“In My Experience Husbands Are A Lot Like Children”

Over at MSNBC, I ran across a piece explaining why men don’t pitch in with the housework. Now, I thought I knew the answer to that question, so it would be interesting to read what the author had to say to see if she agreed. I would have said,

#1) Because culturally, rightly or wrongly, women are expected to do the housework.

#2) Because men generally tend to be more comfortable with a dirty house and the person who’s more compulsive about cleaning tends to end up doing more of it.

Notice that I’m not making any value judgments there or saying that women should always do the housework, I’m just explaining why I think men end up doing less of it in a relationship.

The author of the piece, Leslie Bennetts, seemed to have a different opinion: that men didn’t do housework because they’re like children and aren’t married to emasculating devil harpies like, well, Leslie Bennetts. Granted, the emasculating devil harpy in question didn’t phrase it just like that, but the only thing I got out of her whole article was an overwhelming sense of pity for her poor, long suffering husband who has had to put up with this battle-axe. Here are a few excerpts to give you an idea of what I mean,

When the big holidays roll around, the sainted Jeremy and I always have a houseful of guests. I spend days planning, shopping, and cooking lavish meals for ridiculous numbers of friends and relatives. I do everything from the flower-arranging to the silver-polishing to the table-setting.

After eating themselves into a stupor, one or two people usually rouse themselves long enough to make halfhearted, visibly insincere offers to help clean up. We tell them not to worry about it; Jeremy does the clean-up.

Sinking back into torpor, they sigh with relief. “Oh, you’re so lucky!” they murmur. “Jeremy is soooo wonderful!”

Excuse me? Here’s a news flash for you: Jeremy is not soooo wonderful. I, actually, am the one who is soooo wonderful.

…My own husband claims that any imbalance in our household contributions derives solely from the fact that he has to go to an office while I work at home, a luxury that permits me to take care of many domestic tasks during my workday. This disparity in our schedules may explain why I make dinner every night–because I’m home to stir the pot on the stove–but it does not explain why our weekends begin with him enjoying a third cup of coffee over the morning newspapers while I rush around making breakfast, cleaning up the house, and organizing the children’s day. I’m the one everyone asks when they want to know when the next orthodontist appointment is, what the cross-country meet schedule is, or where the birthday party is being held (yes, I remembered to buy a present; yes, it’s wrapped and ready to go).

And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that I’m a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but here’s another news flash: It isn’t because he’s such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy “helps” as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests who’s really being held responsible) is simple: He doesn’t have a choice.

…Yes, dear readers, it’s true: Maintaining some semblance of parity in your marriage requires you to deploy the same kinds of nasty tactics you swore you would never stoop to as a parent but nonetheless found yourself using the minute you actually had a kid. Bribery and punishment work; so do yelling and complaining. Threats are also effective, as long as everyone knows you mean business. With husbands, tender blandishments and nooky are particularly useful, as is the withholding of the aforementioned.

…The fact that guys, when left to their own devices, rarely rush to offer more toilet-scrubbing and diaper-changing is not in itself surprising. As Martin Luther King Jr. once observed, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

So why aren’t women demanding something closer to parity? While many are resigned to seething in silence, the stakes are far higher than they seem to realize. When wives permit their husbands to shirk a fair share of the homemaking and parenting, not only do they themselves suffer, but chances are good that they’re also sentencing their children to a similar fate. When you have kids, everything you do teaches them how to live their own lives when they grow up. Unfortunately, all too many women are still teaching their children that “woman is the n*gger of the world,” as John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it so memorably in a song lyric years ago. And what too many fathers teach their sons and daughters is that men can get away with dumping the scut work on their wives, and that women will grit their teeth and put up with it.

…And while I recognize that gender stereotypes are risky, in my experience husbands are a lot like children. They will get away with whatever they can get away with. When you put your foot down and make it clear that you won’t take no for an answer, somehow the kids’ rooms get cleaned, the groceries bought, the laundry folded. It really does work, I promise.

Sam Kinison used to do a bit in his act that was undoubtedly inspired by the same sort of cackling, feminist witch who wrote this article and it went like this,

“There were times when I just wanted to stop at a red light and get out of the f*cking car and run. You know, just leave the engine going and go ‘Oh f*ck, I hate you! I just wanna live!'”

Trust me, after reading this whole article, I can tell you that Jeremy could totally relate to those lines even if he didn’t have the guts to say it in front of his nagging wife.

PS: Yes, “Jeremy is soooo wonderful,” because he must have the patience of a saint to put up with such a disrespectful shrew with such a large chip on her shoulder.

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