Semantic Double Standard

This is not an unusual issue…in fact, it comes up all the time, which is even more frustrating…..:

Dear Annie: My husband’s job requires him to travel several days during the week. We have two teenage daughters still at home. When he first took the job, there was some adjusting, but the girls and I quickly settled into a routine.

I work a 40-hour week. I look forward to not being the cook and chauffeur on the weekends, but my husband, who enjoys cooking, refuses to help. He says he doesn’t want to be “the butler” when he is home from his travels.

I understand being on the road is not a vacation. I know he looks forward to a home-cooked meal, and I make every effort to arrange it, but it feels like I never get a break. Can you give us some advice? — Not the Butler’s Wife

Arrrgh….yes, it’s exhausting being on the road, and I see why this guy would just want to rest up at home and enjoy the family, rather than run around completing a list of chores in the two days he’s home. But why is it that when the mom does all the housework during the week, in addition to her 40-hour job, she’s just being the mom, but when the dad is expected to do it, he’s being treated like “the butler?” It makes no sense to me, and also implies that he considers the basic tasks of maintaining a home the work of a servant, not that of a responsible home owner and parent. To me this suggests that not only does he not want to do these tasks himself, he doesn’t respect or value the time, effort, and skill his wife brings to them.

What’s really odd is that he apparently enjoys cooking….most people who enjoy cooking love nothing more than sharing a special meal with the people they love. Since he doesn’t have the opportunity to do this while he’s away–and probably eating out a lot–it really seems strange that he has no desire to do so when he’s at home and has a full kitchen at his disposal. Seems like he’s resisting activities that he enjoys, is good at, and would support his family, just on the principle that he thinks he should get to lie around. And that’s really annoying.

Dear Wife: Both of you need a break. Every couple handles this in their own way. Some do all the chores together, so each person only has half as much to do. Some divide the weekend, giving the husband one day’s tasks and the wife the other. Many couples let the housework go and order takeout.

You have two teenage girls who should be quite capable of helping. Since your husband wants a home-cooked meal, either let your girls get creative with the food, or make a little extra when you cook during the week and freeze it. That way your husband can have his preferred meal and you don’t have to spend the weekend preparing it.

I agree with Marcy and Kathy’s solutions…I like the idea of 1) putting the daughters in charge of dinner, at least one night a weekend and/or 2) cooking extra and freezing it during the week.

I also think, though, that perhaps being away so much has caused him to become a bit distant from his family and their day-to-day life. The mom says that “the girls and I quickly settled into a routine.” He, on the other hand, has not rearranged how he relates to his family now that he’s away so often…instead, it seems like perhaps when he’s home he tries harder to fit things into the “old order.” He probably feels like a bit of a martyr, being away all the time (alone with his thoughts, to mope) to support his family and thinks they should flock to him and pamper him when he’s back. But perhaps he needs to make more of an effort to understand how things have changed while he’s away.

Of course, reason #1 I couldn’t be an advice columnist for real? I always wind up advising the wrong person. All this mom can do is change her own behavior, not her husband’s. Still thinking about that one.

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