Published on November 1st, 2014 | by Richard Black


Doing the Dishes: Finding a Better Marriage Through Manual Labor


A sink full of dirty dishes is a sink ready to testify against a stay at home parent in the event of divorce.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few things and it’s really only a few. Anything more than three shakes and you’re just playing with it is a bit of wisdom that comes to mind. Never engage in a land war during the winter in Asia is another.

One of the most important understandings I’ve come to recently is that I’m a creature of habit. I imagine that most stay at home parents are. It’s really a necessity if you want to keep your family from looking like hobos or a group of hoarders while retaining some semblance of sanity.

I’m a huge fan of routine and consistency.  I put the “O” and “C “in OCD. I’m the guy who listens to the same song a few hundred times in a row on a road trip, while doing dishes or even at a show where the band I’m there to see is performing the very same number I’ve locked into my iphone on repeat.

There are times however when the regimen begins to drive, even me, a little nuts.

Wake up. Dress the daughter. Optimistically dress in jogging attire. Advise wife on what outfit to wear. Advise again. Dress daughter again in a burlap sack after she has peeled off all of her clothes because they are itchy. Redress daughter in the outfit she originally chose now that she understands that burlap is really itchy. Clean dishes. Fix breakfast. Cajole breakfast into daughter. Drive to preschool in a somnambulistic state. Clean dishes from breakfast once back at home. Clean floors. Forgo jog and drink coffee instead to boost metabolism. Pick up daughter from school. Make lunch. Clean dishes from lunch. Clean urine stain in bathroom. Load laundry into dryer without putting it into the washer NOTE add dryer sheet so that laundry smells clean. Fix dinner no one wants to eat. Put on daughter’s PJs. Take off PJs because they are itchy. Read stories. Kiss daughter goodnight. Take daughter to bathroom. Dress her in pajamas again. Kiss daughter goodnight. Go to bed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I miss the days of yore when a man of my astounding intellect and social stature would be accompanied with servants in order to afford himself the time he needed to think of all the weighty thoughts I could be thinking.


“May I pleasure you with a baguette sir? Perhaps two?

I wouldn’t need much in the way of help. A scullery maid would be a good start and save me from dishpan hands to boot. Given my driving record I could certainly use a driver. A butler/ninja would be good for answering the door to deter the occasional salesperson, axe wielding lunatic or Seventh Day Adventist. Come to think of it I could also use a barber shop quartet to provide background accompaniment and commentary whilst I do the voodoo I do do throughout my day but that might be too much. I could probably make do with a trio. Maybe something with a Spanish flair.

The big question is “what would I do with all of my newfound free time?” and the answer is remarkably disappointing.

In all honesty I’m not sure. I suppose I could pick up a hobby but the last time I checked napping didn’t qualify as a hobby or a “productive” use of time. It also turns out that most of my other interests don’t qualify as “hobbies” either and the same small minds who have decided that napping isn’t a worthy pursuit also look down on binge eating and heavy drinking as a pastime.

I could spend more time with my wife and daughter but if history is any guide then that’s a bad idea. My family loves the idea of me but the reality is another deal altogether. My wife’s affections and my daughter’s love tend to decline inversely in proportion to the amount of time I “actively engage” with them.

Travel is obviously out of the question as it takes me completely out of the picture and not to mention that fact that I travel about as well as a lemon meringue pie would fare on the back of a camel across the Sahara.

I could attempt to interest Darcy in my own interests but she stopped napping some three years ago and hasn’t eaten solid food for the past two. Social conventions and legalities being what they are in the Midwest make it unseemly to bring a toddler to a bar and hoist a few and I suppose that’s for the best.  I’ve always thought that parents who get bombed out of their minds with their children were a bit sad and pathetic.


I couldn’t find a picture of a ninja but I still think that this guy would be a great doorman

Then again I might change my mind in a few years and by a few years I mean seventeen or so when Darcy is enrolled at the best welding school we can afford. Unfortunately at that point I’ll have bigger fish to fry assuming my ninja butler is still on duty and the cheeky scullery maid I’ve hired is still tending to the kitchen.

After some thirty years of marriage I wonder what in the hell my wife and I will have to discuss once our daughter is out of the house. Barring an alien invasion or some sort of global catastrophe to talk about I’ll most likely spend my mid fifties yelling at the television when I’m not mowing the lawn for the third time in a week or trying to choose between the low sodium or fat free brand of soylent green at the store.

Of course that’s a problem for the future me, a concept I’ve come to be quite fond of recently in the hopes that I pass away before the future me becomes the present me. I’ve’ got a few years at the very least to ponder those particular problems while I forgo trying to figure out a whole host of other ones along the way.

Call me crazy but it’s gotten me this far.

You’ll have to forgive me now. I’ve got to sign off. Laura has just come home and rather than discussing the nuances of healthcare reform I just remembered that there’s a stack of dirty dishes to clean in the sink.

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