My husband does the laundry. No one asks him to, and often no one thanks him for doing it. But somehow, every week, our clothes, our kids’ clothes, the towels, the sheets; they all get cleaned. And with each load, the jealousy grows.
Throwing the piles into the washing machine is definitely the easy part. From there, he sorts them into mounds of hang-dry vs. dryer items, hangs the clothes, folds the towels and clothes, and puts the fresh sheets on the beds.
A couple of times per week, I walk into our bedroom to find a tidy little pile of my clothes. They are folded with tenderness, neatly stacked, and grouped by category. I know he would put them away, too, if only he knew where they went.
That is not even close to all he does around the house either. He’s the dishwasher, the grocery collector, the garbage remover, and the maintenance man. He follows behind us all, picking up the thrown socks, crumbs, and toys, somehow managing to maintain some sort of order within the chaos.
This is not to say that he doesn’t spend time with our children. He is the definition of a hands-on dad. There are nightly horsey rides, weekend swimming lessons, and stories before bed.
I know that I am lucky to have him, he is a saint — but does he know how lucky he is?
Fighting for Freedom
My husband works a pretty flexible job, for which he gets to leave the house. In the morning, he takes his time in the shower, cuts his nails, trims his facial hair, and brushes his teeth. He ventures out into the world when it works for him, taking in the fresh air, talking to someone other than me, and focusing on things that don’t involve our family. Sometimes he meets a friend for a socially distanced coffee. He often returns with a spring in his step, a spring that hasn’t been in my step for months. No wonder he has the energy to do the laundry.
To me, this sounds like a fairy tale. I don’t leave the house: it’s not safe with an infant during a pandemic. Showers and personal hygiene are not daily occurrences, and when they do happen, it’s rushed and with at least one child at my feet. Some days I don’t brush my teeth at all.
The point is, most days, I would do anything to be able to check out, know the kids were in good hands, and do some serious cleaning. Throwing in the earbuds to mindlessly complete some mundane tasks actually sounds like a mini vacation.
Throughout the week, my husband has the freedom to escape from the ruckus. I resent that he can walk away, head downstairs, or off to work and take that vacation. These breaks do not come easily for mothers. There is no freedom. Even when the kids are napping, there’s a monitor to keep an eye on while I quickly change into my daytime sweatpants and throw my hair up in a bun.
Sometimes the issue isn’t even that he gets to complete these chores, it’s when he completes these chores.
I get frustrated that he feels the need to tidy the kitchen instead of sitting down the second dinner is ready. He sees the pile of pots and pans that need washing; I see the timer on my temporarily calm toddler ticking down. I don’t understand the need to fold the towels when we are late to get the kids in the bath; he doesn’t understand why getting into the bath a few minutes behind schedule is such a big deal, but having the towels folded and put away is essential.
What I’ve realized is that men are problem solvers. Have you ever unloaded an elaborate story of the ignorance of a friend or co-worker just to have your partner say, “Why don’t you just stop spending time with her?” He thinks that you’ve presented a problem, and he’s fixed it, why are you not patting him on the back? When in reality, all you wanted was for him to acknowledge that you were justified in feeling annoyed. So you can move on.
He sees the laundry, the dishes, and the garbage as the problem. And he knows the solution. So what better time to correct the situation than right now! Mr. Fix-It is on the job, often without realizing how significantly they are cramping our style. Or that we may, in fact, cherish a few moments away to complete the job ourselves.
It is my choice to always be present with my children. I am the one who maintains the calm, kisses and bandages, owies, makes memorable moments, and bakes cookies on Sunday mornings. But behind the scenes, he’s the one holding our household together. Yes, he gets to take a respite from the kids, but it is a necessary evil. I know that I could not be the mother I want to be if he wasn’t the husband and father he is. But it is still hard not to hold it against him.
The next time he insists on emptying the dishwasher while one kid is crying and the other is spinning like a destructive tornado around the living room, I’m going to try to remind myself that we are both doing the best we can for our family.
Whatever happens during the week, I can count on crawling into our clean, neatly tucked sheets on Sunday nights and know that I am loved.