At the top of the hierarchy | Living with Gleigh

The other evening I was in my bedroom watching TV and getting ready for bed. Just as I got settled, my youngest daughter burst into my room and exclaimed, “There’s something sizzling in the kitchen!”

I jumped out of bed and rushed into the kitchen. I tracked the “sizzling” to the refrigerator. It sounded like the ice maker was misfiring, until it became apparent it was coming from the back of the fridge.

Fortunately the fridge is not walled in, so I went to the other side where our bird’s cage sits. I ran my hand down the blanket we put over the cage at night. It was damp and there was a fine mist coming from behind the fridge. The tube feeding the ice machine had apparently sprung a leak.

I pulled the bird cage away from the refrigerator, then went into the computer room to tell my husband. As he followed me to the kitchen, he kept telling me he had no idea how to shut off the water to the ice machine.

I have to admit, as he was telling me this, I really didn’t pay it much mind, because I had now handed the problem over to the next person in the hierarchy of the household. I knew he would have to figure it out because I had less of an idea of how to fix it than he did.

So this column is not about the leaking ice machine tubing, which, by the way had a turn-off valve on the correct side of the leak. It is also, thankfully, not about how we were out of town or asleep while the leak flooded our house, which would then make this column about making a claim to our homeowner’s insurance. This column is about how every household has a proper hierarchy in which to make a request, file a complaint, or express a concern.

In our house, everything starts with me. I’m the mama! I’m the boss of schedules, the rectifier of problems, the decider of conflicts. When I am helpless to resolve an issue, such as a leaking ice machine tube, I hand it over to my husband; I delegate the work.

But I remember a time before our kids were born when there was no specific hierarchy. There were issues I handled and issues my husband handled based on our particular knowledge and abilities. I handled household things, my husband handled car things. I handled grocery shopping and cooking, my husband handled repairs. I made appointments, my husband extracted spiders; I was terrified of spiders.

When the kids were toddlers, they understood some of our early responsibilities, like how dad always extracted spiders. But because, as a stay-at-home mom, I was with them all the time, I eventually landed permanently at the top of the hierarchy, even though my husband’s and my knowledge base and abilities did not change. Now that they are teens everything still starts with mom.

But guess what? I still can’t fix cars or repair things. I have however learned to extract spiders because I had to put on a brave face and teach my little girls that spiders were not dangerous or scary; they are our friends because they eat bad bugs, blah, blah, blah. I shudder to my very core when having to deal with spiders.

I was reminded of the early keeper of that particular responsibility the other night when my daughter once again came rushing into my bedroom. I was reading and my husband was already sleeping. On the ceiling in the hallway there was a spider the size of a silver dollar. My mind immediately retreated into the place that made it my husband’s problem. But then I regained my wits and took compassion on my husband who gets up at 4:00am while I get to continue sleeping; that problem was now my responsibility.

I got some paper towels and a stool (dad’s much taller; another reason he’s the default for ceiling spiders), extracted the spider and put her outside without killing her, because crushing a spider that huge just adds to my shudder.

She was big enough to introduce herself at the top of the spider hierarchy outside, and as I relocated her I reinforced my place at the top of the hierarchy in the house. And that is the proper order of things.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read her column every week on You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates