Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
Years ago, my husband told me a story that made me laugh out loud. He recounted that as a child, one of his chores was dish duty on Sunday afternoons — and it was a task he absolutely dreaded.
“It was always a huge mess,” he told me with a chuckle. “I was so overwhelmed I just wanted to run away.”
And one afternoon, that's more or less what he did. Sunday arrived, he surveyed the job that awaited him … and decided he just couldn't do it. So he turned around, left the kitchen and went upstairs to his room without touching a single dish.
I found the story hilarious, probably because I had never experienced such circumstances. I grew up in a small family, and the dinner cleanup was a fairly quick process. Then when I became an adult, I was more interested in takeout than home cooking. But after three kids, my husband and I finally decided that our restaurant habit was getting a little steep. So we made a pact to reduce costs by shopping smart, cooking at home and reaping the rewards of a heftier checking account.
At first, the whole thing seemed novel. My husband is an amazing cook, and his cuisine competes with any restaurant meal. We were eating great and saving big — it was a win-win. We even developed an efficient post-dinner routine; he would take the kids upstairs for baths while I cleaned up the kitchen.
I could do the job in 20 minutes, and given the fact that we had three kids dropping, dragging and smearing food all over the kitchen, I was proud of my ability to rehabilitate the space so quickly.
But one night — after years of this diligent routine — my outlook shifted.
My husband herded the kids upstairs and I sat at the table alone, just staring at the mess. Our kitchen looked like the aftermath of a natural disaster, and suddenly, I wasn't sure if I could muster the energy to clean it. Before I knew it, my husband reappeared, and I realized I had been sitting in a lazy daze for almost a half-hour. He looked at me quizzically.
“You know that story you told me about not wanting to do the dishes when you were a kid?” I asked him.
“Well, I'm sorry I ever laughed about that,” I said. “Because cleaning the kitchen is kind of awful.”
He smiled, and then he took mercy on me by helping me clean. It was a nice reprieve, but not enough to snap me out of my kitchen-cleaning funk. The next night, I found myself dreading the evening's post-dinner fiasco. So, I made a decision.
“Let's go out,” I said the moment my husband walked in the door.
“You got it,” he replied without even blinking.
Giddy with relief, I was out the door and in the car before he even finished speaking. We went to our favorite restaurant, had a fabulous meal and thoroughly enjoyed the departure from our norm. When we were finished, we left with full stomachs and light hearts, all of us tired from laughter.
When we arrived home, I walked in the house and smiled at my unscathed kitchen. I knew dish duty was a small price to pay for the privilege of having dinner with my family every night. Just the same, I decided that, going forward, an occasional meal out would unapologetically find its way into the household budget.