I was in the middle of either my third or fourth round of laundry. I lost count. Laundry is a gaping abyss.
With a freshly folded pile of toddler clothes in hand, I walked into my daughter’s room to put her clothes in her drawer and – like I always do in the summer – I looked out her window to check on the pool.
Bobbing up and down, struggling to reach the side was a tiny little chipmunk.
“Damn it!” I yelled to no one, and took off running down the stairs and out the door, probably still in my pajamas.
Here’s the thing: Chipmunks are probably the worst swimmers in all of nature. However, it’s like they have a death wish and the pool is part of the suicide mission. Once they fall in, you have probably about 60 seconds before they lose. And fishing a dead chipmunk from the bottom of the pool is the WORST.
Luckily, the net was close to the side of the water and I scooped up the little critter just as he was falling under.
But instead of just jumping off the net into the garden like the other nearly drowned chipmunks I’ve saved, this ungrateful rat started running up the pole of the net toward my hand.
The blood curdling scream that came out of my body could probably be heard for at least a 3 mile radius. I threw the net, with the chipmunk still clinging to it, into the grass. Then I checked the neighbors windows to see if anyone thought I was being murdered.
(In case you’re wondering, the chipmunk ran off and lived a happy little chipmunk life)
Not over it, I walked through the backyard and figured I’d grab a few pool and gardening supplies out of the garage.
That’s weird. My gate just hit something when I tried to open it.
What the …. Why won’t my gate open all the way?
I looked over the swinging door.
Blood. Lots of it. A head over here. A body over there.
If my scream was loud before, this one reached Montana. I think. I don’t know. I nearly blacked out.
A rabbit had been so destroyed next to my driveway, my first thought was: “Who has a vendetta against me??” I ran a quick mental list of people I could have pissed off in recent months and whether or not they were in the mob. Days later I realized it must have been a cat.
I was fighting back tears as my husband answered his work phone.
“Something destroyed a bunny in our driveway! I have a playdate coming over in 3 hours!!” I told him.
“Ok, just get a garbage bag and shovel it in there,” he told me like it was not disgusting.
“WHAT?!? I’m not touching it.”
“Well, I can’t come home now. You’re going to have to do it.”
“DEAD ANIMALS ARE NOT MY JOB. THAT’S YOUR JOB!” I’m sure I sounded rational when I told him.
And I’m sure this conversation went on and on until I realized I am now stuck with a murder on my driveway.
So, I did the only thing an independent 30-something who owns her own home would do. I called my dad.
“Dad, something destroyed a rabbit in my driveway….”
As the words came out of my mouth, I realized this was probably beyond over the line.
“Yeah….” he said with a slight hint of “don’t ask me to come clean it up.”
Never mind, I’ll figure it out.
In a stroke of brilliance, I grabbed a king sized white sheet out of the linen closet. I didn’t have the stomach to look at the bunny body again, so I threw that white sheet over the gate and crossed my fingers that it was large enough to cover the decimation.
If you are expecting me to wrap up this story by telling you that I eventually mustered up the courage to clean up the mess, you are wrong. I waited until my husband got home.
But it does lead me to this question: Is it fair?
If you’re like us, you probably have the chores and tasks around the house divided. And more likely than not, you have “man chores” and “woman chores” that naturally fall into place.
But inevitably, there’s a stressful day that leads to the fight over “chore inventory” — meaning an argument that goes a little like: “I did X, Y and Z and you only did A!”
So, what are we doing wrong?
I got advice from two different relationship coaches, who happened to have very similar advice.
Cleveland based Kathy Dawson and Allentown, PA based Annette Carpien, PCC both recommend sitting down and writing out all the chores that need to be done inside, outside and administratively (bills, paperwork, etc.)
Kathy calls it the “Division of Labor” exercise and finds that most couples are stunned to realize how much needs to be done to run and maintain a household.
Once the couple has an exhaustive list in each category, we go through each list and they are to put an initial next to each item signifying who is willing to do the chore. This is where it gets interesting. We don’t get too far down the list when one of them says. “I hate doing this chore” and the other one says, “I don’t mind it.” Great! New info in the relationship that will reduce stress and resentment. If on the rare occasion they both hate the chore, they alternate doing it each quarter.
Annette agrees that this exercise is necessary, and a couple needs to ask the question from a “we” perspective: “We only have so much time and energy, and here’s what we need to get done.” Then the couple should negotiate, “what are you willing to do, what do you want to do?”
She says there will always be gaps in the “to do” list. Meaning, if both people dislike doing dishes, or they are only getting done 3 times a week, they need to come up with a solution. And maybe it’s as simple as using paper plates a couple nights to make life easier.
And what about the gender roles?
Annette had some great insight about this. She says, of all the couples she’s coached, she’s noticed that the men are more willing to do a chore if they chose it. They don’t want to be told or forced to do a chore, and when that happens, resentment builds.
Also, when they choose a chore, they appreciate knowing exactly what is expected of them.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a stereotypical “man chore” either. If he wants to take out the garbage and cut the lawn, great! But if he wants to cook and do the laundry, have at it.
Kathy agrees and says all bets are off when it comes to gender.
I do the yard work in our relationship, and Dick does the ironing! Having said that, in most relationships I work with, the men do most of the outside work and the women do some, but not all of the inside work.It’s most important to have a “workable” division of labor in the relationship. By workable, I don’t necessarily mean 50/50. It could be 70/30, as long as it works for both people. There’s no one size fits all.
- We are in this together and will be happier as an organized team
- Simple conversations can avoid the chore inventory arguments
- Mark will always be in charge of dead animals on our property
Now, off to check the pool…..
Annette Carpien PCC and Kathy Dawson can both be reached via their websites for relationship coaching.