I have been watching two men take over the domestic life of their families — my son and my husband. My son has to take care of two children by himself for extended periods of time. He irons their school clothes and makes their lunches at night, figures out methods of discipline, gets them to sleep at night, cleans the house, shops, does the dishes, the laundry — everything. He’s become more efficient and ingenious. He has also learned to listen more carefully to advice from others. He has discovered that he doesn’t have to do all the thinking by himself; other people have been thinking about the same things and have come up with protocols that can help him.
My husband has been running the household since I broke a bone in my foot. Having been on crutches once before, when I was a single mother commuting into the city every day, I know that I could have managed by myself, but what a blessing, what a luxury, it has been to have him take care of everything so I can sit there and heal. He remarked, “I never thought you’d take so well to being waited on hand and foot.” But I have taken to it like a duck to water. He and I have traditionally shared most of the chores, but I have done proportionately more, and although he helped a lot, I always felt that I had to be in control to be sure that everything got done.
This is the first time in my life that I have been able to remove my mind and body from household chores. Even when I was a child I had to help my mother with the dishes and keep my room clean (as if….). It has been the most powerful experience of women’s liberation I have ever had. Today we are having a guest for dinner and my only role will be to hobble to the table, be charming, and then go back to my couch. I don’t have to be in control. I don’t even have to know what’s going on. It is so healthy! Many women I know have removed themselves from household chores, but I have observed that their households end up eating pizza and living in dust and mess. It is the MEN who have stepped up in both cases here.
I can’t help but think letting go is not only good for me, but it’s good for them too. They are proud of themselves, have a new confidence, and have earned my respect and adoration for what they are doing. Now that all of you know about it, I’m sure they have earned your respect too. The genders are equal, and now they are acting that way. I have realized intellectually that part of the reason why women are burdened more heavily with household chores is that they refuse to let go (though there are times when only mommy will do), but living it is a different experience.
Now I have to go back to my couch.