We’ve come to my final post in this series of vignettes about my experiences with domestic dishes. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. At some point I’ll write some posts about washing dishes in restaurants while in high school, but that fits under a different part of the project.
Last time I wrote about my time in Brasilia and conflict over dishes. I returned to North Carolina in early July 2011 and soon started dating the woman who is now my wife. We never fully moved in together while in graduate school, though I mostly lived at her apartment her last semester of medical school.
While dating we usually just cooked and cleaned up together and it usually just worked out.
Summer 2013 my wife moved to Portland to start her residency in pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University. I drove with her from North Carolina to Sacramento, where she dropped me off so I could attend my mom’s retirement celebration and help my mom move into the house she’d just bought. Then I flew to Portland to be with her for the rest of the summer before returning to my final semester at UNC.
After defending my dissertation December 2013 I flew to Portland, got engaged, and started looking for work (I was initially waiting to hear back about one academic job for which I’d had an on campus interview, but fortunately I didn’t end up getting it).
While I was unemployed and she was working up to 80 hours a week it was pretty obvious that I should be picking up as much of the housework as I could. She still did some, especially grocery shopping. Sometimes I would walk to the closest grocery store, buy the ingredients for one meal, and cook it. One challenge was it often wouldn’t be clear when she’d get home from work and she could be too busy to even have time to text me with an ETA.
In September 2014 I started working for the Elections Division at The Oregon Secretary of State in Salem. My time commuting usually came to about 2.5 hours a day. Even so, and even after I switched to working four ten hour days, my wife often had longer days than I did. My having less time to do stuff around the house didn’t make her magically have more time to compensate.
We often ate out at restaurants in walking distance from our apartment or cooked simple, fast meals. Dishes still mostly just worked out. If there were clean dishes in the dishwasher the first person with an opportunity to unload it would usually just do so. And so forth.
This summer my wife finished residency and accepted a position at a clinic in Salem. My commute changed to a 25 minute walk and her hours became more humane. I’d also changed back to an 8-5 schedule. All of this made it easier for us to cook dinner in the evenings.
Earlier this year I was laid off from my job. Yesterday was a month since my last day in the office. With more free time I’m trying to do as much as I can around the house. This weekend I just didn’t feel like planning meals and picked up some frozen meals and easy preparation meals (ingredients for nachos, pasta + sauce). I’ll try to do better this week about cooking healthy meals from scratch.
I’ve been reading some of the social science literature on the division of domestic labor and will start sharing some of what I’ve learned on this blog soon. One finding, which seems pretty obvious, is that how much time someone spends on housework is partly determined by how much time they have available for housework. I’ve definitely seen this in my own life.