Now that I’m on summer break from tutoring, I’ve had time to fully explore the delights of house-tidying and oven-wrangling – my efforts mostly to keep from dying of boredom while I wait to hear back from various local job applications. Some evenings I find the Husband blissfully engaged in dishwashing, to which my response is “That’s MY job, understand? Those are MY dishes! MINE!!!”
I don’t think there’s anything wrong about a husband assisting with household cleaning duties – he can do all of them, if he really wants to. But he works overtime every week, while I am in that carefree space void of students and, until I find a place within walking distance that will let me wait tables, make sandwiches, or run a cash register, I feel rather unemployed and have laid claim to the title of Homemaker until further notice.
It’s a term I heard plenty of while growing up. Though my mother graduated with a four-year degree centered on biology and psychology, she wanted to use her education as a stay-at-home Mom rather than in pursuit of an outside career. She often described herself as a Homemaker, one whose job it is to create and maintain the kind of household environment best suited to the family’s needs. She was and remains exceptional at it, leaving me, newly married and moved into a traditional house with a hard-working and well-providing husband, to contemplate how she does it: how I, in turn, ought to do it.
I don’t believe every woman needs to be a wife and mother or that every wife and mother needs to stay at home to manage the household. But I do believe that if there’s going to be anything resembling a home, the people living in it need to recognize that keeping that home home-like is just as much a job as the going out and earning money to pay the mortgage. A home is not simply provided for, or made; it must be provided for, and made, or it begins to feel like a poorly kept hotel room. While still unmarried, I played the role of both the breadwinner and the breadbaker for my household of one, and it was a continual struggle to find the balance between keeping a roof over my head and keeping the roof over my head a relatively pleasant place to spend time under.
It’s up to each couple to come to an agreement on how the duties of providing for the home and making the home should be split up. One of you provides while the other makes? Both of you provide and both of you make? One does more providing while the other does more making? How do you decide? Work schedules? Work responsibilities? General mood?
These arrangements need to be made, not to shackle one spouse to the stove, but to ensure that the job of homemaking is seen for what it is – a job. Acting as a chef, office administrator, accountant, maid, interior decorator, and party planner all at once can be just as demanding as any full-time position, and forgetting this can lead to an attitude that the housework will sort of “take care of itself.” It does not.
At this time, the Husband and I just don’t make enough messes or do enough entertaining for one of us to need to be a full-time Homemaker. It’s why I’m happily searching for a nearby place to work when I’m not tutoring. It’s an opportunity to help provide while staying busy. But while the Husband is doing the providing, I aim to do my part with the making. And I’m keeping in mind that once I do start working, there will still be dishes in the sink at the end of the day, that someone will need to do them, and that we’ll have to come to a new arrangement.
Now, I’m off to make a fabulous dinner. Or, you know. Get something from McDonald’s. Maybe they’re hiring . . .