Responsibility sharing in a couple/family

A friend of mine linked me this comic from Emma: “You should have asked” (original French version: Fallait demander; Italian translation: Bastava che chiedessi).

I fully agreed with the presentation of the problem, the uneven responsibility shares in a couple. In my culture it often means that the woman/wife is expected to bear more responsibility about the household than her husband, more likely because of habit than for a conscious choice. This is becoming less and less effective, as the highly unbalanced roles are unapplicable in the present society; but even if it were more efficient to keep the uneven share, it should at least be very clear and somehow compensated in other domains (but it would probably be easier to share the responsibilities equally…). I totally liked the end of the comic, that provides suggestions on how to talk about it in a constructive way.

The comic made me think about the example my family gave me, and I’d invite you to reflect about your own – for example: was cleaning done exclusively by one parent, who never asked for help? Who did grocery shopping? Was the time together “ruined” by household tasks? Was it possible for the other parent to try themselves in a household task without being judged, laughed at, or set aside because they were not good enough? Was it implied that a single-manager solution was the best possible?

I would like to specify that I don’t judge my parents for not having shared household responsibilities more evenly. They did better than their parents, and gave me a good starting point.

However, I felt the need to consider the other partner’s point of view, because it could be a crucial part of the solution. I have heard this complaint too often, and I complained about it myself – but the response from the partner was often “then just ask me what to do”, or “I am not as good as you in managing the house, it’s better that you keep being the manager”, or “I think I’m doing my share, I don’t understand what’s wrong”. The last one rang a bell. How can it be? The management of a household is definitely not rocket science. In my eyes it is more a matter of practice and attention rather than teaching. But somehow it has been made invisible, even if it requires a significant amount of time and mental processing. I realise that my partner doesn’t see much of the household tasks I perform, and for sure he doesn’t see my mental todo-list. It is of course hard to have two people coordinating mental todo-lists, but it’s because they are not the right tool: it makes a lot more sense to have a physical map, accessible to both, like a whiteboard or an online tool (at least until a sort of routine sets in).

One crucial point that forced me to take my responsibilities on some tasks was that I was not able to avoid the consequences of delaying it forever. For example: when I lived alone, I couldn’t avoid taking out the trash. Any delay, even the most justifiable, didn’t change the fact that the trash kept rotting and smelling, so that delaying the task meant only more discomfort and work (taking the trash out vs. living with a smelly kitchen + taking the trash out + cleaning the bin + removing the smell from the house). If I had learned that I could delay a task until someone did it for me, because it was uncomfortable for them, I would had actually learned that it was not my responsibility.

I’ll think more about it and maybe post some updates, but for now I would stop here, and hope that it is already useful to some of my readers.

 

 

 

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From the kitchen: bread #39

Baking updates! Bread #39 followed the same recipe as #38, but I had to be creative with flours, as I discovered after making the Vorteig (pre-dough, with flour, water and yeast, left to rise for a few hours before adding all ingredients) that I had too little wheat flour left. I added Roggen and Dinkel flours, as well as a good amount of durum wheat semolina, and the resulting bread was brown and fluffy, with one of the best crusts ever!

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I had made a few changements in the cooking part, namely baking directly in the casserole dish. The downside is that the upper crust gets crisp and brown, while the lower crust and the sides remain soft – a bit too much. This is because I let the bread rise in the casserole dish, heated the oven, and put the casserole dish in the oven together with the bread, without pre-heating it. It took a while to get to temperature, therefore did not cook the lower part of the bread that much.

I hope you are inspired by my experiments and that you soon will try (or resume) baking too! I’ll be glad to hear back from you, and maybe I can start answering your questions about baking? Let’s try 🙂

Book review: “Sachgeschichten”, published by Duden

I regularly check the children section of my local libraries, because I find witty and instructive books written in way that is easy to understand. I appreciated this one a lot:

sachgeschichten

It is edited by Duden, unfortunately out of print. It features several one-page summaries of various topics, with accurate and funny illustrations, followed by two pages of related words. I like the open approach that permeates the book: each topic is presented in its various facets and with a lot of questions, suggesting further research. The final chapters explain how to prepare an oral presentation and a poster, and tips on how to present in front of classmates. I wish I had such a book when I was a kid! My schoolbooks were usually on the oversimplified side, while scientific literature was too complex. I am nevertheless happy to have found it now, because it is a great way to learn German! I noticed that I know around half of the words presented for each topic, so I have a lot to catch up 🙂

Photobook: seasons and weather

I have started to take a picture of the large tree next to my usual bus stop, to track the colour of its leaves during fall, and the changing light. I make the pictures standing on the same manhole cover, so that the framing is quite consistent. I am not very regular in taking pictures, but I try to remind myself about it every time I walk there.

