That’s right, I said it: If your man is only doing 50% of the cooking, cleaning and daily straightening up that comes with being a living, breathing, sentient human being, then homeboy is getting off easy. And despite whatever you are telling yourself, your relationship is not equal. Why? Because logistics is the new housework. And logistics are not discussed in those annoying surveys that claim that while men are getting better at sharing the load of laundry (and grocery shopping, and lawn work, etc.) they are still not truly at the 50/50 break-even point.
So by my highly unscientific measure, not only are most straight married males who are married not doing a minimum of 50% of the housework, they are also probably not helping at all with the increasingly complicated, progressively more complex, ever-evolving, consistent pain-in-the-ass need for family logistics. And family logistics, my friend, is what can lead even the most competent, successful, professional, educated career woman to feel like a hot, fine mess.
Housework can be outsourced. You can easily get a once a week or once every two weeks person to come in and clean your floors, do your laundry and clean your toilets. But tell me this, oh sisterhood of the fairly educated, somewhat successful and most-of-the-time reasonable Latinas out there: who is it—nine times out of ten—who will go out and find that person to actually do the cleaning, coordinate the days and times they will come, make sure they have a set of house keys, answer all of their questions and show them exactly what needs to be done, how you like it done, what cleaning products are used for what when it is not obvious (linen spray, anyone?) and then make sure that a steady supply of said materials are around when said cleaning person actually shows up to do their job? Newsflash: It’s usually the chick that does all of it.
IT TAKES LOGISTICS TO OUTSOURCE
You can sign up for a service like taskrabbit to hire someone to take your laundry to the dry cleaning and pick it up, wait in line for you at the cable company, get your car washed, mow your lawn, or just show up at your house on any agreed-upon Saturday to do generic “handyman” work. But who posts the task on taskrabbit.com, arranges the standard phone interview to make sure they are functional literates who can string a meaningful sentence together, does the obligatory Google search to make sure they have never robbed anyone and negotiates a fair fee for the tasks? Who usually takes care of that? Yup. La mujer.
I can hear the derisive cackles coming right about now. Even my closest girlfriends would call any tale of woe around a housecleaner “rich people problems.” And fine, let’s give the expected shout-out to the single mom who is taking care of business all on her own, nary a housekeeper in sight. I hear you. I was there once. But I’m not anymore. My ass is a full-time working professional Latina mom married to a full-time working professional Latino dude and guess what? One of the first things we treated ourselves to when our salaries permitted was a housekeeper. But who actually found our housekeeper Nirsa who we now can’t live without? (We gave up cable, cabs and eating out recently in cost-cutting moves. Nirsa? Never entered our minds for a minute.) Me. Who negotiated her salary? That would be me. Who does Nirsa write notes to when we are running low on dry cleaning sheets, floor cleaning solution or Swiffer wipes? Um, yeah. Me. My dear husband has been very efficient in communicating the existence of these notes to me via text or a quick call on the cell: “There’s a note for you from Nirsa.” But are the notes ever addressed to him, or are the contents of the notes ever seamlessly woven into the weeks grocery list? Not really, no.
KIDS = LOGISTICS TO THE NTH POWER
Got kids? Then the logistics-are-the-new-women’s-work conundrum becomes even worse. Kids are force multipliers on your daily to-do-list. Who remembers that Juanito needs a lunch on Tuesday because his second grade class is taking a field trip to the museum, that Maria needs a permission slip signed and an apple for her earth sciences unit on Friday? Even the best nanny in the world can’t be expected to buy the brand of glittery kids toothpaste that doesn’t sting, write a note to the teacher about an upcoming doctor’s appointment, actually make the doctor’s appointment, ask permission from your boss to take the wee one to said appointment, and trim her bangs so she no longer looks mal criada—all before Monday. Every single one of those mind-numbing, energy-sapping, time-sucking, endlessly changing mini-tasks are usually done by one person: Mami. If you are really lucky, maybe abuelita drops in on a random Thursday to help with a task or two. God bless abuelitas everywhere!
