In and Out of January

If you like men’s figure skating and gayness, you will like Yuri!!! on Ice

…Resolutions, Money, and Someone’s Change of Gender

Resolutions

I have a couple of resolutions/goals this year.

The small one: At our house, whoever makes dinner also loads the dishwasher and does the dishes. The other person gets the night off. Apart from dinner dishes, we both use dishes throughout the day for breakfast, packed lunches and snacks. Before we got together, Rom lived in a household where everyone had different schedule, and everyone washed their own dishes. He still defaults to this. I tend to rinse my own dishes, leave them by the sink, and wash them when I get a sink full, every few days. This greatly offends Rom who feels I am leaving them for him to wash. I wouldn’t object to washing Rom’s incidental dishes, but he never leaves any for me. So my current resolution is to do my own dishes daily!

Either that or I will convince him to go with my method: he could add his dishes to my pile and we can take turns doing them all once a day. As long as I don’t leave them overnight, he would probably be OK with that!

The big one: I am going to create a housework schedule for me and Rom to follow. He says he will go along with whatever I decide – he must trust me to be fair?

We agree that meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen after cooking, are all going fine and don’t need to be overhauled. Currently, I get home from work an hour before Rom, so I make more time-consuming meals and bigger batches, while he makes quicker meals on his nights, and makes our weekend lunches.

Rom does the laundry every weekend, which sounds good in theory, but in practice it means I do everything else: vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, washing floors, scooping the cat litter, cleaning windows and mirrors, reorganizing storage space, taking out the garbage and recycling, and so on. Not all of these are regular duties, but I keep track of when they need doing, and then do them. I also do the bill paying and I arrange for repairs and replacement items.

See also: Are You the Household Mastermind?

In the winter we share snow shovelling equally. I do the gardening and yard work in the summer because I really enjoy it, but then I need more of a break from the indoor tasks, so that will be part of the new plan.

With only two of us and two cats, it’s not a high-maintenance household, but I believe we’ll both be happier with lists to accomplish each week. We both like checking things off lists!

Money

January began with a budget overhaul. I have shifted my master plan over several years. Once upon a time, I paid big annual bills as they came up, which caused massive cashflow problems!

My next strategy was to divide up the annual bills and save for them monthly. For example, my home insurance is due in October, so I divided it by 10 and saved for it between January and October. I could have divided all my annual bills by 12.

For 2018, I am going to go the full YNAB route. I posted about You Need a Budget here. Even though I don’t use their app, I have adopted their method of saving enough money so I’m not living paycheque to paycheque. I will use savings to pay all my big annual bills in full this year. This strategy only works if one has a cash reserve. I accomplished this by not contributing to my own long-term savings in 2017 and saving the same amount for annual bills instead. Not ideal but it makes my life much easier. I find the trade-off acceptable. I will save enough throughout the year (by not paying the annual bills from my salary) to pay for next year’s. It is likely I’ll never make up the hit to my long-term savings unless I make unprecedented lifestyle changes.

2018 should be a typical year for expenses since we are living the same and doing the same, except for this month’s travel, and price increases.

Change of Gender

Our 24-year-old, Link, was recently approved for gender-confirming surgery through their provincial health plan (i.e., free). Link identifies as genderqueer and transmasculine, so they wanted their body to look more masculine, and they applied for “top surgery.” This is a double mastectomy and chest reconstruction. Link has wanted this for 8 years and has been on formal waiting lists for about 3 years. The application process keeps improving. You no longer have to say, “I am a man trapped in a woman’s body!” It is OK to be non-binary. Applicants don’t have to take hormones or prove that they live day-to-day as the “other” gender. However, applicants still need a physical, a psychiatric evaluation, and reference letters from one’s own doctor and a WPATH-approved specialist. It is tricky. You must be unwell enough to receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, but well-functioning enough to not receive a diagnosis of significant mental illness. If you do have mental or physical health conditions, they must be treated and well-managed before surgery is approved.

Link delayed the surgery for 3 months so they could pass the probationary period at their new job before taking an unpaid medical leave. Despite living in Toronto, Link was sent to a clinic in Montreal for the procedure. Some of the Toronto physicians are not fully approved by the provincial health system, and therefore if you go to them, you incur a lot of uncovered costs.

