When it comes to household chores, neither of us is what you would call "tidy." Or even "bearable." We each have our strengths (ability to ignore messes for a very long time) and our weaknesses (ability to complain about messes we have been ignoring for a very long time).
Sven and I each work, full-time, outside the home. We are both teachers. During the school year very little in the way of home maintenance is done. I keep everyone in clean clothes. Sven keeps the yard in compliance with the homeowner's association rules. We each do our part to make sure there is something to eat, though I confess more often than not that means Sven picks up the take-out and I throw away the containers.
During the summer, though, we "catch up" on a number of pesky chores that we simply don't have time for ordinarily, like sweeping, mopping, organizing, vacuuming, dusting, editing, and conditioning. Sven and I do a fairly good job of sharing the labor equally. There are a few "my" jobs (folding the laundry, tidying the living room) and some "his" jobs (lawn care, carpet cleaning), but dishes, laundry, cooking, and basic cleaning are shared responsibilities.
Which leads me to my question today: if there is a chore that has separate components, is it necessary for the same person to do each part of the chore? If not, should the workers collaborate to make sure the initial part of the chore is complete in a manner acceptable to the person completing subsequent parts of the chore?
Sven and I have different philosophies when it comes to dishes. For instance, I load the silverware tray with the "business ends" poking up, so the part that touches the food gets clean. I also put a variety of utensils in each slot, because they can't stick together if there's only one spoon, one fork, one knife, etc. Sven says he doesn't like that, because it's harder to unload. While I can respect that, I'd rather the dishes get clean. Furthermore, Sven always manages to load the dishwasher in some crazy ninja way that prevents me from unrolling the bottom rack without dragging out the top one, meaning I have to unload the whole darned thing if I want a frying pan from the bottom left. Which I should do anyway. Don't judge me.
So who gets priority? The person who loads, or the person who unloads?
But the more important question: why do I care? In a sound, happy marriage, where I love my husband and he loves me, and we have two beautiful kids and adequate money coming in, two working cars and a nice house, why was I ready to scream at Sven today because he only washed spoons and knives and left all of the forks in the sink?
Is it human nature to look for conflict? Do we naturally look for the problems? Or is it just me?
I didn't mention it to Sven. (Yes, dear, I realize I'm mentioning it now, but only in an abstract, hypothetical way, not a critical one. You do the dishes just fine and I love you very much.) I unloaded the dishes, then loaded the dishwasher my way and started it. But I wondered: is this how those couples end up on Dr. Phil? You know, the ones where the man goes out and has an affair because his wife wouldn't ever let him fold the towels, because he "didn't do it right?" How many ways are there to fold towels?
Princess and Dexy are getting to the point that they are helping around the house. Dexy does it because he loves to help. He understands throwing things in the garbage, and does it so enthusiastically that we have to dig through our garbage to find forks, bowls, bills, and toys before taking it out. Princess is beginning to help because I'm making her. I stand over her for 10 minutes so she can do a job that takes me 30 seconds, but I tell myself I'm building her character.
But, it makes me happy that I really don't care how she puts the toys away, as long as it gets done. Maybe I'm making progress. I'm going to cancel that appointment with Dr. Phil...