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Help, Hints, And Hope For Househusbands
Gentlemen, start your vacuums...
Well it had to happen, didn’t it? Women entered the previously male dominated world of work and, basically, proved that they could do everything better than men.
Then the economy goes scuba diving, and many men simply floated to the surface, unwanted, the flotsam of our brave new world. So, with women now being the primary breadwinners in a growing number of households, what exactly are the men to do?
If, even for a fleeting moment, you entertained the notion that you had just entered an extended vacation period, albeit with much less money, you have probably discovered the hard way, exactly how wrong you are.
With a simple “what did you do today?” our womenfolk bring us to heel, and the harsh reality, that “nothing…” is the wrong response.
And that reality is indeed harsh. Most of us justified our existence by bringing money home. In fact how much money you bought home, to a large extent, defined who you were. It purchased all the symbols of your importance, your guy-ness, the house, the car, the suits, and the ability to shoot the shit with your buds. Without the filthy lucre you are in fact stripped of all the protective layers.
You stand exposed, naked, with only your wits and talents to cover up your vulnerable spots.
At the outset, denial works as a pretty effective coverall, but it wears thin very quickly. The impact this has on your self-esteem is decimating. Very quickly you realize that you need your partner not only for the necessities of life like food and shelter, you also need them for some pretty major emotional support. Once the initial feelings of failure and anger and disbelief fade away after loosing your job, you, being a guy, start to plan.
Job one is treating your job hunt like a job. Your home becomes your office which involves going out and buying the stuff that, to date, had pretty much been provided by your employer. This can get a bit spendy, so you have to be prepared to justify the purchases (it’s not ‘your’ money, remember?) At this point you realize that the bullshit explanations that served you well in the world of work absolutely do not fly with Mrs. Moneymaker.
You are so busted.
Resumes, contacts, and networks, occupy a massive chunk of your day, which brings with it the realization that a great many of your friends, in fact, aren’t.
Then it gets exponentially worse.
You are at home.
She is not.
You have time.
She does not.
You need to start “helping around the house”. At first this involves brave little forays into tidying up stuff and clearing things away. Which is not close to enough…
I mean, you could at least ensure that there is a meal ready for her when she comes home. Takeout works for a little while, but honestly, you really need to learn to cook. TV can be a great help in this arena, and after a success or two, it can be great fun.
And, when you think about it, she really shouldn’t have to vacuum and dust at the weekend, so… “Could you do that for me, honey?” You will only hear said that way once, and it is not a clue, it is an instruction. Get it done or suffer the consequences.
You have now taken your first tentative steps to becoming a househusband. You are horribly under-prepared for this role and will probably make the classic rookie mistake of thinking, “How hard can it be?”
It is hell.
OK, this is how it works.
To cook you need ingredients. You will quickly run out of stuff lurking in the fridge or pantry, so you will need to go shopping. There are these huge places called supermarkets and although they are a bit like the place at the gas station, they have entire areas dedicated to things other than beer and snacks. The first time might be a bit intimidating, I admit, but go around the store in a logical order and you will get the idea.
(An interesting sidebar. When you finally get through the checkout, the perky young lady ringing up your groceries will ask, “Did you find everything alright?” Do not react, she is not questioning your mental faculties, she says that to everyone. It is moronic, of course. Are you really going to go back and grab that can of beans you forgot and piss off everyone in line behind you? No, of course not. When you reach “master” househusband status, your response will be, “I noticed they moved the Lysol to the endcap, nearly missed it…” as you hand over your reusable bags. Until then, the answer is a simple “Yes, thanks.”)
To clean you need products. Products are in fact chemical experiments waiting to go wrong. You cannot, in fact, unbleach stuff. It is entirely possible to use too much product, (I know, right?), especially in the laundry. Do not treat products like ingredients for some sort of cleaning martini, noxious gasses may be released, and your skin is not as attached to you as you might think. You might feel that it might be better to avoid all products, but trust me, the inevitable ‘lesson’ in how to use them properly from your bemused partner is as painful as removing all your fingerprints by the aforementioned bleach.
To clean you also need equipment. You will quickly need to familiarize yourself with the loud sucky thing, called a vacuum cleaner. The oven and stovetop need to be mastered so you don’t always have to rely on the cooking box that goes ding. Meanwhile, the laundry room equipment is a whole other spike in your learning curve. Trust me, you will never visit Sears in exactly the same way, ever again.
Fear not, my friend, you need not enter this world alone. I am here to help. No, I am not some reincarnation of Martha Stewart, or a graduate of the metrosexual male academy. I did it the guy way.
That would be the wrong way.
But I got better. I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
I am a househusband, and I’m here to help.
Dear Hub Reader
If you enjoy this hub, please check out my book,
Homo Domesticus; A Life Interrupted By Housework,
A collection of my best writings woven into a narrative on a very strange year in my life.
Available directly from: