“Argument of the Week” is a new series written by Brenna Jennings. It will feature the daily domestic battles she gets into with her husband Steve, which I guarantee will sound very familiar. Except Brenna is probably better at resolving them. At least she’s better than me.
It’s the morning after I’ve prepared a delicious dinner for my husband Steve and our seven-year-old daughter, probably made of locally sourced/organic/non-GMO/sustainable/humane ingredients that my child poked with a fork, smothered in ketchup and then mimicked vomiting over before asking, “How many bites until I get dessert?”
I cook, Steve cleans. Whether I’ve spent two hours over homemade sauce and meatballs or two minutes looking for the “Frozen Pizza” setting on the toaster oven, he’ll take care of the mess without being asked.
Except that he always neglects the hand washing. Baking pans sit like half-sunken ships jutting from the sink. Heavy, enameled pots soak while he pretends not to see them and I resent his pretending not to see them but not enough to wash them myself. This game of Kitchen Chicken can last days as pans pile up on top of pans and pots fill with other pots and I end up snorkeling to find the silverware.
I’m not sure where he draws the line in his husband-brain about what is and isn’t covered in the after dinner agreement; the plate that only I ate from gets loaded into the dishwasher, but the enameled pot that perfectly browned the family roast lingers. Maybe he has something against French crockery.
Eventually I wash whatever sits. I scrub the pans and soap the pots, and quietly seethe that in addition to the time spent at the stove I’m now hunched over the sink, and it’s not like I don’t have to also get to work and get a kid out the door for school and oh, it must be so nice to only have to pack lunch for yourself before breezing out the door toting the delicious leftovers that were the product of these neglected pots and leaving this hideous food-reef behind in the sink, and by the time I’m done washing I’m in a literal and figurative lather.
Sometimes I fantasize about setting what he ignores on his side of the bed, still wet and greasy, or reheating what I scrape off to hand over on a plate the next time he wants to know what we have for dinner. But because I don’t want to end up on Snapped, I fill the one remaining clean wine glass and consider a more rational strategy.
One thing I’ve learned in my years as a wife is that listing all the housework I personally accomplish never leads to a productive discussion. Instead, when Steve comes home from work I let him settle in for a bit, and hoping I’ve sat with the frustration long enough that my tone of voice is even, say something like, “Honey, when you do the dinner dishes I really need you to empty the sink so I don’t have to do it in the morning rush.” It goes over much better than the unintelligible screaming I’ve done in my head all day. Note this also works when dealing with your children.
“I hate those pots. They weigh a ton, they take up the whole freaking sink and they’re a pain in the ass. I don’t understand why everything is dirty whenever you cook. I’m not leaving them there to annoy you, Hon, I’m just putting them off. Half the time they need to soak anyway.”
Steve thinks I often cook with too many pots, so I’ve agreed to do more in the slow cooker, and to only use more than two pans once a week. He’s going to help by suggesting simpler meals—and hold onto your spatulas—he’s going to cook a few times a month.
Communication and compromise are almost always the means toward peaceful resolution, and as a bonus, no one ends up with old chicken on their pillow (besides, you know who’d end up washing the sheets). Do you struggle with the division of labor? Just plain bad habits? Tell us what you’re up against.
Read more from Brenna Jennings on Suburban Snapshots.