Thursday, 10 February 2011

On being married ( and arguing about chores)

Back when Husband was a boyfriend and we were at university, we lived in separate houses. He lived with a load of our male friends and the house was a tip. It wasn't the greatest of houses, chosen more for its size and location than for it's features (like, say, hot water in the kitchen). 5 university students who drink and play computer games far more than they did work made a lot of mess. There was never any loo roll. I soon brought over a bag of the essentials and kept it there for the nights I stayed there. Sometimes I look back and can't believe I ever stepped into the shower, or ate food given the state of the kitchen. But cleaning and chores were low on the list of anyones priorities when there was partying to be done and drinking to be occupied with. Every so often though, I would be the girlfriend everyone loved by tackling all the washing up. All of it. Using kettles to fill the washing up bowl, over and over. Not because I loved washing up (I don't. I hate it). But making Husband and my friends happy, that meant more. Husband never seemed to do any laundry either, saving it all up for a trip to the laundrette occasionally. So, once or twice a term, I would offer for him to bring his washing to mine in a taxi and in return for him cooking me supper, I would do his washing. Not to ingratiate myself to him but because it was a trade - something he hated doing in return for something I hated doing. Plus it made him happy to have clean clothes, and me happy because he was happy. Plus I got to eat something other than soup, which my body appreciated.

(In halls in the first year, we had a laundry room. I would do a load maybe every other week - they were industrial size machines - and I would frequently run into a girl from my corridor. She was dating another lad in halls and every week she did his washing in addition to hers. I was outraged that she would behave, in my eyes, like she was his mother or cleaner. I never saw him doing anything in return for her - although of course, maybe he was just great in bed - and it seemed to the uneducated eye like she was buying her part in the relationship by making herself indispensable. I swore I would never behave in such a fashion).

Some while later, we moved into together in London. I don't remember having a specific conversation about chores and cleaning but it roughly seemed to break down into him doing the cooking, food shopping and washing up and me doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bed sheets and making sure we don't run out of practical items such as loo roll, toothpaste, light bulbs, bin bags, cleaning materials and so on. The cleaning and tidying of the other rooms (ha. bedroom and sitting room) were a joint enterprise. Which mainly were only cleaned or tidied when guests were coming round. It worked because we seemed to have the same standards of tidiness and because we were in the same place all 7 days of the week.

Since living in Somerset though, we live a much different life. The house is *ours* but I am the only one who lives in it full time. He has another place up in London that he rents. I have more clutter than he does and when he comes back, he tells me he can see what I have been up to all week by the placement of cups, handbags, books and where I last left the laptop. Maybe because he's away all week, he seems to me to be more obsessed about tidiness than he was before. In fact, pretty much the only thing we argue about is the housework.

Obviously with Husband away Mon - Thurs, if I want to eat, I have to cook for myself, and ideally wash it up too. When Husband comes back on Thursday night, it is abundantly clear that it is my mess that is lying around, that I have become more messy while he has become much more interested in the place being tidy, who hates it that things are left all over. He wouldn't mind just clearing them up, he tells me, if it wasn't that I shout at him for moving things or moan about the house being untidy.

I've been thinking about it quite a lot, actually, the give and take in marriage. I have been thinking that whilst I say I clean the bathroom and change the sheets, maybe I only do that once every two weeks. Obviously, I clean the loo more than that, but if I'm being totally honest, I maybe even go three weeks before I do those things. After all, most of the time, it's just me. I do washing every week still and try to remember to clean up after myself - usually by doing it all at midnight on Weds before he comes back - but I probably don't average at 50% of the housework. How is that 8 years ago I would wash 4 weeks worth of dishes for 5 male friends because I wanted to make them happy when now I can't keep the house clutter free when I know how much it stresses my husband?

And then today, I read Meg's post and decided perhaps we need to sit down and actually list and identify all of the chores and housework and cleaning. Including the stuff which maybe isn't on anyone's mental list but definitely needs doing (like when I wash my face etc in the morning and I look at the patch of mould on the wall and think I really must get around to bending down, getting the mould spray, moving those bottles and wiping the wall. Which would probably take all of 15 mins, but it needs a time when I can leave the window open to air it, so I haven't got round to it yet.) And re-evaluate. Who says that what worked in London, still does? And then share out all the jobs evenly - or maybe slanted more to me as I'm there more of the time. I am also hoping that we can agree to not nag the other person about their half. I will try and tidy up more if he will agree to not come in and immediately start tidying up after me. Which annoys me so much we end up shouting at each other. Give and take. Give and take.

I might send him this post too. Maybe we can discuss it over e-mail so we don't shout...


Suzie said...

Ah Rach - I love you! Remember this all so well!!
x x x

agirl said...

The whole chores while living separately thing is a tricky one. So far, I've been using DIY as my excuse to keep a mostly filthy house. (Kidding. Sort of.) But I suppose we've managed to work out a bit of a system. The Boy does all of the cooking when he gets back on the weekend, usually making a big stew or roast that will see us both through the first few days of the week. We both do laundry, probably with me doing slightly more, but then he runs out of underwear sooner, so maybe not. And I suppose tend to do most of the cleaning and tidying, since I live here full time, usually in the couple hours before he returns home on a Friday. Then again, this probably only happens every few weeks. And he does hoover. So, yeah. It doesn't feel unfair, which I guess is the important thing.

I do know that when we lived together full time doing chores was something that was guaranteed to put me in a black mood, and honestly, I think that was regardless of whether he was helping out or not. So as soon as we can afford it, we're definitely paying someone else to do it. At least, I certainly am!