When my friend, let’s call her Reba, told me about how she and her partner divided their household chores into ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ chores, my initial reaction was, “isn’t that a bit sexist? “ (Now before you go creeping through my Facebook friends list to see who Reba is, I’ll save you some time by telling you that she is not there. At no time in my blog posts will I use anyone’s real name unless I have their permission to do so. Plus, I like the challenge of picking a name for my friends that suits their personality. I chose Reba for this particular friend because, like the characters Reba McEntire has portrayed on her television series, my Reba is a smart, kind, loving, no-nonsense, wisecracking, sarcastic, take the bull-by-the-horns-and-lets-deal-with-it-now kind of gal – my type of BFF.) Now back to Reba’s ‘pink chores/blue chores’.
Reba went on to explain how she and her partner discussed what chores they did and did not like doing and how they negotiated who would do which specific chore. It wasn’t a matter of assuming that washing the dishes was a pink chore, per se, it was more a negotiation about who would do which chore so that no one ever felt like they were being saddled with a chore just because it was viewed male or female.
That evening, I told Sauerkraut about Reba’s pink chores, blue chores designations. I thought that this might be something he would embrace thinking, ‘that is brilliant! Let’s give it a whirl.” Instead, he looked at me and asked, “Don’t we do that already?” Already? I’m not sure what planet he’s on right now but we were galaxies apart. I wanted to discuss this. Why should Reba and her partner have pink chores, blue chores when we do not?
I’m not sure if I was expecting him to say let’s make a chart and divide the household chores by who agrees to do what. If we were to go by way of a chart, I would want stickers. I like stickers. Stickers are fun and I definitely would want to be rewarded for say, actually folding the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. I quickly surmise that Sauerkraut is not the sticker type. So, down with the chart and stickers.
Perhaps I was hoping for an “okay, let’s talk about this” and from there we would engage in negotiations about who would do what. The negotiations would go something like this:
Me: Sauerkraut, I will fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer if you agree to put your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper as soon as you take them off thereby avoiding that pile of dirty clothes accumulating beside the bed. (Clever, huh?)
Me: And I will clean up the kitchen if you agree to cook supper.
Sauerkraut: Don’t we already to that?
Me: Yes, but I will clean up the kitchen that same evening rather than, you know, leaving it for the next day. I will do this providing you cook something that doesn’t require a lot of pots. I hate washing pots. Plus, if you wouldn’t mind lining the baking pan and cookie sheets with foil before baking, say Shake ‘n Bake chicken, that would be AWESOME. (Ladies, do you see where my negotiations are going? Again, clever, huh?)
Sauerkraut: Of course.
Me: Now it is your turn. Is there anything specific you would like to negotiate?
Sauerkraut: No. Our lives are perfect just the way they are. I just want to do what makes you happy.
Me: You’re so sweet.
Sauerkraut: I know.
And in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need VISA.
But, Sauerkraut is right. We already do something like that. We just have never specifically said that one chore would be done by one specific person. It did, however, get me thinking about how we got this way.
It seems to me that it is Sauerkraut’s and my nature to be this way. He is easy going as am I. He is better at performing certain tasks than I am like car maintenance and peeing standing up. I am better at loading the dishwasher than he is because I approach it like it is a game of Tetris. I can’t really say that I am better at peeing sitting down than he is, well, because I think men in general have it the best of both worlds in that department.
What I can say is that in almost sixteen years of marriage, Sauerkraut and I have learned to pick our battles. Is the world going to end because he doesn’t always put his clothes in the dirty clothes hamper? No. Is the world going to end because I don’t load my Tetris inspired dishwasher every evening after dinner? No. What it means is that I will likely be cursing myself the next day because some of the food has now hardened on the plates. But that is my bad, no one else’s.
However, thinking of chores in terms of pink or blue, forced me to think outside the box rather than sitting there letting things fester to the point of boiling over. When I now look at the pile of dishes in the sink, I no longer mutter under my breath, “how can he not SEE that sink full of dishes?” Instead, I remind myself how I would much rather wash a sink full of dishes than lying on the cold ground trying to repair the brakes on the car for the umpteenth dozenth time. Instead of wondering why I am the only one to notice that the toilet paper roll needs replacing, I remind myself how I would much rather change the roll AND clean the toilet than having to drag the smelly garbage out of the shed in the blistering summer heat and doing a dump run. In my mind, cleaning the toilet is the lesser of two evils.
What I can also say is that if I did want to negotiate chores into categories, I know that Sauerkraut would be willing to talk about it. He just doesn’t understand why we would have to. “If there’s anything you want me to do, just ask,” is his philosophy. And herein lies the problem. I do not like to ask for help. I have been fiercely independent my whole life. An only cabbage, I am used to doing things by and for myself. Asking is an extremely difficult action for me to do. It makes me uncomfortable and anxious. It is not that I see it as a sign of weakness but more that I would hate to be a bother. I would never want anyone thinking I was taking advantage of them. But I am learning. Living with MS is teaching me that there are days when I simply cannot do things for myself and that it is okay to ask for help. More importantly, it is teaching me that people, especially Sauerkraut, genuinely want to help.
Labelling something a “pink” chore or a “blue” chore is just that … a label. It is also a fun way to face tasks that most of us wish that we did not have to do. You could very well call your chore list “his or her”, “my or your”, “shit I will do or shit you will do” or whatever works for you. There is nothing sexist about it; it merely is a way of negotiating what will work best for you as a couple. It means that you are working together for the common good of your relationship. Bottom line, it ensures that shit gets done around the cabbage patch.
Sometimes people need charts with stickers. Others, like us, are subconsciously negotiating who does what around the house without even knowing that we are doing it. Take our cabbage patch this week. After a particularly challenging MS week (sleep has been elusive, weakness has set in and it basically hurts to have my eyes open), the patch was looking like Miley Cyrus went through it on her wrecking ball. The dust bunnies were waving as they rolled by (cheeky little devils) and a couple of spiders went mad spinning their webs (what would Charlotte think?). Instead of cursing under his breath, Sauerkraut went along picking up the clutter here and there. Today, he showed those dust bunnies what karma actually means by hauling out the vacuum and exacting his revenge. I never had to utter a word.
Today was also dump run day. Being the trooper that he is, Sauerkraut knew that I didn’t have the strength to change the cats’ litter boxes before leaving so he cleaned them without being asked. I had previously designated the litter boxes as a pink chore because I had wanted the cats in the first place. See? I subconsciously decided that on my own but it is nice to know that if I wanted to negotiate cleaning the litter box by, say, taking turns cleaning it, Sauerkraut would.
That, my friends, is true freakin’ blue love right there.