Book recommendation: “I dodici abati di Challant” by Laura Mancinelli

This novel is a favourite of mine. What I love most is the atmosphere, in that medieval castle in the Eastern Alps.

I Dodici Abati di Challant

Laura Mancinelli wrote in a style that evocates troubadors, storytelling and human society in a time that none of us can directly remember, but strongly resonate as our common past. The many characters appear like in a theatre play, each with a defining characteristic. Some pages sound like poetry, or songs, with repetitions and rhymes. Here and there are life lessons, cooking recipes, drama, melancholy, deep thoughts.

I like this story because it feels close to me, even if so many details definitely belong to a distant past. Sometime I spot the contemporary thinking in the words of a character, or maybe that thought was common in those times already…

The other two stories included in Einaudi’s edition are set in different times and places, but the atmosphere and the way of writing are similar. I liked Il miracolo di Sant’Odilia a lot, but not as much as I dodici abati di Challant, my first and unforgettable encounter with Mancinelli’s prose.

Body awareness through movement

It sounds super silly, but today I lived an enlightening moment during my first yoga lesson: my body has a third dimension! I am prancing with sudden joy:

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Prancing Thoroughbred – see related post

I wrote before about my slight sight quirk and I realised how it influences how I see my own body. There is no doubt that my body is three-dimensional, but I rarely perceive it. My eyes see it as flat, as everything else around me. At the beginning of the lesson, I felt my body was composed by flat, paper-thin parts joined together, not even symetrical: I could imagine one shoulder with more detail, bigger than the other one, same with hips, legs, hands and so on. I felt like a quick sketch with some more refined lines here and there. I could not imagine my own side view. Weird – but functional.

Along the lesson, the movements and postures of yoga made me realise how body parts can or can’t move, how far my back can stretch and twist, which tendons start to hurt first, and whether one side of the body has more flexibility than the other. It felt like a careful study of myself. If this is the result after a single lesson, I’m really thrilled!

This experience made me realise how most other people are more fluent than me with movements, and how easy it is for them to use their bodies in an implicitly respectful way. I have been used to see my body as clumsy, but I still managed to move well enough not to need any particular support, so I quickly and silently gave up “studying” it. I was bad at dancing and at sport, but it didn’t matter, and I was not the only one. Now I realise what I missed, but at the same time I am happy to have understood what was going on, and to have found a great discipline and teacher to improve my body perception.

Did you have similar experiences with a new sport or hobby? You’re welcome to share it in the comment section!

Book recommendation: “Memoirs of Hadrian” by Marguerite Yourcenar, “Dieser Mensch war ich” by Christiane zu Salm

I read Dieser Mensch war ich (this person was me) many years after Memoirs of Hadrian,  but I wish to review them together, as they share common themes, and have woken similar emotions in me during reading.

Source: randomhouse.de
Source: bookdepository.de

Marguerite Yourcenar wrote a first-person novel about the life of emperor Hadrian, examining various events of his long life with the wisdom of his last moments. I felt that Hadrian showed an uncommon serenity towards the end of his life. Christiane zu Salm collected one- or two-page summaries of hospice patients in her care (she is Sterbebeglieiterin – assisting people approaching death), who agreed to be published in her book. These people are much closer to us than Hadrian: they were mechanics, shopkeepers, teachers, unemployed, with children, with complicated families, married, alone, sad, ready, desperate; it is easier to relate to their words and their feelings, because we share common experiences. Still, I see that the approach of the end of their lives made them all (Hadrian included) think of the same questions, and made them all simply human. I appreciated the somber, elegant lyrism of Hadrian’s long monologue, but I didn’t feel that zu Salm’s patients were less interesting or important because they used ordinary words. Presentation in this case is not relevant to me, and I hope I’m not alone thinking that.

I wish to end with the thought that these are stories of people’s lives. Death is of course very present in both books, but as a future event, as the end, rather than a fact in itself. I felt that their message was to appreciate every moment of life, and they made me think about what makes my life meaningful right now.