I accompanied Link to the surgery and helped out during recovery for a couple of weeks. It was nice just being a parent to a 20-something, being helpful, and having no expectations of what Link should be doing, other than relaxing. Besides the surgery itself, I went along to the follow-up medical appointments, acted as a medical resource and advocate, took care of groceries and meals and cleaning (a theme this month!) and we just spent time together. We watched the popular anime series Yuri!!! on Ice, I learned all about Fire Emblem, saw all Link’s Tumblrs, assembled new IKEA furniture, walked to Starbucks every other day, and ate a lot of red bean buns. I read 5 books and (gasp!) worked on a couple of little cross-stitch kits.

Link has a small apartment with one bed, and as a “patient,” they very much needed the bed. I was not up for sleeping on an air mattress, so I stayed nearby at an Airbnb. It was a gorgeous room, equivalent to a luxury hotel, and it even included a robe, slippers and complimentary breakfast! It was a breath of fresh air to return there at night, and it gave us some space and privacy. Toward the end of my stay, I bought a few day passes to a local gym and got some workouts in, which made me feel a lot better.

Another thing I liked about the trip was staying in Link’s Toronto neighbourhood, more like a resident than a tourist, just taking the bus and doing errands and living regular life.

Meanwhile, Rom was on his own, looking after the house and cats for 17 nights! It was our first time apart in 7 years, and it made me feel oddly out of time and place. Upon my return, I think we have a redoubled appreciation for our everyday lifestyle, habits and companionship. Now to get the housework duties sorted, haha! (Rom had a long preview while I was away, and did a lot of solo snow shovelling).

I have another post planned with more details about Link’s gender surgery and what it was like from a parent or caregiver point of view. It is intended for other parents or partners (since my blog is indexed and searchable) so you can read it or not, as your interest lies.

Meanwhile I would love to know if you have launched any resolutions, a new budget, or a new gender identity! 🙂

26 comments

  1. I am thrilled that it seems like Link’s surgery went well and recovery is complete or well on the way and glad you were able to be there as a caretaker and companion. Household chores and division of labor is a tricky one that we are still working out now that neither of us is working. As I retired first we had switched to me doing a lot of them rather than more equal division and we had a yard that required a lot of work as well. Now no yard work and a need to rethink our division of labor. Like you I have a willing Hubby so it is just an adjustment not a hassle. Thanks for writing about these things.

    • Thanks, Juhli. I hope you will post about your division of duties – I am interested! There is also the logistical work of scheduling and preparing for visits to/from family and organizing holidays.

  2. Link is lucky to have such a supportive mom! Glad to hear they are doing okay.

    We refinanced our mortgage years ago and decided to pay the property taxes and insurance ourselves, so we basically run our own escrow fund and it’s worth it. (We earn interest instead of someone else) But instead of dividing by 12, I divided by 52 and put money away every week automatically. It goes into our money market mutual fund, which is the same as our “emergency fund” savings. It works great. Now with a rental property (and a second one about to be purchased) those weekly deposits are huge, but the rent payments cover it.

  3. I wish our division of chores was…smoother. Timewise it probably ends up being close to the same, but on a weekly basis the time we put in can be very different. I do the regular cleaning, laundry and most cat care. He handles lawn care (I garden, but hate mowing/weeding), car maintenance, taking out the trash/recycling, home repair and pilling our cat. The house is small, so weekly cleaning can be as quick as an hour. If I asked him to do more cleaning chose he would, but I’m picky and find it easier to just do it. On the other hand he spent a solid week renovating the bathroom while I was out of town and did nothing.

    I don’t keep a budget really, but have a goal amount to transfer to savings every month. This year I’m trying to adjust to not doing that and instead paying off the mortgage, beefing up retirement savings, and making some planned yet still painful big purchases. It’s weird not to grow my savings though.

    Glad to hear Link is doing well. That sounds like an intense surgery. I’m sure they appreciate having such a supportive mom and I learn a lot from their shared experience.

    • I am the same – finding it uncomfortable not to grow my savings. I hear you about being picky – when I was a kid, I guess I just absorbed that housework should be done to a high standard and that is now my standard, regardless how much time and energy we have. That will have to be dealt with as part of the upcoming plan!

  4. Exactly! It’s funny because my mom was quite the homemaker when I was little (while working full time), but after my parents divorce she went way the other way. And I was a messy kid but am now a neat freak. Go figure. I did skip cleaning two weekends ago and when I cleaned it after two weeks it didn’t seem any different than the dirt/dust level over one week. So maybe I can chill a bit. Sometimes. 😁

    Also felt guilty this morning for not giving the boyfriend credit for doing all the shoveling…especially when he was out shoveling at 6:40 this morning after we got 6″ of snow.

