Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitchen, bitchin, & other territorial struggles

So, like other people, I (belatedly) read Elizabeth Weil's NY Times article about her marriage with a mixture of fascination and sympathy; like many other people, it made me think about my own marriage a little differently. A lot of what I thought was, I must admit, "wow--you fight about THAT" and "whew--that's NEVER been a problem between us." Obviously, part of this is the nature of describing intimate fights to other people (would you feel a bit smug, for example, if I said that one of big simmering issues in my own marriage right now is whether the room currently housing our TV was designed to be, or was ever used as, a dining room?)--however, how a couple handles sensitive territorial issues, such as who does what in the kitchen, sits at the root of how they interact in all sorts of other ways. Hanna Rosin's passionate response (and associated comments) to Weil's article is an example of this. And for the most part, I think, Hubs and I play well with others when it comes to the kitchen.

It helps that we have fairly distinct spheres of duty, so we don't need to uh, instruct each other. Hubs handles pancakes, taco salads, and spicy salsa (I know, I know, it's straight from the 1950s mom-dad playbook); I do almost everything else, food-prep wise. We both do coffee and dishes, and we have come to an agreement about The Best Path for both activities. No "letting the dishes soak" except on special occasions; no undue uptightness about the blade cleanliness of our cheap knives. This means that either one of us can make the coffee or do the dishes without the other one silently steaming about how the other person Never Does It Right. Hubs tends to keep the refrigerator wiped down, too, something that for me is an all-day labor involving sorting through antique condiments and for him takes five minutes and leaves the food storage area much more appealing than it was.

As we run our kitchen, so we run our lives: neither one of us is especially finicky or slovenly. We don't tend to obsess; nor do we feel the need to impose "my way or the highway" rules on most activities (one exception: bedtimes. I have tend to think my life will disintegrate if I do not get to bed exactly eight hours before my alarm clock goes off, and I also worry about how many hours the kids sleep. To little avail, BTW.) We try to give each other reasonable amounts of space, both in terms of hobbies and in terms of, say, parenting strategies. As much as possible, we try to enjoy each other's company and that of our kids. We try to make things stable yet fun (in theory, anyway).

Now. If only I can figure out how to adopt this ability to nurture shared but respectful space in how I interact with my kids, I'll be all set.


Jess said...

That article was definitely thought-provoking. It sounds like you guys have things pretty well worked out for yourselves.

Kate said...

Your Hubs makes pancakes AND cleans the 'frig? He sounds like a keeper to me... :))

Melospiza said...

Kate--Oh, he's TOTALLY a keeper. Especially since he doesn't even complain EVER about how I DON'T clean the fridge.