Sunday, June 16, 2013

The distribution of labour


There’s a dead mouse on the kitchen floor and I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.  The thought of picking it up fills me with revulsion.  

It’s not that I haven’t removed dead mice before but if I can leave it for my husband to remove I will. 

I thought about the issue of who is to remove the unwanted stuff the other day when I was cleaning up after the dog had peed on the kitchen floor.  The dog had freaked out because the rain outside was heavy.  Whenever there’s heavy rain the dog refuses to venture outside to pee. 

The point of telling you this is not to revolt you at the idea of a dog peeing on the kitchen floor – another thing that appals me – but my observation that when it comes to the dog’s ‘accidents’ regardless of who discovers the mess, I clean it up. 

It seems it’s my job to deal with unwanted substances, dog and cat discharges and the like, whereas it’s my husband’s job to remove dead animals, that is if he’s around, again irrespective of who finds the poor creature. 

I do not remember discussing these processes, they just happen.  The distribution of labour.  One of those things that happens in households often unconsciously.  As long as both parties in the arrangement are happy with their share of the load all will be well.  

Problems erupt when one or other feels unfairly overloaded. 

Half a day later I have forgotten about the mouse imagining that my husband in his usual manner has seen it, taken out a plastic bag, picked it up within said bag and removed it to the outside rubbish.  

My sister-in-law and her husband visit and we sit down to a cup of tea when I see the mouse again. This time I point it out.  My in-laws are from the country they understand, but I lie as though it's the first I've seen of it.
‘Do I have to get rid of it?’ my husband asks.
‘Yes please,’ I say, not owning up to my earlier knowledge.  

I did not want to ask my husband earlier because it would have meant he’d have to leave off reading the newspaper from several rooms away and the obvious thing in a situation like this is for me to do the job myself.  After all I am capable and were my husband not at home I would do it.  

I have done it before.  But something made me leave it to him.  

The tyranny of our long established roles, perhaps, our distribution of labour.  Dead animals his job, dog pee, mine.  

Fair exchange? 

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