For years, my wife and I had a good arrangement whereby I would go to work and my wife would stay at home. Every morning, Karen would get up at 6:00 a.m., make breakfast for the kids, fix lunches, empty out the dishwasher, clean up the breakfast dishes, and get the laundry started. I would wake up at 7:30 a.m., grab my lunch, kiss Karen goodbye, and pat the kids on the head as I headed out the door to the office.
What my wife did at home while I was away at work, I must confess ignorance. Yet, somehow, the house stayed clean, I had a full sock drawer, dinner was in the oven, and the kids continued to develop and grow.
The times, how they have a-changed. With my work situation presently — how shall I put it — “fluid,” my wife has gone back to school and I find myself at home all day to keep things in order.
So now Karen gets up at 5:00 a.m. to do all the things she did before, plus get an hour of study time in before her classes start. I wake up at 7:30 a.m., check to see if she’s fixed me a sandwich that I like, kiss her goodbye, and pat the kids on the head as they leave for school.
I find myself alone at home left to my own devices to find things to do to occupy the day. I usually start by reading the newspaper, and then cruise over to the computer to see “what’s new” on my favorite web sites. Around 10:00 a.m. I spend some time thinking up topics for humor columns. Then I have lunch and go upstairs to take a nap. I’m usually up by 2:00 p.m. and I saunter back to the computer to work on the course notes for the courses I expect to be asked to teach once the global economy turns around.
Everybody arrives home from school around 3:30 p.m. Karen sees me sitting at the computer and says, “Why don’t you take a break. I see you’ve been working on your course notes all day again.”
So I get up and stretch and offer to make dinner. It’s the least that I can do. Since my repertoire of dinner is limited to grilled “cheez-whiz-it” sandwiches or scrambled eggs, Karen usually offers to make dinner. I submit to this and sit down to engage the kids in fatherly banter like, “How was your day? Got any homework? Can I have your left over lunch snacks?”
All in all, I thought we still had a pretty good arrangement. Who among us with a full sock drawer could complain? Until one day this week when my wife arrived home from school. I felt this severe tug on my left ear and looked up to see a severe scowl scowling down at me.
“Dear,” my wife said, “I thought you were going to be more helpful with the housework while I’m back at school.”
“Yesssss,” was my reply.
Like most men, I figured that dirt was absorbed into whatever surface it happened to come to rest on. At least, this seemed like a reasonable explanation to me as to why our home was always so clean. However, as my wife pointed to the quarter-inch of dust on the television screen, it became apparent to me that the television was not living up to its promise of sucking up dust, although it was definitely living up to its potential of sucking up intelligence.
Using her beckoning finger, my wife beckoned me over to a closet I didn’t even know existed in our house, something she called a “broom” closet tucked away in our laundry room. She introduced me to a variety of bizarre and foreign tools that she claims she uses to clean the house.
First, there was Mr. Broom and his mate, Mrs. Dustpan.
“You use these to pick up small, localized patches of dirt, such as bits of poop that the cat has kicked out of her litter box,” my wife said.
Then came something called a “vacuum cleaner.”
“Use this to vacuum up the dog and cat hairs, the scraps of food, and the dead bugs that are on the floor, AFTER you’ve swept up the bits of cat poop,” my wife intoned.
“Be sure to use the right attachment, the beater bar for carpets, and the floor attachment for the tiles and hardwood,” she added.
“The mop and bucket,” my wife went on, “is used to wash the floors. Don’t forget to put warm water in the bucket.”
Next came a strange assortment of tools used to clean bathrooms. There was the “toilet brush” for scrubbing the toilet (yeecchh), the cleanser for the sinks and bathtubs, and the bottle of blue liquid for the mirrors. I had no idea dirt required such formidable forces to get rid of it.
Finally, I was introduced to the “feather duster.”
“Use this to dust all the tables and the TV screen. Shake the dust off OUTSIDE,” my wife finished.
So now, every morning, I don my work boots, coveralls, rubber gloves, and hardhat and commence to clean house.
It’s the least that I can do.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.