Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Shouts and murmurs: The family that stays together . . .

February 20, 2002

A man who will wash windows is not a man with whom to be trifled.

I was ready Saturday morning to go to town to run errands. But the mild weather and my husband's Kansas farm-boy seven-day-a-week work ethic prompted him to suggest that now was a good time to wash windows. He'd joked recently that our windows weren't dirty they were tinted. Yes they seriously needed to be cleaned.

Until then, I'd never had the luxury of washing windows with someone always for me it was a dreaded chore of running inside and outside, trying to wash both sides of each window, as well as to deal with cantankerous, finger-pinching storm windows. But in the house where we now live, the window screens easily pop out. So clearly, that was one obstacle not to be faced.

My trip to town wisely postponed, a bucket was found in the garage and a ladder hauled from the basement. A jug of vinegar and a squeegee later we were well on our way to window cleandom.

I took the inside and Fred took the outside, balancing on a ladder as he scrubbed and squeegeed each window while once in a while on opposite sides of the glass we met. Some of the windows required extra treatment with a nylon mesh pad. A little more scrubbing right here, I'd say pointing to a spot.

Light poured through the glass over my desk after we finished the final window the dirtiest one of all. It is favored by summer's tree frogs that cling to the surface at night and by a territorial cardinal who repeatedly and persistently flies into the glass during the day, his own reflection to him as a windmill to Don Quixote. Within an hour, amazingly, we were done and the day before us, there was still time for fun.

I read recently that the Swiss government has launched a campaign to promote, not necessarily clean windows, but the idea that men should shoulder a fair balance of domestic chores.

The "Fairplay at Home" campaign, which began in January, takes aim at young couples, suggesting that by sharing work at home, men and women develop more fulfilling careers and are more involved in raising their children.

Interestingly, the article said studies show that the way new parents split their home chores at the time a child is born will probably continue to be the same for the following 10 years.

To promote the "Fairplay at Home" campaign, the government has made available posters and brochures, and set up a Web site where men and women can fill out a questionnaire that scores how well they split domestic tasks.

I think the Swiss government's stance, while on the surface may seem almost laughable, is a pretty good one. It certainly does not give credence to the abominable phrase which has been a sorry excuse for a man who was simply not interested in helping around the house: "A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done."

Actually, I think the Swiss approach might be more successful at keeping marriages together than an approach currently being looked at in our state Senate that of doing away with no-fault divorces.

The time to save marriages is in the beginning while the embers can still be flamed not in the end when the coals are long cold.

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