My childhood friend, B, and I were discussing this last night. He and his wife were recently blessed with twins, and he was discussing the different roles they play in their marriage. He was boasting about his role as the breadwinner, and realizing that his wife takes care of everything else. His only job, it seems, is to go to work and make money. In all other aspects he is like a child himself. And this struck me as odd, because this is definitely not the situation in our marriage.
First off, let me just briefly mention what it is that we do. I'm an editor for a legal publisher, where I sift through boring State & Local taxation laws and also maintain the website for our clients. Lisa works as a Nurse Practitioner, which is above a Physician's Assistant but just below a Doctor. Between the two of us we make a pretty decent living, but Lisa makes more than I do. My friend, B, is envious of this, but I know that he would have a hard time dealing with this in actuality since he identifies so strongly with being the sole bringer home of the bacon (okay, that sounded wittier in my head than it does in writing).
Anyway, I told him that the key to our marriage is compromise (like, duh!). We don't just stick to traditional male and female roles in the family for the sake of convenience. Coming from a household of strong women and no men growing up, I guess I never fell into the mindset that a man should bring home the income and a woman should only concern herself with domestic chores. In our marriage, we share responsibilities. This also means that I end up doing things that most men are not comfortable doing, or are inept at performing. For instance, I do all the cooking. The time Lisa makes a meal for us within a year can be counted on one hand. This is due to two factors: 1) I was taught how to cook from my grandmother since I was a wee lad; and 2) I'm better at it than she is! :)
I also do my own laundry. Lisa and I have this rule where we are responsible for our own laundry. I know it sounds weird, but for some reason this is the pattern we've fallen into. I do only my clothes, she does her clothes. We almost never do our respective laundries on the same day. However, when it comes to shared items like blankets, towels, other linens, Lisa handles these in addition to her clothes. It's the one thing I insist on, because I'm the one who does the household cleaning and garbage disposal. With one caveat: Lisa must do the bathrooms. I absolutely despise cleaning the bathrooms, especially our walk-in shower.
I do all the grocery shopping, as well as all the fixer-upper duties around the house -- such as change light bulbs, fix furniture, install wiring and networks, set-up electronics, etc.
I also handle the finances and bank account. I'm very anal when it comes to numbers and money, so it makes more sense that I should be the one to balance the books and keep track of everything. However, when it comes time to file our taxes, Lisa handles all of that. Again, weird, but it works for us.
Even though both of us know how to drive, I do all the driving. We don't have a car (because it's almost like a penalty to have one in NYC), but the few times we rent a car I do all the driving. Not because I have to, but because Lisa is petrified of the road. I guess in that sense the husband-wife dynamic is slightly more comparable to tradition. :-)
I shop, pick out, and buy my own clothes. Not because I'm picky, or because I care about what I wear. But because the only person with a worse male fashion sense than myself is Lisa. She has almost no idea what to get for me when it comes to clothing. Then again, I'm just as bad when it comes to her clothes. We're hopeless causes when it comes to fashion! Although I'm slightly better at color coordination for some reason. So, reluctantly, I shop for myself and she shops for herself.
Now, if you haven't noticed by now, most if not all of the above is made possible by the fact that we don't have children (yet). Once we do, though, not much will change. Lisa will probably switch to doing all of the laundry, and I'll probably solidify my control over the kitchen by adding dish washing duties to my list as compensation. I'll still do all of the cooking for our family, and buying the groceries and doing the odd handyman jobs around the house as usual.
What's important to me is that things are as close to equal as reasonably possible. Nothing gets my temper boiling more than lazy men who think their sole contribution to the family is the paycheck and grilling burgers on Memorial Day. I'm not comfortable with the Cro-Magnon conceit that a woman's business is the household and kids. When we have kids, I will have as much a hand in their raising as Lisa does.
Except for the breast-feeding thing, of course. I'm perfectly comfortable having that stay the woman's purview, for obvious (and lecherous) reasons. (heh, heh)
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