There are many things I am good at and there are many things I like. These two ideals do not always come together in the middle section of a Venn diagram because life doesn’t work that way and if in your case it does then you probably have no debt, a roof that doesn't need repair, and a full tank of gas in your recently vacuumed minivan. Please take your rescue dog on a 20 km run; there's nothing for you to see here.
The same talent/ability conflation applies to my children, my 15 year-old daughter especially. She does many things well — very well, even — and some things not-so-well. But her joy does not necessarily come from the things she excels at, and one thing is for sure: she is not domestic. This girl has the ability to perform many duties in our household, and has an extensive list of chores I expect she do which she is fully capable yet seldom completes properly and never with a smile. She’s been in charge of washing her own laundry since she was 11, she can vacuum and dust, and when called upon to do so, she can prepare a simple meal if starvation seems imminent. But the girl has no appreciation or love for the domestic arts, and in fact she hates it all. There is no glory to be found in these tasks, she feels. She feels a lot of things; because “feeling things” is 98% of being a teenager.
Her ambivalence towards domestic chores pleases me to no end, although would it kill her stop scowling when she unloads the dishwasher?
She knows enough about cooking and cleaning to see her through, and at least enough to keep her off future episodes of Hoarders. She is young and looking forward to moving away somewhere to University and then on to full independence after that. I’m not worried about her eating only take-out pizza or being restricted to wash and wear clothing for the rest of her life. My daughter is savvy and will no doubt find a roommate or friend who will cook or iron in some sort of barter exchange. My daughter rocks at math, science, and hair straightening, so it’s not like I’m sending her out into the world unprepared.
I’m also happy that she doesn’t have to like domestic pursuits. She won’t hesitate to tell you that no, I don’t want to bake cookies, and why would I, seeing as there is a bakery on the corner?
When I was first married, my husband and I both worked full time, with similar hours and commute times. But I did 100% of the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, and the shopping. At first I even enjoyed it. It was my first vestige into adulthood and I loved “playing” house. But by time the non-scratch coating wore off our wedding-gift pots and pans, I was ready to forgo health insurance for a cook and maid service. My husband did his share of work around the house, but it was fun stuff like mowing the lawn or raking the lawn or staring at the lawn, or drinking beer with friends while talking about the lawn. No one ever came over to drink beer with me while we discussed vacuum cleaner models.
The domestic jobs fell to me because I was the one who knew how to do them. My partner had many skills, but because I was the one who knew what a vegetable was, and how to press the start button on a dryer, those tasks fell to me. My daughter can keep herself alive (and possibly others) with her limited ability in the kitchen. As long as someone continues to make dried pasta, she’s not going to starve. I realize that not everything in life has to be as fun as spending time on the lawn, but the burden of domestic chores shouldn’t go completely unshared, either. If both partners enter a relationship equally clueless in the domestic realm, things will sort themselves out. Water eventually finds it’s own level, as will the pile of dishes covering her future counter top.
I don’t want my daughter finding herself in a relationship where the domestic chores automatically fall to her because a) she’s female; and b) she knows how to do them more aptly than her partner. At least with her visible distaste for housework she has a fighting chance. I’m glad our world is changing even just a little to become a place where “darns socks” and “roasts a mean garlic chicken” aren’t on the mandatory list when searching out a life partner.
If they are on her list, she had better look for someone who can do those things, because she’d rather spend her time eating bakery cookies on the lawn.