I’m not any sort of authority on marriage. This is probably because I have no firsthand knowledge of this particular state. I’m in my thirties, and I’ve never been married. I could blame my homosexuality on this, but the truth is I’m just freaking picky. I’m not marrying anyone that I don’t absolutely want to spend the rest of my life with. My father advised me to only marry someone I could not live without. I’ve never found such a woman, so hence my single status. At this point, it seems pretty permanent.
Yet, I find myself increasingly opinionated on the subject of marriage. Perhaps this is a result of my witnessing so many couples, both friends and family alike, and the inequality that frequently springs up in marriage. I’m not talking about inequality regarding some arbitrary societal rank or means of employment. This is about the everyday drudgery that comes with living together: housework, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, getting the car fixed, schlepping family to doctor appointments, and a thousand little niggly things. This is ten times more difficult to accomplish when children enter into the scene. With kids, it’s frequently only one of the parents who attends every teacher meeting, joins the booster club, takes the kids to sporting events, does all the clothes shopping, helps everyone get ready for school, picks up everyone from school, and the list goes on and on. Raising children and maintaining a marriage is more than a full-time job, and having a partner who expects you to do all the work places an even greater burden on your shoulders. It isn’t fair.
Although I didn’t want to pull gender here, it really is usually the husband who sticks all this extra work on his wife. Men tend to be the breadwinners for a variety of reasons–ego, access to higher-paying academic and/or trade jobs, and a lack of willingness to work part-time or not work at all so that the kids would be taken care of (like so many wives are expected to do). Yet, mothers sacrifice better pay and living wages so that they can raise their children right. Even though women give up the independence that comes with being the primary providers, they feel guilty enough about this arrangement (as their husbands “work so hard”) that they pour every minute of freedom into maintaining clean, safe homes for their families.
Now, I’m already generalizing far too much here, so I’d like to take a step back. My father proved that men aren’t always the overburdened partner in a relationship. He worked constantly, yet he was the one who came home from ten hour days to do the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, the mowing, and so forth. My mother didn’t work, yet all I really remember her doing housework-wise with any consistency was cooking. While I love my mom, even years later I find myself admitting that my dad got the worse end of that deal.
I really don’t know why one partner feels entitled to get out of the everyday chores. This is a concept I’ve never truly understood. How do you not notice when the trash needs to be taken out, or when your wife or husband looks tired and might need a break from cleaning the bathroom this time around? To help anyone reading this figure out where they are in regards to their helpfulness towards their significant other, I’d like to administer a simple test:
- In the past week, how many times have you washed the dishes?
- In the past week, how many loads of laundry have you folded?
- In the past five days, how many times have you helped your partner put your children to bed?
- In the past month, how many times have you vacuumed?
If your answer to any of the above questions was twice or less, you need you up your game. You clearly have not been pulling your weight in this relationship. If you’re lucky, your spouse won’t realize just how unnecessary you are to making your family function. Just don’t count on such luck lasting indefinitely.
Picture by Calla Gold