“Man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.”
— Jean Parish

That old trope has long ago been tossed and burned in history’s dumpster, along with “The better half” and “Little Lady.”

Women are now combat engineers, cops, gangsters, pilots, judges, vice presidents, and even an occasional Kardashian.

History, as usual, straitened it all out. The “pants” that men used to wear started hanging in all closets.

She, my beloved blessed with two degrees and three careers, is now sidelined, afflicted with troubled legs.

You wouldn’t know it if you sat beside her as I do, watching Jeopardy! or the election results, while she waits to next spring to have work done. Her work now is mostly cerebral.


When this English major, actress, dancer and teacher fell into retirement, the household “woman’s work,” always a fairy tale fable, fell on me like the masonry on Hallowell’s sidewalk.

It requires a 12-hour dash that extends far into the twilight hours and requires paying attention, if you don’t want a new red shirt turning the white sheets pink.

For a while, we hired a housekeeper to do the “woman’s” work, while I wrote two columns a week, chatted on the phone, “Starbucked” with friends, cooked (which I always loved) and shopped (not so much).

No longer at ease with having a housekeeper who “housekept” with dozens of strangers in these “troubled” times, we freed her up and “women’s work” became mine.

As most of you know, the endless lists of “women’s work” grows into a full-time program, as long as a receipt from CVS.

With my mate tied to her desk, I girded my loins and set forth to do a woman’s work.


For the first two seasons of this, I made mistakes and fell into traps that women, since Eve in her garden, were aware of, and learned about “pacing” myself. In this time, there was much fumbling, cursing and praying, and then something happened.

My feminine side emerged — yes it did. I learned that I not only had inherited my mother’s good looks and genes, but her work ethic.

One day, armed with two new Christmas aprons, I began to wash our two dishes, two pots and two forks by hand, skipping the dishwasher.

I started smelling the laundry and smiling at the sweet smelling items, the way the bald guy in the TV commercial does.

I devised time-saving devices: writing three paragraphs of a column before sandwiching in the cleaning of two bathrooms, or dusting the living room and cleaning the fridge and the bird cage, before bed.

As the first two years slid off my plate, I realized that I had become Felix Unger of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” with all of his insane passion for neatness.


I started spraying the kitchen after cooking, vacuuming around my “readers” feet, changing the bird cage four times a week, folding laundry neatly, using “perfumed “ garbage bags and rearranging the closets and drawers.

She has taken it all in with a smile, except when I sit staring at her for a reaction, as she samples bites of my latest eggplant lasagna.

None of this is news to my feminine readers, so I’ll add just three more things to this piece. OMG, hold on a minute, my roast is burning.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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