I Cooked. You Clean.

I picked it up at a junk shop (or thrift store, if you want to be more PC), and I would so love to show you an image but my technology is currently limited.  It is a yellow, rectangular magnet, about three inches by two inches, and on it is standing a happy looking woman with a plate of food in her hands, and beyond her is a big fat mess of a kitchen.

The caption says:

“I cooked.”

“You clean.”

I bought that magnet when I was just getting out on my own.  When I thought that saying would be the ideal way to share responsibility with a partner.  I bought that magnet before I had ever lived with another person (other than growing up with my immediate family).

I don’t know why I felt so strongly, thinking that this would apply to all my future domestic bliss.  When I was growing up, QoB certainly didn’t cook and then the Big Dawg cleaned.  She cooked and us kids cleaned.  When we graduated high school, I was pretty sure that Mom still did all the cooking, and at least 90% of the cleaning.  Fast forward fourteen years later, and Mom is still doing all the cooking, I clean a great once in awhile, and the Big Dawg might unload the dishwasher an even greater once in awhile.

So I didn’t have models for this behavior.  This, “I cook, you clean” behavior.  But it has always felt so right, so just, so key.  I have been in four relationships over the past 10 years, in which I lived with my partner.  Invariably, it has been, “I cook, I clean.”  And sometimes it really pisses me off, and a lot of times I don’t even think about it.  Because it’s.just.what.I.do.

It has become a lot less important to me over the years, and with DSB I have completely accepted that he is probably not going to clean the kitchen, even if I do make him country fried steak and mashed potatoes with gravy.  Who am I kidding?  He doesn’t even put his own plate in the sink!

And the 32-year-old Rose is okay with that, for the most part.  The 22-year-old Rose, the Rose who had never been through it for  herself, the Rose that was full of naive ideas about what relationships should look like, would definitely be at least mildly annoyed, if not downright indignant.  The 22-year-old Rose would pick a fight.

And that’s what Rose did, at 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, and so on.  Until recently, actually.  For many years, asking that the dishes be done, the partner not doing the dishes, and Rose doing the dishes herself caused a great many argument.  Until somewhere along the way, it just became terribly unimportant.

What became more important was that I was putting a hot plate of food down, of good food, delicious, nutritious food every night.  That I occasionally made a special breakfast, for no reason at all.  That I made chicken and rice when he was sick and made sure we always ate a vegetable.  That I made his favorite when he had a bad day, and that I knew enough to never, ever put sour cream in anything.

All of this for DSB, all because of how much I love him and want to do anything I can to create a corner of comfort in his world, even if it’s a 30 minute dinner during which  he can relax and forget about everything that went wrong that day.

I learned, I think, about taking care of DSB and our relationship, from my Mom and the Big Dawg.  I see her cook special meals for him, run to the grocery store randomly, sometimes every day, to pick up something that will be just right.  I see myself putting a hot dinner on the table every night, running to the store a gazillion times a week for milk, picking him up something special to drink when I’m out and I know he’s working.  Just, really, little things.

I have dropped the “you clean” philosophy part of my little magnet, even though it holds a place of prominence on my refrigerator.  My mom has always advised me to pick my battles wisely, and I decided at some point in time over the past two years that this wouldn’t be one of them.  I cook, I clean.  It’s ok, really, and for the most part I don’t even think about it anymore.  Until today, when that magnet fell off the refrigerator door.

12 thoughts on “I Cooked. You Clean.

  1. Absolute perfection! I love it. After two failed marriages, and now a pretty good one…I have learned to pick my battles. And if he is willing to go out and work hard all day, putting a decent meal on the table for him just makes me feel good. He’s more willing to help with the clean-up than he used to be, but I tend to refuse more and just do it myself, because I love him.


    • Thanks Kim! I feel the same…he can work hard, and I am happy to put a good meal on the table, and clean up some dishes. Love is a beautiful thing!


      • Love is awesome, and it means sacrifice…I guess that’s what a lot of folks don’t get, and why so many relationships end. I like my “traditional” role in my marriage..there should be more women like you and I these days…taking joy in taking care.


        • Totally agree. I know a lot of people don’t approve of the “traditional” role, but it works really well for DSB and I. And I don’t have to kill spiders, snakes, or mice, either. 😀


  2. It’s interesting what things matter to us when we start out… and fade as we get older. I have quite a list of those myself. I loved this post, Rose, it was extremely well-assembled and… well, poetic. 🙂


    • I take those as great compliments, coming from a blogger I so admire! I’m thinking I’m going to do a kind of series about values then and now. Pondering it, anyway. 😀


  3. I loved this post! Great ending, too. I’ve been married over 20 years, and we’ve settled into a stable division of the chores that works for us. It took years to get there, though, and many little skirmishes. I cook and clean, but he does laundry and house/yard maintenance. (He does put his dishes in the sink, though–that would probably annoy me if he didn’t 😉 )


    • Well, thanks, Marcy! DSB does house/yard maintenance (hallelujah for that!) and every once in awhile he will cook. Letting him around the laundry is just too dangerous. And yes, it’s annoying that he doesn’t put his dishes in the sink, but once again, I have to pick my battles, and I’d rather battle about something like taking out the trash. 😀


  4. ’tis fun… to see the way relationships work after the bloom has faded. That ol’ “I do more, you do less” routine does become tiresome after awhile. Growth past that is good.

    Yep… pickin’ battles. Who knew I could live with an uncleaned litter box in the basement for a decade? Not me… cat hater that I am. On the other hand… have found over the years there’s not much I cannot do, or change so it suits me, if it really matters.to.me. Otherwise, a waste of angst.

    Hella good post. Things that make ya think. Gotta love thinking.


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