Marriage is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done.
My parents made it look easy. They always seemed to be in love when I was growing up. As an adult, I see they fight and struggle – constantly. My mom has high expectations. Dad is stubborn. I’m a perfectly lovely mix of both.
My dad definitely embraces a happy wife, happy life philosophy. He’s an extraordinarily hard worker and seems to find satisfaction in the compromise (you know, until he doesn’t). Both my parents maintain extensive to-do lists with entirely different plans and wildly differing priorities.
When I was preparing to marry my husband, my dad’s advice was:
“You can never stop working on a marriage. There be times where you don’t like your spouse. People change. People grow. Your job is to always remember why you love your partner, and rediscover new reasons for liking them.”
Apparently the advice he gave to my soon to be husband was: “Don’t poke the bear.”
I recall sitting with an older neighbour years ago, as she shared where she thought kids these days were getting it wrong. Her thoughts were: “50/50 is a myth. There will never be an equal division of labour and responsibility. People have strengths and weaknesses.” Her recommendation, instead was “to en-devour to do 100% of the work, and then each and every time your spouse completes a task, you’ll feel gratitude.”
Yuck. I like the idea of a partner that’s in it to win it with me. Who can bend when I stand tall, or lift when I’ve fallen. That can be the yin to the yang and the hilarious to my way too serious.
Lately I’ve taken to asking my son what is a mommy job and what is a daddy job. Pink jobs versus blue jobs do not exist in our household, or do they?
Whose job is it to make a grocery list? – Mommy’s
Whose job is it to grocery shop? Mommy’s if it is more than bread, milk and bananas.
Whose job is it to clean the house? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to fix the car? Mommy’s and Daddy’s.
Whose job is it to fix the house? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to take care of babies? Mommy’s and Daddy’s
Who can have a career? Mommy and Daddy
Who can paint a house? Mommy
Whose job is it to do laundry? Mommy’s but Daddy can help
Whose job is it to wash kids? Mommy’s for baths and Daddy’s for showers.
Whose job is it to take care of a yard? Mommy’s
Whose job is it to pay bills? Mommy’s and Daddy’s
Whose job is it to buy us new clothes? Mommy’s
I always end these chats with a reminder that gender doesn’t determine responsibility. So, it’s fascinating to me that we (he) still re-calibrates and find a response that once again assigns a task based on gender.
As I continue to establish routine with the kids, I’ve been pushing to add responsibility in their world. Some days it works well and others its a disaster.
Each morning we make our beds. We’ve only been doing it for a week, but boy does it feel good to tuck them into a nicely made bed each night.
We collect all of the clothes that didn’t make it into a hamper at the end of the night.
We put everything in the playroom into a drawer or a bin before heading upstairs for bed.
We clear the table after each meal, including breakfast.
We put our shoes in the bins at the front of the door.
We all search for Mommy’s keys (of course she’s lost them AGAIN) and return them to the key box before bed.
We’ve started sweeping, mopping or vacuuming once each day. Sometimes the kids do it, sometimes I do it, but we’re all part of the process. We’re not striving for perfectly clean, we’re searching for better than we started.
It’s only been a week, but I can already tell these daily responsibility routines are building their confidence and their respect.
I still dream of being extraordinarily wealthy and having a live-in maid and chef though. I’m sure I could still teach confidence and respect while be waited on – truly.