Who Cleans The Toilet?
This post is part of my "Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Married" series. I wish I'd known about what it means to assume traditional marital roles.
Who Cleans The Toilet?
I was given some marital advice from a close friend early on in my marriage. She said, “Jackie, you should take care of everything around the house so your husband can look forward to coming home and relaxing after work”. Other than my own mom, the wives around me, and the wives I saw portrayed on TV, I knew nothing else. Her advice was consistent with everything I’d learned up until this point in my life so I figured it was what I was supposed to do.
I was working full-time but I took on most of the household responsibilities. My husband and I never even talked about it, I just did it with the intention of alleviating his stress so he could focus on his “more important” job. When my daughter was born we decided I would stay home with her since I didn’t have a thriving career. Therefore I assumed every wifely/motherly duty from that point on. From planning, shopping for, and cooking every meal to cleaning the toilets and everything in between.
I’m not kidding when I say that all my husband did around the house was bring the garbage cans to the end of the driveway (and back) once a week, cut the grass weekly in the summer which took 25 minutes (less during a drought), and remove the snow in the winter. Oh, and he preferred to do his own laundry.
My Role as a SAHM
After I had my daughter, things started to change but I’m not sure what changed first. Did I associate my role as something less than that of my husband’s role, or did he begin treating my role as less than his? It was a gradual transition so it’s difficult to identify exactly when and where it started but I think it was probably a little bit of both.
When my husband was home and feeling charitable, he was kind enough to load the dishwasher ‘for me’ and I, of course, showed appreciation for his help. Then I became bitter at the fact that we both perceived this act as him doing me a favor because it was “my job” to unload the dishwasher.
When we had company over for a meal, my husband leaped into action putting on a show for all of our guests by making it appear he was an accomplished chef and loyal servant by cooking, waiting on them hand-and-foot, and bending over backwards during clean up. I knew he was capable of helping but only felt it was important to help when he had an audience. It made my blood boil to watch him give his best Academy Award performance when other people were around and when they left, it was back to our regularly scheduled programming…me doing everything.
I didn’t realize until well into my marriage that I wanted a marriage that was a partnership. I wish I’d known, before I got married, that I wanted someone who would want to share the family and household responsibilities as a way to unite us rather than define a societal role.
Bitterness and Resentment
Resentment grew because I wanted my partner to be supportive and contribute to the responsibilities of home and family. When I got married I didn’t know what being a wife truly entailed but what it morphed into, was not fulfilling for me. There were things I wanted to do in my life but by the end of each day I was so physically and emotionally exhausted, the only energy I had left was used to thumb the buttons on the TV remote moving from one disturbing “Housewives” show to another.
I wanted to start my own business but felt so overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities. It felt impossible to imagine accomplishing any of my own personal goals. I would see successful women on TV and wonder how they did it? Women who are successful leaders in business, actresses, authors, news anchors, inventors, etc. While they’re out in the world being awesome, who is preparing their kids birthday parties and Christmas festivities? Who is paying bills, renewing car insurance, clipping coupons, helping with homework, preparing dinners, scheduling and chauffeuring to doctor’s appointments and school activities? Who’s running out at 2am to the drug store to get cough medicine for a sick kid or a heating pad for their 13 year old daughter who has menstrual cramps?
Who's to Blame?
Our marriage ended in divorce. Many factors played a role in the implosion but one of the main factors was that I set a precedent in the beginning of our marriage by assuming all of, what I thought were my, “wifely duties”. Once I did that, I put myself in a subservient position within the relationship. After years of me assuming this role, I couldn’t ask my husband to start cleaning the toilets after 10 years of not cleaning a single thing. I did express my feelings one time when I was feeling overwhelmed and he scoffed and replied, “I think you’ve got it pretty good”. He saw himself as the “bread-winner”, therefore superior, which exempted him from such menial tasks.
Not only did I marry the wrong person and for the wrong reasons, as I state in “My Relationship Bloopers” post (see below), but I assumed a subordinate position from the start. I don’t recommend this if you’re a person who wants more out of life and more from your relationship. Of course there are people who are perfectly happy with this type of dynamic in their relationship, and that’s fine…for them.
My husband thought that since he "brought home the bacon", I should’ve happily fried it up in a pan, and required nothing else from him. Well, this isn’t 1952 and that shipped has sailed people! At least in my opinion. I felt I was taken for granted and ill-treated. I needed to be seen as an equal partner and even though I wasn’t contributing financially, I was contributing on many other very important levels.
I don’t blame him. Truthfully, I blame myself for not knowing that assuming societal roles in a marriage can affect your level of satisfaction and happiness. I did what everyone around me was doing because I wasn’t taught anything different.
Have the conversation...now!
I wrote this post to encourage people who are either newly married or planning their wedding day to get into the discussion of “who will clean the toilets…?” and load the dishwasher, and mop the floors, and pay the bills, and chauffeur the kids, etc. Do you both plan on working when the children are born? If so, who will be responsible for finding daycare, who will drop off and who will pick up? Who will organize meals for the week?
Not talking about these important things was one of the many mistakes I made in my first marriage. I just assumed the traditional role of a wife and mother but you can live your life according to the roles you set for yourself and your spouse. Create an environment that works for both of you.
I know better now and am much happier in my second marriage because my husband and I are partners when it comes to responsibilities centered around home and family. And it continually evolves to make room for times when life throws us those lovely curve balls.
What do you think? Do you believe in traditional marital roles? Please comment below.
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