Family Life


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Raising Mary: Thoughts on Housework

Raising Mary
Thoughts From a Stay at Home Mom

Raising mary - raising mary: thoughts on housework

My mother likes housework. In her retirement, she cleans the homes of my cousins for spare change and scrubs pots at my house when she isn’t playing with my 21-month-old daughter. How am I her child?

But still, the housework does need to get done. If you leave it, things can get out of hand in a snap. Mercifully, Tom, my husband, pitches in. It’s one of the things I find rather hunky about him. Now that we are parents and life is more hectic, his cleaning, cooking and diaper-changing are just as romantic as when he brings flowers home from time to time.

Child care is obviously mostly my domain; it’s my full-time job, after all. But Tom is definitely an involved daddy. He changes Mary’s diapers, bathes her and puts her to bed. And he spends lots of quality time with her, taking her on his bike rides or to the store to do an errand, reading books to her, playing with her. Truly, nothing makes my heart flutter more. We don’t have a housekeeping schedule in our house, but sometimes I suspect we should. And there are certain tasks that only one of us does, by preference. I’d rather scour 10 toilets than vacuum the carpet. Tom feels the other way around, so it’s settled. Vacuuming is officially his job and bathrooms are mine.

Each of us does about half of the cooking. Tom does most of it presently because I am in the first nauseous, tired weeks of my second pregnancy. Cooking meat will make me lose my lunch and all I seem to have the energy to prepare is toast.

Except for cooking and painting together when we decorate, a lot of our household tasks are all or nothing. Tom does all of the repairs and installations (my handiness is limited to screwing in a lightbulb or removing the battery from the fire alarm when it starts to beep and he’s not home). He also does all outside work, including putting out the garbage and gardening. (I have yet to keep a plant alive on my own.) I load and unload the dishwasher, wash the pots and pans and keep the counters and stove clean. I do the grocery shopping, sweep the floors, launder the linens, Mary’s clothes and my clothes, make the bed, tidy up the toys and (try to) tackle general clutter.

I admit that clutter is the only thing we regularly bicker about. It bothers me more because I’m home most of the time, unlike when I went to the office every day. I like things to have a place and for things to be put back in their place. I’m not perfect, but sometimes it does feel like I’m the only one doing it.

It drives me nuts when Tom repairs something, only to leave the tools he used strewn over the basement floor, tools I have to navigate around to get to the laundry machine. Or when he organizes the garage (better than I ever could) only to systematically clutter it up again within a few weeks.

Of course, it’s all how you see it. Tom thinks my tendency to pile things is annoying; he says the piles are themselves clutter. It goes to show that unless you’re going to do all the housework yourself, it’s not going to all be done your way. It’s an important lesson for me – someone who hates for anyone else to load my dishwasher, lest the forks be put in the ‘wrong’ place.

Seemingly little things matter in a marriage. Housework might seem trivial, but I’m not sure I would have married a man who didn’t pitch in. I think it’s about larger issues of consideration, equality and responsibility. (And why it can make you bristle when you have to pick your husband’s clothes up off the floor.) The once-traditional model of husband as breadwinner and wife as child-rearer and housekeeper doesn’t cut it for me, thank you very much.

So I’m learning not to protest when Tom makes dinner and leaves the kitchen a disaster zone. So what if every pot is used and there are gravy drops globbed on the counter. Supper tasted good, and at least I didn’t have to cook it.

Speaking of sharing housework, can anyone tell me when it’s age-appropriate to assign household chores to a child? Just kidding… PC

Published in Winter 2007

a man carrying two children

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