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Warmest regards: Is it fair to stereotype roles?

As I watched my husband fix a problem I was having with my watch, I thought once again how happy I am that he is good at fixing things.

More than a decade ago when David and I announced we were getting married, my friend Kay was it was an added plus that David was an engineer. “Engineers are especially good at fixing things and solving problems,” she said.

As I watched him through the years, I found Kay’s assessment was right on.

I often admire that in addition to his technical know-how, he has incredible patience. When he can’t easily figure out how to fix something or come up with a solution, he doesn’t give up until he does it.

The other day we needed to carry a heavy piece of machinery to his truck. I didn’t think the two of us could move something that heavy.

The engineer in David figured out how to use two boards and leverage to help us move the heavy piece of equipment.

That’s something I admire about David and every other man who is mechanically inclined.

My friend Linda puffs up when I say that. She reminds me that plenty of women have that same mechanical aptitude. She is one of them.

When my TV didn’t work, I said I was going to call a repairman. Linda scoffed and quickly had the set working again.

When I ask how she learned so many mechanical skills, she says she had to.

“When you don’t have a man around to do it for you, you have two choices. Pay someone to do it or learn to do it yourself. If you don’t have money to hire others, you have to learn to be a do-it-yourselfer,” she said.

She did it well. I’ve watched her drywall a room, put in new tile throughout her house and fix a broken door.

I’m in awe of women like Linda but I know I’ll never be that handy. I have very little mechanical ability. When I do manage to fix a problem, I’m elated. But it doesn’t happen often.

My husband believes we should both work together on house projects. When he insisted I cut the ceramic tile he was putting in the bathroom, I broke so many pieces that we were in danger of running out. He finally had to concede it was smarter to do it himself.

One day, when I was complimenting him on another of his fix-it projects, I asked him if he ever got tired of having to be the one that fixed everything.

I was surprised when he said yes. “It isn’t fair that everything falls on me,” he said.

I guess what he was saying is that it isn’t fair for a couple to have stereotypical roles. The guy shouldn’t have to be the only one asked to fix things.

Well, to counter that, is it fair that I as the woman of the house am expected to cook every single meal? Planning a menu, doing the food shopping and cooking meals is all part of my responsibility.

If I am at a meeting that runs late while I’m driving home, my mind is reeling, trying to think of something to make for dinner that wouldn’t take a lot of time.

Even when I was recovering from surgery and needed a wheelchair to get around, I was still expected to cook all the meals. David’s idea of “making a meal” would be to make a sandwich.

On the other hand, a day seldom goes by that he doesn’t praise what I made for dinner.

We each have different skill sets. Granted, those skills are along stereotypical roles but I don’t see anything wrong with that. If my talent is cooking and his talent is repairing something, we each are contributing what we do best.

My daughters and their friends strongly disagree with what they call old-fashioned expectations. “That kind of thinking went out decades ago. Couples today work together to divide household tasks more fairly,” they claim. “There is no reason why a guy can’t help with the cooking and a woman can’t help paint the walls.”

It’s always interesting for me to observe the different divisions of labor in each house. I know a few women who don’t get near a stove. Their husband does all the cooking.

Guess who does the repair work?

For the most part, they call a repairman.

There seems to be more disposable income today than in previous generations. My dad lived on a tight budget and did everything himself. He fixed his own car, built our new bathroom, and took care of fixing everything. I remember how he kept trying to teach my brother how to do those things.

Years later, when I was married, I asked dad why he never tried to show me how to do anything.

“Because you’re a girl,” he said. “I knew you could rely on a husband do those things.”

He had a definite stereotypical mindset.

I think it’s an age thing.

So, is stereotypical thinking a trap? Is it a violation of human rights, as some claim.

Or, is it something that works?

You tell me.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.