As any feminist will tell you, it’s an old joke that men remain useless when it comes to housework, childcare, and daily meal preparation. Like most old jokes, it’s not funny. I know because I am that old joke.
My wife was exposed to the coronavirus. She’s not sick, thank God, but she is in self-quarantine. And I am now a feminist.
We husbands and fathers have been promising for decades to shoulder our fair share of domestic chores. And yet we still consider our main domestic chore to be watching golf on television. This is wrong – especially when there is no golf on television.
But now, I’m in charge of cleaning, cooking, and the supervision of two teenagers.
Did you know that the “dish soap” on the kitchen counter next to the sink is different from the “dish soap” in the kitchen cabinet next to the dishwasher? Even though they are both clearly labeled “dish soap”?
The resulting Mount Vesuvius of foam, however, does mean that – technically – I’ve washed the kitchen floor.
There’s a shortage of basic household goods at the moment, so resorting to paper plates seems wasteful. And putting them in the dishwasher doesn’t work… no matter what kind of soap you use.
Speaking of discoveries, where do dishes go?…We had a full complement of dishware. Within 48 hours, it was all missing.
Speaking of discoveries, where do dishes go? When my wife went into isolation, we had a full complement of dishware. Within 48 hours, it was all missing.
I made reluctant forays into teen-occupied areas of the house, such as bedrooms and the finished basement. These had been reasonably tidy just a few days ago. Now they seem to have been hit by a bomb armed with a clothes, shoes, electronic devices, sports equipment, and personal grooming items warhead.
I found glasses of curdled milk in sock drawers, half-eaten bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios on closet shelves, mugs full of cocoa sludge hanging from coat hooks, peanut butter encrusted flatware being used as bookmarks in algebra texts, and platters of petrified SpaghettiOs tucked under couch cushions.
OK, so that’s where the dishes go… But where does laundry come from? I’ve been doing four loads a day. Why? I’ve been wearing the same flannel shirt and dad jeans since we got the bad news from the Wuhan wet market. And the kids are going nowhere except to school online, so they’re just in their sweats.
But they’re constantly video chatting with their friends. Maybe there’s an elaborate sweat clothes dress code that I don’t know about. Daytime sweats, evening sweats, city sweats, country sweats, casual sweats, formal sweats, maybe even – anything is possible – sweatshirts and sweatpants for when they’re working up a sweat exercising.
Plus, I’m washing dozens and dozens of towels. How many towels does it take to dry a teen? I’d understand the influx if I had 500-pound teens, but mine are of normal size.
At least the towels survive my washing and drying. I think the controls on our washer and dryer were designed by the same person (a man, I’m sure) who designed the controls on the Boeing 737 Max… especially the temperature control. (If you have a doll collection and want tiny, adorable sweatshirts and sweatpants to dress the dolls in, contact me after the pandemic.)
Aside from hiding the dishes and smothering me in damp terrycloth, my kids have been great during this lockdown. Either that, or they haven’t noticed it. Not being able to hang around with friends, their faces are pasted to their phones – in the exact same way that their faces are pasted to their phones when they are able to hang around with friends.
This worries me a little. I know nothing about the courtship rituals of modern adolescents – and don’t want to find out – but in the back of my mind, I have a sad picture of a pair of 21st century teenagers in a car parked in a dark, secluded spot and faintly visible within is the glow of two small screens.
My kids do miss their mother, particularly at mealtimes. The only cooking I know how to do is on the charcoal grill. It turns out you can’t cook all foods the way you grill hamburgers and hotdogs, as I discovered with frozen peas.
Also, because I’m strictly a charcoal griller, I don’t know how to cook without a beer in one hand. I’m not sure this sets a good example for the kids at breakfast.
But I need a beer… It’s not just that the house is a wreck, dinner is on fire, and the kids are doing who knows what on their phones. I’m also trying to grasp the fact that more than half of all mothers (and, to make things worse, many of them have husbands) hold full-time jobs while doing the housework, childcare, and daily meal preparation.
It’s a miracle, like the parting of the Red Sea. In the Bible, we get the Moses version. But I’ll bet you anything it was Mrs. Moses – wet mop in one hand and PhD in oceanography in the other – who actually made sure the Israelites were high and dry.
Meanwhile, my wife called. She said, “I’m pretty sure Dr. Anthony Fauci just announced that self-quarantine should last for 14 weeks.”