I know why Betty Draper is bitter. I know why the caged bird sings. It’s all about the evil hum of the dishwasher.
When I didn’t find my husband by 40, I became my own husband. I assembled my own IKEA Hemnes daybed, alone. (The IKEA Hemnes daybed assembly manual is about the size and heft of a Fall Vogue. It took me three full days to assemble, with periodic breaks for snacks and cursing.) When spiders showed up, I escorted them outside on long wooden spoons because while spiders don’t bother me, killing them does. I took out my own trash, changed my flat tires and oil. I took out my own stitches and even assembled an outdoor restaurant heater that weighed more than me.
Five years later, Andrew and I connected at a garage sale. A kind, handsome Canadian furniture builder, car restorer and computer customizer, I swiftly slid over and let him take the wheel. When I handed him the big wooden spoon, saying “Spider at 3 o’clock” and he carried the spider outside on his hand, I knew I had finally found the guy who was more of a man than me. The promise of sharing my employer-paid health insurance tricked him into marrying me.
Then we got a kid. Since I had steadier work, he became Mr. Mom, which I basically dismissed as taking her to Costco, which he already loved to do. I’d swan home at seven-thirty to the screams of delight from my kid. Andrew would be wrung out from trying to get her to eat, sweaty from cooking, cleaning & entertaining her while trying to contain the plague of laundry. If he complained about his day, I’d complain about my awful commute or ongoing frustration with a client’s incessant demands and remind him he was lucky.
Suddenly, two weeks ago, our lucks changed. Andrew landed the kind of job that maximizes all his skills and pays well. And I became Mr. Mom, I mean, Mrs. Mom. I have been many things in my life. But I’ve never been a housewife. I’m not wearing it well. I am more bitter than Betty fucking Draper. And anyone who says they enjoy housework is either lying, drunk or needs to have their medication examined.
Andrew gets up at 5am and for 12 long hours he builds movie sets and solar powered coffee shops out of shipping containers for Coachella Music Festival. He’s lifting massive piles of wood and has to wear earplugs due to the constant sawing, hammering and man-noise. Then he comes home, hands full of splinters but beaming with work-pride. I hand him a beer, ask him about his day and wait impatiently for my turn. He describes welding, the other dudes at work, and designing and building.
When he pauses I decide it’s my turn. “I put on yoga pants, because that makes me feel yoga-adjacent. Then I emptied the dishwasher and made your child breakfast so then I had to fill the dishwasher again. THEN I TOOK HER TO SCHOOL, THEN I DID LAUNDRY. THEN I FED THE DOGS, HIKED THE DOGS, FOLDED THE LAUNDRY, REMEMBERED WE HAD A CAT, SO I FED HER, THEN I HAD TO PICK UP GRACE AND DRAG HER GROCERY SHOPPING BECAUSE WE ATE ALL THE FOOD THAT WAS IN THERE FROM BEFORE. THEN I HAD TO PARENT WHILE COOKING MORE FOOD. WHICH LED TO MORE DIRTY DISHES AND GLASSES AND FLATWARE, THEN I OPENED THIS BOTTLE OF WINE BUT HAD TO EMPTY THE DISHWASHER AGAIN BECAUSE EVERYTHING CLEAN WAS STILL IN THERE. THEN YOU CAME HOME AND SHE RAN TO YOU WITH DELIGHT. WHERE’S MY %$@# PAYCHECK? WHERE’S MY PARADE???!!!”
And my husband looks at me and smiles a tired, knowing smile. He really likes his job. It’s filthy, stressful, time sensitive and backbreaking. But he doesn’t complain. Because now we BOTH know who has the harder job. And now we both know that he’s a better woman than me as well.