Zero Sum and the division of labour


During the summer holidays our lives take on a more leisurely pace. Crumble.

Whilst there is no school to attend, I select a minimum number of goals for the day.

The primary goal would be for all members of the family to be dressed in day time clothes by 9 a.m. at the absolute latest.

Spouse appears, bleary eyed after 5 hours sleep, returning home from work at 1 in the morning as slave to a start up business. The night time hours were filled with visitations by small people at irregular intervals. I herd my children in the direction of the breakfast table to a chorus of shrieks of protest whilst spouse fiddles with the equally unco-operative printer. No-one is hungry and the bribe of 'electronics' time at 5:30 p.m. is still ten and a half hours away and therefore too remote. The weeping and wailing continues throughout the ten minutes attempt at something that might loosely be described as breakfast.

We attempt table clearing but they turn themselves into a moving obstacle course, bump into one another, drop bowls, clatter spoons, tumble over cereal boxes, spill milk and generally make my head spin. Which mess or child to clear up first?

Spouse nips off to take a shower with the plunger in his left hand. He reappears moment later, semi clad to remove one boy, “you're coming with me matey, you honk!” A less than savoury aroma. Junior's lower torso fails to function, so he scoops him up to deliver him to the shower. As soon as his tippy toes lose contact with the floor, his legs whir into bicycling motion at high speed. Watch out Tour de France. I remind myself to encourage him to use the trampolene at regular intervals, if we have any hope of surviving the day.

We attempt teeth cleaning with the remaining two. This should be easy with the reduced numbers. A toothbrush crisis produces mass hysteria, “he's got my brush! I don't want his stinky mouth germs!”
“But……..but…….but…” he fizzles out and hurls the toothbrush in her general direction. It is sometimes difficult for him to locate items or distinguish one person's belongings from another's, it wasn't deliberate. He dissolves into a full blown meltdown of frustration, hurt feelings and possibly a dash of inadequacy.

Junior skitters back downstairs to join the mayhem and accidentally comes within striking distance of his flailing brother. More agony ensues and my daughter flees the room and the noise.

I marshal my reserves and try to clear my head. I hear the garage door open as spouse wheels out the rubbish and recycling to the curbside. I park myself on the floor between my two wailing boys to rub backs and pray for peace. mM own personal peace corps wouldn't go amiss. Calm, if not order, returns after only a few minutes. One sits up and runs his snotty nose along the sofa whilst the other duplicates the action on the carpet. I debate whether it is possible for me to do this today, again?

I take them both to the loo, as strong emotions often supercede more basic functions. Better safe than sorry. Spouse puts all the electronic bribes on to recharge, ready for later, as he was too tired to remember the night before. I attempt to scrub the snail trails of snot, prior to solidification and then make headway on the other spills. My daughter returns from bedroom fully clothed and with a cheery smile, little ray of something or other. She clasps me around the waist, since I am on all fours in a sea of cheerios and milk. Spouse refills the coffee hob so that my emergency caffeine supply is ready. I dither about my stamina quotient for the day, which appears to be severely depleted but has to last until 9 o'clock tonight.

I debate whether it would be a worthwhile exercise to put drop clothes throughout the house as a preventative measure? [translation = dust sheets] Spouse puts the toaster away on the high shelf that's out of my reach. This avoids the step retrieval step, for shorter people like me. I ask my son to go and choose his clothes, always a time consuming exercise. I move the little one back to the bathroom for teeth cleaning. I trip over spouse fiddling about on the computer again. Who has time for computers when the morning routine is in tatters.

I pick up three sets of pyjamas and I trip over a cat that entwines my legs due to neglect. This is the first step in the sequence of steps to achieve 'dressed.' Spouse scatters cat food in the general direction of his bowl so that the fur ball is enticed away from the danger area. My daughter plagues me with questions: what are we doing today? Where are we going today? I am sorely tempted to spend the day building an air raid shelter to hide in.

At 9:01 a.m. he glances at his wristwatch, “Oh heck! I'm so late!” and steps towards the door. I begin to flap. When that doesn't work I use words, “don't leave me!” I bleat like a star crossed lover. He turns towards his flapping wife with a blank expression, “what?”
“Look!” I flap some more and open my arms wider so that he is better able to take in the three yards of brown fabric that go to make up my dressing gown. I am not day time attire and no shower.
“But..” he checks his wrist watch again but his body is reversing towards the door simultaneously. I feel a rising sense of panic in both of us, but for entirely different reasons.
“Look at me! You can't go yet! You've done nothing this morning except get ready for work, whilst I've been running around like a blue….oh, never mind! Go to work why don't you!” I pout and fold my arms in defeat. I peer up at him, hoping for the pity vote but his face wears an expression of bafflement. I prompt, “what?” in an unpleasant tone.

His shoulders slump, soft open palms, “I've done what I can….unblocked the shower, fixed the printer, sterilized the stinky one, the trash, all the rechargables, coffee, toaster, booked the flights on line,……” he peters out, after only managing to recall a mere fraction of his tasks. The 'what more do you want?' remains unsaid. He wears the hangdog expression of the truly unappreciated.

My shoulders sink too as I remember to breathe. I take a few steps towards him and lower my head so that he can kiss my forehead, as substitute during mouth realignment. I resolve to refrain from referring to him as my 'lesser half.' I feel his stubble against my skin, “didn't even have time to shave did you?” I wheedle.

Moral – some people notice nothing until they make contact, head on.

As I write and post, I always wonder, ‘is this the one that will make you de-lurk?’ So come along now, be a good egg, let’s here it for the Dad’s.

For an update on parents’ ability to communicate effectively, go “here.”

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