Household chores divide husband, wife

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

HE SAID: Anyone who knows my wife knows at least two things: She's cute and she's talented. In those regards, I'm a lucky guy.

But one of Callie's few imperfections is that she has the upper-body strength of a cooked spaghetti noodle. Upper-body strength is not a high priority on my woman-evaluating scale, so it's not a big deal in the Big Picture. But it does affect how we divvy up chores in our household.

Before I go much further, I must admit this: Callie does more around the house than I do, especially during the St. Louis Cardinals baseball season. I do some laundry, but she does more. I cook some, but she cooks more. I clean some (I'm more thorough), but she cleans more often. Nonetheless, we split those activities.

But anything that involves lifting more than 5 pounds is my job. It's generally my job to haul things, including laundry and kitty litter, up the stairs. It's my job to push the grocery cart at the store and to carry in the bags from the SUV.

I don't mind these chores except the grocery shopping. I hate the entire experience from the long lines to the poor service we get from teenage clerks who seem more interested in talking with each other than tending to their customers.

It doesn't seem like both of us should have to go together. I argue that only one should go and the other should stay at home to do a different chore (unless the Cardinals are playing). It seems one of us is wasting our time while picking out produce and then waiting 10 minutes for a price check at Register 6.

But Callie insists the cart gets too heavy to push around the aisles and I have a tendency to forget things even if they're on a list. I also tend to buy generic brands that Callie doesn't like. So, alas, we both go.

My main beef in all of this is our division of "manly" chores. I'm expected to help with the cooking, cleaning, shopping and laundry. But Callie doesn't partake in the masculine activities. Changing light bulbs? She's afraid of getting shocked. Taking her vehicle to get her oil changed? Scared to death. Hanging pictures? A handywoman she's not.

I'm also the gofer in this marriage, which I think makes up for a lot of the laundry I don't do. When Callie forgets something out in the vehicle, she usually asks me to go get it. Saturday-morning trips to the bakery are my responsibility. And there's always the ibuprofen or lip-gloss call as we're getting ready to doze off: "Bob, can you bring me my purse? It's in the living room."

She always asks nicely. And she's cute and talented, so I do it, usually without grumbling loud enough for her to hear.

SHE SAID: So I agree with my husband's summary for the most part, but he has conveniently failed to mention several of my responsibilities.

For example: I take care of the personal finances, not because I'm any great whiz at math, but because he frets and stresses over every dollar. During our six months of marriage, I'm proud to say we've only received one letter from the city of Jackson threatening to cut off our electricity.

There are a few chores, however, that neither of us can stand.

Take ironing. We both hate it, so we just don't do it. No doubt coworkers have noticed our clothes occasionally have that trampled-by-elephants-look, though they've always been polite enough not to mention it.

Then there are those chores that cannot be avoided no matter how little you care about your appearance.

Grocery shopping, as Bob has already mentioned, is one of them. In his mind, a love of shopping (say, for clothes) should translate to a love of grocery shopping. The problem with that is I hate grocery shopping. I will put it off until I'm cooking and hand-chopping chicken breast for the kitties because we've run out of cat food.

I feel we should suffer together, but I can count on an all-out fight every time I try to drag Bob with me to the store. We've tried three different grocery stores, but there's nothing at any of them that really makes the experience worthwhile. So, once every two or three weeks, depending on how long I can stand eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we fight about who should do the grocery shopping.

As for that oil-changing situation: Growing up, my dad always took care of that for me. Bob says I'm "afraid" to do it myself. This is not really true, I just have more important things to do.

For instance: I have the critical role of "rememberer" in our household.

It's a critical role because my husband is the most forgetful person I've ever met. He does try, no doubt about it. He even bought a book called "Improving Your Memory for Dummies" a few months ago. By now, he's forgotten where he put it, though (bookshelf in the living room, top shelf, Honey).

I remind him about meetings, about picking up his son, about ballgames and dentist's appointments and trash day and family gatherings and feeding his fish and taking his medicine and where he left his keys.

And by the time I've done all that, I'm too tired to take out the trash or drive to the auto mechanic for an oil change.

Contact Callie Clark Miller at cmiller@semissourian.com or Bob Miller at bmiller@semissourian.com for comments or ideas for columns.

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