All those who hate household chores, please stand up.
No, I’m not alone.
Millions of us routinely procrastinate everything from dealing with dirty dishes to dumping the trash to scrubbing the mold off the bathroom tile.
Dusting? Toilets? The archaeological dig required if we’re to approach the black hole beneath our kids’ beds? The endless loads of laundry?
And where exactly does “more sex” fit into this picture?
The Dreaded Household Chores
Eventually, we confront the mess or pay someone to do so, to the extent that we cannot strong arm children and spouses to do their fair share. Or so it seems in most American homes, if we read between the lines in “The Case for Filth.”
I had to chuckle reading about this marital battleground, as Stephen Marche describes the usual gender division of labor, but notes
Women today make up 40 percent of America’s sole or primary breadwinners for families with children under 18, a share that has quadrupled since 1960. And yet in America as well as in several other countries in the developed world, men’s time investment in housework has not significantly altered in nearly 30 years.
The irony… I married a man who knew how to clean, and did – when he was around. Kitchens and garages seemed to be his specialty. He was also handy around the house. A regular Mr. Fix It. And I felt grateful.
But I also felt guilty, though I was perfectly aware that in addition to working a 50+ hour/week corporate job, I was responsible for virtually all the parenting duties, the cleaning basics, shopping, cooking – and everything else that falls to the “traditional” wife and mother. But let me be clear, I was never a domestic goddess; I couldn’t have cared less about dust and dog hair until things reached a certain level that went beyond “not gross.”
And it was years before I realized my now-ex chose to do the cleaning that was important to him, and to a degree, meditative… Faraway look, mind churning…
Nothing meditative about them, that’s for sure.
Why Men Doing Housework is Good for Your Relationship
Ironically, as I was reading this particular column, the man I’m seeing was cleaning my fridge. And only hours before, he’d rendered my bathroom sparkling. Last night he did the dishes, which is something I don’t mind doing. However, because of the bending and reaching and elbow grease involved in certain kinds of scrubbing – due to a nagging injury – the tasks he took on are uncomfortable for me. The assist was incredibly kind.
Do you think that shiny bathtub went unappreciated? Do you think during marriage, had there been more division of labor, more unsolicited acts of assistance, more willingness to help – those deeds wouldn’t have been received with a smile and a certain amount of mutually agreeable appreciation?
Not to mention, an equitable distribution of the workload – however you perceive that – means an overworked mother is going to be less tired. Aren’t we more in the mood for sex when we’re not resentful? Aren’t we more in the mood for sex when we’re not exhausted?
Fairness and Intimacy
Naturally, it isn’t just about sex. But however you package up aspects of a relationship, for many, greater emotional intimacy leads to greater sexual intimacy. This also means that if women are extraordinarily picky (or critical) about how the housework is done, they shouldn’t be criticizing and ragging on their partner who is genuinely trying to help. (Note to self: Don’t fuss over style differences in loading the dishwasher.)
And while you could say that if it means a great deal to you to have the laundry folded “just so” or the dusting done daily, then go ahead and do it yourself – isn’t the take-away that we should lighten up on the need for everything to be spic and span? Allow a guy to assist, and dare I say it – insist on what you determine is equitable.
When he’s not willing?
Negotiation is better than harping. Passive-aggressive behavior is bad news, and we know it’s the result of conflict that isn’t openly expressed. We should all be willing to give a little to get a little, looking for whatever arrangements feel fair.
As for the gentleman who took to the tile with sponge and determination, he knows the tight timelines I work with. He’s weary of my weariness, with a schedule that leaves me frequently out on my feet – even as I cruise from one task to the next into the wee hours.
From Filth to Foreplay
While the article in question does offhandedly refer to chores as foreplay, isn’t that both sad and true?
I may not be typical in my tolerance for mess – so many years on my own with kids and a dog inured me to most of it, and an organized mind helped offset the rest – but I do understand the need for equitable and non guilt-driven division of labor when it comes to life à deux…
Sure, I have my point of no return at which the mess stress turns toxic, and I find myself in a cleaning frenzy until some small measure of order has been restored. Yet I can’t help but grin as I read the Times conclusion that when faced with this ‘political’ problem in the gender wars, women would be wise to care less and do less.
Those stay-at-home dads I mentioned recently? I bet they’re marvels with the mops and warriors with the wash.
Even so – dishes stacked and waiting for a day, floors that aren’t vacuumed for a week, shelves that languish under a layer of dust, and shirts that haven’t seen an iron since you did your taxes will not ignite the end of domestic bliss as we know it.
Then again, when our partners man up without request, even if they pick and choose which chores they’ll take on, if one involves a clean tub, there just may be time for an interactive bubble bath, with all devices in the ‘off’ position.
You May Also Enjoy