Often someone asks me: "What kind of work do you do?"

So I tell them.

Then they usually raise their eyebrows, look at me funny and say, "You're a WHAT?"

"I'm a house husband, or if you want to be non-sexist about it, I'm a house spouse. Have been for four years."

"You mean you don't work?"

It's then I know how women must feel when naive, unthinking men misunderstand them. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking care of the kids and all the rest isn't taken for work in our society . . . it's taken for granted.

Men, as a rule, don't know what is involved in the doing of what gets done around their homes. They don't realize how terribly time-consuming many chores are.

They can see a basket full of clean clothes. What they don't see is shopping for laundry products. They don't see picking up dirty clothes from all over the house, emptying the hamper, carrying clothes to the laundry room. Unseen is the sorting, loading, washing, drying, starting the next load, waiting till the first is dry to unload it and load the second batch into the dryer. The third, fourth and, maybe, fifth loads of dirty clothes that need washing and drying and sorting and folding are equally invisible.

It isn't difficult to kill-five of six hours washing a week's worth of clothes. What it amounts to, however, only fills a clothes basket. Surely a basket full of clothes COULDN'T take six hours to do, could it?

"You mean you don't work?" they ask.

"What kind of an answer would your wife give you to that question?" I ask.

"Well, SHE says she works very hard. As hard as I do. But, honestly, I can't see how . . ."

"Believe her. I know. I've been there. I am there."

But it's hard for me to get too angry: I've been in both roles. I've been the husband whose wife did it all for him. Now I'm the husband who does it all for his wife. I cook the bacon; she brings it home.

Until four years ago, I had everything a successful business owner could have: 70-hour work weeks, hypertension, marital problems, and two sons who were strangers to me. When an opportunity arose to sell out -- profitably -- I took it. My intent was to quit working for one or two years, and to spend time with my family.

A year later, my wife received her accounting degree, passed her CPA exam and took a job in the corporate accounting field. With no pressing financial need for me to return to the job market, I took over the running of our household full-time. I'm still at it.

During the last four years I've had the opportunity to do everything most housewives do. I have found that I actually enjoy some of the tasks. I've also found I despise some others. That probably makes me about normal.

I think what a lot of men need to understand is that women, their housewives, we house spouses really DO work. And, often, the hours are NOT just 9 to 5. They're longer.

They need to remember that those six hours spent doing the laundry were only two hours less than a "professional worker's" day. It was 15 percent of a 40-hour week. When you spend that much time with your washing machine, you NEED something with a name like Cheer!

What I've learned is that financial compensation alone is not sufficient criterion for judging the worth or value of the work that some people perform.

If it were, you'd be paying a lot more than hugs and kisses for what you get.