I’ve been reading this great book, a real-life love story called The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse. It’s the story of a now-married couple, the journey it took them to get there and the adventure of abandoning their lives for a 17,000 mile sail around the Pacific Ocean in a leaky boat. I’m an avid sailor (been doing it since I was a young child) but the book’s draw isn’t the nautical context. It’s the one man, one woman, partner story that defines the everyday life of a working marriage in some of the most extreme and certainly stressful conditions that I have found appealing.
There’s a chapter that talks about the tasks that Janna and her husband Graeme have to tackle on the boat that introduces the concept of “Pink and Blue” tasks. Janna goes on to write:
“Ask any cruiser out there about these two colors and they’ll tell you what you already guessed: women do Pink tasks (cooking, cleaning, laundry and seeing) and Men do Blue tasks (electronics, mechanics, installing, fixing).”
So being a sailor, and my wife being my first mate whenever we’re out on a boat together, I brought the idea up to her, not only about life on the boat but also, for us, off it. We’ve been married more than 10 years and from my POV, we most certainly have Pink and Blue tasks in our lives. It’s just how it’s worked out. She’s never mowed the lawn, I think I once took our child to the pediatrician without her. She’s never climbed the ladder into the attic to change the furnace filter and you can count on one hand the number of days in the past year I picked up the dry cleaning. It’s not intentional. It’s not something we ever discussed or planned. It just is. We have Pink and Blue tasks in our lives every day, and the Blue tasks are often tied to when mechanical things break in the house. When that happens, I fix them, not my wife. Always.
And this, she said, was very chauvinistic. She was overtly offended and told me in no uncertain terms that we did not have Pink and Blue tasks. If I wanted her to mow the lawn, I should just ask her. If I would show her how things around the house worked, she’d help with them.
So last week, after returning from a day-long business trip to St. Louis, walking up the driveway just after 9 p.m. (after leaving the house at 5 a.m.), our daughter comes running out into the snow, in 20 degree weather without a jacket, yelling “Mommy needs your help…the dishwasher is leaking.”
Sure enough, the kitchen floor is filled with water-soaked towels, a mop and a pail as water pours out of the corners of the dishwasher.
And it’s at this point my wife concedes. “I apologize. You’re right. I’m wrong. There are Pink and Blue tasks. Please help with this blue task and fix the dishwasher and get the leaking to stop.”
And so I did. It took a bit to diagnose the issue, but I wiped all the extra gunk out from beneath the seal where the door meets the dishwasher floor and all was right again with the world. No more leak.
How does it work in your homes dads (and moms)? Do you have Pink and Blue tasks in your lives or is your partnership evenly blended into a light shade of purple?