I have recently seen a couple of blogs mention who does what around the house. On The Hubby Diaries the female writer says she works year round, while her man only works when the weather allows him to do the outside stuff he does. She further points out that she does plenty of the outside work, while he does very little inside. On another blog (can’t recall it now) a woman said that no matter how feminist a woman is, or how many hours she works outside the home, if she is married she will have to either accept doing most of the housework, or hire someone to do it.
Are these women telling it like it is? More to the point, are they telling it like it is for most marriages? I know exceptions where the guy does far more than his bride, and I know a few homes where the division of labour seems fairly balanced, but these seem to be the exception.
A few thoughts (that will probably get me in trouble!):
- It’s human nature to overstate what we do, and understate what others do. In fact, it’s not just how we state it, it’s usually how we see it. That means the situation is rarely as one sided as those doing too much think it is.
- I honestly think that women’s brains are better wired for the organised chaos that is housekeeping. Housework is never ending, always morphing, and often self-interrupting. Those (male or female) who want to pick a job and stay with it till it’s done are not as efficient at housework as those who can pick up and set down tasks easily. Those who want to do a job by a set scheduled also have difficulty with housework.
- I also think woman care a lot more about how the “nest” looks then most men do. There are exceptions, but by-in-large women are far more nest oriented. I suspect that means women will do more than their fair share rather than live with it undone.
All of that said, how do we take care of what needs to be done to maintain a home in a way that’s equitable? More importantly, who decides what’s equitable? If husband and wife are both happy with how it’s handled, then I’d say it’s good, no matter how others would see it. By the same standard, if either of you is unhappy with the way it’s done now, then I think you have a problem, even if others would see it as fair.
I think that complaints about housework sharing or one person not doing enough are often, at least in part, about other things. Perhaps her stated dissatisfaction with who does what is more about not being appreciated for what she does. If she feels she’s chained to the house while you seem free to go and do what you want, this frustration could easily be channelled into the issue of housework. Any number of other disputes can get sublimated into arguments about doing your fair share of the housework.
Also, be aware that changes in your lives will necessitate re-examination who does what. If she is home with a toddler, she has near constant interruptions. Maybe she was willing to do all the housework when you had school plus a job – but when you finished school, she probably expected you to do more around the house. If there’s a change in location of your job, or her job, or some meeting your kids go to, that means one of you is driving more, or less, and thus has more or less time to do things around the house. There are also seasonal changes in time available.
Start by asking your bride is she has any concerns or frustration over how the housework is divided. If she is not very convincing that it’s all good, have a deeper conversation.