Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Battle Over Household Chores



This video, floating around on Facebook, really hit home for me.

Just a few weeks ago, Mr. ZJ quit his job to return to school full-time. While this is an admirable and achievable goal given our comfortable financial status, as well as the attractive benefits of the post 9/11 GI Bill for veterans, it has thrown a curve ball into our normal daily routine. His classes begin in late September, so until then his schedule is, shall we say, WIDE open.

Nine days after he quit his job, our first big fight ensued over household responsibilities. As I continued with my full-time job, he decided to have a bit of a "vacation" (i.e., I'm going to sit on my ass and play my brand-new Xbox day and night). As I was getting ready for work one night, I discovered my dirty scrubs in an overflowing hamper. I confronted Mr. ZJ about this. To say that it didn't go well is a fucking understatement. I sternly told him that I needed clean laundry, and he responded, "What am I, your chore boy?"

Yeah... An immediate tirade was followed by several days of silence during which I moved into my awesome, recently completed guest room. After the dust settled a bit, we had a tense conversation about managing our new household routine. My points were straightforward: If the hamper is overflowing, do the laundry; if the trash is full, take it out. During this conversation, Mr. ZJ said something poignant. When I pointed out that I always operate under this system, he said that he would need time to do those chores because he's not used to having to do them at all. Light bulb moment - he thinks there is a fucking magic basket that makes all the dirty clothes DISAPPEAR!

Janes, this is fucking bullshit on SO many levels. Here's the ugly truth - WE are to blame for this. My mom worked her ass off at a full-time job and spent her evenings tending to me and my sister. She prepared dinner, washed dishes, and folded laundry - all while Dad was "relaxing" in front of the TV after his hard day of work. From boyhood all the way through adulthood, men usually have women in their lives that take care of the daily mundane tasks. Women tend to accept this and write it off as "that's just the way men are," then proceed to do the majority of household tasks themselves. Maybe it's easier to do it yourself rather than ask, beg, or plead numerous times that the garbage needs to be taken out. Maybe your man doesn't load the dishwasher the way you like it. We accept it with indifference and actually LAUGH at it via funny internet memes, videos, etc. And then we continue to shoulder a majority of the household responsibilities anyway.

This system is doing NO ONE any favors. If a man lives alone, he has to do this shit himself, right? The majority of men living alone are NOT living like pigs. If a man is dating someone, I doubt that his date will come back to his place to find a sink full of dirty dishes or shit stains on the toilet. Case in point - not only did Mr. ZJ keep his studio apartment sparkling clean while we were dating, but when I pointed out that his frat-boy style recliners sucked because we couldn't sit close to each other, a  brand-new, awesome love seat was waiting for me the next time I came over (which he proceeded to get laid on pretty damn frequently).

Janes, I'm calling on all of us to change this stereotypical behavior. Hold men responsible. Don't do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Don't write off those shit stains in the toilet as "just how dudes are." If necessary, let your house run into the ground while you hole up in your own little guest bedroom sanctuary, and DARE him to say something about not having  dinner. Do your own laundry, but leave his in the hamper. Be a better example for your sons and daughters, rather than just accepting the mantra "the woman takes care of everything in the home."

In the meantime, I'm happy to report that Mr. ZJ has stepped up his game at home. I now drive to work in a sparkling clean, well-maintained car (with brand-new tires!) and with leftovers from a delicious dinner he prepared while simultaneously loading the dishwasher and doing laundry. And I've ventured out of the guest bedroom and back to our nostalgic dating action on the couch because I'm not so stressed about doing everything on my own. It's a win-win for everyone.

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