I have a new-found respect for the chores of those in the family who keep our houses in order. This happens every time my wife gets laid up from illness or accident. The current episode is the result of a slow healing torn meniscus she received while traveling to our grandson’s wedding.
I realize that, by a long shot, I don’t meet the liberated woman’s current standard for carrying my share of household chores, but I’ve done my part – dirty diapers, dish washing, bedtimes, grocery shopping. In my case, when wife was unable to carry on, I would inform the children in no uncertain terms, “We are on EMERGENCY POWER.” (unspoken) “Deal with it.”
By and large, I’ve maintained the traditional “breadwinner” role. You know – off to work, work all day, come home (too often late) to dinner on the table. Mine was one of those 24/7 jobs where, on a moment’s notice, I might receive a call and be whisked away from wife and family for who knows how long.
Not long after I retired, my wife was diagnosed with cancer, a situation that pretty much put her out of commission for several months. During that time the care of the house became my responsibility. Making the best of a difficult situation, I immediately modified the “Jackie’s Kitchen” sign over the stove with a temporary stick-on label that read, “Rick’s Kitchen”. Meals got leaner, vacuuming was done less often, dusting pretty much not at all. My wife probably welcomed visitors as much for the quick straightening up that took place as for the company.
What kills me is the planning needed to keep on schedule. Long before mealtime, (like the day before) one must decide what to pull from the freezer so it has time to thaw. Then, a couple of hours before mealtime, he or she has to interrupt normal activities to prepare the meal. Somehow, when my wife does it, everything from the oven, stove-top, microwave and toaster oven are actually ready at the same time. (How does that happen?) Oh yeah, just about the time all the dingers are dinging, the dog decides she can’t wait a minute longer for her own dinner.
There’s another thing that drives me nuts. It’s the repetitive nature of the work. I finally get cleaned up from one meal and it’s time to start all over again. I finish washing the last dish, clean the counter top, sop up the water I spilled on the floor while washing the blasted dishes and, finally, the sink looks like it has never been used. Then someone in the family comes along and leaves a bowl, a spoon and a dirty glass on my nice clean counter. And how do I keep the kitchen floor clean? Shedding dog hair nests in wispy dust balls in every corner of the kitchen and, on a wet day, dog prints starting at the back door fade out ¾ of the way across the floor.
Then there’s the rest of the house. By the time I finish picking up snack dishes, assorted paperwork, leftover mail and candy wrappers from one room, another room has begun to gather them. The bathroom, small though it is, simply requires too much time per square foot of space. I don’t mind doing the laundry. It’s folding the sheets, pillowcases and assorted clothing when the drier stops that bothers me. I can fall asleep looking for a matching sock. Oh yeah, vacuuming and dusting – hardly considered a required activity when under “EMERGENCY POWER”.
Hey! I’m not complaining – just amazed. I spent a career dealing with this, that and the other thing while managing the affairs of the airport. I could handle pretty much any issue brought to me, deal with an interruption, even an interruption to the interruption. Never a dull moment. But, how does one carry on these boring household chores day after day without crying, “Uncle”? My hat’s off to our domestic engineers. For me – I’d rather go back to work.