Monthly Archives: May 2013

Letter 4- Some Thoughts on Domestic Tranquility

Our trash can is still sitting out in front of our condo unit. Since the trash service came by yesterday morning to collect it, our can should be back in our garage by now, but it is not. Whoever designed our buildings did not build the garage wide enough to park your car and wheel a trash can in or out. The obvious solution is to pull the car out of the garage and bring out the trash can, and stop the car before pulling into the garage to return the trash can, but it generally does not work out that way. My wife parks in the garage, but the trash is my responsibility. That usually is not a problem when it comes to putting out the trash, she leaves early the morning of trash night, so I can set out the can before I leave for work. But she gets home before me, and never seems to remember to bring in the trash can before she pulls into the garage. So I wait for an opportunity when her car is not in the garage and I am home, to return the trash can. This does not always please our condo association.
I write this not to criticize my wife. I know there are many household tasks that I fail to do, even when they stare me in the face. Rather I want to think for a moment about marriage and how we carry out our lives together. Historically, housework has been the flash point in the so-called Battle of the Sexes. Even today, we are periodically treated to measurements of how much housework the average male performs to determine whether we are becoming a more equal society. This may satisfy those with axes to grind, but I think that such analysis misses much of the life and meaning of being married.
In our household, there was little discussion of how we would divide up the household chores. My wife does most of the cooking, and she manages our day-to-day finances. I get the groceries, generally wash the dishes, do the laundry, and of course, take out the trash. We split cleaning the house. We married later than most, so we had both largely handled our own affairs. Perhaps this has helped us in this regard. Certainly, I had learned from living on my own, that the bathroom does not clean itself, and if I wanted to eat, it was incumbent upon me to get procure and prepare it.
I think the key is to think of the concept of a household. It can be one person, or it can be many. I think it can be roughly stated that a household is the smallest unit capable of sustained independent living. There are any of a number of duties and responsibilities associated with being a household. Some of these may be societally defined, but most are practical necessities. For the household to survive, these must be carried out.
Housework is but one component of these household duties. There can be exterior household maintenance, yard work, maintenance and upkeep of various items of household equipment, machinery, finances, child-rearing (for those who have children), and certain social functions, like entertaining. Looked at this way, housework is only a part of running a household. Perhaps a better way of looking at these things is how can we work together to better run our homes?
The New Testament writers have much to say about marriage, it seems to factor into nearly every one of Paul’s letters, and in the main the two main thrusts are loving one another and getting along. For example, we husbands are told not to annoy our wives or make their lives unduly hard, because it will affect our prayers and how God chooses to answer them. We focus obsessively on matters of power, of who “obeys” whom. Taken as a whole, the image is more of cooperation. We can write all day of headship, but a man’s a fool who does not listen to his wife and think of making things easier for her, and maintaining her love. The goal then, is functioning as a household, and attending to all the tasks involved.
I couldn’t honestly say how we arrived at our distribution. Some things were obvious. My wife is a very talented cook. I have my moments, but on a day-to-day basis, we are much better off in her capable hands. However, she does not like grocery shopping. I don’t mind it (though I need to curb some of my impulse purchase—I get too many ideas), so I do the shopping. But how we settled on laundry and cleaning the bathroom, I could not say. I do know that they need doing, and so we do them.
So what to do about the trash can? Easy enough for me to wait my chance or, even better, to move my car, pull hers out of the garage, and bring in the trash can.

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