My husband is a pretty handy man. Any stereotypically “manly” job is well within his purview. If it involves hammers, screws, power tools, dirt, an element of danger, guttural noises, chest-thumping, blood, sweat or tears (note the blood part – it’s important later in the story), and multiple trips to Home Depot, I can count on him to attempt, and usually succeed, with the mission. Yes, years later, he will not let me forget how hard it was to tile the built-in shelves I had him make in the bathtub surround, but he did it, and he did it well.
I’ve known lots of women who claim that their husbands are not handy. I’ve always privately considered that they just didn’t care to try. And that their wives let them get away with it.
This is, though, a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
If a large, hairy spider were to greet me when I opened the shower door, I would squeal and run, quaking, to my brave soldier to defend and kill. If he were not home, as is often the case, I would calmly get a shoe and squash the bugger. I am only as brave as I need to be.
When it comes to stereotypical “women’s work,” my husband has managed to successfully fail at such chores. He could write a book: The Blond Man’s Guide to Avoiding Laundry and Other Household Drudgeries. Obviously, shrinking your wife’s cashmere sweater or turning all the whites pink, if done often enough with a doe-eyed “oopsie!” as your response, will likely result in your wife deciding you are too incompetent to be trusted with such tasks. It took me a few years to catch on to this trick.
If your highly intelligent husband takes three hours to prepare a “fast and easy” meal, if the sauce is burnt but the noodles are crunchy, if he uses every single pot in the cabinet and leaves a huge mess in the kitchen for you to clean, you may be tempted to give up on the idea of having him help out with meals on the night you have your women’s prayer group. Consider that it might just be a ploy.
If the baby’s diapers are on backwards or so loose that they leak, if the kids aren’t reminded to brush their teeth or they go to bed with dirty faces, if the question, “Where is the baby?” is met with a blank stare or, worse, “The 4 year old is watching her,” you might think the angst isn’t worth the break. That might be what he’s trying to make you think.
As I said, though, I’m on to him. I’ll do the laundry, I’ll do the cooking. I’ll clean. But sometimes, like yesterday, I just have to get away. And that’s when a dad has to be a dad. I know that he would never do anything to harm or endanger the children, so I have to let go of my standards of healthy eating, cleanliness and uses of time. If the kids watch TV all day long because their father lets them, so be it. If they eat candy, drink from the dog’s water bowl, and go to bed with dirty feet, it won’t kill them.
If all else fails, goes the excerpt from Bill’s future book, and the wife still trusts you with child-care, you may have to take extreme measures. For example, while the children are playing, decide it’s time to tackle those heavy vines climbing on and destroying the trees in your yard. Get to work with a sharp knife, cutting and pulling and wrestling them off the trees. At some point, “accidentally” slash open your leg badly enough to require an emergency room visit for cleaning and dressing the wound, a tetanus shot, and a prescription for antibiotics. Be sure the friendly neighbors are home so you aren’t stuck dragging all the kids with you to the hospital. I guarantee that the wife will think twice before planning a non-local day trip or a weekend away from the kids without you.
Note: this blog post is husband-approved, although, in his defense, he said he made macaroni and cheese for lunch yesterday and grilled burgers (home-made by him) for dinner. I have also taken liberites and used hyperbole in describing things he might have done to get out of housework. I still think he should write a book, but it would be tongue-in-cheek. I think he’s a great husband and father and would never risk him denying me a day off by seriously criticizing his caretaking.