Friday night, 8 p.m. By some temporal miracle, you've gotten the family fed, the little ones in bed - victory! - and you haven't yet fallen asleep face-first into the dishes. You're amazing. And there's still miles to go. You're dragging yourself to the washing machine to pull out that last load of sheets -- the ones you plan to sleep on tonight, because somehow those are always the last thing in -- when your dear, sweet, beloved other half comes tiptoeing around the corner. Arms out, flirting, he's moving in for a little frisky Friday foray.
You see it coming before he even gets close. You do that stiff-backed thing, spine and shoulders sending off loud, flashing "Really. I'm *still* working" signals, but Feely Dan is clueless. He's a seventh grade Cory to your Topanga. He's an 18-year-old boy who's still shocked you agreed to go to the prom with him. He's got his game all the way on. He's whispering sweet nothings. He's not noticing the mess on the table, the pile of dishes from dinner, or the curious stain you're currently scrubbing. He's only got eyes for you.
You. The one still cleaning.
It's happened to all of us. We're either fixing dinner, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or just doing one of the other zillion household tasks that pile up innocuously during the week and then hit you like a mack truck as soon as you have a free minute. And it all comes back to the age-old question: How do you balance an ever-growing to-do list, your personal life, family life, military life, housework, *and* sex?
I take comfort that even Achilles' girlfriend probably had to deal with the problem, but it's an all too familiar one, sometimes. It's not that I don't love you, or want you, it's just that I'm still cleaning. I joked about this with friends at breakfast the other day, and I not-so-facetiously suggested that I'd be a lot more likely to hop in the bed at the drop of a dime if someone else had would throw all those cammies in the washer.
Really, that would go a long way in steaming up the house.
Study after study tells us that household chores and sex rank right up there with faithfulness on the list of things that are most important to the success of a marriage. And if the uniforms piled up in the corner are any evidence, housework might be the most immediate, smelly concern.
The math is pretty simple. The research shows that the more housework a husband does, the happier his wife. That's science's way of saying "Honey, when you do your own laundry, and I'm not left trying to bat your hand away while pulling out yet another missing sock from under this pile of dirty clothes from the field, I'm more likely to smile at you sweetly when you give me that look. Not scowl and give you the evil eye."
To put it bluntly: honey, let me introduce you to the mop. You're about to be best friends.
In our house, we try to walk a fine line between spice and sweeping by making sure everything's split down the middle. I do my laundry; my husband does his. We share the rest of the chores (even cooking dinner!) fifty-fifty, and it works pretty well. (I should note that I'm often told how lucky I am that we split our domestic responsibilities so evenly. It's really not luck, though. It's sheer determination. I will let those cammies sit there unwashed and ripe with funk until it's time to move them outside where they can rot properly until they're cleaned. And anyway, before it comes to that, my husband sees the grace provided by that amazing domestic miracle, ye olde washing machine, and he'll throw in some mopping and dusting, too, for good measure.)
But splitting all the household chores isn't easy, not even in our house. We can be honest that most of us live in homes where the adults in the house have divergent views of what "sparkling clean" is. And for many of us, that means calling it a fifty-fifty split when it's more like fifty-fifty nominal sharing and a 67-33 actual split. It might be 2012, but women are still doing twice as much housework as men.
Back at a breakfast date with my girlfriends, we pondered the eternal puzzle: How do we balance these things and make it work? One friend suggested sexy outfits for housework. I suggested hiring a maid. The kind without sexy outfits, if we're being picky. But I also assume I'm getting a maid the day I win the lottery, so we'll see how that goes. The third shrugged her shoulders and we all laughed, because the truth is, no matter what the rhythm is in your house, it's *still* an ongoing problem.
How do you navigate the calls of house, home and honey? Do you manage a split, or are you totally in charge? If you are, incidentally, don't worry: apparently you're rocking a great sex life, too. Women who say they do more housework then their spouses also report having a more active sex life than their peers. I'm pretty sure this just means that honesty is the best policy, because even I can admit that I gave up and threw some green t-shirts into the wash today. But it was an isolated incident, I swear.
What are your secrets for chores and housework? Take our poll and let us know your style -- and check out the results, also below.