I am sitting here with a dumb walking boot on my foot due to a stress fracture and feeling quite thankful for my husband. He refused to carry the laundry to the basement last night so that I could do the laundry today. He insists that we’ll do it together tonight because he doesn’t want me gimping up and down the steps to get it all done. I reminded him that I can manage just fine and he returned by reminding me that we share responsibilities around here.
This led me to think about how much things have changed for our generation of wives and mothers when I watch shows like “Mad Men,” or re-runs of “Happy Days.” This is not a statement of judgment on our parents’ and grandparents’ generations but merely an observation of my own experiences. One of the most striking differences between Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham and my husband and I, is that we do share or have shared most responsibilities from earning money, caring for kids, housework, and making decisions during our relationship. There have been times when I was the primary bread winner and he was a stay-at-home-parent, and visa versa. Of course, there have always been areas where he or I prefer to take the lead like medical decisions and gift giving for me or banking and lawn mowing for him. However, if I am at home more, it makes sense that I would do more housework and cooking and visa versa. If he is at home with the kids when I am out, he moves forward with the bedtime routine, etc. When he comes home at night he might say, “What needs to get done?” which puts us both on the same page. I think it is good to be careful not to say things like “Would you fold the laundry for me?” or “My husband is babysitting the kids.” because it sends the message that doing those particular tasks is your responsibility alone and your spouse is your helper vs. your partner. Don’t get me wrong, we approach responsibilities differently sometimes but it all seems to get done in the end. Overall, we try to manage our lives together and I see many of my friends living a similar experience.
This is why I find myself writing the same thing at weddings or baby showers when they ask everyone to provide the new couple or new parents with a piece of advice. I sum up it up this way…DO NOT DO IN THE 1ST YEAR of MARRIAGE OR PARENTHOOD, THAT WHICH YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. I feel like this sets us expectations that can rarely be maintained as your family or career responsibilities keep growing.
For example, if you don’t want to be the only one who knows how the washing machine, oven, or dishwasher works…then don’t be the only one to do the laundry, cook, or do the dishes. If you don’t want to be the only one who changes a diaper, gives a bath, puts a child to bed, or enforces a time-out then don’t be the only one to take charge of those activities. Yes, the other person will do it differently than you but trust that you married a capable and loving person and walk away and get something else done and share taking the lead. This is why my husband’s ground rule is equally as important. He has always told me “You can tell me to do something or how to do it but not both.” Smart man!
At least for us, I feel like the work gets done faster so that we can spend more time in the evening doing what we want to do, which is going to bed early for my husband. I also think that it is good for our children to see that vacuuming isn’t just for Mom and Dad isn’t the only one who can put the Transformer’s arm back on (however he is so much better at it than me). After all we've been taught our whole life about the need to share, why stop now?