  5. In our house, whoever cook doesn’t have to do the dishes after. We both really enjoy starting the morning with a clean kitchen so never any storing of dishes! Team Ron on this!
    Good going Link, have a happy rest of your life (and a not so small good parenting badge for you).

  6. Fiona

    I am so glad for Link that they’ve finally been able to have such long-awaited surgery. What a huge moment for you all. Yes, definitely a great parenting badge for you, Dar! You are so supportive of so many people but Link must surely benefit hugely from all the reading, thought, care and time/physical help you have dedicated to this journey. You are such a role model for parents everywhere who have specific support needs for their children. I always have you in mind when I need to (try) to remain calm, positive and considered in parenting issues.

    Hugely interested as always in the housework split and budgeting. Yes, I have major resolutions in these areas still. We have never got to the bottom of our gender divide in housework. Will read your future posts with interest!

    • Thanks. I have learned a lot from other parents with kids who have special needs. I never thought of myself in that category until Link was in their late teens – due to their undiagnosed issues. Live and learn. As for the LGBTQ stuff, I like to think of myself as an advocate, and a lifelong learner! I don’t think we have a gender-based divide in our housework – we just need a better divide altogether!

  7. Margie in Toronto

    So glad to hear that the surgery went well and that you were able to be there for Link!
    There’s just me so all the cooking and housework is my responsibility – but – I’m neat and organized so as long as I keep on top of things it’s not terribly onerous.
    Budgeting is also straightforward as there is only so much money. Rent and all bills get paid at the start of the month – I load up my transit card with a certain amount and that’s it for the month – I allot a certain amount for groceries (and I’ve managed to cut back in this area by about a quarter for both January & February) and then there’s a small amount of spending money and that’s it. January was more spendy than anticipated as things popped up but February should balance that out. I’ve been sick with this cold/flu since the start of the month so that has saved money as I’m not going out. I don’t have much planned (aside from watching the Olympics) over the next few weeks so it should be a low spend month and the rest will give me time to recover.

    • Hi Margie, sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling well – I hope you are coming around. Our workplace was hit hard – luckily I was away! Those winter “germ breaks” really do help. I wish we could have got together when I was in Toronto, but I was in the suburbs with Link and we didn’t get out at all! (I could have got a ticket to see Baryshnikov but didn’t want to pay the price, or leave Link alone.) You and Candi have made me think. We are neat and organized at our house too, so it’s not such a big chore to keep clean – we just need to develop good habits. Hope the rest of your February goes well!

      • Margie in Toronto

        It would have been lovely to meet up again but Mom duty is far more important! I’m recovering slowly but steadily. I had got smug about being the only one who hadn’t got ill this winter and then BAM! That will teach me! 🙂

  8. Congratulations to Link for a successful surgery. You’re a wonderful mum, Dar. You are one of the very few people who come to mind when I think of the model mum, wife, daughter, work manager, friend.

  9. Glad to hear the surgery went well and lots of praise to you for being there and helping out.
    We have no devision of jobs – we just kind of decide on the day who will get on with what. OH tends to do ‘waste management’ as he calls it (emptying bins and putting the wheelie bin out for collection), I usually clean toilets. We both can strip and make the beds, do laundry ( thought I tend to sort it first to avoid any disasters), I do the ironing, OH will mend things. I hoover and dust, he will cook and wash up if I am doing other things. We both garden. We have no rota, no schedule or list but somehow it all works.

    • That is encouraging – it means he has the ability to look around, see what needs to be done, and do it (maybe even without reminders): a rare quality for both people in a couple to have!

  10. Congratulations to Link! That’s wonderful that you could be there to support and help out. More parents, and people, need to be supportive like you!

    We have a fluid division of labor, I was just thinking how ours has changed since I last posted about it. Our one rule is that the cook doesn’t also have to clean up, though I do prefer to clean up while I’m cooking if I can.

    • Oh yeah! The reason I don’t like to clean up after Rom’s cooking is his dishwashing style. He puts all the dirty pots, pans and dishes in a sink of soapy water and keeps adding to it. By the time dinner is done, if I were to do the dishes, I would have to put my hands in the now-cold water with food floating in it – NOT happening! My style is to rinse all the dishes, stack them by the sink, then wash them in order of most delicate (like wine glasses) to most sturdy (like cast iron pans)!

  11. I’m so happy to hear Link was able to get surgery! And for free, what a relief! Also glad that you could take the time to be with them during this time. It’s great that Link will have 12 weeks away from work to recuperate . . a friend of mine had a similar procedure due to a cancer diagnosis and she was shocked by how many activities in her daily life were impacted by the recovery process (as was I).

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