Sharing the Load - Equality, Fairness and Hanging Out the Washing.
I’m annoying. I’m the sort of person that doesn’t put lids on things properly. I’m the one that balances a fresh roll of toilet paper on top of the empty tube. I hate folding washing and my bedroom looks a troop of wild monkeys have had a costume party in my wardrobe. Clothes spew out of draws and dresses are flung over the end of the bed. I will do anything to avoid hanging things up and go to great lengths to steer clear of the washing line.
I’m also not one of those women that drives home at speed when black clouds threaten rain. I love it when the washings out getting rained on... It means I don’t have to put it away. It can stay there all I care, clumped together with dye dripping on to the ground, covered in bird shit and getting a faded line across the middle. I’d rather my clothes were ruined than spend the time running around in the back garden like a headless chicken, dropping broken pegs on my baby’s head, throwing socks at a basket.
Instead my ‘poor’ husband does the pegging out of my grey underwear, he spends Sundays doing lady chores, things I should do according to the strict rule book of life. Unfortunately for my ‘poor’ husband I don’t adhere to old school cultural procedures made up by men with inferiority complexes and small penises back in 1880.
No, I rebel against this archaic system by not doing ironing.
My ‘poor’ husband takes out the bins, does the washing up, pegs out the washing and puts it away, then I force him into giving me a foot massage and making me a cup of tea.
‘Oh the poor man’ – I hear you cry.
Hold your sympathy people!
When we met, I warned him. I said,
‘If you marry me, don’t ever expect me to iron your shirts. I’m not that sort of wife.’
He laughed. We both did.
I think he thought I was joking. I think he thought I would forget those words and be attending to his crumpled attire the day after he carried me over the threshold.
First of all, I carried him and secondly, I do not joke when it comes to chores.
But, not long into our marriage, he got a job that demanded a crisp shirt. He left it out on the hanger before he went to bed.
I jumped out of my skin when I saw it. It looked like a ghost. Perhaps the spirit of the suffragettes hovering over me!
I stared at it, it loomed and I pondered it’s creases.
‘I think he wants me to iron it.’ I thought to myself.
The only time he’d ever seen me touch an iron was at university when we were 18. I was ironing out some screwed up rizla papers that had got damp in the back pocket of my jeans, preparing them for the big spliff I planned on building.
And now here I was, 17 years later, confronted with this crumpled dilemma.
I felt a rumble in the pit of my stomach as centuries of repression hit the back of my throat.
My husband walked into the room, looked up at me and then started to retreat backwards as my look of scorn impaled his soul.
‘HAVE YOU HUNG THIS HERE BECAUSE YOU EXPECT ME TO IRON IT?’
‘No darling’ he said
‘I was just putting it there so I could do it’
‘Ah, well’ I say ‘that’s ok then.’
I wasn’t sure if he’d cleverly avoided an argument or if he actually had been planning on doing it himself?
Whatever his intention, my deranged expression was enough to make him never ask me to iron anything ever again.
There have been a few moments like this in our marriage. Moments where expectations had to be addressed and out-dated concepts revised.
Because a marriage, one that lasts, is about equality.
Fairness and distribution of the workload.
in our house it goes like this:
I cook, he does the washing up.
I organise every aspect of our social lives, he mows the lawn.
I shop, he carries the bags from the car.
I choose what to watch on Netflix, he agrees.
He cleans the bathroom; I do the nit combing.
He pushes the trolley on the beach, and I do the sun cream.
He chops bits of poo off the dog’s bum and I hoover up glitter.
We have equivalent roles within the household. It’s what keeps us going. Together.
This process of living together in perfect matrimony sounds easy. I can assure you, it is not. Our roles took time to ‘iron out.’ Time, tears and many slammed doors.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if these roles and expectations of each other were thrashed out before the wedding? In a nice office with a smiling therapist perhaps?
I would have liked to have known, aside from loving, honouring and occasionally obeying, what was expected from me during our everyday life? I would have appreciated a visit to a high rise building where a smartly dressed councillor guided my husband and I through a list of the daily responsibilities of adulthood.
Dishes – Wife
Dustbins – Husband
Bedtime story – Alternate days
Hair in plug holes – Husband
Band-Aids – Wife
Electronic devices – Husband
Splinters – Wife
There done – All future ‘tiffs’ averted.
I could have skipped out of her door with my list in hand knowing that equality and my rights as a female, were going to be upheld within my home from that day forth.
But instead we’re left to battle it out. Decipher what role suits who and if the workload is properly shared, because if it’s not, that’s when resentment kicks in and fucks everything up. Bitterness can destroy a marriage. If one person feels they are doing more than the other... animosity will fill up the space where love used to reside. It will be soaked up by the small things, the daily grind, the chores and the minutia of life and all that will be left is a pile of washing and a petty argument over whose turn it is to do the dishwasher.
Real, forever love is about scrubbing the toilet, not about holding hands along the promenade at sunset. It’s about sharing the shit, doing things you hate and making sure your partner isn’t feeling too overwhelmed.
Work and compromise go into running a family. Fairness and equality make it work.
I might not be your perfect archetypal wifey, but even if I refuse to do the washing, I make up for it with something just as boring. I level off the playing field, pick up some toys and change a nappy.
He does the breakfast, I make lunches, he does the drop off and I do pick up.
So share the load. Make it lighter for each bearer. Don’t succumb to old fashioned expectations ... it’s all rubbish. Marriage is about standing shoulder to shoulder through the storm and making sure (in a very non gender specific way) that all roles are equal.
Even if some Cornflakes are stiffening inside a cereal bowl in the sink or my undies have blown from the line onto the top of the rabbit hutch next door, well then, there’s always tomorrow. A new pile of washing and fresh attitude with each day.
My husband and I have learned just to get on with it. Get the shitty jobs done in order to relax, have quality time as a family.
We bear the load together.
We make it through.
This is my husband doing some sewing.......Onward Christian Soldiers!!!