working women need wives


Sandra Tsing Loh annoys me even more than Caitlin Flangan.

I wrote a post about her over the summer or maybe it was earlier fall. She is the writer who got tired of her marriage but instead of working on her issues, she had an affair which precipitated her divorce. She has a live in relationship now – and I won’t go into why I think those types of set-ups are usually doomed from the onset – and she finds herself, again, the breadwinner.

Her recent piece in The New York Times (read it while you can, they are putting the pay wall back up soon) is on needing a wife. Because every good feminist needs a wife to offset the uselessness of her husband, the stuck in the 1950’s Reagan-era nostalgic Neanderthal caricature  sperm donor her biological clock blinded her into breeding with.

I get tired of hearing this worn out bit of nonsense.

Oh, it’s not nonsense that while women have gained full-time employment outside their homes in near parity numbers with men over the last three decades, men have not picked up the home-making or child care slack at the same rates. In fact it’s not even a decent comparison when one looks at the numbers.

What is tiresome is the whining.

I hate to quote Dr. Phil here, but the man made a valid point when he said. and repeatedly,

“You teach people how to treat you.”

If your mate is not shopping, cooking, cleaning or caring for offspring in a share and share alike way, say something about it. Tell him/her what you expect. Why you expect it. Work out a compromise that is agreeable to you both.

But men can’t be reasoned with, women argue. And they should just see that work that needs doing and that I can’t do it all. What is wrong with them?

Nothing. Just as there is nothing wrong with women who don’t seem able to get their minds around the fact that men, despite evolution, still can’t read our minds or make the correlation between housework and foreplay.

I was the breadwinner in my first marriage and my late husband did the cooking. In fact, he insisted that grocery shopping be a bonding experience for us – something that made me crazy because he had to go up and down every single aisle in the store whether we needed to or not. Shopping took less time when I was a single mother wrangling a toddler who refused to sit in the cart than it did with her father.

He would have done the laundry too but his indifference to sorting my colors and materials would have totaled my wardrobe.

He got mad at me when I did yard work. I had summers off, being a teacher, and time to do it that he lacked. But he found yard work soothing and exercised his gender veto.

Our motto from the beginning was that nothing be stewed over. If someone had an issue, discussions needed to happen.

“I can’t read minds,” he told me.

Now I stay home. It’s just the way things worked out. Rob would be just as happy – happier really – if I was bringing home the bread instead of shopping for it.

If the majority of the cooking, baking, cleaning, shopping etc. falls on me, it’s because I have the time. Rob willingly chips in, and even more often, simply does things without my having to mention it at all. Laundry, cleaning (he does the bathrooms because my allergies don’t mix with harsh cleaning products).

And mind-reading is off limits, though we are so alike that sometimes I bet we could do it if we just practiced a bit.

You trained your husbands well, women will marvel. But truthfully I did nothing aside from open my mouth and express my thoughts on how a marriage should work. I did it more often with Will than I do with Rob, but I was Will’s first wife and Rob had 27 years of partnering tucked away in his resumé when I met him.

There are no abbreviations. Like children, spouses assess the lay of the land and act accordingly. Men and women. Dr.Phil’s hackneyed home spun advice is valid.

The whole “needing a wife” thing is cliché. What women need is to speak up, and probably screen men a bit more in the beginning to ward off that buyer’s remorse some many end up with.