I realized last weekend why women can't relax, and why men can't understand that.
Do you remember the song Without You from My Fair Lady? In it, Eliza Doolittle is explaining to Professor Higgins that he is not, in fact, The Boss of Her:
Without your pulling it the tide comes in,
Without your twirling it the Earth can spin,
Without your pushing them, the clouds roll by,
If they can do without you, Ducky, so can I!
The trouble is: without women pulling it, the tide won't come in!
Women of my mother's generation were supposed to rear Harvard scholars, keep the house spotless, cook gourmet meals and be waiting at the door at 6 p.m. - freshly coiffed, made up and perfumed, and holding a pitcher of martinis to boot. Nowadays women are supposed to do all this, drive the car pool and hold down a full-time job.
The one constant in most families is a woman trying to be some sort of House Elf. She is in charge of making the home run smoothly (even in cases where the husband does as much or more than she does housework-wise, the wife is usually the coordinator). Division of labor lessens the load in one way but increases it in another – even adult children must often be prodded, nagged and reminded on a daily basis to do their chores – a job for Guess-Who?
You may think to yourself, “Well, they may not notice what I do, but they certainly would notice it if it were not done.” I've got news for you there – I once went on strike and no one noticed for two weeks – and then only because I told them. I learned a hard truth: No one but me cares if the house is dusted or not, they'd just as soon eat whatever they can scrounge whenever they feel hungry, and they can't tell the difference between clean clothes and dirty clothes.
The problem, I regret to say, is us. Women have standards. We can picture in our minds how we'd like our homes, relationships and lives to be, and we bend all our super-powers to the attainment of those goals. Yes, it is important to teach your children the difference between right and wrong, between the salad fork and the dinner fork – but they don't care. It is far more convenient and aesthetically pleasing for your husband to use the laundry hamper instead of the floor, but he doesn't care about aesthetics, you do* – and besides, the House Elf will pick them up for him, right?
Generally speaking, women have always been the ones who have encouraged gentility, cleanliness and civility – and though it's worthwhile, I'm sure it's always been an uphill battle, too. However, I believe it's time we learned something from our husbands. They have a super power I'd love to borrow: They know when to call it a day. Then know when to turn off Employee Mode and turn on the relaxation time.
Come to think of it, maybe that was the real reason for the high heels, perfume and martinis at 6; it was a signal to the woman that she was done being the House Elf for the day, and the rest of the tides could wait until tomorrow to come in!
*Actually, Lance doesn't do this. Thanks, Sweetheart!