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A Husband's Labor Pangs

Posted by Elisa Taub
A Husband's Labor Pangs

by Julie and Mark Stubington

As the old saying goes, "There are two sides to every story." In this monthly column, Julie and Mark Stubington, a married couple with three children, face off on common household issues.ISSUE: 

Should A Division of Labor Exist?

Julie and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this month. Happy anniversary to a wonderful wife and mother!

Now let's get down to business. After so many years, one would think that I would have figured Julie out by now. Yet after 8 years, or 2920 days, or 70080 hours, there are certain mysteries surrounding Julie that remain unsolved and with which I am fascinated (for those of you who care, I am also fascinated with the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, the Yeti and the Chupacabra).

One conundrum is my wife's perspective on the division of labor in the family unit. Simply put, she believes that she should delegate certain tasks to me and that I alone should perform those tasks. Julie affectionately refers to these things as "honey-dos." I refer to them by their real name -- "instruments of torture."

Let's address my first point that Julie is the delegator and I am the delegatee. The unsolved mystery relating to this concept is "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?" Indeed, it was not always like this. What do I mean? To use business jargon, once upon a time there were two independent businesses -- "Julie Co." (with Julie as the CEO) and "Mark Co." (with Mark as the CEO). During those days, Julie had a "hands on" management style and would personally handle small jobs.

Subsequently, Julie Co. and Mark Co. decided to merge (in marriage) and create "I Jerk Maul Co." (that's the only anagram I could come up with). To my surprise, it appeared that Julie had engaged in a hostile takeover and I was forced to swallow a poison pill (ok, I know that I'm taking this too far but I love the lingo). Anyway, Julie essentially started delegating various tasks to me. In essence, I was pushed out of management and on to the assembly line. I want a union!

And why do I care that she delegates these things to me? That's easy; because my independent, professional, brilliant and resourceful wife easily could tackle them herself. (This universal approach followed by many wives has created a field of study for husbands that we like to call the "I love that my wife is so smart and independent but flummoxed that she refuses to handle some simple jobs" paradox.)

And what types of jobs are we talking about? Allow me to offer my "top 3 list"...

Number 3: The "even though Julie does not subscribe to gender stereotypes, Mark is in charge of taking out all forms of garbage because he is the guy" job. Moms, I have no problem with being in charge of taking the garbage cans to out to the sidewalk. I understand that that task has been relegated to the male gender for thousands of years (yes, I have researched this and it seems to have started when Cleopatra asked Marc Antony to do her a "favor" in Egypt).

But it does not stop there. Julie prefers that I take out all forms of garbage from the house to the garbage cans. Thus, often times when I leave for work in the morning, Julie will have placed numerous garbage bags in front of the door, the implied message being that I'd better take them out to the garbage cans when I leave or they will be there when I get home.

Number 2: The "Mark, could you do this because I just don't feel like doing it" job. This one is pretty humorous and Julie and I do laugh about this. The task in question usually occurs when I am sitting next to Julie and she asks me to get her something because she does not feel like getting up to get it. At times I have the word "sucker" emblazoned on my forehead and I, in fact, will get up and get the desired object. Other times, I affectionately respond to my wife with ribald language and suggest to her, respectfully of course, that she procure the item herself.

A few nights ago, Julie and I were sitting in bed and she asked me to get her a glass of water. The glass was on the nightstand right next to her. I believe this may have been a "Mark responds with ribald language" night.

Number 1: The "Julie calls me at work to ask me to call someone else to do something even though Julie really should call that person directly" job.

Here is an example. A few weeks ago Julie called me at work to let me know that we had a plumbing problem in one of the bathrooms (call #1). She suggested that I call a friend of ours who is a contractor to see if he could send a plumber to the house. To me, logic dictated that Julie should make that call because (1) the contractor is her friend too and (2) more importantly, her schedule would dictate when the plumber could come to the house. Intelligently, I did not voice that thought and made the call to the contractor myself (call #2). The contractor told me that a plumber could come the next day in the afternoon. I called Julie to check on her availability (call #3) and then called the contractor back to make the appointment (call #4).

The story does not end there. Later that day, Julie called me back and told me that the next afternoon would not work because she needed to do something (call #6). Thus, I went through the same routine again - I called the contractor to get another date and time (call #7), called Julie to see if she would be at the house (call #8), called the contractor to make the appointment (call #9) and then called Julie to inform her of the appointment (call #10).

Of course my question is "why do I need to make 10 calls when 2 (by Julie to the contractor) would have sufficed? Look, if I was getting paid overtime for my efforts, I would greatly appreciate the extra work here. Unfortunately, I'm not. This just seems like another example of the "man" coming down on the little guy.

In conclusion and going back to the business theme, I love my place of employment and fully appreciate that I have a full-time job. However, please consider this to be a formal grievance under the United Husbands Union Contract.

Let's stick with Mark's business theme. Can we guess which husband is not getting laid off this month (and dear, you now what I mean)?

To be fair, let's focus on the positives of Mark's section. We did just celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary and they have been great years. Happy anniversary to you too!

Now, as to the remainder of his section, I call that "management waste."

First, regarding the familial division of labor, there are executives in every company who direct and those who must follow. We moms know that the family business runs much more efficiently when moms are the directors and the husbands are the followers. Actually, if we left it up to our husbands, the business would not run at all because a certain male would be sitting in front of the TV watching sports or another Discovery Channel expose on the Loch Ness Monster (Mark forgot to mention his fascination with "Nessie"). So while I appreciate Mark's desire for a promotion, the Board of Directors must decline his request and leave him on the assembly line.

Second, let's discuss the tasks that I DO NOT delegate before we discuss the ones that I do delegate. As with many mothers, I spend a significant part of my daily life taking care of the dozens of chores that Mark overlooks or doesn't think about. Mark, I hate to burst your bubble, dear, but the house does not clean itself, the kids don't go through the day unsupervised and your dinner is not prepared by pixies (I checked and they don't deliver). No, it is mom that handles these special assignments. Thus, I believe that Mark, as with most husbands, needs to recognize the full scope and extent of my daily duties and appreciate that I do in fact take care of a number of little things.

As to the tasks that I do delegate to Mark...

Yes, I ask Mark to take out the garbage. Is that so bad? I have conducted my own research and have ascertained that men are genetically predisposed to taking out the garbage. Who am I to ignore the laws of science?

And yes, I do ask him to get up (while he is sitting next to me) and get me things. In my defense, however, I share with him whatever he brings to me. Thus, I am really doing a good thing by engaging in profit sharing with my employee (I love the business theme).

And yes, from time to time I do call Mark to ask him to call others to make plans on our behalf. As you can see, I said "our" behalf. The point is that I'm asking him to set up appointments for the benefit of the household. It's not like I'm asking him to set up a lunch date for me with one of my girlfriends - though, given my hectic schedule, I may have to ask him to start doing that.

Also, there is a practical reason for me asking him to do this. When I am watching the kids, there is usually a fair amount of pandemonium going on and the decibel level tends to soar. Practically speaking, it may be difficult for me to give my undivided attention to someone on the telephone. Mark, on the other hand, is sitting in his office in an ivory tower (I borrowed this imagery from someone who responded to one of our articles on the message board...keep the comments coming) where he can make telephone calls in a tranquil environment. I would submit that given the respective circumstances, it far easier and less time consuming for Mark to make these calls.

In conclusion, management has decided to reject Mark's grievance and place him on probation.

And, Mark, please take out the garbage...

Julie and Mark Stubington have been married for 8 years and have 3 children. They are lawyers by profession, and live in Southern California.