Herald Journal Columns
March 11, 2002

Train 'em right from the beginning


Here's the scenario:

A husband and wife team decide that it is time to do the spring cleaning. The spouses gather in the kitchen, complete with old clothes and mops and dust rags and 409 Spray Cleaner, ready to tackle a not-so-fun aspect of life.

They huddle, they psych each other up, then, they break with a look of utter determination and go their separate ways - he to the garage and she to the bathroom.

Back the truck up . . .

Now, really, is that fair? I think that the garage is more like a field trip for most men, rather than work. A bathroom is just that - a bathroom - and there is never anything fun to do in there.

Why do we have masculine and feminine jobs? My husband wouldn't dream of cleaning the bathroom, and I have tried everything to convince him that it's not that bad (okay, yes, it is a blatant lie, especially with two small boys), to no avail. On the same token, you will never see me mowing in the front lawn. I hate it.

We have come to a few good compromises, my husband and I, when it comes to cleaning. I have my jobs and he has his, although if you ask me, I have way more than he does. But, I am very proud of him, because he is working to move past the stereotypical male/female job descriptions for the most part.

I take care of the bathrooms, all the cooking ("But honey, you cook sooooo gooooooddddd . . .), dusting, and general pick-ups (although he strongly disagrees - he thinks he does it).

He takes care of things like the garbage, car maintenance, washing dishes, and bill paying (if I did the bills, they simply wouldn't get paid and I would go shopping instead).

He absolutely refuses to clean the bathrooms and I absolutely refuse to wash dishes, so we compromise.

We have such different styles of cleaning that I've found it's best to do our cleaning on different floors. His idea of clean and my idea of clean are way different, and we end up getting on each others nerves. Even the laundry chore, which we share, is done differently.

I remember being a kid and occasionally having to help with some of the housework and thinking that I could never get the house to look like how Mom made it look.

Now, I'm the mom, and I just can't understand how it can be so difficult to do it the correct way. The correct way, incidentally, is my way.

I have a tendency to move from room to room, doing one big job at a time, like vacuuming. My husband, on the other hand, tends to take care of one room completely and then move on to the next, all while watching the game. I see definite pros and cons for both ways.

I also see potential arguments with both of us in the same room, cleaning together.

We've found a light at the end of the tunnel, though. We have started a new, fun, (cough, cough) family game that seems to work for us. We "speed clean," and get the whole family involved.

It saves me the trouble of disturbing my kids and husband by asking them to lift their feet up so I can clean around them.

I have found that this is the best way to get help with the dreaded housework. It's quick - we usually take 15 minutes or so - and everyone is involved at the same time.

Our baby, who's teetering on the two-year mark, even has his own job, and does it very well - he shoves the dirty clothes into the laundry chute.

Our eight-year-old is plenty old enough to do most jobs, although if I want certain jobs done to my standards, I do them myself. He's gotten pretty helpful in the last couple years, and I hope to make him a good husband for a nice young lady someday .

I'm determined that my children will be right there with us, helping with the good and bad jobs. I was also determined a few years ago that my husband would be there helping, too.

I think my family-training cleaning program is working quite well. The true test will be to see how my boys handle their own households when they are old enough to have them.

I am also hoping that with enough brainwashing and bribing, someday I will be able to introduce my husband to the Tidy Bowl Man.

Time will tell. But I still will never wash dishes.

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