The Division of Labour – revisited

I had quite a wonderful day yesterday.  I started the day with a few hours of writing, course planning, and taking care of calls that needed to be made; booking dentist’s appointments, a colonoscopy (now there’s one of the joys of being over 50), a meeting with someone who wants to interview me about work I did a few years ago.  By early afternoon I was ready to get dressed.  I wonder how many retired folks spend much of their day in their pyjamas?  Once dressed I headed out to run a few errands, one of which was to pick up another banana-wrapped mango-salsa tilapia that I’d need for dinner.  I was home by 4 o’clock to meet with my insurance broker who was delivering my brand-spanking-new life insurance policy.  At a little after 5 my son Motti came by, and while I did some decluttering we talked and he played music – introducing me to the most beautiful song.

He even tried to teach me how to play an F-chord on the guitar, something I’ve struggled with since I was about 15 years old.  Amazingly, I’ve managed to take most pieces of music I’ve wanted to play and transpose them into a key that would let me play the song without ever having to use an F-chord.  Is it time to learn this new skill?  I made dinner and we all enjoyed it.   

Meanwhile, you might be wondering, what had David been doing?  He’d put a full day’s work in and had come home not feeling so well – we all seem to be struggling with the viral yuck that’s going around … sore throats, coughing, tiredness.   Our “agreement” (as I wrote about in August in the first Division of Labour posting) has been – in part – that I cook and David cleans up.  Well, last night, there he was with more work to do and there I was without more work to do and so … presto chango … I took on the after-dinner cleaning up so that he could get to his work and hopefully get himself to bed a little earlier.  My choice … but a change in pattern nonetheless.

We have a wonderful woman, AnneMarie, who comes in every Wednesday and helps keep the house in laundry2order.  She washes and folds the laundry among the other things she does for us.  It’s been David’s job to put the laundry away for the past eight years.  Last night, as he was climbing into bed, the laundry basket sat full and ready for unloading.  He commented that he was really too tired and not feeling well enough to deal with it and, of course, I said: “Don’t worry about it.  It can be done in the morning”.  Well, at 10 o’clock at night, after he was blissfully in dreamland, I found myself unpacking the laundry.  Why not, right?  My choice again … but again, another change in pattern.

I woke up this morning to the aroma of coffee wafting across the bedroom as David brought me my morning libation of choice.  A lot may have changed with my retirement, but his being a sweetheart goes on!  That morning coffee & toast pattern is also in flux though because of my varying wake-up times, but I’ll talk about that another time.  Just as he was about to say goodbye and head off to his office I asked him if he’d noticed that the laundry had been put away.  He looked around in surprise!  Of course he was thankful and expressed that in a fitting manner.  A hug and kiss and he was off to work.

So what’s the issue here?  I seem to be taking on more of the chores that used to be his.  It isn’t that he’s consciously expecting me to do that.  Seems to just be drifting that way.  So far, this isn’t a problem for me but it is something that’s on my radar now because I don’t want to end up being a traditional “housefrau” and slowly, chore by chore, replacing hours of paid work with hours of unpaid work.   Hold on now, don’t go ballistic; I’m not minimizing the value of housework nor am I casting aspersions on anyone who chooses to make keeping a house clean and in order a major goal.  For me, Erma Bombeck said it best: “Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity.”   It just isn’t something I’ve ever wanted to focus on. 

I’m going to have to watch this one carefully I think.


2 responses to “The Division of Labour – revisited

  1. Oh Syvlia, be very careful. Some of us might take this posting as a challenge to find ways to have you become engaged in new adventures outside of the house! Interested in community development and conference planning?

    I can relate to the slip that change brings into a household. For years, I have been a sole parent and therefore been responsible for all the household tasks (and yes, the pay sucks.) Now that I am living with a partner I have found a new task. It is called the coordinator of all things that must be done. I am about to go on a complete work stoppage. If my role in the household is coordinator then perhaps I should only be doing that job and no direct services. Division of labour is a sticky subject – wonder if in many places it is avoided like sex, religion and politics? Or is it in fact embedded in all of the above?

  2. It will likely remain fraught. The Obamas are probably confronting it. He has a nice passage in the last chapter of Audacity of Hope about Michelle instructing him about how to buy ant traps on the way home.

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