Why you should teach your spouse to be a widow/er

Judging by the title of this blog, I bet you’re wondering just where this is going and whether I am treading on very dangerous ground…

Many years ago, when working for what was then Mercantile Mutual – now OnePath (part of the ANZ group) I remember a much older colleague (at least to me he seemed much older, he was probably 40) making a statement I have never forgotten. Back in those days, we actually listened to older people and thought that they knew what they were talking about!

He said the best thing a person could do was to teach their spouse to be a widow!

Now, that sounds a bit outrageous and morbid, but when you start to peel back the layers and delve into where he was coming from, it actually makes a great deal of sense.

In many families, specific tasks are generally allocated to one spouse or the other. My wife often tells me, when we have a demarcation dispute, that it is ‘her job’. We have our own jobs and we stick to them. Funny though, I wouldn’t complain if she offered to mow the lawn!

Often amongst the older generations (and at the risk of sounding incredibly sexist, the woman was the ‘housemaker’ – another really old word – and took responsibility for the shopping, cooking, cleaning and, I was going to say sewing, but I don’t think a lot of that happens these days, other than perhaps as a hobby.

On the other hand, the male often takes responsibility for the administrative functions (e.g. paying the bills) and doing the ‘heavy lifting’ such as mowing the lawns, spending innumerable hours conducting ‘research’ at Bunnings and performing all manner of the household maintenance, with varying degrees of success.

By now there is a very real risk I have started to alienate some readers by stereotyping the household roles, but please hear me out.

What my colleague was suggesting when he made the statement that we should train our spouse to be a widow, was that each member of a couple should be cross-trained to perform each other’s tasks.

By that I mean: men, learn to cook and women, learn to manage the finances. But, we don’t need to be experts.

Today, as we age, it is a reality of life that we will each be spending some time on our own, be it as a result of the death of our spouse, divorce, or being separated as a result of illness etc.

Being able to cover each other’s tasks in these situations will mean that the non-cook in the family will not be eating at Macca’s every second night and that that the bills might still be paid on time.

So next time, when you’re sitting down with your spouse, start the conversation and make a list of what tasks your partner does and explore the opportunities to try some job sharing.

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