The recalibration of household chores.
It’s one of the most unexpected difficulties I’ve encountered in the wake of my divorce and subsequent sharing of custody with my kids’ dad. Anyone headed down the rocky road of divorce anticipates the emotional and psychological wallops that accompany the unnaturalness of being away from their kids half the time. But some of the more mundane stuff you end up dealing with is an unforeseen additional level of disorientation.
So here is where I find myself domestically: After years of being on my shopping/cooking/laundry game, I cannot get a handle on how much milk the kids are going to go through or how quickly they’ll consume the bananas and bread during their time at my house. Thus far it’s been a veritable dump-fest of sour milk; a murder-spree of bananas, their rotting corpses littering the counter-top until I admit defeat and dispose of the bodies. No, the symbolism of sour and rotten surrounding a marriage that ends in divorce isn’t lost on me. And don’t tell me to make lemons out of lemonade, er, banana bread out of rotten bananas, because what single parent on the planet has time to bake? Not I, said the banana murderer.
You get married and slowly learn the subtle dance involved in negotiating a living space with another person. Eventually, you know the pattern like you know the lyrics to your favorite song: You understand exactly how much milk/laundry soap/toilet paper/bananas to buy before the next shopping trip. It becomes second nature — how much food to buy to make the meals that will feed your family for a week. You shop on autopilot. You know which days of the week you have to do laundry or risk not having clean underwear, and you come to an understanding over who does which chore. Bathroom cleaning: me; lawn-mowing: him; vacuuming: me; raking leaves: him; cooking: both; laundry: both. The chores that fall under the other person’s domain no longer enter your thoughts unless someone slacks. Same thing happens when kids come along. Each person gravitates to their role and other responsibilities are shared or eventually negotiated after a couple of arguments. Either way, the home eventually runs very nearly on autopilot with both partners understanding their choreography in the dance of marriage.
One day the dance stops. Record scratch, music over. The guy who always hung the curtains with his handy drill is in his house hanging his own curtains and you realize you need to buy a drill and figure out how to use it. The person who mowed the lawn is mowing his own lawn and now you’ve got to schedule in an hour or two to handle yard work every week. Basically, in addition to being a solo parent when the kids are with you, you now have double the jobs you used to have and the ones that just got added to your list are unfamiliar or you flat out don’t know how to do them.
I’ve never felt more divorced than when mowing my lawn. I can never remember to check the mail, because it’s something he delighted in doing. Dragging the garbage cans to the curb is another task that makes me keenly aware of my new-found singleness.
On the bright side, I guess I no longer have to suffer through monologues about his stellar driving and the great terribleness of Other Drivers, and I don’t have to hear him snore, and never have to explain a bad mood to anyone.
Thing is, sometimes I miss his stupid rants or someone asking me how my day went. Now, it’s just me.
And my lawnmower.More On