first time, Matt was working full time and I was home without a job. Now I do some volunteer work, but it in no way does it come close to competing with the hours I spent working all those years.
For the first time, I was not only in charge of cooking and procurement, but all the other jobs around the house as well. And sadly, I feel I have not performed to a satisfactory level. I have given it a good try and have managed to keep the house relatively clean and the laundry completed. It’s just not a feel-good thing for me.
The good news is that my husband will be re-retiring again in just 6 short weeks. So in anticipation, he has been working very hard on weekends, with my help, getting the gardens and lawn all spruced up and ready for summer. I had a moment of pause, however, last Saturday, when I came home from the farmer’s market in Troy. Our son had been over and had completely updated my personal computer. He had also installed the printer and a new application that allows him to monitor and repair any glitches I may have remotely.
Matt had been productive, too. He had felled a dead tree in our yard, cut it up, and removed all debris and logs. Then he had power-washed the deck and edged all around it.
During that same time, I had gone to the farmer’s market and reset the oil light on the car.
Is it just me, or is the division of labor at our house a little skewed? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.