Like most couples, my husband and I divided up our chores based on our abilities. Since my husband was unable to see dirt, I cleaned. Since I was unable to see any problem with eating Kraft Mac & Cheese mixed with Hormel Chili several times a week, my horrified husband cooked. He grew vegetables in the backyard; I maintained planters of flowers in the front.
I walked and trained our rescue dogs. I cleaned the cat litter box. I fed/ vetted/ medicated/ washed all four animals. I did the laundry. I swept the patio and front steps. I mowed the lawn. I washed dishes. With 4 shedding animals, I vacuumed every other day.
Andy washed the cars.
Obviously — at least to me — chores weren’t exactly even, but since Andy made most of the money and had the health insurance, I sucked it up. I mean, yeah, I did sometimes resent Andy for sitting on his ass in the evenings and on the weekends, while I still had dishes, vacuuming, and dogs.
Also, he never thanked me without prompting – possibly because he never noticed the difference between a clean house and a dirty one. Which is understandable, I told myself. I mean, people don’t actually notice the absence of dirt or bugs in a house. But they’d certainly notice a scuttling roach or a dog fur dust bunny the size of an orange.
On the other hand, I heaped effusive praise on my husband’s fabulous cooking and clean cars. He soaked it up, but never once thought to return the favor.
He also never heard the occasional resentful muttering over the roar of the vacuum, the rumble of the dryer, or the rush of water running in the kitchen. Our questionable division of labor continued.
Until I tore my right quadriceps muscle. I was on crutches for a month.
After a week, one of my neighbors walked by and saw me sniffling as I made my way up our front steps. She hurried over. “Autumn! What happened? Does it hurt?”
“I’m fine,” I told her. “But my garden is a wreck and there’s a dog-hair based ecosystem under the dining room table and my dogs stink and the poor cats’ litter box hasn’t been cleaned in days and I’m pretty sure there’s an ant farm in the front closet, too, but I’m fine, great, even,” I insisted, as a tear trickled down my face.
My neighbor was a working mom a few decades older than me. She had a teen daughter and a retired husband. She patted me on the back and gave me a phone number, saying, “I know just how you feel, girl. This is my house cleaner. And I’ll send over my gardener when he comes by this week.”
“You have a house cleaner AND a Gardener? Really? But your husband is home all day!”
She snorted. “Yeah, and making messes in the kitchen and definitely not weeding. Outsourcing saved my sanity and my marriage. Give it a shot.”
“I don’t know. Andy hates spending money.”
“Tell him pest removal services aren’t cheap. And neither is divorce.”
But I tucked that card away, along with my feelings of failure, as I painstakingly crutched my way inside. Instead of picking up the phone, I picked up dishes and wiped down sticky counters.
I set up vinegar traps for the increasing fruit fly population around Andy’s precious compost bucket. Then I lowered myself to the floor and scooted around on my butt, scooping out the cat box and collecting dust bunnies from under the couch.
Cleaning took hours. Andy, as usual, never noticed my efforts. Instead, he grumbled when I reminded him that the dogs needed to be fed and walked. He grumbled some more when I asked him to empty the dishwasher. And when I mentioned vacuuming, he didn’t even answer.
I went to shower, then rested and elevated my leg to recover from showering. When I eventually made it to the kitchen again, the place was a mess. Dishes weren’t put away, papers covered the counter, and dirty carrots direct from the garden covered the clean tablecloth I’d just put on the table.
Andy nonchalantly sipped a beer.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” I screamed. And because the Ashbough temper goes from 0 to Psycho in under .01 seconds, Andy didn’t have time to respond before I snatched up a plastic measuring cup and threw it across the kitchen.
No, I did not throw it at my husband.
I wish I had, though. Andy’s reflexes are excellent. He would have dodged it.
Instead, I heaved it in the opposite direction, at the corner of the room. Because my aim sucks when I’m mad, that little plastic measuring cup hit the window instead.
The glass in the window cracked.
I burst into tears, wailing, “NOOOOOO! Now that’s just one more goddamned thing I have to take care of and I did it to myself! WAAAHHHHH!”
I sank down onto the disgusting floor (you didn’t think Andy had actually vacuumed, did you?) and bawled for ten minutes. Andy gave me a wide berth as he slunk around the kitchen, belatedly tidying up as I sobbed about how hard it was to clean, and what a jerk he was for being inconsiderate, and how I’d waited on him hand and foot through two surgeries and multiple bouts of bronchitis, etc., etc.
I eventually apologized for losing my shit. Very profusely.
Andy apologized for not cleaning. Very perfunctorily.
“Bullshit,” I sniffled. “You can’t even see all the carrot dirt on the table and you just think I’m insane. Which I am, I broke the window, how could a tiny plastic cup even do that, WAAAAAHHHHH!”
“C’mon, honey, let’s get you some tissues,” Andy said, hoisting me up and handing me my crutches.
“Don’t need tissues,” I told him. I put my head on his shoulder and wiped my snotty face on his shirt. “See?”
Andy rolled his eyes. “Yeah. I see.”
“Really? You can see snot but not carrot dirt? How is that even possible?!”
“It’s a gift.”
“Your gift is my curse, damn it.”
The next day, I called my neighbor’s house cleaner. She was at our house in days, vacuuming and mopping.
By the following week, we had gardeners, too. They came every week to mow the grass and blow the leaves off our patio and front steps.
And the cracked window? Well, it turned out to be a special, expensive window, made with privacy glass and argon gas. It was also the largest window in the house. Months passed before we could afford a replacement. But that was okay. Every day, that glass reminded me not to let resentment fester and explode, lest I put cracks in something more precious than glass.
Andy never told me what he thought about the broken window. Maybe, like dirt, the crack didn’t bother him. He left it to me to explain to guests and eventually replace. Shockingly, my frugal husband never said a word about the cost of the new window.
Or a housecleaner or gardener, either.