You Call This a Division of Labor?

This week, a guest post from Jessie Knadler, a writer and friend who blogs at Rurally Screwed. Since moving from Manhattan to rural Virginia, Jessie, seen hauling a fence post above, has found herself with some unexpected views on married life…

If somebody told me six years ago I’d be one of those wives who cooked and cleaned and did the laundry while my husband was outside changing the oil, cleaning rain gutters and taking out the garbage, I would have screeched, “Do I look like Donna Reed to you?”  Yet here I am six years later–one of those wives who cooks and cleans and does the laundry while my husband is outside cleaning rain gutters and taking out the garbage.

The chores in this household are cleaved neatly along gender lines.

I didn’t expect it to be this way. I always thought of myself as someone who could take care of herself and change the oil and cook the bacon then bring the bacon home in a pan and dice it up for a nice spinach salad, or whatever. But after three years of marriage, I find that I actually prefer it when I do the wifely stuff and Jake does the husband stuff because my household and my marriage run a lot more smoothly.

Here’s the truth: I’m just better at tidying up the living room than Jake. Okay, maybe I’m not better at it, but I have a considerably lower tolerance for dust and dog hair than he does. (My husband installs agricultural fences for a living–his hands are dirty even when they’re clean). I’ve found that when I strive for gender parity in the household–that is, asking Jake to clean the living room–I end up getting ticked off because he rarely does it according to my schedule (now) or my exacting standards (hello, I can still see a mug ring on the coffee table!). It’s just easier and less emotionally fraught if I do it myself.

I think Paula and Jenny call this a kind of comparative-advantage system, since by playing to our strengths in the household, Jake and I accomplish more and get along better. Our love flourishes like a Hallmark card.

But there’s another, less-altruistic reason I prefer to keep the hearth my domain:  Man Chores are a lot harder than Lady Chores.  Not that I’m tit-for-tat, not in the slightest, but mama comes out way, way ahead in this game.

I live on a chicken farm in rural Virginia where I’ve discovered through trial and error (mostly error) that I’m much happier folding Jake’s socks than lugging 5-gallon buckets of water in the snow to our flock of birds located 250 feet from the house.  I’d rather wipe down the toilet than stack six 50-pound bags of chicken feed in a dusty coop anyday.

While Jake is outside busting his hump in the cold chopping and stacking wood, building fires, digging ditches, installing a heating system and culling chickens, I’m inside my tidy, cozy kitchen whipping up a batch of chicken marsala and thanking my lucky stars I’m the lady of the house.

Posted in housework

3 Responses to You Call This a Division of Labor?

  1. Pingback: The labor of love « Rurally Screwed

  2. Kristian says:

    We have two apartments. When we occupy the same on, we both have to clean more because we get irritated by different kinds of untidiness. She has to clean my coffee rings as well as hers, while I have to impose order on her stuff as well as mine.

  3. NutellaNutterson says:

    While it might not be the case in farm life, where animals need constant tending, Lady Chores tend to occur more frequently than Man Chores. So though it’s a pain the butt to change the oil, that’s an every-3,000-miles kind of chore, whereas dishes are a thrice-daily chore.

    Still, what matters the most is that the division works for you. Like you, I don’t mind a lot of Lady Chores, and find that there are some chores where I am so much more efficient than my husband that it wouldn’t make sense to make him do them simply to have our chores be “equal.”

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