September 15, 2019

Your Son Should Come With a Warning Label

Warning sign. photo by Pexels.

As a wife and mother of young children, I learn lessons daily on topics ranging from marriage to suppositories.

Having children younger than 4 doesn’t exactly pump passion into your marriage. In fact, there are times when you feel more passionate about the suppositories.

Sex experts offer intimacy solutions including edible underwear (I’d rather eat pasta), but there’s one thing that makes a man truly sexy: He does the damn housework.

Recently, my husband, who, thankfully, helps with housework, our two young children and I attended a Shabbat meal with two other couples and their kids. For the first hour, everyone was frazzled as the children whined and fought, and no one ate except for one man who reclined and slowly chewed like a happy otter floating belly-up in a river.

I looked at his wife, who was hunched over the floor attempting to change a diaper. The poor woman looked as if she were wrestling a baby alligator.

Her older child, a toddler, ran toward her and threw a bowl of lukewarm cholent at her head.

Her husband, the well-fed otter, took a break from his amazing uselessness to ask if anyone had seen the hot mustard.

I had attended this couple’s wedding. I had watched as the groom’s parents walked him down the aisle to become a Jewish husband. He would never be right about anything again.

As the husband shirked responsibility while his overwhelmed wife struggled, I recalled how she’d told me he didn’t do any housework. Their oldest child was 2 and the man had changed a diaper once, and only because his thoughtless wife had been in labor.

He was the kind of man who stepped over a mess on the floor as though he were stepping over a fallen tree in a forest. There’s nothing to be done about fallen trees, nor, he reckoned, food, toys or unopened boxes from Amazon.

Is there a future mother-in-law anywhere who would pull her son’s fiancée aside and say, “Listen, I’ve done all I can?”

I wanted to confront that man’s parents with a direct message: “Your son should have come with a warning label.”

How are we to know if our partner will uphold his or her responsibility in helping with domestic chores? Is there a future mother-in-law anywhere who would pull her son’s fiancée aside and say, “Listen, I’ve done all I can. He still doesn’t know how to do laundry but soon that’ll be your problem. Because of you, I’m not losing a son, as much as I’m gaining a parking space and my sanity.”

Not all women are tidy but women see the world from a much wider angle, which explains our amazing capacity for nuance, leadership and our intolerance for messes — whether domestic or political.

Many of my friends complain that their husbands are completely inept at housework, which  affects their marriages. For the most part, these are ambitious women who have demanding careers. Their degrees weren’t meant to be put to use cleaning up after adult men who are capable of helping. Also, there’s nothing less sexy than having to clean up after a man.

I’ve always believed that women would have become presidents and CEOs 100 years ago if they had only had the time, instead of having been forced to wash men’s underwear. Sadly, not the edible kind.

Judaism has a lot to say about marriage. The ketubah, or Jewish prenuptial agreement, stipulates that a husband must give his wife sexual pleasure.

I know many women who would swap out that stipulation and replace it with a contractual obligation their husbands do more housework.

I’ve been blessed that my husband embraces responsibility. There are times when a mess bothers me more than him, but he’s smart enough to support my outrage, rather than invalidate it.

I’m thankful that he didn’t need to come with a warning label. He needed only to have come into my life much sooner. I’m not one for administering suppositories when the kids get sick.


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker.