Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Paradigm Shift in Household Chores

A few days ago, JD at I Do Things So You Don't Have To wrote a post about a visit to her mechanic. (Hilarious, as always.) Many of the commenters, including me, were women who noted that they would prefer that their husbands take care of anything involving cars. That blog post got me started thinking about the division of labor at my house, and the major paradigm shift we went through a couple of years ago.

When the Husband and I first moved in together, we divided the chores pretty evenly, with a few exceptions: I did not want to have anything to do with cars or repair of broken items (because I don't know what I'm doing), and killing bugs (because I'm a wuss). He complained bitterly about the bug-killing thing, particularly when I would wake him up to get rid of a spider, but he dealt with it.

When we built our house five years ago, our street was still partly un-built, and we spent the first winter waging war against mice. The Husband and I seldom argue, but we had a full-blown dustup over a dead mouse; he expected me to remove a carcass from a trap, and I refused. My reason? "You're the man. You're SUPPOSED to do things like get rid of dead mice." He didn't appreciate that answer, but he could tell I wasn't budging on touching the dead mouse, so he did it. The next winter, we were delighted to find that the mice had relocated to someone else's house, and we thought our dead-critter removal days were over. Boy, were we wrong.

Shortly after we moved into our house, we adopted two male Cocker Spaniels. They are great dogs, but they proved utterly useless in the Great Mouse War of '05. They would just sit and watch the mice run across the floor, cocking their heads, while I was screaming and freaking out, knowing that the verminous little monsters were going to poop in my cabinets. When we adopted Abby from the shelter in the fall of 2006, we assumed she had the same disinterest in critters that the first two dogs displayed. Boy, were we REALLY wrong.

You see, Abby only looks like a cute, spotty, little nose-kissing sweetheart; she's actually a cold-blooded killer. She started out with birds, mice, and moles in the backyard. Each time she killed something, I would have a fit and call the Husband to dispose of the carcass. And each time, he would get angrier at me for refusing to dispose of the carcass. Then came the Day of the Rabbit.

It was a weekday. I had gone home on my lunch hour, as usual, to let the dogs out and give them fresh water. When I let them out, I noticed that they all ran to the same spot in the yard, barking furiously. Never a good sign. I stepped out onto the patio and saw that they were chasing a rabbit. I was well aware of Abby's prowess at killing (she can snatch birds on the wing, if they are flying low), but I never dreamed that she would be able to catch a rabbit..until I saw the way she was pursuing it. While the boys were simply running around and around after the bunny, Abby was crossing its path, making tighter circles with each pass. I started to have a really bad feeling about Mr. Bunny and his chances of getting out of my yard alive. I tried to call Abby off, but she was completely focused--and then--POUNCE! And SHAKE!! And bye-bye, bunny.

You need to understand at this point that I absolutely love animals. I cried like a baby once when I ran over a bird, even though I'm terrified of birds and don't want them anywhere near me. So, the thought of the dead little rabbit in my back yard broke my heart. And freaked me out, when I realized that someone was going to have to get rid of it. I called the husband at work (in another city, 40 minutes away), bawling. Here's a rough transcript of that conversation (keep in mind, I'm sobbing the whole time):

Husband: Okay, Abby killed a rabbit. I'm at work--what do you want me to do about it?
Me: I don't know.
Husband: I can't drive all the way home just to pick up a dead rabbit.
Me: Are you sure?
Husband: Are you crazy?
Me (sobbing even harder): I don't think I can do it.
Husband (annoyed): You have to. The dogs can't go out again until the rabbit is taken care of.
Me: (sob)
Husband: You're going to have to get a grip. Stop crying, get a couple of grocery bags, and go out there and pick up the rabbit. Tie the bags closed; throw them in the Herbie; go in and wash your hands; and call me when you get back to work. I love you. Bye.
Me: (sob)

It was awful, but I followed his instructions. And since then, I seem to have gotten...braver, somehow. Abby has continued to kill things, and I have cleaned up dozens of carcasses, without crying. (Except for the bird that she swallowed whole, which is a blog post in itself). At some point, I decided that, if I could clean up carcasses, I could kill bugs, too. Imagine the Husband's surprise when he asked me (following a series of thumps and bangs in the kitchen) what I was doing, and I answered, "Killing a spider." I've even killed a couple of really big ones! I'm kind of proud of myself, to be honest. But I still refuse to have anything to do with the car, except for driving it. A girl can only take so much.


Kathy said...

I am in complete and total awe of you. When one of my cats brought a screaming baby bunny in his mouth into the house, I made the hubs take care of it. I think he managed to get the bunny out by spraying the cat with water. The bunny didn't make it. I feel your pain. I wasn't right all day after that.

Good for you for making progress with bugs. I'm not there yet.

p.s. I loved that post of JD's. She's a hilarious lady!

absepa said...

Kathy: The bunny did make a screaming noise-it was horrible! And Abby was loathe to give up her "prize." When I thought about getting dogs, I never considered that they would kill things...that is definitely my least favorite part of pet stewardship. (Even worse than picking up poo!)

I'm not entirely there with the bugs. I still get cold chills and have little mini freak-outs every time. Baby steps, I guess.

Ames said...

Abby killed a bunny? I couldn't clean it up, I admire you. I do kill spiders but the whole mice thing, there's no way. You tell that husband of yours he should be proud of you killing the spider much less anything else.

absepa said...

Ames: She did kill a bunny, and it was horrible. I still don't think I could take a dead mouse out of a trap, though, even after all the birds and other dead critters. You have to open the trap, and that means way too much touching stuff. If we have mice this winter, he's just going to have to do it. I have my limits.

JD at I Do Things said...

Ohhhhh. My heart goes out to you. I love all our woodland creatures, especially the bunnies, even tho they have decimated my tulip crop. Your husband sounded pretty fair and awfully sweet in his phone conversation. Tho it would've been better if he had come home to take care of it.

(and thanks for the link and shout-out!)

JD I Do Things

absepa said...

JD: He is sweet, and he handles my, err, irrationality very well. He's the one who stays calm and thinks things through, while I cry and freak out. It's just what we do.