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? 


Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve only ever had to dispose of one dead mouse. For the last few years we’ve been visited occasionally by a family of mice. Or probably several families although I suppose they’re all interrelated. Brave wee buggers some of them were too scurrying across the living room while we were watching TV. For some reason rather than being disgusted we were delighted to see them and enjoyed their appearances. That didn’t stop us putting down humane traps and releasing them back into the wild (or at least what passes for ‘wild’ in Clydebank). Usually they made their presence known in the traps and as soon as I heard a little rattle I’d go and see who we’d caught this time. And then one day—Carrie was in America at the time—I happened to notice the one by the bird’s cage. The flap was down and inside was a dead mouse. And I felt SO GUILTY that he’d died on my watch. I mean I disposed of the body and washed out the trap but I really felt bad that a little creature had died and I could’ve saved him. I feel the same about spiders. I’m perfectly happy to slip a glass over them and encourage them onto a piece of cardboard before ejecting them from my home. But the little black beetles get crushed whenever I see them. I suppose it’s because they’re eating my house from under me and if I tossed them out they just go and eat one of my neighbours’ houses and as much as some of them annoy the hell out of me I wouldn’t wish their flats to collapse around them although that’s mainly because they’re connected to mine. Carrie comes and gets me when there’s a spider in the bath not that we get many. As a kid there was always a big, hairy spider in the bath. This year we’ve had one and he wasn’t that big. Of course I mean big by UK standards. I realise by Australian standards they’re nothing. We don’t have a dog to pee on our carpets but we do have a pooey bird and our flat has a number of extra ledges added to shelves and cages and strategically-placed towels to catch his droppings. As he’s reasonably territorial these handle the bulk but he’s not averse to letting one go as he’s flying around the place, usually when something scared him. Carrie, knowing my aversion to all things icky, sticky, tacky, gooey and creamy, thought it would bother me having to deal with them but oddly enough it doesn’t and I’ve no real answer as to why. Some things get passes—spiders and bird poo—whereas others—beetles and slaters (woodlice)—don’t.

persiflage said...

There are times and occasions when one feels one has to make the sexist society work for you as well as against you.

Anthony Duce said...

Have to smile… We share similar assumed tasks.

Elizabeth said...

I feel a simmering resentment over a very unequal distribution of labor in my house. It's difficult -- this marriage thing.

ellen abbott said...

I guess it depends on which happens the most. If I end up cleaning unwanted substances more often that he disposes of dead creatures then I would surreptitiously find another chore that fell into his domain. sort of like I did with the cooking. after the kids had grown up and left home I expressed the intention that I would no longer be responsible for ALL the household chores. we divvied up the laundry and the dish washing. it didn't take me long, of course, to realize the bad bargain I had made. He did the laundry once a week and I did dishes every day. so I quit cooking. I didn't make a big announcement, I just didn't cook. since he would get hungry before I did, he eventually got in there and started banging around. I do still fix breakfast and he does lunch and dinner but I do the dishes from all three meals. I felt it was a fair trade and he has over the years become a very decent cook.

PhilipH said...

Fair enough, I guess - but is that the only division of labour?

My missus is so scared of spiders she will not even look at a photo or picture of one, so I have to come to her rescue each time.

We once had a little sparrow in the kitchen, flying around in terror, but my wife was more scared than the little birdy, so I had to catch it and set it free.

She also finds frogs scary. Luckily we seldom get troubled by these creatures.

Finally, mice - dead or alive are the stuff of nightmares for her.

Luckily she does the ironing. I'm not much good at that. There's the division in our house - which is not very fair really - there's more ironing to do than all the above.

Kirk said...

Can't explain why, but I'd choose removing a dead mouse to cleaning up dog pee anytime. Maybe because with the latter I'm just afraid I won't get it all.

Andrew said...

I think myself and my partner have argued about everything on earth, except for the division of labour around the home.

I would care not about the mouse or dog pee, as long as I had gloves.

Anonymous said...

This seemingly 'sexist' issue has often baffled me. While it would appear men and women are equally capable it is clear that divisions naturally appear without discussion and similar issues occur in our home.
Is it the same in same sex homes?
Is it even a ''sexist' division?
I know I am certainly content with most of the division of labour as I get older and now that I maybe facing old age on my own I am realising just how much gets done without any thought on my part.
The other day I panicked because I couldn't remember what day the bins went out!
It is my observation that each member (particularly male v female) have very different priorities. Mine is always to set the inside in order, his is to sort the outside and odd jobs.
I am learning not to sweat the small stuff.
Regards, Karen C

sarah toa said...

I'd love someone to fight with about the division of labour.

River said...

There's a dead mouse but you're choosing to leave it where it is and hope that someone else removes it.
That's the kind of thinking I just do not understand. I would just remove the mouse. Similarly, if someone else were to discover dog pee or anything else (dead mouse)I would expect the discoverer to do the cleanup.
Re next post: Put your mind at ease and find out exactly what a prolapse is.