I have been musing lately about the different responsibilities that men assume or assist with in the running of a household. There is a large gap between men of my husband's age and men of my daughters' ages.
My husband assumes responsibility for mowing the lawn, at least the middle of the lawn or what can be reached by a riding lawn mower. But most other yard chores belong to me. I prune, weed and water. He does, however, maintain a vegetable garden and is justifiably proud of its produce. My husband is in charge of the car and, with reminders from me, he sees to its maintenance. He also is good about taking out the garbage.
I have to admit that some of the new technology is beyond me, and I have to sometimes ask my daughter to help me program something. But at least I can turn on a computer and set the clocks when the electricity goes off. I guess my husband could do these things in a pinch, but why should he learn if I do it for him.
Laundry? Forget it. The washing machine and dryer are a mystery to him. He does deposit his dirty clothes in the proper place. End of participation. One trip I took with my sister lasted more days than he had clean underwear. He solved the problem by buying new underwear.
Dishes? He routinely gets up from a meal and takes his dishes and scrapes them and then places them in the sink. He then runs water over them. Even if all the rest of the kitchen has been cleaned and the dishwasher is open, right next to the sink, and waiting for his dishes. No way. It never occurs to him to put the dishes in it. This particular quirk of his used to drive me crazy. Now I have decided life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
My husband has lots of company. A friend mentioned that her husband comes home from work five days a week for lunch and usually eats a bowl of cereal. When he finishes, he takes the bowl and spoon and deposits them in the sink. He protested that he does run water over the bowl. She has to put them in the dishwasher when she comes home.
Lately my husband has taken to reading the grocery ads and making small forays to purchase the bargains he discovers. I am a creature of habit. For years I worked and did not have time to make multiple trips to grocery stores or time to read all the grocery flyers. I want to get the groceries and be done with it. So I appreciate his new interest and try to cook whatever he purchases.
But the men of my children's generation actually do far more. They can wash and dry clothes and run the dishwasher. I have seen them actually put dishes in the dishwasher. I have seen them fold clothes. I have seen them pick up toys and straighten up. I have seen them empty a dishwasher. I have it on good authority from my daughter that her husband helps her clean bathrooms.
Most women today work hours as long as men and need any assistance they can get. I applaud men who recognize this and help out.
I do not mean for this to be an indictment of my husband and the men of his generation. They are doing exactly what their mothers' taught them to do. (Take your plate from the table, scrape it, put it in the sink and run water over it). In the minds of the men of my husband's generation, they are good husbands who help their wives. They grew up as part of the "Ozzie and Harriet" generation. Mothers did not work. Mothers had the time and energy to do all the necessary household chores and still have dinner on the table each evening.
The men of my daughters' generation, more often than not, grew up with mothers who worked outside of the home. Their mothers expected more of them and taught them how to complete household chores by themselves. Also these men generally married later in life than men of my husband's generation and had to survive in a household lacking a woman's help. They learned how to manage household chores as a matter of self preservation.
We are products of our environment.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.