Bob’s household help isn’t always worth the effort

Bob's household help isn't always worth the effort By Bob Karolevitz This is confession time.

I'm lucky I came along when I did. I became a young husband at the tail end of the Male Macho Era when men hardly lifted a finger around the house and wives did all the dirty work.

My only excuse is that I didn't give it a thought. I didn't consider it my due. It was just tradition, that's all.

Phyllis cooked the meals, made the beds, washed the dishes, did the laundry, scrubbed the floor and raised the kids.

I hardly remember what I did. I guess I mowed the lawn, replaced the burned out light bulbs, paid the bills and read the daily paper. Being mechanically inept, I didn't even qualify as a good fix-it man.

No wonder there was a women's liberation movement!

We men were the bread-winners, the hunter-providers of a custom that went all the way back to Neanderthal days. The women made the nest, scraped the hides and had children when they weren't busy cleaning out the cave.

There was no Lamaze program when Jan was born. I didn't go near the delivery room in the Seattle hospital. I just paced the floor in the waiting area while Phyllis and the doctor did their thing away from my squeamish eyes. It didn't get any better with Jill.

By today's standards, I was probably a lousy young father. With the two girls, I think I changed diapers just once or twice. I remember the last time because when I rinsed out the diaper in the toilet stool, it slipped out of my hand and I clogged up the plumbing. After that Phyllis told me to clean out the garage or do some other male-type thing and leave the babies to her.

I don't recall seeing my dad with a dish towel or a dust cloth in his hand. And my maternal grandfather was definitely a product of the old school. My grandmother died relatively young, worn out by the birth of 16 children and endless household chores.

The change came rather quickly with the advent of two parents with jobs outside the home. It became necessary for the husband to pick up at least a share of the load. In time the idea of men taking their place in the laundry room, behind a vacuum cleaner or as a microwave chef became commonplace.

There are, of course, a number of holdout traditionalists. However, some wives prefer it that way because their husbands cause more problems than their help is worth. I guess I fall into that category.

I try to help Phyllis as much as I can these days, but I've been told more than once to get the heck out of the kitchen. My all-thumbs approach, not to mention my suggestions for various shortcuts, often cause her to say: "Go away. I can do it easier by myself."

After 48-plus years, I recognize that the caveman concept of marriage is no longer valid. Husbands can't relax with pipe and slippers as they once did while their wives washed the dishes and put the kids to bed.

If I had to do it over again, I suppose I'd try harder. One thing is certain: I'd have taken a better hold of that diaper before I flushed the john.

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