Opinion: Can’t or won’t?

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Even as spring cleaning is well underway across this land of ours, so is the perennial challenge of how to adequately find equilibrium in the household division of labor. Laundry, lawn mowing, spider killing, meal preparation, planting and maintaining flowers, child care, earning a living to pay for it all and countless of other chores befall us. We prioritize their importance, and our desire to do them, and plod along endeavoring to keep our lives moving in working order and, hopefully, improving. 

For some of us living alone, we are singularly responsible. But for many residing as families, each does a bit of every task. Mom works and so does Dad. Dad cooks and so does Mom. And for others, the labor is split along traditional ethnic or gender lines, by aptitude, by physical presence or by interest. We settle into our duties comfortably, occasionally checking to ensure that we are maintaining parity with our co-inhabitants. Is anyone doing too much or too little? For most, a good-natured equipoise is found. And if someone’s not pulling their weight, a bit of prodding will suffice.

Alas, as with all human endeavor, some of us will seek to game the system. Advice is often shared, a few drinks in, at the bachelor/bachelorette party, such as “Don’t let your partner know of your laundry acumen, lest you become the household expert — for life! They suggest, choose those things you want to do and feign incompetence for the rest. The occasional red sweater thrown in with a load of whites not only produces pink sheets but also becomes an antidote for ever having to do the laundry again.

Serious questions about spousal manipulation aside, how much of our lives do we spend imitating ineptitude? How many of our claims of “cannot” are really that we “will not?” 


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