My husband does most of the laundry in our house, makes breakfast and lunch for the children, and works at a full-time job without a flexible schedule. When he is done with lunch packing, he cleans up the supplies and places the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.
That’s why I’m totally flummoxed when I read an article like the one recently on Scary Mommy titled 15 Things Only Mom Can Do, which sarcastically concludes that throwing away empty food wrappers and putting dishes in the dishwasher must be special mom skills because dads simply leave their dirty crap and garbage on the counter.
That is not my experience.
I have shared space in a house and household duties with five fathers over the years: my own father, two stepfathers (not at the same time), my father-in-law, and my husband. All of these men like a clean kitchen and understand how it gets that way. None of them assume a magic fairy will clean up after them.
Nobody’s perfect, and we’ve all made mistakes, leaving milk out on the counter, or putting away a cereal box that has seven crushed Cheerios lingering at the bottom of it, but I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of fathers these days are as unhelpful as they are made out to be in articles like that one.
Beyond my own family members, a number of my husband’s dad friends are also neat freaks. Their houses are clean, and they are due partial credit. Some of us, and I say us because I do not have the neat gene myself, struggle with household tasks, but learn to do it out of love.
Some women and men are naturally cleaners, and some of us have to remind ourselves that if we do not hang our towel up now, we’re just going to have to hang it up later. Or we hang it up so that our spouse does not have to be annoyed with us, which is as good a reason as any.
I mean, that’s love, isn’t it?
Meagan Francis, host of The Home Hour podcast, recently had a conversation on her show that resonated with me. Dishes and laundry and other housework are things we do for each other because we care for each other. Flipping my mindset about dishes as drudgery, Meagan talks about how chores are acts of love. Worth a listen >
My experience is that dads are caring, loving people, who demonstrate commitment to their families in part by taking care of their homes. I’m not sure I can pull a funny blog post out of that, though, which is why, I suppose, so many writers make use of the stereotype of the incompetent dad who doesn’t know the difference between dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent as the butt of jokes about “how moms do it all”.
I feel uncomfortable when I see fingers pointed at dads, accusing them of being clueless or lazy. I want to hide these viral posts from my husband, to protect his feelings. And further, when we all cling to that dynamic — mom is master of thankless tasks and dad is blissfully unaware of her efforts — no one is allowed to grow, to have strengths and weaknesses. Plus, if I’m supposed to be this perfect master of housework, according to this model, when I leave my dirty clothes on the bathroom floor (which I do on a regular basis), I’m not doing the mom thing right.