A number of years ago, my husband was showing his Great Uncle Abie the house we were in the process of building. To appreciate this story, it’s necessary to understand that my husband has a tendency to do things on a grand scale, usually without worrying much about the emotional and physical fallout that any rational person (meaning me) would take into account. The house was large (i.e., massive) and its design was better suited (in my humble opinion) to a seaside motel. It’s pertinent also to know that my husband frequently quoted the old adage: “Build a house and lose a spouse,” but he must have figured this only applied to lesser mortals!
My husband’s friends (men) would comment on the construction and ask lots of questions using words like square footage, shingles, bolts and nails. Perhaps they had doubts about the size and design of the structure, but still they could be interested in the details and the process of building it. In stark contrast, any of my friends (women) who saw the house would immediately ask “Who’s going to clean that thing?”
Uncle Abie was one of the delightful in-laws I inherited, and had been a farmer before he retired to Florida. Farming has never been an easy life, full of brutally hard work, unpredictable weather, and many ways in which a farmer can be injured. Uncle Abie had his share, but none of this had lessened his calm and philosophical way of thinking.
After a good look at the construction, my husband asked “So, Uncle Abie, what do you think?” There was a significant pause while Uncle Abie considered his answer. I knew he was a kind man who would want to be supportive of his great-nephew’s hard work, but also an honest man who might want to say something like “Are you out of your ever-loving mind?” Finally, Uncle Abie smiled and said quietly, “Not a one-man job.”
That phrase has stuck with me over the years. Certainly in farming there are many jobs that are difficult, if not impossible, to do by yourself and I have often been called upon to assist with tasks that are clearly not a one-man job. I recognize that asking for help in those situations is reasonable and necessary and I help, albeit often with sighs, groans and significant eye-rolls.
Warning: Here’s where the snark and stereotypes begin.
Have you ever heard the phrase “one-woman job?” Me neither. Because, frankly, any job a woman gets is a “one-woman job.” Case in point would be care of the dog we have “owned” for the past year. The story of how Molly came into our home can be read here, and will provide a good foundation for the rest of this story.
Most of the day-to-day responsibility for Molly over the past year has been mine. With some exceptions, I was taking her outside when she was a puppy and couldn’t make it through the night. Sometimes my sciatica, bum knee or general, all-purpose arthritis made that task more difficult, but I still managed to do it without waking any other human in the house. When Molly could make it through the night, it was still me releasing her from her sleeping crate, taking her outside to do her business; feeding her and then doing my best to entertain her behind closed doors so my husband could sleep.
Because we live on a substantial piece of property, Molly is not generally on a leash when I walk her, but as she got larger and stronger it became almost impossible for me to safely walk her on a leash anyway. (Yes, I know we should have put more energy into training her. Don’t ask…..) Because her Black-Lab personality includes scarfing up unknown substances in the fields, a few weeks ago my husband decided that he would take over the morning walk, since he is strong enough to control her when necessary.
Surprise!! What used to be a one-woman job has now morphed into “not a one-man job.” Yes, my husband has gotten up earlier than usual and taken Molly out every day for the past several weeks, and I honestly give him credit for that. It’s also true that I am up early anyway. But somehow the job still involves me. “Can you get Molly’s kerchief and put it on her?” “Can you change the water in her bowl before we get back?” “It’ll be raining soon, so I’ll text you when I’m heading back so you can help me dry her off.” “Can you boil some water and make my cup of tea so it will be ready when I get back?”
There are many other tasks that are mine either by agreement or default, such as dishes, dinner, grocery shopping, looking up things on the Internet, remembering everyone’s birthday, address and phone number, and maintenance of financial records. These have always been “one-woman jobs.” I am not territorial at all and would be happy to get help with them, but only if they don’t become a”one man+one woman-job.”
©Martha Hurwitz, 5/12/20