What really kills me is when I see women taking on this huge management burden in an effort to make things fair! You read that right: They take on the job of assigning tasks so that homeboy knows what he needs to do with his kid when he gets home at night. Take my friend C. She is the VP of international marketing for one of the top media companies in the world. A regular month in her life includes a trip to Venice and/or London to meet with the teams that report to her, quality time with her beautiful boy who recently turned two, quality time with her loving husband, who she has been with for years, a monthly hair appointment and attendance at her book club meeting, of which we are both members. In short, she is a bad ass. So imagine my surprise when she described how she made a list EVERY WEEK of who was supposed to do what every weeknight in terms of childcare for their son. Her exact words were something along the lines of “I make him a list so that he knows exactly what to do.” Really? Really?
LOGISTICS LEAD TO MOMMY’S LITTLE HELPER
But at least C is only making lists. There was an article in The New York Times recently about women who take sleeping pills to help them get some shut-eye. In the throes of reporting that Ambien is the new Valium, the reporter dutifully quoted some women on what, exactly, was keeping these women up at night. Searching, fearless moral inventories of themselves? The dwindling value of their IRA’s? The outcome of the next election? No. It was logistics. Or, in the words of one woman, it was the nonstop mental list of to-do’s that go something like: “I need to call that guy about fixing the car. I think I’ve run out of my daughter’s favorite snack. Should I change the batteries in the smoke alarm?”
Plus, there are products now on the market that enable—nay, encourage—women to keep up this unfair burden. In January, I was poking around my favorite store in the world (Target) looking at 2012 calendars—always deeply discounted when you buy them after the year has already started—and came across a calendar that made me want to either throw up or punch somebody in the face: It was smugly called an “OrganizHER” calendar and it featured a space for Mom to note her activities on any given day and a second, much larger, space where she could write the activities of all of the other family members. There was even a patronizing “example” in case all of the ingrate female breeders who are rushing out to buy this useless piece of crap couldn’t possibly figure out on their own what goes where on this mind-bending new paper technology that so clearly exceeds even the interwebz in terms of complex innovations that have made this world a better place. I was pissed.
The last time I got that angry was years ago when I saw some clueless dude on the subway pushing a stroller and wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed “I Change Diapers.” I had to fight the urge to go up to him and tell him “You’re supposed to do that, you low-assed standards having d-bag” but I was tired and cranky, the subway car was packed, and my stop came. I was also childless at the time, so I did not think of going up to him and demanding to know who, exactly, made sure there were enough diapers in the diaper bag to cover the diaper needs of this particular excursion, who did a price comparison on a per diaper basis of getting huge boxes of bulk Costco diapers versus Amazon.com boxes of Huggies delivered monthly with free second-day shipping, who picked the appropriate ass cream, and who, pray tell, who, exactly made sure the portable wipes container was adequately refilled? “I Change Diapers” indeed. . .
HUBBIES, MEET TIM GUNN
So what am I to do now that I have gone to school, gotten my education, have my career, a marriage and children and find myself in this logistical quagmire without the proper Project Management certification that is clearly needed to deal with the complicated logistical needs of a modern family? What are my options now that I have the husband I always wanted but am sorely missing the housewife I so desperately need? First, I think I will go to Target and buy my beloved husband an OrganizeHer calendar. Second, the next to-do list I make out for said hubby will have one and only one item on it: “Handle It.” I may consider having this tattooed on his forehead as well. Well, maybe not his forehead, as he is gainfully employed, has an engineering degree from an Ivy League school and doesn’t like to frighten his boss. Writing it, or texting it, should suffice. Should my husband receive this list, read it, and look at me with a bewildered, befuddled quizzical look, I will be patient and zen-master like by giving him additional instruction in the calm, even tone of the man who first brought this command into popular culture consciousness, Tim Gunn, and simply say, “Make it work.” Because that’s what women do. We make. it. work.