Drawing the Lines October 25th, 2010
At some point, in the early stages of a marriage (or other cohabitant relationship), we draw lines. We answer questions like: Who pays the bills? Who does the grocery shopping? Who cooks dinner? Who does the dishes? Who cleans the house? Who does the yard work? Who gets the oil in the cars changed?
Over time we add to the list. Who cares for the kids, or handles the childcare logistics? Who walks the dogs? Who gives them their monthly flea and heartworm preventative? Who bathes the dogs? Who brushes them? Who sweeps and vacuums the house because the dogs shed so constantly it’s a wonder they’re not bald? (Sorry. The dogs are in the midst of one of their biannual shed-fests. I’m going a little crazy. But I digress…) Who figures out whether or not to refinance the mortgage again? And so forth and so on.
I got to thinking about all these things because of a comment I left on one of Big Little Wolf’s posts over at Daily Plate of Crazy last week. She wrote a post about cash versus credit and posed the question: How do you pay for your groceries? In my not-at-all-rambling comment I mentioned that I am a bit debt averse, but we pay for everything (everything!) on credit because we have a killer rewards program and because GAP is very financially savvy and does a top-notch job of keeping track of balances, making sure everything is paid off each month, and knowing when longer term balances are due.
The follow-up thought to that comment is one that I’ve addressed in my head many times before. GAP and I maintain very traditional gender roles. He handles nearly all the finances, the yard work, and the dinner dishes. I do the cooking, the grocery shopping, the coordination of nanny, housekeeper, and dog walker, and most of the other dog stuff. Except for the fact that I have a job, we could be Ozzie and Harriet. How on earth did this come to be?
Sometimes I’m self-conscious about where we’ve drawn the lines. Sometimes it seems like GAP should be responsible for a dinner or two and I should edge the lawn from time to time. But in spite of my self-consciousness, I never wish we’d actually drawn the lines differently. You see, I like cooking. I enjoy my relationship with our nanny. GAP loves tinkering with our investments and (I think) gets some sick sense of satisfaction out of balancing our many checking and credit accounts each month. And I don’t really like the idea of being pushed around by some misguided application of feminism. This is what works for us.
I have girlfriends who handle all of the finances and whose husbands whip up dinner every night. I have friends who’ve drawn the line straight down the middle in all departments. And we’re lucky to live in a culture where we can each choose differently. We should all find the path that works for us and stick to it until it doesn’t anymore.
Nevertheless, there’s something that feels strange about choosing the role that many women were forced into for so many generations. However, if feminism is about anything it’s about options. It’s about choice. And if it means that we can’t still choose for me to cook dinner and for my husband to pay the bills then it failed, plain and simple.