And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Me Jane, You Tarzan

All right, I'm sure he wasn't trying to start something with his little comment, but I've been thinking about male/female roles in the household (plus I've just spent 15 minutes searching the house for a hammer so I can hang a @#*&*@ picture) and he touched a nerve. So pardon me if I rant just a little bit.

I know that in these "enlightened" times, men can do anything that women can do and women can do anything that men can do. But around here, often those things that are "traditionally" men's or women's roles just don't get done. And when they do get done by the traditionally gendered actor, they get resented by that person who thinks that they're just having to do it because of gender roles.

Here are some of the things that I do that I feel like I have to do just because I'm female:

* Clothe the children (and by this I mean buy all of the clothes for the children and pick out what they're going to wear on any given day). Dave will complain that if he chooses the kids' clothes, I will complain, and while this may be so, it's not like he's tested it all that often over the past 5 years.

*Notice when things need to be cleaned (note that I didn't necessarily say I had to clean them, although if I want them cleaned, I usually do, unless I give directions to Dave to do so).

* Laundry for myself and for the kids (related to point number 1, above).

* Arrange the feeding of everyone except Dave, and sometimes him, too. At this stage in our lives, we rarely eat dinner together, and frequently Dave will prepare dinner for the children, but I'm the one who has to point out that they need dinner, if it's not a part of the bath-dinner-bed routine. And then I also have to strongly suggest the addition of a fruit or vegetable to their dinner, as he would be just as happy to give them just chicken nuggets and milk.

*Corollary to the point above, it has become my job to pack Katie's lunch everyday. This despite the fact that what she eats doesn't vary, and Dave knows what it is.

* Water the lawn (and, as in point 2 above, notice that it needs watering).

* Decorating -- painting, curtains, bedding design, etc. All my department.

* Clean out the refrigerator and play the "What's That Smell?" game.

* Make doctor's appointments for everybody, and keep track of when they're supposed to go.

And here are the "male" things Dave has to do that I think he often resents:

* Hang things -- pictures, curtain rods, etc. Anything involving tools, I sort of expect him to do.

* Carry heavy things up and down the stairs (no longer an issue, as we don't have stairs anymore).

* Mow the lawn (when I notice it and nag him about doing it).

* Take out the trash.

I can't think of any more at the moment, though I'm sure he can.

Now, we do cross roles or split the difference on a number of regular chores. I do all the bills and the money stuff; he bathes the children every other night. We both do the dishes about equally, which is certainly not as it was in my parents' house. He irons his own clothes (actually, that, my dad did do). He washes his own clothes. He feeds and waters the cats (usually). I put together all the furniture (because I like to do it). We both transport Katie to or from school one way.

And I will give him credit that he will almost always do things I ask him to, even if it is sometimes unwilling. But sometimes it gets hard being the one who has to think of things that have to be done. I've tried very hard to get out of the "the dad is the one who fixes and builds things" mindset, which is hard because my dad was and still is one of those dads. I came to the realization last year that to stop nagging Dave about getting around to finishing installing can lights in the basement and pay an electrician $300 to get it done was well worth the money. And I understand that he doesn't want to build a swingset in the backyard, and will cheerfully fork over the assembly fee to save him that chore.

But forgive me if I bristle a tiny bit over the resentment implied in his statement that somehow, putting things in the attic is his chore, especially since I had no idea he was doing that task until I heard mysterious bumping and thumping over my head last night. It doesn't yet seem to me like a task that needs to be done, given that there are still a number of boxes unopened inside the house. Obviously, he feels differently.

I swear, someday I'm going to come up with a rotating chore list so we can all share our resentment equally. Either that or start hiring people to do all of our crappy jobs for us!

2 comment(s):

Should I resist the urge to construct a point-by-point response?

D. (

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:02 PM  

Nah, go ahead. I was trying to be fair -- I included things I thought you resented. And I gave you credit. Feel free to retaliate with a "Things I Do with/for My Family That My Father Would Never Do."

By Blogger Jennifer Morgan, at 4:24 PM  

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