Thursday, November 04, 2010


Dear Grace,
My brother-in-law is a complete chauvinist. He believes and behaves as though the female members of the family are his servants. Dishes, child care, cooking, and all household tasks are deemed 'women's work' and he sits on his throne of a recliner while we toil away. I am very close to my sis and we spend a lot of time together. This really gets my goat. With the holidays coming up, I foresee trouble.

What's a Grace to do?

Grace says:

Oh, dear. In this day and age, the idea of 'women's work' is a term best left unuttered, even if the medieval mind of your brother outlaw thinks this way.

Truth be told, this is probably not your war to wage. That is really up to his wife, your poor, scouring sister. We never know what goes on inside of other people's relationships, and your sis may well have made peace with this situation even if you haven't. And remember, she has played a role in creating this monster. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, "What you accept, you teach." But I am not here to give marital counsel, rather to help you identify a Gracious way to blast the lazy bum out of 1955 (and his recliner). To keep your sanity in check and your blood pressure in a safe range, I suggest the following strategies:

1. Preempt the problem. As dinner is ending announce, "Sis, you cooked the dinner, so you are excused from cleanup. B-i-l and I will do the kitchen, won't we, B-i-l?"

2. Lead by example: "Sis, B-i-l, you two could both use a break. Why don't I watch Junior for an hour or so and you go get a coffee or take a walk?"

3. Ask directly: "B-i-l, Sis and I are cooking dinner. We're elbow deep in mashed avocados at the moment and we seem to have run out of cilantro for the guacamole. Would you be a dear and go pick some up at the grocery store?" or "B-i-l, we are cooking the dinner and Junior is bored out of his mind strapped in the high chair. That's why he is screaming bloody murder. Would you take him outside so he can play while we finish up the meatballs?"

I had a similar scenario several years ago among the males in my extended family. Some were very helpful but a couple were of your B-i-l's ilk. Finally, one of the guys, who was drying his 25th dish, got exasperated as one of the loafers skulked past the kitchen in search of another beer. He shouted, "Hey, Fred! This here's the kitchen. A lot of cooking and cleaning goes on in here. But you wouldn't have any experience with that, would you?" The lazy brother-in-law took the rather unsubtle hint, and he has become generally more helpful over the years. Guys can get away with that type of heckling, you see, so if you can find a willing male relative to shame B-i-l into picking up a sponge or child from time to time, then your story may have a happy ending.

None of these is fail-safe, but they are all worth a shot. Good luck.

I found the following spoof on the mid century housewife rather amusing....I certainly hope your sister's situation isn't this extreme.

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