WHILE STANDING at the kitchen sink, it occurs to me that washing the dishes is a man’s job. The beautiful view of the woods behind the house makes the task of dishwashing tolerable, but it’s not something I enjoy. Since the kids grew up and left the house, however, I’ve done it in appreciation for Linda’s amazing meals.
Of course, there may not be another cook in the world who uses as many pots and pans for a meal as my creative wife.
I am aware that some working wives still perform all the household and child-rearing tasks at home, while hubby moves unknowingly and blissfully through life, but it’s my hope that this is no longer the situation in most homes.
If you are one of these blissfully unaware husbands, shame on you! Yes, these jobs can be tedious and boring. That’s one reason your wife would like you to do some of them.
Linda and I share the chores — although I have to acknowledge that she does more of them than I do. Because I am totally inept at mechanical things, she took over the “man’s job” of fixing things early in our marriage. But just this past weekend, she did ask if I’d try to fix a light that wasn’t working in the bathroom.
I extracted the old switch from the socket and bought a new one at Flying Pond Variety. But I neglected to turn off the circuit breaker while installing the new switch. When the metal screwdriver touched the wire, the new switch blew up with some impressive fireworks. Lin came rushing in, hollering, “Are you all right?”
After seeing that I was indeed OK, she suggested the next step: a call to our local electrician.
I do better with laundry, ironing, vacuuming and washing floors. And, except for gardening, where she limits me to occasional rototilling, I am gangbusters on outside chores, especially wood splitting. OK, Linda does mow the lawn. For her birthday last fall, I bought her a new John Deere mower, good guy that I am.
After I fell off the roof while painting 10 years ago, she insisted that we get a professional to paint the house and roof this year. And we do employ our friend Dave Weeks to do a lot of our construction and other projects.
Now that I spend most of my work time writing at home, while Lin teaches first-graders at Mount Vernon Elementary, I try to pick up more of the daily chores. It’s really a good feeling when she gets home from work and notices something I’ve done.
And she does notice. That’s the best part. Usually.
A few months ago, I decided to reline the kitchen cupboards and reorganize them — a very bad mistake. Suddenly Linda couldn’t find anything — and I couldn’t remember where I’d put them. Some pans are in a cupboard in the bathroom. Large plastic storage containers are in a living room drawer. And I threw away a bunch of small plastic containers — thinking we had way too many. Wrong! Turns out reorganizing things for her is not a service she appreciated.
Learning what women want and appreciate has been a lifelong experience for me, and it amazes me that some men remain uneducated. From the state Legislature to the U.S. Congress, men recently have made — well, the only way to describe them is stupid — remarks about women.
After hearing a Maine legislator who I like and respect give a long speech about an issue of great importance to women, I chastised him. “Why do you think women want to hear from you on this,” I asked? “First, you don’t know what you are talking about, and second, you are not going to win the argument.”
Some of the foolish remarks made in the last few months by members of Congress and major political figures are astonishing. When the normally well-spoken Mike Huckabee slipped recently, speculating about a woman’s libido, I couldn’t believe it.
Perhaps he doesn’t have the strong women in his life that have benefitted me. In addition to Linda, daughters Hilary and Rebekah, who is chairwoman of the Maine Women’s Lobby, have enlightened me and guided me to a much better place.
For the three of them, I can only hope I have not pulled a Huckabee with this column.