Anyone who thinks a marriage is a 50-50 proposition has never been married. Despite the social revolution ever since the 1960s, most of the work in a household is still done by women.
I rediscovered this recently when my wife, JoAn, had to go out of town to care for our granddaughter while the teen’s parents were out of town. Those were the toughest six days of my life, roughly comparable to boot camp but with less sleep and worse food.
Now, I’m no stranger to housework. I love doing the laundry because I tend to lose fewer socks. I cook quite a bit, although my meals will never be featured in Southern Living. And of course, I mow the yard, maintain the autos and, at least in theory, clean the garage.
Still, the past week was a nonstop exercise in chores.
It all started and ended with the dogs. They are high-maintenance animals that require a team of wranglers, not one person. They tapped on the door to go out. Then almost immediately wanted to come back in. They repeated that cycle endlessly.
Except when they would go out and disappear. That worried me a bit, because I figure they finally had perfected a device to hurl them over the fence to freedom. So I went looking for them – at 2 a.m. in my robe. They would skulk back in, their plot failed, before doing the same thing the next night.
Feeding them took the patience of Job. One has a delicate stomach, so we feed her a special food. Not that it matters, because neither dog actually seems to eat her food, requiring all sorts of coaxing on my part.
My wife won’t let me feed the dogs from the table, because table scraps are somehow bad for dogs, but I figure it’s just as bad for them to never eat.
The only thing I could be sure they would eat was treats, and if I were to fill their bowls with those bacon-looking strips, they would wolf them down without breathing. The food manufacturers should make all dog food look and taste like treats.
From the first day my wife left, the sink filled up with dirty dishes. I don’t know why that was, because I cook everything in one pan and eat off one plate or bowl, and I would wash dishes every day. I have no explanation.
All the time, of course, I was working, so I would come home to two dogs demanding to go outside and a bunch of dishes that seemed to have soiled themselves. I would get the mail and newspaper. Do the laundry. Buy groceries. Super glue my fingers together. (That’s a long story that begins with my trying to perform a household repair.) All the while, 35 messages had built up on the phone that I didn’t have time to deal with.
My wife has returned home. The dogs are getting fed. The sink is empty. As I write this, the granddaughter whom my wife took care of added a note in her parents’ Mother’s Day card to my wife. Her comments included, “You’re a great woman.”
I concur, JoAn. I concur.