Domestic duties of a modern-day husband

Dennis Warden

I’m sure you will agree that the domestic duties of a modern-day husband are quite different from our grandfathers and even our fathers. Everything started to change in the last century during World War II when women joined the workforce in greater numbers.

Today the modern husband is expected, in some fashion, to share the household duties with his wife. Over the last 30-plus years of marriage my responsibilities have evolved and changed. Now I have been relegated to the few chores that Connie feels I’m good enough at to meet her requirements.

Like any young married couple with three kids we would let things slide by when we were younger. Now Connie is evolving into Monica from the TV show Friends — meaning cleaning makes her feel good. I’m sure after she retires from teaching this spring the metamorphosis will become complete.

I was a bachelor for the eight years when I left home for college to the day my wife wrapped me around her little finger. In those years I was not a total slob. 

I learned the basics including washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry. As I think back I don’t remember having a vacuum in my apartment in Hannibal so I can’t include that chore on my list. 

The division of duties for many married couples is determined by two things — time and talent. If you have time and are good at it that becomes your responsibility.

When we were raising our three children it was I who rose in the middle of the night when the babies were crying. After Connie fed them I rocked them to sleep and put them back to bed. That became my responsibility because I could go back to sleep much easier.

Bath time for our three little ones was also on my list of things to do. That’s when Connie would start doing her home work.

Connie is getting ready to retire after 31 years in the public school system. For her first 15 years she taught third grade. Unless you have been married to a teacher (or are one), you have no idea how much work they do at home.

Math homework was my speciality. I love math, because there is only one right answer. So I graded ten’s of thousands of math papers during those years. On Thursday nights I sat on the floor in front of our TV watching the news and the Tonight Show (we had good reception back then) and sorted papers.

Do the math. With a class of at least 20 third-graders, a minimum of five worksheets per day times five days in a week equals 500 pieces of paper to sort. 

I don’t miss those days.

When it comes to cooking at our house, Connie is the chef. Sometimes I am the assistant chef, but most often my talents are better used in cleaning up after her. What can I say, I’m good at cleaning up in the kitchen, always have been.

I will be the first to admit that Connie can wash dishes better than me — I miss an occasional spot, but I am more efficient (read faster). And when was the last time you heard of someone dying from a morsel of food left on the edge of a plate or bowl? 

I don’t remember this scenario on NCIS, Murder She Wrote or any other murder mystery.

I have always been happy to sweep the floors. It’s not really hard and I can sweep most of the main living area in our house in just a few minutes.

Some duties have changed. I used to take the trash to the road, now Connie does it. I used to always mow the grass, now Connie does it now and then.

As her work load had decreased outside the home, mine has increased.

Our home has a lot of windows so I have been known to wash windows with or without Connie’s help.

Cleaning the bathrooms is where I slide. I have done it, but not very often. I think it has something to do with the fact that cleaning bathrooms at the newspaper was one of my first jobs. One day, the week before Christmas the bathroom sink came off the wall as I was cleaning it. That traumatic episode must have scarred me for life.

You may have noticed that I haven’t included laundry duties on my list of household chores. I know how to do laundry. I did it for my years as a bachelor. I never remember turning my white dress shirts pink. My clothes always came out of the dryer the same size they were before laundry day.

Except in emergencies I have been denied access to our laundry room. What can I say. My way and Connie’s way of doing laundry are completely different. It took me years before I learned how to fold the bathroom towels the correct way. 

I didn’t know there was a wrong way.