happy lawnmower

Yes, this is really an article about landscaping the grass, not landscaping the grass, if you know what I mean!

When it comes to being a mother, I’ve noted my mediocre status, but the truth of it is that I’m really mediocre across the board, which includes my status as wife.

When my husband married me, I think he had little idea of how deep my feministic tendencies ran and I believe he’s spent the last 11 years of our marriage continually being blown away by all the things that I don’t or won’t do. It’s not because I can’t do them, it’s just I don’t want to do them. Or if you start expecting me to do something. Woe to the person who expects me to perform a duty simply because it’s viewed as women’s work.

One thing I did not do(up until last summer) was mow the lawn. My feminism may run deep, but it also runs along my well-worn mental paths, namely, that women do not a) mow the lawn b) take out the trash c) fix anything that flushes or has a drain clogged with hairy debris. Those are men’s jobs. In addition to being mediocre, I understand this makes me a slight hypocrite. I’m okay with that.

The idea of females mowing the lawn wasn’t even on his radar until we moved back East, where plenty of women can lay witness to pushing a mower, their hair pulled up in a pony-bun. Back in Arizona, women do not mow the lawn. Heck, most men don’t mow the lawn, preferring to hire a landscaping crew who may or may not have correct documentation, and I can tell you not many people care, as long as they aren’t the ones cutting their grass in sweltering 110-degree weather. The exception to this is my brother-in-law who not only mows his lawn, but frequently enough that my nephew’s favorite toys are kid sized “mow-ahs and trim-ahs.” (The accent giving testimony to his four-year-old-age, not any East Coast dialects).

Another reason many people don’t mow in Arizona, is that most front and back yard areas have gone the way of xeriscaping, in order to save precious water in the land of desert drought. If grass does make an appearance, it’s usually a pubic-sized patch of green surrounded by thighs of flesh-toned rocks, just so you can claim you have a “lawn,” which could easily be maintained with a good sharp beard trimmer or pair of scissors. No large lawn mowers necessary.

lawn mower

My husband will not admit this, but there is a little part of him that coveted the East Coast mower-pushing women, if only for the idea of how much time it would free up for him to do other items on my list. Last summer, my to-do list was long and in my usual Controlling Woman state, I was eager to have the items crossed off. I offered to mow the lawn for the first time.

I realize now what a mistake this was, and am reminded of the time I was five and my mother asked me with bubbly excitement, “Do you want to help me do the dishes!?” in her sing-songy voice. What? Is my mother inviting me to do the dishes with her? Finally?

“Yes, Yes!” I cried with glee. “I bet I can do them all by myself!”

Well, you know the rest of the story. That one brief moment of virgin excitement has been followed by a lifetime of mundane dishwashing; all because I thought I was being invited to do something cool. After about twice, I realized what an idiot I was and the next time she asked me if I wanted to learn how to do something (cook scrambled eggs, run the washer, hem some pants) I said no thank you and got the hell out of there.

Truth be told, I am slightly afraid of the lawn mower. This may stem from the fact that as a kid I wasn’t allowed to be outside while my father mowed the lawn in case he hit a rock, and that rock went smashing into my head, took out my shins, or worse yet, sucked up one of my appendages. Mowers are scary business, don’t you realize, and I never understood why things like these never happened to my father, but apparently it was an adult thing. I could play outside when he  finished.

You can imagine my apprehension then, at finally using a Husqvarna 6.5 horsepower bright orange mower, that could in theory, eat me. Or send rocks flying at my dry, hairy legs, or chew my hand off. But I sucked it up in true I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-fashion and decided to mow the entire lawn. How hard could it be really? If I can push a vacuum (however infrequently) surely I can push a mower. They can’t be that different.

After surveying my first attempt, my husband said I did a fabulous job. But what’s he going to say? That I missed a spot? He knew, just like my mother knew when I was five, that when you want people to add some skill to their repertoire that invariably benefits you, you do not criticize on the first go-round. Or the fifth. You do not point out where they effed up the lawn, the spots they missed, or the ridiculous mow patterns in the grass. You pat that person on the back, give them a big hug and kiss and say, “Damn the yard looks great!”

Sure, I could use a few pointers on the most efficient paths to take across the yard, but honestly, I don’t really mind mowing the lawn. I’d rather do that than clean toilets, pick up the house, or wash laundry. Sadly, I don’t think my husband would prefer to perform these chores over working outside either. But I don’t want my husband to start expecting it to be my job. He needs to have a few things to do around here just so he feels needed and useful. But if he ever asks me in a sing-songy voice if I want to help him change the oil, just in case, you know, the oil needs to be changed and he’s out of town, I’m going to say no thanks, and get the hell out of there. Changing the oil is a man’s job.

But what about you? How is the division of labor in your household? Are there jobs you view as “men’s or women’s work?” Anyone else a feminist hypocrite like myself?

Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.