David and I have a mixture of old-fashioned and up-to-date ideas about roles in our marriage. We believe in the Apostle Paul’s teaching that the husband is the spiritual head of the family, but we also believe the teaching is based on mutual respect and mutual submission rather than a master/slave relationship.
Our roles tend to follow traditional gender guidelines as long as those guidelines follow our interests and physical abilities, but we’re far from rigid. We were both single again for ten years before we met, so I’m pretty independent, and he’s somewhat domestic. I do most of the cooking because I like it and I’m better at it, but David has been known to stir up a pot of soup or load the dishwasher now and then. I do the laundry, but David usually vacuums.
When it comes to “man’s work,” David is willing for me to try anything I want until I get into trouble or need help. I sometimes mow or trim hedges, but I lack the arm strength to handle the weed-whacker, so David does that. Now that we have a home base in the country and are trying to tame two acres with 85 trees and lots of briars and poison ivy, I handle the smaller trimming jobs and leave the chain sawing to David. That’s partly because of the strength issues and partly because I’m a klutz and would probably cut off more than dead branches.
When it comes to setting up or breaking camp in the motorhome, our roles also overlap. I start with the inside, cleaning up the kitchen and stowing dishes, snacks, coffee pots, and cleaning supplies. David starts outside, putting away bicycles, folding chairs, the portable grill, and other toys. Then he unhooks the satellite dish, water, sewer, electricity. Once I’ve made sure the inside is ship shape so I can find everything quickly at our next stop, I go outside and join David in what he’s doing. I disconnect hoses, coil lines, retract awnings. When it’s time to load the car, I help push the tow dolly into place and anchor it to the coach. I put one ramp in place while David handles the other, I drive the car up the ramps while he directs, and I strap down one wheel while he takes care of the other one. We’re a pretty good team.
There’s one part of the set up and breakdown routine in which I don’t participate, and that’s driving. I will drive on a long, straight stretch of highway with little or no traffic, but when it comes to maneuvering a 40-foot, 16-ton vehicle into or out of a parking space, count me out. That’s why, last January when David had a huge chunk cut out of his shoulder to remove a melanoma, we asked an RV friend to come help us move from one campground to another. He was a great help, but he didn’t understand our division of labor. When I struggled to disconnect a hose, he’d say that’s not a woman’s job. And if I tried to explain that I usually did this or that, he’d grin and say real men do that. He’s a little more rigid than we are.
There’s one RV job that nobody, man or woman, likes to do. The black tank. That’s the tank that holds the waste from the toilet until you visit a dump station or hook up to a sewer line at a campground. Black tank maintenance requires a mixture of chemicals to digest, dissolve, and deodorize without upsetting the delicate balance of enzymes required to do the job. And washing it out takes an engineer’s knowledge to know which valve to switch when.
Last week our RV friend called on David’s cell phone and I answered.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said.
“Where’s David?” he said.
“He’s out playing in the water.”
“Playing in the water. He’s flushing the black tank.”
“Better him than you, huh?”
“On this one I’ll concede to you that it’s a man’s job.”
Like I said, I’m far from rigid.