“Why isn’t your husband mowing that grass?”
If I had dollar for every time something like this has been said to me when I am doing yard work, carrying a tool kit, or doing any other kind of physical labor, I could probably pay the mortgage for next month. It’s always said by a nosy older neighbor or someone my age trying to make a joke. But I usually follow up with something like, “Oh, he’s working his second job so I can continue to go to grad school.” This usually shuts them up. I used to think that it was because there really isn’t a response to that, or because they feel bad that my husband is working two jobs, but I think I came to the root of the reason tonight.
It’s because my husband is expected to provide to his family. It’s because I’m not expected to do physical labor.
Truth be told, I enjoy mowing the grass. I like working alongside my uncle as he teaches me the proper way to use a level to hang our towel rack. In the fall, I’ll look forward to splitting wood with my parents to keep our house warm in the upcoming winter. My husband, on the other hand, does not enjoy doing these things. So why is it that no one says a word to him when he is the one mowing the grass?
It’s because he is expected to do these things, even if he doesn’t enjoy them.
Gender roles in a marriage are so dangerous. At the start of our marriage, my husband did next to no housework besides taking out the trash. I did all of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, and taking care of the pets. It drove me crazy and it about destroyed our marriage. You see, my husband grew up in a home where his mom did the “woman things” like cooking and cleaning and his dad did the yard work, fixed things that needed fixing, and was at the table at 6:00 sharp expecting dinner. I grew up in a home where my dad worked really crappy shifts and my mom worked hourly, so she did mostly everything. Our upbringing was a dangerous combination of him expecting women to do the household chores and me growing up seeing a woman do it all.
After many fights and a lot of tears, things have worked themselves out. We realized each of us has strengths and gain different enjoyment when it comes to chores. I love laundry and mowing, so I do the laundry and mowing. He is amazing when it comes to paying bills and cooking, so he takes on those chores. When we see something that needs done, we just do it. We don’t wait for the other person to do it because that job fits their prescribed gender role. We just do it because it makes life easier for the other person.
As I watch my husband shaking his butt to his tunes while he cooks tonight, I think about how far we have come. I think of the man that used to come home from work and prop his feet up while I rushed around the kitchen making dinner and I’m so glad that man didn’t stick around. I think of how he comes home from work and kisses me for mowing the grass and I know he’s glad he didn’t have to do it. I see him handling raw meat in the kitchen and my stomach turns and I think of how fortunate I am to not be cooking. Our pets don’t just look at me anymore when they are hungry. I don’t feel my blood boiling anymore because he doesn’t come home and flop on the couch right after work. Life is good. Communication was the key. Communicate what you like and don’t like with your partner. Draw up a list if you have to. Just don’t conform because that’s what you’re used to seeing your parents doing. It is 2019, let’s start acting like it.