In our marriage, through all the ups and downs, we have shown consideration for each other and flexibility of division of labor based on our circumstances at the time – and tried to have a sense of humor regardless what circumstances we are in.
I like to think we have a successful marriage.
During the earlier years of our marriage, Mark worked full time in the Canadian Forces and I owned my own business in Trenton, Ontario, which is where we were based at the time.
Mark would be the first to leave the house as his work started and ended earlier than mine. So, I fed the kids breakfast, got them dressed and made sure they got off to school on time. Then I would leave to open the store by 9 am and remain there until closing at 5:00 pm.
Mark returned home about 3 pm and would greet the kids, get them busy with homework if they had any, and begin preparing dinner for us all.
Beyond this, our efforts fell within traditional gender roles for the most part, with each covering for the other when necessary. Mark mowed the lawn, did the home repairs, maintained the vehicles, built the kids’ ice rink in the winter (very, very important), took out the garbage, etc. I cleaned house, did laundry, did the grocery and other shopping, performed all administrative tasks in the household and dealt with the kids and their playmates. We each knew the other was ready and willing to fill in where and when needed.
This same division of labor took place both before and after we lived in Trenton, when I and Mark both worked full time jobs – with minor variations to accommodate our schedules and workload.
In the past two years, however, while I’ve been on disability, Mark has assumed the grocery shopping and dealing with outside tasks and appointments, in addition to the tasks he always did. I’ve assumed all of the indoor household tasks to a much greater degree (although admittedly not often enough as I’m such a horrible procrastinator) since I’m home all the time. I also usually get up with Mark in the morning and prepare his lunch and start my own chores while he showers and prepares to leave for work.
As well, we always think of each other in everything we do.
Mark likes to cook breakfast and I don’t usually, preferring a quick, cold breakfast. Most of the time, though, he will make breakfast for me as well when he is making it. When one of us goes to get something like coffee, water, etc., we always offer to get anything the other needs. This may seem like a very small thing, but it means a lot – at least to me.
I can never make up to Mark for the additional responsibilities he has taken on, but the one thing I do for him all of the time is get up early with the pets on weekends and holidays so he can sleep in.
Occasionally, Mark will decide to start a household chore and I get defensive and take him to task as this is ‘my job’. “You shouldn’t be doing that since I’m home all the time,” I’d say.
One day, however, I think I surprised him. I wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time, but my daughter had decided to dye her hair the bright pink she loves and got a lot of it on the bathroom tub and sink. I discovered this when I walked in on Mark scrubbing at both to remove the dye stains. Immediately, I fell into my usual defensive mode and told him to stop as “it’s my job.” He didn’t, and I left.
A few minutes later he walked into the family room and said, “that feels really good to get that done.”
I didn’t say anything, but left to go into the kitchen and do the dishes. Once in there, I said, “So, you liked cleaning the bathroom? If you like it, you can take it on permanently.”
The silence was deafening. I looked up from the dishwasher and muttered, “Hey?”, trying to see if he heard me. He looked at me deadpan and said, “What?”
I just kept looking at him and as time went on, he couldn’t keep the straight face anymore and I could see a sheepish grin appearing. Sometimes I can really see where my son, Stuart, gets his ‘naughty’ streak!