“This story shall the good man teach his son:
and spring shall ne’er go by but we shall be remembered —
we few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
for he today that sprays his orange clean Pledge with me,
and dusts the tables, vacuums the rugs, with me, shall be my brother …
and gentlemen in Maine now-a-bed
shall think themselves accursed that they were not here.”

Thank you, Willie Shakespeare, for letting me gently paraphrase your sacred words as I go about my daily chores, that which my mother called “woman’s work.”

Since time began, it did fall upon the women to keep the dust of farmers’ boots from the floors of the caves and cabins.

The male of the species grabbed dinosaur bones to slay the dinner, went hunting for work and gathering the bacon to bring home for the “little woman” to fry. And if you think that’s a tale of yesteryear, you’re mistaken.

I did a survey in the marketplace, of married couples of all ages, two same-sex married couples as well (believe me, we’re all the same), and despite both mates hustling in the agora, the “little woman” still comes home — from bagging, selling, tending to the sick, chasing felons and teaching — to fry the bacon, do the laundry and sweep the cave.

I came to this place where a “woman’s” work became mine because of guilt and a rise in self-awareness.

I soon discovered that the lot of the teacher, poorly paid and abused, was to work as hard as a ditch digger. The teacher, after a 15-minute lunch break, comes home weary of the day’s work, eats and then spends an hour or two or three to complete that day’s work.

Further research shows that most go right to the market, shop and then home to cook and do dishes. Occasionally, the male of the species, if not occupied with an obsession with “scores,” will “dry.” There are exceptions, I’m sure, but too few to mention.

Early on in our union, guilt gobsmacked me in the heart. If I were to pretty up each day and strut about the stage of show business and still have hours left untouched, while she strained her eyes trying to decode the scribblings of her wards, I had to step up, grab an oar and help paddle our ship of life to the future. In the immortal words of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, I “leaned in.”

I was surprised. I took to it like a merganser to fresh water. I cooked, cleaned, guided the day of two daughters and still made auditions. There is, I believe, a picture of me in the early “Home Daddy” hall of fame.

Now, many years later, with the girls gone, she is about to retire, and I stand in the golden glory of my home-daddy career, still crazy after all these years.

This July, she will regain her title as queen of the mansion and resume her duties, whilst I put aside my oar, retire to the local Starbucks to tell old Hollywood stories and regale all with my adventures in maintaining the family ship. It was a long and exciting adventure.

Not so fast. Already, impediments in the transference of powers are popping up.

It seems that we have different cleaning and cooking habits. Mine are time-tested. Hers drive me crazy. I’m an improviser; she’s been breaking out her mother’s cookbooks two at a time. I knew where all of the cleaning and cooking tools were kept. She’s taken to putting them back in different places. As a cook, She favors meticulous measuring procedures. This week she bought a new set of measuring spoons. Great chefs don’t use measuring spoons … do they?

With dust cloth, vacuum and broom in hand, I tend to flit from room to room, staying within a tight time frame. She, on the other hand, will spend an hour in one room, sometimes on one table or mirror, picking, wiping, re-picking, re-wiping until she’s satisfied with the result. It’s almost painful to watch, like watching paint dry.

Laundry: She folds everything and then smooths it. They’re T-shirts. Who knows they’re wrinkled? Who cares if they’re wrinkled?

I’m sure things will work out in the end. I have to move the computer now. She wants to do this table again. I polished it this morning. Would one more year of teaching kill her?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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