Carol hopped in the shower the other evening and asked me to listen for the oven timer in case it went off while she was washing up. When she came out of the bathroom she asked if dinner was ready yet; I confirmed it was and by the way the timer rang a minute after she’d started her shower. She replied, “Well, I would have been finished sooner, but I had to spend five minutes straightening out the linen closet and rearranging the towels before I could get in the tub.” This was a thinly veiled dig at how I had put away the laundry. I decided to take the high road and not respond to her hurtful comment in any way other than writing about it here and posting it on the Internet for everyone to see.

A few months ago Carol was scrubbing the sink after I’d done the dishes. I said I’d be happy to complete the task but she smiled and said, “That’s OK — I’ve come to realize you get 90% of most tasks done, and that leaves only 10% for me to do.” She meant it sincerely, commenting on how until recently she would have been upset with anything less than a 100% effort from me. Initially, I was pleased to hear that she’d taken a more relaxed approach to the division of labor and her satisfaction with my contributions. But as I reflected on her statement I realized she was telling me I was now responsible for 90% of everything required to maintain the household, with her remaining “burden” set at a minimal level. Some examples:

  • LAUNDRY: I wash, dry, fold and put it away (however awkwardly). (90%)
    • Carol cleans out the lint trap. (10%)
  • COOKING: I shop for the groceries, put them in the fridge or pantry, do the prep work, set the table, and get up from the TV to monitor progress in the oven or on top of the stove. (90%)
    • Carol dumps the ingredients in a casserole dish and sets the oven temperature. (10%)
  • PET CARE: I purchase the cat food, feed them morning and evening, clean out the litter box after the morning meal, administer medications, and use the sticky brush to get hair off the couch. (90%)
    • Carol has evening litter box duty, except for when “Ghost Whisperer” reruns are on; she pets the cats and tells me which ones are due for an enema. (10%)
  • HOME REPAIR: I’m responsible for anything requiring power tools; a hammer, ladder, wrench or saw; electrical and plumbing tasks. (90%)
    • Carol is in charge of thumbtacks, duct tape and any job that can be completed utilizing the shorter step stool. (10%)
  • AUTOMOBILE: When traveling together, I drive. (85 – 90%)
    • Carol tells me where to go. (10%) Sometimes, accurately. (15%)
  • FINANCES: I make it. (50%)
    • Carol spends it. (50%)
I could go on with a longer list, but then that would just add to the 90% of things I’m responsible for. Now, of course, if Carol were the one compiling the list, she might have a different perception:
  • LAUNDRY: John shoves anything he can put his hands on in the washer, including “dry clean only”, and doesn’t fold clothes so much as “roll them up”. (5%)
    •  I resort, rewash, refold and put away neatly. (95%)
  • COOKING: I give John a detailed list that he promptly loses. He buys the wrong brands/wrong sizes/wrong amounts and never gets the cold cuts I like. (35%)
    • After he puts the groceries away, I pull the ice cream out of the vegetable bin and the milk out of the dish cabinet. (65%)
  • PET CARE: John handles most of the feeding and litter duties. He administers medication when they need it and does a pretty good job cleaning up after hairballs. (50%)
    • I love the cats like they are my own children. (Incalculable value)
  • HOME REPAIR: John is “labor”. (25%)
    • I am “management”. (75%)
  • AUTOMOBILE: When traveling together, John drives. (40%)
    • I calmly point out the red lights, stop signs and lane drifts. (60%)
  • FINANCES: Since moving to Maine last year, John has been the sole provider (10%).
    • I carried his sorry ass several times over the years when he was out of work or under-employed, and now that I’m taking a well-deserved break from the rat race while I figure out my next path, he can hold down the fort and treat me like the goddess I am. (90%)
      • [Note from John: I am totally on board with that.]
I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math here — if you add up my percentages and Carol’s percentages and divide them by whatever, it works out to an equitable split between us. Maybe not 50/50 but pretty damn close. I like to think of myself as an “enlightened” husband, always willing to contribute my share. Carol’s interpretation is slightly different — I am a “light-headed” husband, always under the delusion I’m being helpful. Again, if we split the difference: I’m a “well-intended” husband.
I may have exaggerated the situation here slightly to make my point, but by no more than 10%. Or, as Carol would say: “John is 100% full of shit.”