By Rick Kaempfer
When my wife and I decided to switch roles a few years ago I knew I would have my hands full trying to make this work. I didn't know the first thing about running a household or raising three boys, so I did some research. I found a great 1950s guide to being a housewife, and just adjusted it slightly to my situation. So far it's been working out pretty well.
As it turns out, the only difference between a housewife and a househusband is the clothing. Instead of greeting my breadwinner in my nicest dress and pearls, I greet her wearing a tuxedo and pearl cuff-links. Other than that, it's pretty much the same.
Like a typical housewife, I clean up the children and rehearse with them how they must behave when the queen returns to her castle.
"How do we greet her?" I test.
"Welcome Home, Mom," my oldest says.
"It's Mother," I remind him politely and firmly. "Let's show her the proper respect. I will also accept 'Ma'am."
"Johnny, your tie is a little askew," I say. "Please hold your hands out so I can see your fingernails. You know how much Mother appreciates it when her little men are well groomed and hygienic."
"Father?" little Sean asks.
"Yes, son," I say.
"May I tell Mother about my day at school today?" he asks.
"Only after she finishes speaking," I explain. "Remember, Mother has been working very hard to pay for the food we'll eat after she gets her fill."
"Yes sir," he said.
"Now I'm going to finish cooking dinner," I say. "Who is on pillow duty tonight?"
"I am, Father," Tommy says. "And tonight I promise to wait until she takes off her shoes before placing it beneath her feet."
"Very good. And who is fixing Mother's cosmopolitan tonight?"
"I am, Father," Johnny says. "And tonight I promise to go a little easier on the cranberry juice."
"Very good. That means little Sean will be picking up the clutter around the house before she comes home. Get to work, Son. Remember to leave Mother's newspaper and pipe near the Lazy Boy."
"Yes, Father," he says.
That's when I do what every typical housewife does. I put the finishing touches on the gourmet meal, and allow myself fifteen minutes to take off the apron, freshen up, put on just a dab of cologne on each side of my neck, and practice speaking quietly and respectfully so I won't disturb her. When I hear the garage door open, I put the biggest smile on my face, and open the door to greet her with a kiss on the cheek.
"Smells wonderful in here," she says.
"Oh it's nothing," I say, "Just a little recipe I found in Good Housekeeping."
"You look great," she says.
"Oh this old thing?" I say. "I picked it up on sale at Marshall's."
She usually pinches me, bringing out my most comforting smile. I pretend to protest her fresh advance--but my smile lets her know I love it. That's when the 'seen but not heard' children come in to greet their mother with glistening toothy smiles.
"Your cosmopolitan, Mother," Johnny says, handing her a drink. "Welcome home."
"Please take off your shoes, Mother," Tommy says, holding a pillow. "You look like you've had a very long day."
"Yes I have," she says.
Hearing that, I give the boys the 'zip-it' sign, and they quietly go to their instruments to begin the sonata. Tonight they have chosen to play Mozart while Mother eats. It looks she's not in the mood to speak to us tonight, but that's her prerogative as the breadwinner. We'll all have time to speak to her over the weekend, perhaps at brunch after church.
Like I said, it's really no different than any other house. That's pretty much our typical day.
And if my wife Bridget tells you otherwise, she's a liar.
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