When it comes to housework, who should take care of what?
- Jenna Mahoney, BettyConfidential.comWe recently passed the six-month mark in our marriage and so far it's been smooth sailing. There have been a few bumps in the road (sorry for the mixed metaphor here, perhaps I should have said swelling waves?). One of our challenges has been carving out couple time (his work schedule is bananas, last night I held dinner until 10 p.m. and still ate alone; for my job, I've traveled to as many countries as months married since our wedding). Our other frustration is the age-old division of household responsibilities. For a while, I thought we were doing OK at keeping things equal - Husband deals with the investments and bills, I'm the social coordinator and house-hunter - but lately I find myself ranting about his lax participation. I mean, is it really too much for me to ask that the dishes be done before I get home from the airport?
Whiny and quite frankly bummed, I set out to look for the answers as to why Husband isn't pulling his weight and how we can effectively divide the chores. Here's what I found:
Why? It's cultural. Husband comes from a country where the word macho is used as much as dude is in the States. He was raised in a place where the kitchen was always clean, the floors were always swept and his underwear was always pressed (and yes, I mean ironed) and put away for him. As a result, Husband never learned how to run a washing machine, can't tell when a tomato is ripe and he literally doesn't recognize dirt. But still, it's always seemed to me that his father is an active participant in his parents' household upkeep. Well, actually, closer investigation has revealed that I'm not so on the money with that observation. Sure his dad sweeps the chimney and places his dishes in the sink, but the reality is that my in-laws have full-time help. And since we are on the house-buying diet, that isn't a realistic option for us.
So, that brings us to how: How do some of our friends handle the division of labor in their homes? Edward and Robin are straight out of 1950s TV show. He does the working and she does the cooking and the cleaning. He sets the budgets, handles the bacon-bringing and the bills, while she designs their daughter's play dates, eating schedule and potty training. It could be a good system for us, if I wasn't so into my career. Plus, I'm convinced that Robin and Edward have zero idea how the other spends the day.
Aiden and Jacqui are the exact opposite: she's got the big job and he works from home. Household chores fall into the lap of whoever is available, and that includes a cleaning lady and a part-time nanny.
Jason and Emma seem to have a balance that Husband and I could achieve. They both have full-time jobs and have been able to divvy up the tasks pretty equally - she enjoys the cooking and he doesn't mind cleaning the bathroom. It has taken them many years to get to this point and she told me that sometimes they need to reassess things, but as I'm learning, everything in marriage needs a little check-in once in a while.
Now, armed with all this new info, I'm devising a plan: We need assigned tasks. So, all things beginning with a C (car, checkbook balancing, plus emptying garbage and recycling containers, dry cleaners, etc.) are in his camp. And I'll be owning the laundry, dusting and bathtub scouring. So far it seems to be working. Now, if I could just get him to pick up his socks…
Tell Us: How do you and your partner divide the household chores?
Read the last article in this series: The Newlywed Life: I Miss My Husband!
Jenna Mahoney is an editor and writer based in Brooklyn.To read more from BettyConfidential: