Like any challenging new job, househusbands get a grace period to learn survival skills and tricks of the trade. My grace period expired long ago. Even if we assume I have an incredibly generous boss (I do) and accept that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, I can’t claim rookie status anymore. I shouldn’t have any difficulty reaching deadlines or finding creative solutions to routine problems. Based solely on the experience I’ve racked up, there should be talk of promotions, or at least Employee of the Month.
Instead, when my poor wife walks in the door after a busy day, she doesn’t see a home June Cleaver would be proud of.* She’s gotten good at hiding her disappointment with the piles of dirty dishes and unfolded laundry. And I’ve gotten good at pretending not to notice her disappointment. We both know how to play to our strengths.
The dishes are cleaned and the laundry folded. Eventually. But something is holding me back from achieving househusbanding greatness.
The science behind better househusbanding
I have suspicions about what’s preventing me from maintaining a clean and organized home. No matter how many times I clean today’s dirty dish, it’s still going to be dirty again tomorrow. And the day after. So why bother, right? Despite my excessive sensitivity, fondness for delicious healthy food (like Dominos and Taco Bell), and pink sunglasses, I’m still just a guy. A guy that’s interested in results. There’s no satisfaction in checking the “clean kitchen” box when I’m going to have to do it again after the next meal.
I’m also a guy who recognizes (despite its moral flaws) that Machiavelli was onto something when he suggested that the “ends justify the means.” For example, spending 6 months backpacking in the woods, 1000’s of miles away from our kitchen, is a means to end my obligation to check the “clean kitchen” box. Problem solved… Right?
A few of you may wonder if this is a grownup solution (it absolutely is). More of you are probably thinking that I’m devoting WAY too much time to philosophizing. (OMG spellcheck told me this is actually a word!) If Machiavelli were here now, he would be on my side, because the double negative argument is also true: “no ends justifies no means.” In other words, when no end is in sight, doing nothing is the best path to take.
We’re calling this Househusbandology
So there I was, surrounded by dirty dishes and unfolded laundry. Secure in my ironclad conviction that I was following the most logical path, shaving and grocery shopping soon joined the list of meaningless activities. Our home shifted to a less popular end of the olfactory spectrum and the refrigerator was bare. These were just a few of the many sacrifices I was willing to make for the sake of reason. Monica wasn’t as easy to persuade, but I knew she’d come around eventually.
Then, fellow blogger and virtual friend Ann Coleman blogged about her struggles with our shared nemesis, the laundry machine. I read eagerly, knowing that I was about to be entertained and/or inspired. This time I also saw another cause for excitement. She could become my first acolyte! (Househusbandology is an open-minded study. Women are just as welcome to practice doing nothing as any normal person.)
However, instead of building up the ranks with a new follower, reading her insightful words highlighted a potential flaw in my fledgling philosophy. One that threatened to unravel this slightly dirty (but still beautiful) paradigm I had so carefully created.
Finding joy in the doing
As this headline suggests, there is more to successful househusbanding than enjoying an afternoon nap after completing all 3 items on the daily Honey-Do list. If I can learn to enjoy the chores activities involved in maintaining our home and lifestyle, househusbanding will become more satisfying. Mark Twain was far more eloquent when he suggested that we should “make our vocation our vacation.” (If anyone is keeping track out there, we’ve had 2 quotes from famous dead people so far. This is officially an educational essay. Now you can tell the boss your working on Continuing Education.)
I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of enjoying dishwashing and folding laundry, but it made more sense when I reframed it in contexts I was more familiar with. For example, if I was only interested in fixing a broken person, I never would have survived medical school, surgical residency, and 100-hour work weeks necessary to become a successful surgeon unless I loved operating and taking care of patients. Similarly, I never would have successfully hiked all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail if hiking and sleeping in the dirt didn’t bring me to the brink of ecstasy.
Before I head off to take care of the dishes (Yay dishes!), I’d like to leave you with one last thought. Athur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” (That’s 3 quotes from famous dead people. You can clock out early today.)
P.S. As part of my due diligence for this essay, I asked Google what a “clean kitchen means.” Apparently, Google (via Urban Dictionary) isn’t a big fan either. Google’s definition is NSFW, and possibly another reason cleaning the kitchen has little appeal for so many. No clue about househubandology, and now this? I’m starting to have doubts about the omniscience of our Ether-leader.
* Congratulations to those that don’t need to Google the “June Cleaver” reference. You’re entitled to your choice of either: 1.) A shiny, easy to grasp AARP Gold Star magnet, or 2.) a 10% discount on the Early-Bird special at Cracker Barrel. And please, be careful out there. I don’t want anyone slipping. We could break a hip!