Who does what around the home?

May 27, 2010

in Acts of Service

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.

6 comments
Charlie Holmes
Charlie Holmes

Another consideration is health concerns which preclude one or the other to handle as much as s/he used to. My wife has been in diminishing health for about 5 years, now. As a result of her condition, the brunt of the housework has fallen to me. We run an Internet retail store from home & I'm a full time student, finishing up my degree. For the majority of the past few years, not only do I work the business full time, I also must complete assignments for school on time, cook, do laundry, wash dishes & make myself available for her needs (she sometimes uses me as a walker & I push her in a wheelchair when she hasn't the strength to walk). My problem is, her 2 remaining-at-home teenage daughters like to leave dishes on the floor, cups, cans & trash in the areas where they sit, and when dishes DO make it to the kitchen, they're often near (but not near enough to) the sink and cups often still have milk in them from "yesterday". One of them has a bedroom that, most of the time, looks like it was hit by a tornado (not merely a parental exaggeration, I assure you). At least they do their own laundry. But I am here to serve. So, with a modicum of complaining, serve, I do. Of course, my wife would suggest that my complaining is more than just "a modicum". Perhaps she's right.

Temple
Temple

Again, this is another area where we don't fit the stereotypes. He's far better at housekeeping than I am. He even enjoys it! I'm just not a neat or picky person, but I'm trying to improve.

blauciel
blauciel

I am the one that stays at home, and the best thing I can say is simply work out a compromise. Work hard, she'll work hard, and you'll both share the load. My wife and I have certain agreements on what is at the top of the list, and who is designated to do what work. It could be as simple as a dinner-related saying: She cooks, He cleans. He mows, she plants. Stuff like that. That way every action has a counterpart in which they share the work.

The Hubby Diaries
The Hubby Diaries

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with a couple of your comments. While I write my blog as lighthearted, tongue in cheek humor, there are always underlying truths. In this particular post I identify that chores in general, are not always completely balanced in our home. And, for the most part, I accept that fact. As you stated, most women pay far more attention to how "the nest" looks than does a man. As my dear hubby says... "if you want it to look a certain way all the time, you need to take the bulk of responsiblity for it, because I either don't notice it all or I have a far higher threshold before I think it *needs* attention!". And, the other key point is to never feel that the work you do is taken for granted. At soon as one partner begins to feel this way... it requires immediate attention & discussion! .-= The Hubby Diaries´s last blog ..The Great Blue Hole =-.

Eric - BHF
Eric - BHF

I also read the blogs you were referring too and you have some great points. For me and my wife, we have gotten into a pretty good routine. She's a stay at home mom, so obviously she does a bit more than me. What gets us in trouble is when one of us starts thinking its the others turn, we should do housework without thought to fairness or who's turn it is. This is far more easier said than done. It's like you said about the dishes a few days ago, see that they need doing and do them! .-= Eric - BHF´s last blog ..Parents Television Council and CBS's New Show =-.

Doug
Doug

Another thing to keep in mind is what is important to whom. My wife is obsessed with the dishes. They must not be left in the sink, they must be put in the dishwasher. When the dishwasher is full, the person who put the last item in it must run it. And when it finishes, it must be emptied immediately. However, she is the only one in the household (myself and two daughters) who is this obsessed with the dishes. I have tried to suggest to her that if she is the one to whom this matters the most, maybe it could be her "pet project". I've tried to point out that nagging the rest of us and expecting us to have the same outlook on dishes as she does only brings stress and tension into the household, and that it would take less energy for her to take care of the dishes most of the time than to harangue everyone else in the household. It hasn't worked so far.

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