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Husbands need to pick up the slack
By Orson Scott Card May 27, 2010

Let's say that a young LDS man who wishes to be a good husband has his plans in place for how he's going to provide for his future wife and children.

Too often, though, he gives the matter no further thought, as if husbanding began and ended with earning a living.

But he must also prepare his mental image of what a marriage is supposed to be, so that he can be ready to step into the role of husband without any rude shocks -- to him or to his new wife.

1. Your wife may become a mother, but you are not one of her children.

This may seem obvious, but many a young husband imagined that his wife would pick up after him, cook and clean for him, just as his mother did.

Your wife may specialize in rearing the very young children while you specialize in earning a living, but in a happy household, all the jobs belong to both the husband and the wife -- and they're done to the specifications of the partner who does them most often.

2. There is no job so hard or disgusting that your wife can do it and you can't.

I hate scrubbing stuck-on pots and baking dishes, but that doesn't mean it's my wife's job.

I acquired the habit, before I was married, of rinsing and soaking every pot and pan the moment I emptied it into a serving dish, and since I cooked many a meal and cleaned up after even more, I brought that habit into our partnership.

No pan ever sits on the stove or by the sink unattended while we eat. Because while we're dining I can feel the sauces turning to concrete, the stray noodles becoming stucco in the pans. It takes the joy out of the meal.

But I didn't impose this as a rule, telling my wife how to deal with dirty pots and pans in her kitchen. Instead, when I cooked, I rinsed and soaked at once. Do you think she didn't notice what a breeze it was to wash up after meals I prepared that way?

And when she was doing the cooking, I would often take the pans she was finished with and do the first rinse and soak, so she didn't have to think about it.

Now we both have the habit, so that the hardest part of cleaning up is already done before we sit down to eat.

This is not an essay about washing dishes -- that's merely an example. My sharing of the work of the kitchen earned me the right to have a say in how that work should be done. She knows that I'm as likely to be doing the cleanup after dinner as she is, and that I do as good a job as she does.

If one of us has to rush off to do something after a meal, the other willingly takes up the slack. Nobody has to come home to a dirty kitchen.

3. If you do it now, she won't have to do it later.

Children can walk right past a mess without noticing it. But adults see the mess and realize that it won't clean itself up. Adults think, If I don't do this, who will?

You walk into a room and see something that bothers you. If you're a bad husband, you loudly say, "Doesn't anybody know how to turn off a light?" or "Why don't we hang up a sign saying 'cockroaches welcome'?" or "Can't you teach the kids to clean up their toys?"

Maybe you throw the house into turmoil by angrily demanding that the offenders come in and take care of the problem at once. Or by making such a fuss or offering such slantwise criticisms that your wife has to drop what she's doing and take care of the problem.

How is this helping?

A good husband walks into a room, sees a mess, and cleans it up. It takes very little more time than yelling about it; it keeps peace in the family; and your wordless sharing of the burden makes your wife feel like she's not alone -- she has a partner in every part of her life.

There are times when it might be good to help the children learn about cleaning up their own messes, but a good husband picks the time and place for such things, usually in consultation with his wife. The default decision is to simply do the job the moment you see it needs doing.

Husband-to-be: Don't ever let your wife be stuck with an observer or critic when she needs a partner.

Your household is a 24-hour-a-day enterprise. You do a part of your work at the office or shop or school or on the road, but that's not the end of your working day.

The good thing is: When you get home, you get to do the rest of your day's work in the company of, or in support of, the person you love most in all the world.

And by learning how to do all the jobs well, and then doing the ones that need doing without having to be asked, you're telling your wife that she has an equal partner in this enterprise, one who knows how hard she works because he's right there beside her.

Then, when the household tasks are done for the day, perhaps you'll have a few minutes to watch a television show, or play a game of Ticket to Ride, or lie in bed with the lights on, reading and telling each other the good bits from each other's books.

We are to be good stewards. We are to be the servants of all. The Savior could not have been more clear about it: Being waited on and obeyed does not get you into heaven.

I remember the 33 years of work my wife and I have done together with as much joy as I remember the fun times. In fact, because she was with me and I with her doing all those jobs, in my memory it's hard to tell the work from the play.

Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card

 
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