He Cooks, I Clean: How We've Shaken Up Traditional Roles
As Jewish mothers everywhere are donning their proverbial aprons and getting up to their elbows in brisket and matzoh ball soup, I am vacuuming and watching my husband roll up his sleeves as he attempts to perfect his matzoh ball recipe. It is on holidays such as these where I see my girlfriends exchanging recipes or lamenting about their sore wrists and necks (a hazard which only befalls those who slave over a hot stove and spend hours thinly slicing onions) that I feel slightly embarrassed to admit in a whisper that I do not cook. And although I have publicly admitted it on many an occasion, I still feel just a bit of shame that I’m not one of those mothers who devours the latest cookbook and spends hours searching for the perfect gluten-free, all-organic recipe for chocolate-chip cookies. Nope, that’s my husband’s job! The truth is, I think I simply lack that mommy/woman gene; the one that should be sending me impulses to prepare the very sustenance of life for my kids and husband.
But I wasn't always the cleaner, in fact when we first got married, I tried very hard to be that wife, the one who wanted to fill her husband’s stomach with such scrumptious goodness that he was too full to ever look at any other woman or even think of getting his meatballs anywhere else. And I failed miserably. A meatloaf I spent hours preparing tasted like it had bits of sawdust in it, and I burned the simple bowl of pasta I had boiling in the pot. I took a few more stabs at perfecting my best Julia Child roast and rice pilaf only to have several more dishes my husband could remind me turned out less than stellar, which ultimately led to my decision to relinquish all of the subsequent cooking duties to him (you know when my finger was just too tired to dial up that takeout) .
And since our first year of nearly wedded bliss, my husband and I have unofficially assumed our household roles: He is the cook, and I the cleaner. Yes, like Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, I come in after he’s created his foodie masterpiece–because the man cannot wash a dish to save his freaking life–and do the pots, pans, dishes, and counters. Of course, I do believe that my husband is quite capable of washing a dish without leaving a greasy residue, but like me, when it comes to cooking, his heart just isn’t in it. He doesn’t derive the pure joy I do from getting something sparkling and streak- and grease-free.
These roles have trickled down into all aspects of our family groove. Food prep, lunches, and grocery shopping are all my husband’s domain, while cleaning, vacuuming, and doing laundry are all mine. The way I see it, if I had to cook, I’d still have to clean, because my husband and I have diametrically opposite views of what constitutes cleanliness. If I let him take the helm, we’d be living in a crumb-infested house with bedsheets that were washed annually.
While this division of labor seems very natural to us, it has raised a few eyebrows among our families, who have been known to quip that yours truly can do a mean Chinese-takeout meal, and that my dialing finger must get a real workout. But it’s been 13 years, and it’s still working. Do I get a pang every once in a while when I see my daughter and husband pouring over cookbooks together deciding what creations they’re going to whip up? Absolutely not. I’m too busy doing the dishes!