It has been confirmed that I am the only person in my home that knows how to put the toilet paper back on the holder. Monday night, I used the last of a roll and got a new one out. Rather than automatically replacing the empty cardboard tube with a fluffy, white roll of paper, I left it on the counter above the holder. It is now Thursday and that same empty cardboard tube is right where I left it with that last half-sheet hanging on for dear life. Or maybe it’s that I am the only person in my home that cares about replacing the toilet paper roll? And if so, that begs the question: Why do I care? Is it something genetically ingrained in my DNA that causes me to be annoyed at these small domestic discourses? Is it something that happened upon giving birth to a child? What causes that, and how can I spread it like the flu in my household?
It seems trivial, this issue of toilet paper, but that is just one more item on the list of things that seem to be of concern to me and only me. I seem to be the only person that knows how to fill the Brita pitcher, wipe the counters, sort the laundry, straighten the couch cushions, “de-shmootz” the cupboard doors, or throw away the tabs from the milk carton without being nagged. Each household has that person—the domestic keeper of order. Most of the time it is the mom, but sometimes there are men with OCD that were raised by women or simply learned to pay attention to detail who wipe countertops, dust window ledges, and yes, replace the empty toilet paper roll. Stereotypically we would just assume these men are gay, admit it.
Anyway, while we are admitting things, I’ve got a doozie for the world. I admit that I do not want to “have it all” in the modern sense of being a woman with a home, family, and career—particularly the career part. I admit that I long for a simpler time when working outside the home was not an expectation, but rather a deviation from the norm. In those days, raising a family and keeping a home was considered to be of great value. A woman was never “just” a mother and wife in the sense that it made her “less than” for not having a career of their own. They raised families and made houses into homes where meals were cooked and chores were done. Families lived together in those homes instead of simply residing under one roof while constantly viewing separate electronic machines. I truly believe that our society as a whole began unraveling when the bonds of home and family became disposable. Today a woman must have a career path of her own because marriage doesn’t mean for better or worse anymore. Marriage seems to mean for better until I can find better for myself. Marriage used to be a lifelong commitment to support one another. Now marriage is little more than a tax break and excuse to throw one debt-ensuing party complete with a buffet and open bar.
During my first marriage, I was the bread winner. With a small child in the home, it is often more financially sound that one parent stay at home, rather than paying for day care. In this modern world of ours, the financial implications of being a one- or two-income family with small children are often the only justifiable ones to have a stay-at-home parent. In my case, Dad was the one with the lesser earning potential. He was the one to do arts and crafts, bake cookies, and in most other ways be “Mom.” However, I was still the keeper of domestic order. I would work fifty hours a week plus a commute and still spend my time off doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and doing all the little things that nondomestics are able to simply ignore.
When I remarried a U.S. Army soldier, I vowed things would be different. My daughter was still preschool aged and I was the one with the lesser earning potential. Rather than pay for day care, I simply stayed at home. I learned to cook in a progression that went from hamburger helper and “just add water” pancake mixes to stuffed chicken Florentine and homemade banana bread from scratch. When we moved to Germany and did not have cheap cleaners to do his uniform, I bought liquid starch and learned how to crease his pants and make the BDU tops stand at attention. He had a lunch packed along with a fresh pot of coffee and sugared mug every morning. Dinner was done by 6 p.m. and if he came home late there was a plate in the microwave waiting. He never went to bed alone or unsatisfied, and I never woke him when his snoring would make slumber impossible for me. My job was to support his career and make our house a home, and I took great pride in it.
After almost two years of sharing a home only with my daughter, we have a man living here again. I am raising a baby, and not working outside the home except as a respite care provider for a long-time friend. That “job” entails being an extra set of hands in a house that has been a second home to me for sometime. We are both writers, and talk about the daily domestic life stuff that keeps us busy. In her household there are three children aged nine, ten, and thirteen, and a “Man-thing.”
She also appears to be the only person that knows how to change the toilet paper roll in her home.