So then…a few of us enjoy delicious shrimp pasta at our friends’ house (Pam and Rob) when the husband says, “You haven’t been here in awhile. After dinner, I’ll show you the lawn I re-seeded.”
Now between you and me, I can’t imagine anything more boring than watching grass grow – especially if there’s more pasta and wine to consume – but I dutifully tag along for the viewing.
The men nod approvingly as Rob gestures about, explaining the month-long project to rip out the bad stuff and install the good stuff.
Then he takes us into the garage where he shows us a new tool bench and shelving system he built. It’s actually pretty impressive – and he beams as the others compliment him and clap him on the back.
As the women head back into the house, one says to Pam, “Wow, that’s so great your husband’s so helpful around the house.”
“Yes, well,” she says, a smidge less enthusiastically than one might expect.
I shoot her an encouraging smile and say, “What’s up?”
“Well, sure he takes on a project here and there – but he doesn’t really ‘help’ around the house. He’s not doing any of the day-to-day grind – like doing dishes, folding laundry, making meals…”
The other women nod their heads in agreement.
“Same here,” says one.
“Yeah,” says the other. “Mine will happily show you how he refinished the patio chairs – in excruciating detail – but ask him to empty the dishwasher and he’s not interested at all. He’s like, ‘but won’t we just have to empty it again tomorrow?’”
“Exactly!” Says the other woman. “They don’t like doing maintenance chores that are repetitive. There’s no sense of final accomplishment. You fold a load of laundry – so what? There’s another load tomorrow. Clean some dishes? Oh damn, they’ll just get dirty again at the next meal. There’s no final moment of glory – like, ‘TA-DA! It’s done!’”
The second woman says, “So are women wired differently? Repetitive tasks don’t drive us as crazy as they drive the men – or do we just get stuck with those tasks?”
“I don’t know,” says Pam. “And is it different when both spouses work outside the home?”
“Sometimes it’s reversed,” says the first woman. “I have some friends whose husbands typically do the cooking. And some couples seem to do a good job of splitting all the work. But most of the time, I see the wives doing the day-to-day stuff – and the men handle the trash, the car, and the ‘projects.’”
“Yes!” Pam says, laughing. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad Rob pitches in – but I just find it funny that some men are much more interested if the task has a clear beginning, middle, and end – especially if the end is something grand that you can point out to your friends and neighbors like ‘hey, look what I did!’”
That’s a really good point. I’ve yet to walk into someone’s home where the wife grabbed us to check out her linen closet to see how nicely she folded the towels in color-coordinated stacks.
None of my pals invites her guests over to the dishwasher to demonstrate the proper bowl-to-plate-ratio loading technique that results in such spotless dishes.
And I’ve yet to see a wife point to the carpet to say, “Look how nicely I vacuumed this rug – it took me three adjustments on the settings to be sure the machine really sucked up all the dirt!”
And yet, I’ve been on plenty of home visits where the husbands have proudly pointed out the results of their latest projects in the garage, the yard, or the house. We get to hear in glorious detail exactly how many nurseries he had to visit before finding just the right size and type of tree to work so well in that northern corner of the yard.
(Of course, with everyone so busy with work and kids, it’s wonderful to get any help at all around the house.)
But the whole time I’m nodding along as these women good-naturedly joke around about task differentiation between some men and women…
All I can think is…
OMIGOD, I’m a dude!
I’m TOTALLY a dude!
I LOATHE repetitive maintenance tasks. I suppose most people do – but I mean I REALLY hate them – and chiefly because they never end – and there IS no sense of TA-DA!
I NEED a TA-DA! I’m a glory-hound of the highest order!
I’d much rather take on a project that has some gloating perks, even if it means working longer and harder than the maintenance tasks!
I don’t want to spend 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen – but I’ll happily spend two hours completely reorganizing the pantry, fridge, and cabinets! TA-DA!
I’ll gladly show you some insane dessert creation that took me hours to concoct –
or a hilarious Powerpoint presentation for my friend’s birthday featuring photos, snarky captions, and inside jokes that took me literally weeks to create –
or anything else OTHER than the mind-numbingly boring chores of household duties.
And since I work full-time, I don’t feel too guilty admitting I outsource some of that work to a fabulous housekeeper I’m happy to pay.
And of course there are plenty of women more talented than I am who accomplish amazing home and yard projects that are definitely TA-DA worthy!
So my questions for you are:
1) What’s the division of labor like at your house – who gets the repetitive maintenance tasks – and who gets the TA-DA projects?
2) Which type do you PREFER – or are you cool with both?
And if you’re cool with both, what time can you be at my house?
— Darcy Perdu
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(What’s the division of labor like at your house – who gets the repetitive maintenance tasks – and who gets the TA-DA projects? Which type do you PREFER – or are you cool with both?)