His, hers, ours

Secret Agent Man brings home the bacon and Annie Payne fries it up, but after dinner the whole family pitches in to clean up the kitchen.

Thirteen years ago tomorrow, on a beautiful warm day in San Diego, Secret Agent Man and I joined our lives as husband and wife.

Every day since, we have marched lock-step together on our journey through life, work, home and family.

Before we were married, we talked about the kind of life we wanted together.

He knew my life’s ambition was to be a wife and mother. I wanted to take full responsibility for the proper care and feeding of him and our children and the upkeep of our home.

That was our understanding and that was our plan.

Then, the twins were born.

What I assumed would be a one-woman show turned into a tag team effort to keep our baby boys fed, diapered, burped and bathed.

By the time our daughter Mini Me came along, Secret Agent Man and I settled into our traditional roles of provider and homemaker. He brought home the bacon, and I fried it up in a pan.

Being a single-income family is not easy. We’ve had to make sacrifices and endure lean times in order for me to be at home.

Between the travel, intrigue and Third-World government toppling, Secret Agent Man works long hours.

I never complain. I consider it a blessing to have a husband who loves to work.

I like going out to dinner. I like buying a new pair of shoes. I’m not going complain about how he works to provide those things.

I try to make it easy for him to do his job by doing mine.

I’ve taken cues from my hero, Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, who said: “I think the best thing I can do is to be a distraction. A husband lives and breathes his work all day long. If he comes home to more table thumping, how can the poor man ever relax?”

Secret Agent Man and I have a clear understanding of what each of us will do around the house.

He doesn’t know how to start the washing machine, and I don’t know how to start the lawn mower, and that’s the way we like it.

No matter what your situation is, everyone who lives in the house needs to have responsibilities for its upkeep.

In a family where both spouses are winning the bread, there needs to be equity in the household responsibilities.

Some of the working moms I know will do the cooking and shopping, while dad and kids do the cleaning and laundry.

Kids’ responsibilities could include: feeding the pets; cleaning their own rooms and bathrooms; and helping with the dishes.

At our house, everyone pitches in and cleans the kitchen after dinner.

It’s a wonderful change from the time when I would make dinner, the family would take 15 minutes to snarf it down and then disperse to their different corners of the house.

Now we are together more, the kitchen is cleaned quickly and the family has learned to better appreciate the work I do.

Even the tiniest member of the family can help. If a baby is old enough to dump out toys, he or she is old enough to pick them up and put them back.

It would be easier for a parent to pick up the toys, but teaching children lifelong habits of tidiness is worth the time and effort, and those children will be better husbands and wives for it.

If you are having trouble getting everyone to help out around the house, sometimes it’s just a matter of asking for more help and making your expectations known.

Chore charts, honey-do lists, and scheduled time for cleaning can help get everyone on the same page. Don’t forget to celebrate and relax together after a job well done.

Perhaps skip Hamburger Helper Night and go out to dinner Sunday night. And if you see Secret Agent Man and me, don’t forget to wish us a happy anniversary.

For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s “Anniethology” blog online at Anniethology.blogspot.com.


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