Trading places in COVID-19 spaces

How couples split household chores can be a bit of a hot topic, even in this day-and-age, but I wonder how COVID-19 may have shaken things up for spouses who are now suddenly spending more time together at home, or had their entire routines upended.

With all the serious issues swirling around, I thought it might be nice to write a lighter column this week on the joys and challenges of cohabitating with a significant other.

I suppose it may make me seem like a bit of a hypocrite, as I believe whole-heartedly in gender equality, but I sure appreciate being married to a handy, physically strong man when it comes to yard work, vehicle repairs and home renovations.

I readily admit I’m a bit of a contradiction, as I’m a firm feminist, but perhaps have my own definition of what that actually means, and I’m aware it may seem like an oxy-moron.

Gender ‘equality’ doesn’t have to mean we’re the same, right? He has different strengths than I do, and I appreciate that very much and don’t see anything wrong with that.

While there are many things I appreciate about my spouse of nine years, watching him lift the couch while vacuuming underneath it has to be one of the highlights.

For one, I appreciate that he doesn’t see housework as a female domain, and I wouldn’t tolerate it if he did. For the second … well I’m sure you can imagine.

By that logic however, I should be willing to mow the lawn but I’m not quite there yet. I’m quite content to allow him to take care of some of the more physically demanding tasks and focus on things more suited to my abilities.

Although I don’t subscribe to strict, traditional gender role stereotypes, I do appreciate his skill sets as they are completely non-existent in me.

My home renovation skills are limited to cutting in for painting, and holding things steady … a job I was frequently given as a child when my dad needed help around the house.

I enjoy baking, a relatively new hobby I’ve undertaken, and know how to clean well, though I wouldn’t say I enjoy it. Those are about the extent of my homemaking skills.

And although I cherished my time at home with my children, I always tried to have something to keep my mind busy, and enjoy working outside of the home.

When I got a flat tire last fall, a co-worker despaired at my lack of knowledge of how to change it to the spare. I tend to rely on my husband for such things, which I’m aware will likely catch up to me someday.

There are definitely certain things I should learn how to do. And I will … someday.

During this ongoing situation, many couples are getting long-awaited tasks accomplished at home, either by working together or perhaps by nudging their spouse into completing them.

I think if I ever tried to give my husband a “honey-do list,’ however, that the power of his glare would burn it to ash right in my over-presumptuous, outstretched hand.

He refuses to be a workhorse beholden to my will, just as I resist being wholly responsible for home and hearth. Instead, we each have mutually agreed upon tasks that we are responsible for.

He has more domestic skills than I have. He does the majority of the cooking due to our schedules, as well as loading the dishwasher (which I hate), while I do the laundry and make kids’ lunches and we all do chores together on the weekends.

We’re very different when it comes to our social needs and energy levels, though I like to think we balance each other out. He encourages me to venture out of my comfort zone and to try new things, and he says my sombre, quiet nature has a calming effect on him.

When I started working again full-time, it took awhile to ease into a comfortable routine, and there was some initial trial and error to find what worked best for us.

Likewise, things changed rapidly in the weeks after schools and businesses closed in March, sometimes from week to week, and it was certainly a challenging time for families.

Through it all, I’ve felt fortunate to have a spouse that was supportive, flexible, and worked with me to make needed adjustments to schedules and routines so we could carry on.

How has your routine with your spouse changed since COVID-19 closures began?

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