As I headed out the door for work, I told my wife I had taken out the trash.
“Thank you,” she said in one of those tones of voice.
“You don’t have to thank me,” I muttered. “It was my trash, too.”
“Good, because if I said, ‘You’re welcome,’ every time I did something around the house, I’d be talking all the time.”
See, I knew it. That tone of voice.
I left the house feeling guilty for only carrying out the trash. Driving away, I wondered whether I also should have painted the hallway or refinished the kitchen cabinets.
I didn’t remind her that taking out the trash is not child’s play. I have to pull the bag out of the can and tie it in a secure knot, then carry it, manually, outside to the trash can. Once a week, I have to push that can to the curb, then back again.
I don’t think my wife understands how much housework I do.
She works at home way too much herself, yet still maintains a massive guilt complex about not performing housework every waking minute.
“Not that it ever does any good,” she will say in that tone of voice, mentally pointing a clean finger in my unkempt direction. In her world, she is the fastidious Adrian Monk and I am Pigpen, the Peanuts character who walks around in his own Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
She has purchased every new kind of cleaning supply and mop they bring onto the market. The mops are spongelike things on sticks, rigged with bottles of cleaner, that promise to keep the floor clean no matter how disrespectful your dogs are. They don’t, and we have yet to figure out how to train our dogs to pick up after themselves.
I’ve heard of people – women, even – who resist housework. I understand there are even reality shows about them. My mother was one such person.
Mama placed little emphasis on creating order out of the chaos caused by five boys and a girl. The next day, the house would be a disaster area all over again, so why bother?
In her defense, she had her hands busy anyway. She cooked large meals every day. Did the dishes. Put up fruits and vegetables in Mason jars and the freezer. Sewed torn jeans. Medicated sick kids. Prepared school lunches.
You know, the usual.
In addition, she helped out on the farm, doing the same chores my father and we boys did. Herding cattle, killing chickens, shelling corn, picking cotton, churning butter, making hominy, tending to ailing animals.
You know, the usual – if you are Wonder Woman.
Mama did have one use for housework: as punishment. If one of us told her we were too sick for school, the cost of staying home was cleaning the house. We soon learned to love school.
My wife is a Wonder Woman, too. She works so hard, in fact, that I think she sometimes overlooks my contributions.
You’re welcome, Honey.