Amber was laboring in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher yet again, and I was blissfully reclining in the living room reading a book called The End of Men, which argues that women are outperforming men in school, at work, at home, and in life in general. The book chronicles the complaints of women who feel like they have to do it all while the men in their lives sleep in and fish with their buddies.
“Can you believe these guys?” I said out loud to Amber, totally engrossed in my book as my wife put the dishes away and oblivious to the irony. (She probably shot me a look, or said something snarky, but how would I know?)
I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but the truth is, I have not always been the most attentive husband when it comes to household chores like washing dishes and laundry.
It started after we got married. For the record, let it be known that I was the person who took charge of the family finances. But it came to pass that Amber said that she enjoyed taking care of the finances, that it gave her a certain pleasure to check that off her to-do list after she had paid the monthly bills. I couldn’t argue—paying the bills was no fun for me—so I went along with it.
We also didn’t have a dishwasher at the time. And seeing how long it took me to do the dishes and how much I’d rather read a book than clean a pile of dishes, Amber suggested that she could take care of the dishes too. She said that it gave her a chance to get her hands working and her mind off of the daily lesson plans that she was preparing as a new teacher. Well, shoot, that sounded good to me—so I went along with it.
After our first son kicked his way into the world, I continued my happy routine: I joined our church choir, went out to eat with friends after work, and happily read my books. But before long, I noticed something unpleasant: Amber had begun complaining!
“Do you really have to go to choir practice tonight? Can’t you see that I’m struggling here!”
“Could you please watch the baby for just a little bit? I’ve been with him all day, and I never just get to sit down and relax like you.”
Well, what is bugging her? I wondered to myself. I mean, sheesh, why is she suddenly going all berserks on me?
And that, my dear friends, is how I ended up laughing out loud about some dude who wouldn’t help with the chores at home—while Amber prepared our food, loaded the laundry, cleared the dishwasher, attempted to put our sleep-resistant child to sleep, and not to be outdone, worked part-time.
As the months passed and our arguments worsened, I gradually came to a startling discovery: I was that dude! It was sweet of Amber to offer to take charge of the finances and dishes early on in our marriage. But instead of responding to her generosity with my own generosity—say, mopping the floor or cleaning the bathroom tub or even surprising her and washing the dishes—I took it as a license to not do anything.
That’s not the kind of husband I wanted to be. I had lost sight of that goal, and I needed to regain my place as an attentive husband. I started taking the initiative to do more around the house, including washing the dishes (which once led to a different sort of argument!). I wish I could say I’m now an All-Star Home Helper, but that wet load of laundry that sat in the washer all weekend? Yeah, that was my fault. And the car that hasn’t been vacuumed since prehistoric time? Yeah, that’s on me.
I need to get better with doing chores, and I will. Because I love that pretty woman, and I want her to see that love every day—through the dirty diaper that I changed, the clean dishes put away, the laundry folded on the couch, the sleeping baby I sung to sleep.
A dish is a dish, but joy can transform it into an instrument of love. A dish is a dish, but grumbling can take that same dish and transform it into an instrument of resentment. It’s all in the attitude.