Laundry is to me what that big boulder was to Greek mythology’s Sisyphus. No matter how many loads of clothes I throw into the washing machine in a day, the smelly socks and knee-stained pants just pile up again and again. But the burden is made slightly better knowing that it is shared—with my husband.
According to the statistics, I’ve got it pretty good. The most recent data on household chores, as released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says that 85 percent of women report doing some household activity every day, compared to 66.6 percent of men. For whatever reason, I happen to know quite a few men who buck this trend.
Take my brother, for instance. Married for the first time in his late forties, he came to the union as a fastidious bachelor of over two decades (think Felix in the classic sitcom, The Odd Couple). Prior to my brother’s marriage, I once spent the night at his condo on a futon in the living room. Awaking early and close to the ground, I marveled at the sight: not a single dust bunny flitted across his scrubbed hardwood floors.
Not one to complain openly, especially about those near and dear to his heart, my brother recently told me that he’s “working on” his wife’s housekeeping habits. “I’ve finally gotten her to clean out her dishes from the sink before bedtime,” he confided in me. I stifled a giggle, and changed the topic of conversation.
Growing up, my parents fell into traditional 1970’s roles of breadwinner and homemaker. But after my mom became “liberated” in the seventies and returned to college, after which she launched a late-life career, my father started to pick up the slack. I know for a fact that he emptied the dishwasher every morning before anyone else was out of bed, something I wish I could get someone in my house to do. Once he retired—well before my mother did—my father became the chief household cleaner and cook. Not a bad gig for my mother.
Then there’s my husband’s brother. He’s such a compulsive neat freak that, according to his wife, no one is allowed to sit on any of the furniture in the house for fear of soiling or ruffling it. Nor is anyone but him allowed to clean the house; he’s got high standards that he believes no one else can match.
It’s possible, therefore, that my husband’s propensity for cleanliness is genetic. I can usually tell when he’s stressed because he obsessively sweeps the kitchen floor; it doesn’t matter if I’ve just put the broom back on the hook mere minutes earlier. He attacks it like he’s fending off an invasion of killer ants. When he gets his hands on the Ajax, nothing in his wake is safe. And you should see him scrub a bathroom floor; he puts his entire 6 foot-plus frame into it. It is something to behold.
So when that ever-present mound of laundry starts to build to the point where it’s impossible for me to step over it in my narrow laundry room, I don’t get too stressed. I know it’s only a matter of time before my husband will take it upon himself to shoot the heck out of our son’s grass-stained pants with stain remover and throw the whole dirty mess of clothes into the washing machine.