I woke up this morning to the bellowing howls of my distressed toddler. He didn’t seem to have skipped a beat from falling asleep grumpy last night. “I want my videooooooooo!” he demanded, standing over me in his perfected villainous scowl. His yell alarms his 9-month-old brother leading to a crescendo of noise which begins with a whimper and soon a howl. Stumbling out of bed and in a daze to get the boys ready, dressed, and fed, I was stunned when greeted by a neatly stacked line-up of clean baby bottles, sitting on the kitchen countertop.
To say that I shocked was an understatement.
My husband and I have been working on sharing more responsibilities around the house with two little ones, two full-time jobs, and two demanding work schedules. We recently decided to let go of our live-in nanny and housekeeper to reclaim our independence, privacy (and kitchen) and in the process of domestic rehabilitation, had to regain the muscles of relearning how to wash a dish, do a load of laundry, and boil an egg- daily luxuries we took for granted when we had help around the clock. And these days, many a nights, and in a series of over-the-top dramatic meltdowns, mostly which I will take credit for, I lament with angst over our household chores– a never-ending cycle of which I have been responsible for since I work from home. In my line of work, my day ends when the stock market closes, yet then I get sucked into a vortex of dinner, dishes, dusting and diapers while my husband catches up on calls, proposals, and emails.
Various studies have shown that sharing household chores is an important part of marriage. Especially in the United States, there is frequently more ambiguity in household responsibilities between working couples, which more often than not lead to ongoing disputes, resentment, and tension. And despite men’s participation in housework nearly doubling in the past 40 years, in America, women still perform the majority of household tasks.
What’s also surprising is that in a 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, more than half of married people say that shared housework is key to a successful marriage. This ranks 3rd behind having shared interests and having a satisfying sexual relationship.
So for me personally, seeing those bottles lined up, washed and dried, felt like a ray of light appearing through the darkness as if calling out to me that there were indeed brighter times ahead. As a couple, I felt a triumphant sense of accomplishment. I used my voice and he listened. Ah, the bliss of marital harmony. Indeed the saying was true, love IS patient and love IS kind. After all, I was extremely patient and he kind of began to listen.
I was about to send my husband a sweet message when my 3-year-old stormed into the room, now armed with his lightsaber and a fierce Gandalf impression, “You shall not pass,” he shrieks with delight before scampering back into his bedroom with the swishing sounds of his little pampers. Before I can explain to him that he’s confusing two different movies, something else dawned on me.
The boys had all been watching a movie last night and I had fallen asleep on the couch. Somewhere during my transition from the living room to the bedroom, I had decided to wash the baby bottles so that I was one step ahead in the morning- -which meant…I was the one that actually washed the bottles, it was me, and not my husband. I sulked and became annoyed. Now I was about to send him a text, this time of a different temperament.
For the next few moments, I began to craft a seething message, one that really gave him a piece of my mind and was about to hit send when I incidentally looked down at the dining room table and noticed a plate of eggs and vegetables. Although he did not clean the baby bottles, he did, however, take the time to make us all breakfast before leaving for work today.
I guess I’ll keep him after all.