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men, women, and chore division

I feel like I hear a lot of talk about women who feel like they do all the housework still, and they talk about it in that "I can't believe it's 2014 and I'm still doing more than my fair share" kinda way.

And it was funny... when I was preparing for my presentation last month about having a stay-at-home-dad I asked women who I knew were stay at home moms for tips on how their partners could support them more I heard them say things like "I just wish he'd do *something* around the house. Like set the table!"

set the table, really? that gets you points? that's literally my three-year-old's job... that's nothing!

a recurring problem seems to be that men and women are just raised/programmed/wired differently, so the guys don't even realize how little they're doing, they don't notice the dust balls in the corner that need vacuumed. Or maybe the women notice every spec of dust and must vacuum it NOW and the guys really don't think it's that important.

So I wrote down a list of chores marc and I have and noticed a trend: we don't have a lot of things that depend on our programming being magically in sync.

there aren't a lot of shared chores. no "just vacuum when you notice the floor needs it", because that's really vague, and seems like it would really set you up for resenting the other person when their "trigger" isn't the same as yours.

Instead, we just split up tasks in the most black and white ways possible: I always unload the dishwasher, he always loads it. He always does the laundry, I always sort it and put it away.

And we try to relax. I was raised in a house where the second dinner was over, the table was cleared and the kitchen cleaned. He's more of a "let's sit on the couch, we just ate" kinda guy. I told him my concern... that if the dishes weren't done right after dinner they'd never get done, they'd sit there overnight to encourage mice and fruit flies, so he assured me that they would get done in the evening. Before bed. And it worked. I no longer walk past the dishes in the evening stressing about them being forgotten about, it's all straight now. We put leftovers away after we eat, then we chill out.

I'm not saying everything is perfect, we had a party two weeks ago and I came home to a house with a very clean living room, but the bathrooms hadn't been cleaned, I was like "that's the dirtiest part of the house you have to clean FIRST when people are coming over, the bathroom!" and he seemed just kinda confused, and then just pissed off because he said he'd been cleaning all day and I hadn't noticed any of it. just my own priorities. so yeah, we're not in 100% agreement all the time.

but there's no quiet resentment happening. and we've both compromised on things and talked out how we feel about it.

and when in doubt, make an "always" statement instead of a "when you notice" statement. don't leave room for interpretation. it makes everything confusing.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
It's my husband who first notices that things are dirty (except the kitchen. That's me.) and when I don't do it soon enough for his standards he doesn't SAY anything, but does it himself, sighing and grumbling. Also, when he's stressed, he goes into manic-cleaning mode, making me feel extra guilty. It's not for that, it's just what he does to relieve stress; I know from his father that he did it as a teenager too.
Mar. 18th, 2014 06:51 am (UTC)
when I don't do it soon enough for his standards he doesn't SAY anything, but does it himself, sighing and grumbling

Oh, yes, this. Or worse, I do it, and then he redoes it, because I haven't done an adequate job.
Mar. 17th, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think partly since we're both women, we struggle a lot with division of labor (not to mention different personalities, growing up in different environments, etc.) We have not really ever established one based on our interests, tolerances and talents and so have "fought" over chores for over 10 years. We try to be too egalitarian-- taking turns and doing things together and so on-- and then there's all the chores that neither of us like or want to do and there is no pressure based on gender, and then it can be WWII. This is why we finally hired someone to mow our lawn.

I think the way you do it where you split tasks up black and white is probably a better way...but what do you do if someone doesn't do what they were "supposed" to do?

Edited at 2014-03-17 07:09 pm (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
I notice that its hard for my husband to just jump in and know how to help. We communicate, it generally improves. Plus, it helps if I'm not all RAWR SO GRUMPY at the end of *my* day- some of that is just pacing out how our afternoons go better. Its been a learned skill for me.

I totally have my kids doing all sorts of chores. They make beds, put away laundry, are almost exclusively folding the "easy" laundry, they clear and set the table, they help strip beds, pick up toys, arrange the books neatly on shelves... on and on. I notice that most people don't seem to have these sorts of expectations at this age level (my valuable helpers are 4 and 7, my 1yo is mostly given tasks to help her not be actively destructive!).
Mar. 17th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
A lot of pressure eased up when I decided to hire a cleaning service once a month. That way, we can deal with the day to day stuff, but the Big Things get cleaned by them and so I never dust now ever. And I never have to clean the tub.

eta: our pressure is largely because he wants things cleaner than I care about. not the other way around.

Edited at 2014-03-17 09:47 pm (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
If we were both working 40 hours a week I would so hire a cleaning service! I read that a lot of people feel guilty about it, like it's admitting a failure that we can't maintain our own houses... stupid cultural thing. we have people do our taxes, fix our cars and teach our kids without a moment's hesitation. I'd totally have someone clean my house.
Mar. 17th, 2014 11:47 pm (UTC)
I think our big thing was setting it all up. Mostly, we help each other with everything, and there are times when a week is super stressful or hectic for one and the other with pick up. Overall, though, I don't think it's gender that determines it (Luke likes to clean the kitchen). It's communication.
Mar. 18th, 2014 12:27 am (UTC)
We each have a list of separate chores too. We call it The Treaty, and it saved our marriage.

Many years ago, we had a big knock-down drag-out no-holds-barred screaming match, the upshot of which was that each of us thought the other one was doing none of the housework. My husband gave each of us paper and a pen and sent us to separate rooms to write down all the chores that are necessary to keep the household afloat, and who should do each. Then we compared lists. We both found the other had been doing chores we didn't actually realize existed, and we found significant similarities between our preferences. Then we hanmered out the rest, I typed it and hung it on the fridge. </p>

Every time the balance of our paid work shifts (or new housework is added--kids much?), we renegotiate the breakdown of housework.

Mar. 18th, 2014 06:50 am (UTC)
We've got a pretty good division of labor here too. I put laundry into the washer in the morning, he hangs it up when it's done. The next morning when it's dry, I fold and put away (except his things that I don't know where they go). We both fill, start, and empty the dishwasher as needed, but he washes all the hand dishes, and I put most of them way in the morning.

Dust/fuzz simply doesn't impinge on my radar, so he's generally the one that vacuums. Ditto cleaning the bathrooms.

He takes care of paying the bills and maintaining the computers. I do the mending and most of the annoying child care (like diapers, putting down to bed/naps, supervising meals), though he does Saturday baths while I'm making supper. He takes out the garbage and recycling, I take Gwen out to daycare and back, and also do the majority of the tidying.

I know he wishes the house were cleaner, but the things that bother him simply don't bother me, and he's the one who's home during the day, so he has more opportunity than me to deal with it. But for the most part, chores are not something that causes friction for us.
Mar. 18th, 2014 06:53 am (UTC)
I will say -- setting the table? Yeah, my two-year-old can do that (not the big heavy stuff, but she's been in charge of silverware for a few months now, plus all her own dishes).
Mar. 18th, 2014 10:13 am (UTC)
I almost always find that if I want to do "more" of something that IS NO HELP, but if I decide to do it "every Tuesday" then I probably actually will do it a majority of Tuesdays.

I'm super bad at noticing (or caring about) dust and general mess. Fortunately we pretty much share that, so it's not always the same person who snaps and cleans ;-p

There's stuff we take turns at (like cooking, because cooking means you get to choose the food...) and stuff we "do our own" (like laundry, because it does not make sense to me not to) and stuff we do in a group effort whenever it is too awful not to (like cleaning the house for guests).
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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