I came across this essay I wrote years ago when the kids were still young and I was a slave to the laundry.
One day last winter, my husband decided he was going to do the laundry. I don't mean he decided to put a load of jeans through.
"From now on," he announced, "I'm going to be in charge of all the laundry."
I felt his forehead and checked his pupils. He seemed fine.
All of a sudden, I was free! It was as if the invisible chain that had shackled me to the laundry room all those years had been sawn through. I never went near the washer and dryer anymore. Kent would tell me when we were running low on laundry detergent and I'd buy more. That was as close as I got to the whole process.
And I gave up the guilt. If somebody wasn't going to have clean underwear in the morning, too bad. Not my problem. Go talk to Dad.
And not only did he get the loads through, but he folded everything immediately and got things on hangers as they came out of the dryer. And then he put it all away. I sometimes suspect that he did all this just to show me how to do the job right - to prove that it could be done completely and efficiently. He has been known to give lectures on the proper loading of a dishwasher, too. I've often wondered where he got all his experience. It must have been in a previous life.
One day I was meeting with a group of teenage girls I work with in church. I was telling the other adult leader about Kent's taking on the laundry.
"This must be what it's like for the queen!" I exclaimed. She listened attentively, eyes sparkling as she imagined enviously how it would be to live in such luxury.
"I put my dirty clothes in the hamper and don't think about them again. Then I open my drawers and my closet and POOF! There they are, all clean and ready for me to wear again!"
The teenage girls were giving each other sidelong glances, obviously questioning our sanity.
Then a thought occurred to both of us at the same moment.
"This must be what it's like to be a tenager!" we let out in chorus.
After that I realized that it isn't just the queen and teenagers who enjoy certain luxuries. It's anyone who has a mother or a wife lurking in the background.
I know that dads and teenagers and even younger children are capable of helping out around the house, but isn't there an underlying responsibility that is Mom's? Mom has to see to it that the kids follow through and do a job right. Mom has to nag. If Mom has to nag to get the job done, she isn't exactly going to feel like royalty. I'm pretty sure Queen Elizabeth doesn't have to nag to get the chores done around the palace. And I know that this mom, quite often, just does it herself to avoid a struggle.
And let's face it - how clean can a nine-year-old really get a bathroom anyway?
And as for a dad, he can actually do a great job (although it usually takes a dad about four times as long as it would take a mom), but if he doesn't do it before his wife has to ask him, then it's still her responsibility. Seems like he's doing her a favor. Hmmm.....
Well, it was the best six weeks of my married life. That's how long Kent stuck it out. My parents came to visit, and I don't know if it was a masculinity issue or if Kent was afraid some of my mother's underwear would find its way into his wash loads. Anyway, I'm back in the laundry business these days. I don't always get it folded as it comes out of the dryer, (okay, rarely do I get it folded as it comes out of the dryer) and most mornings we're fishing for socks in the unmated sock basket. Of course, at the same time I'm doing laundry I'm also doing dishes several times a day, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathrooms,cooking meals, and helping kids with school work and piano practice.
My friend's husband is a school teacher. He's off all summer and he cooks dinner every night all summer long.
"Beth!" I exclaim. "How is it to have someone call out every night, 'Dinner's ready!' and go in and sit down at the table and have a meal appear before you as if by magic?"
I'm sure my eyes are sparkling as I imagine enviously how it would be to live in such luxury.
I have a sudden revelation.
"That must be what it's like for Kent!"
"Yeah," she brags, leaning back to relax as she awaits the dinner gong. "It's great to be a man."
Note: Looking back, I'm actually really glad for the opportunity I had all those years to be the one in charge of housework. Hey, I got to stay home. I got to be my own boss. (See May 2010 post "Stay-At-Home Mom.) Although when one of the kids fails to load his dishes into the dishwasher, I usually say something like "I don't mind cleaning up after Dad because he earns his keep around here. But the rest of you can forget it!"