More about the dreaded subject - housework!
What is a huge source of household conflict?---Chore wars! A friend of mine recently shared with me that the biggest cause of resentment towards her husband was his lack of household help. She is a full time working mom with two boys and a girl, and she feels like she is responsible for the lion’s share of household duties. “He’s a great Dad and the kids love him, but I can’t count on him to help with meals or laundry!” Both parents work full time and let’s face it; there is a lot to do.
When she chews him out, he likes to say “But I do help you! You don’t appreciate all the things I do!” He doesn’t realize that he just put his foot in his mouth. “Helping” is not the same as “taking responsibility” for something. It suggests that he thinks he is doing his wife a favor, rather than seeing himself as an equal partner in this family life enterprise called “housework.”
There is more. Her idea of doing the laundry is folding it and putting it away. His idea of doing the laundry is piling up the clean clothes on each kid’s bed. His idea of dinner is waiting for his wife to come home. Or, even better, ordering pizza. Her idea--planning, shopping, preparing, and cleaning up. And this list goes on.
Does this sound like you’ve heard this before? In our household, I do most of the cooking and I like the kitchen to be cleaned a certain way. My wife has a different idea of clean counters. My idea of a clean bathroom is different than hers. She thinks the mirrors should be cleaned too. How do bathroom mirrors get dirty?
It is true. It is a fact of human relationships that opposites attract. And then spouses spend the next 20 years trying to get the other person to be like them. Take the word of a guy who has been married for more than 35 years. It doesn’t work!
Some of this domestic discord has to do with how we were raised. As a man of the 50’s, my father did very little around the house. He would go into his study, close the door, and we wouldn’t see him for hours. My mother did most of everything else. I don’t remember him doing any housework, other than outside lawn work.
Growing up with this division of labor might encourage both men and women to replicate this arrangement. Women feel responsible for household duties and men “help” when they want to. The big difference— today most moms work too! According to the US bureau of labor statistics, 70% of moms are working mothers.
In this new equation, different rules apply.
- Divide and conquer! Sit down and map out all of the household responsibilities—daily ones, weekly ones, monthly ones and seasonal ones. Divide a piece of paper by all the members of the family (kids too!) and divide up the work. Make it clear who will do each job, when it will be done, and what constitutes “completed”. (In my case, cleaning the bathroom mirrors!). Start kids at an early age with tasks they can do. And keep on it. This division of labor can and will change, but make sure that it is explicit.
- People do things differently. This is very important. My wife’s idea of a clean kitchen is different than mine, but I rarely say anything about it. If I want it to look different before I start cooking, I will make it how I want it, but I will keep my mouth shut (well…most of the time). It is important to accept that your husband or wife may do things differently and it is important to accept this basic fact. It is OK to have a general discussion about what “completed” means, but don’t expect every job to look the way you might do it.
- Sometimes things don’t get done, cut yourself some slack. My parents (and my wife’s parents too) kept their house spotless. I don’t know how they did it. But in these hyped up times, it seems impossible to replicate what they did. Some days both parents are just tired! On those days, maybe the kitchen doesn’t get cleaned very well. The laundry isn’t put away. You know what I mean. Cut yourself some slack. We are all in the same boat, and it can be pretty leaky.
What helps in your household?