By Opal Stacie
How can I marry a man who refuses to take out the trash? How will he ever make a wife out of a ‘disobedient’ woman, one that doesn’t want to cook him dinner every night? Those were the types of questions my fiancé and I had in our minds after battling for months over sharing household chores. I wish I could tell you we fought over something substantial. Significant issues like the millennial version of relationship issues captured in viral memes. Like the one where creepy Instagram chick likes all 232 of your boo’s pics. Or that on-point meme where your man shoots you a suspicious stare after you’ve asked for his iPhone password. Unfortunately, it was about our home. The ones about who’s going to make our family of four dinner or whose turn it is to clean the bathrooms, those can be summed up in two words for some couples–irreconcilable differences.
A recent study on couples and divorce found that “divorce rates were actually higher for the approximately 25 percent of couples who shared housework equally than for the 71 percent couples where women did more or all of the housework.” After beefing for days about dried toothpaste splattered on bathroom faucets, I’d be in tears threatening to move out if he couldn’t offer more help around the house. Fed up with having the same ol’ argument, he became willing to help me pack.
Some women may be able to juggle career, children, and domestic duties all at once without looking for any help from the hubby, but this millennial woman is not about that life. The future for us wasn’t foreseeable if future hubby wasn’t willing to help his family in a way that wasn’t strictly financial. We’ve overcome grown-up issues like forgiving after infidelity and maintaining a long-distance relationship. Yet, deciding who would take out the garbage became just as crucial as deciding how to mend a marriage tested by the loss of employment or something far more serious.
He made it clear that coming home to an argument about domestic chores felt like more work that he didn’t want to do. My demands made him feel like he was taking commands from another client or boss that treats him like the help at work. He explained how going to work in a field that is indubitably beneath his qualifications is a constant battle but he obliges because his family depends on the paycheck. With the rapidly approaching start date of grad school weighing heavily on his mind and now the strain of having to perform additional work, which he perceived as part of his soon-to-be wife’s contribution to the team, my partner began to re-consider marriage altogether.
I felt overworked AND undervalued in my position as a stay-at-home mom. I’m a woman that works from home, but his perception of what I accomplished at home was inaccurate. I’m not a housewife with rollers in her hair, relaxing on the couch while painting my toes, flipping between my afternoon stories. I sometimes wish I had a clock to punch because the uncertainty of where I’ll get my next paycheck as a freelance graphic designer and writer can be ruthless while trying to juggle kids. With two child bosses who don’t care to offer me two 20 minute breaks and an hour lunch, I often count the minutes until the fiancé’ arrives to provide me with a much needed break. My “bosses” don’t understand the fact that I needed a few moments alone to meet an editorial deadline or to create a flyer for a paying customer. Though the consequences for not meeting the needs of my child bosses is not as grave as being fired from a job that provides a bi-weekly direct deposit, the agony that is sitting through an hour-long tantrum from a 4-year-old often feels like a reason to be the next housewife featured on ‘Snapped’ (don’t worry, I’m just kidding about that last part).
His job ends after he punches out. I’ve spent most of my day juggling my childrens needs and maintaining household tasks. For a time, my real work began once he came through the door. The physical tasks we performed on our jobs were very different but the resentment that came from both of our lives being stuck in limbo per sharing household chores was equal in strength. The resolution we came to wasn’t revolutionary and it didn’t involve hours with a therapist. He wanted peace after work and the only way he was going to attain it was by adhering to a weekly chore schedule. If that meant he had to watch the Heat vs Knicks on his iPad while washing dishes and folding clothes then that is what he was going to have to do. I didn’t crack a whip and he has not disowned his ‘manhood,’ and in the end, it took some time, but we both have managed to do our part to keep the home and our relationship together. He’s finally figured out what grown folks meant when they said, “Happy wife, happy life.”