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Chore Monsters, Feminism, and Zombies


Sorting out feminism and chores

by Rachel W. Miller, Contributor

Chore Monsters, Feminism, and Zombies | A Practical Wedding

So, I somehow got this little idea in my head that whenever I’m making a choice, my decision will affect All the Women. Like, it’s not just about me; it’s about all of us. Maybe I spend too much time in the feminist blogosphere, but it’s hard for me not to want to, you know… not screw everyone else over. And so I think about that when I’m making decisions.

While this notion might not be completely terrible, particularly when it comes to thinking about the big stuff—wedding choices, career choices, changing my last name (or not), and plans for kids (or not)—the fact is, I don’t really have to make most of those big life choices on a daily basis. And so this line of thinking, this, “Am I only doing this because I think it’s the right thing to do as a woman?” gets disproportionately applied to one thing in particular that I do deal with often: household chores.

I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with cleaning or organizing, but I like having a clean and organized space. Though I certainly have a higher filth threshold than many of my friends for some things (my own hair all over the bathroom, for instance), I don’t hold myself to a terribly high standard when it comes to keeping my space a certain way. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I desire to take care of my things, and taking care often means cleaning and organizing either those things or the space they occupy. When I first moved out at eighteen, I hated doing dishes so then I let them pile up, which made me avoid doing them even more, and then my sink got so full of dishes that mold started to grow in the drain. But that was the young, impulsive me! The new adult me? Puts dishes in the dishwasher, cleans pots, and puts clean dishes away right away. And feels great about it!

This new mentality has me in the habit of picking up messes. But sometimes—oftentimes—the messes I encounter are not my own. The stray socks and dirty dishes or random pieces of junk mail are my darling fiancé’s, and they stop me dead in my tracks. Part of me wants to just take care of them. But the other part of me refuses on principle.

So I engage in regular battles with the little chore monsters in our house. First, I stare them down, trying to intimidate them so they will stop haunting me.

“I see you, stack of dirty cereal bowls on the nightstand,” I tell them. “But you’re Eric’s problem, not mine.”

“Take us downstaiiiiirs,” they whine pitifully. “We’re so diiiiirty.”

Oh gosh, the old neglected waifs routine. Be strong, I think. Don’t look at the little spoons!

“It’s not my job to take care of you, and if I do, Eric will never get in the habit of doing it himself,” I say.

“But you’re already going to the kitchen,” they cry. “Take us with you!”

“I just…can’t,” I tell them. “It wouldn’t be right. He needs to learn to do his own chores and do them well!”

They start to sob. “You only expect me to do it because I’m a WOMAN!” I shout in exasperation.

So then they change their approach.

“Fine, we’ll just sit here growing mold and bacteria in your bedroom!” they taunt me. “We are full of GROSS DRIED UP MILK! LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT IT! DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN FILTH JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE A FEMINIST? IS LIVING IN SQUALOR ONE OF YOUR ‘PRINCIPLES’???”

Sometimes this tactic works—I figure that sometimes, doing a chore for someone is just the nice thing to do, gender stereotypes be damned, and I hurry them into the kitchen and drown their cries in dish soap as fast as I can. More commonly though, I just get pissed off—at the dishes, at Eric, at myself—and flee. And then I try to ask Eric as nicely as I can to please put his manipulative little ass-faced dishes in the dishwasher the first chance I get. I don’t tell him that I engaged them in conversation for ten minutes.

These internal debates with the the dishes, the laundry, the clutter, the food that needs to be cooked, and the dirty surfaces in our home were starting to get to me, but I’ve come up with a good solution for quieting the little chore monsters. When I’m wondering if cleaning up after Eric would be a huge blow to the feminist movement or to women everywhere, I simply replace Eric in the situation with my mother. This works quite nicely because Eric and my mom are very similar in their approaches to things like cleaning and time management (they are both similarly…laid-back, we’ll say) and, after living with my mom for a while, I have a pretty good sense of the things that I’m willing to let slide with her, and the things that drive me to throw an all-out shit fit.

Would I remind my mom repeatedly that she has an appointment so she wouldn’t miss it? I totally would, because I don’t worry that my mom wants me to be her secretary.

Do I get pissed off when my mom shows up late for dinner and doesn’t call? Um, WHEN YOU HAVE A WATCH AND A CELL PHONE, THERE IS NO EXCUSE. So yes.

Would I pick up my mom’s clutter or dirty dishes if they were bugging me? Most of the time, no, I wouldn’t. I would remind her to do it and if she didn’t, I’d remind her again at some point. I wouldn’t fear that those reminders made me a nag.

And so I take the same approach with Eric and his chore monsters. I take gender and feminism and stereotypes and fears out of it. It makes it a lot easier to consider whether it’s important to me to fight the chore monsters on behalf of all of us, or whether I’m letting my fears of being a “good” feminist make me act ridiculous. And when I feel like Eric’s expectations of me are gendered and unfair, I replace him with my mom in the situation. Most of the time, it’s easy to see that yeah, she’d tell me to clean up my mess too and I wouldn’t be offended by the suggestion. Before I assume that Eric’s request is sexist, I consider that when my mom has asked me to do the exact same chores, I didn’t start screeching at her that it’s not the 1950s anymore.

When replacing someone with your mom in a situation just won’t do, or when the situation has nothing to do with chore monsters or heterosexual partners, you can always bring in the zombies. As in, would doing or being good at this thing help me survive the zombie apocalypse if I were alone? This is rather helpful when considering the stereotypically feminine activities I happen to like a lot.

Would knowing my way around the kitchen help me survive during the zombie apocalypse? Uh, yeah, knowing how to cook will be seriously helpful when there’s hardly any food. Sweet! Get me my apron!

Is learning to sew a valuable skill when dealing with zombies? Well, not at first, but in the long-term, I should say so. We’ll need to create warm clothes for winter!

Is cleaning going to help when I’m dealing with zombies? If we’re talking about cleaning wounds, yeah, totally. But overall… probably not. Therefore this is something I shouldn’t be responsible for taking on unless I really want to because I just find it satisfying.

At the end of the day, Eric and I want to have the kind of relationship where we can survive monsters or zombies or whatever life throws at us together, or on our own, as the case may be at certain points in our future. So sometimes that means helping each other out around the house when we know we can, and sometimes that means saying, “Go forth and learn to do some basic household chores and survival skills on your own, my love. Get your practice now so we know we can count on each other when the zombies come.”

Photo by Christina Richards Weddings (APW Sponsor)

Rachel W. Miller

For most of her life, Rachel has loved the sound of her own voice. She loves reading, doing yoga (she still refuses to call it “practicing”), hanging out with her dogs, and talking Eric’s ear off. She lives in Houston, TX. You can read more from her on her blog.

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Hmmm I never think in terms of “this is his cereal bowl, so HE should wash it”. I think that kind of reasoning can be potentially damaging as well as useless for us both in the short term and in the long run.
    We are both interested in living in a clean house, so we both make efforts at it.
    There are things that each of us are better at doing (e.g.: me cooking, eff the stereotypes, I might be a 1950s domestic goddess in the kitchen, but if it actually makes me happy and serves as relaxing therapy I am not going to stop), so we each do more of those things
    For the cleaning, we most of the time do it together, we have no fixed roles, though mostly I cook, and he does the dishes (see above I am better at cooking, and enjoy it, him not so much). For other stuff (like scrubbing the toilet, vacuuming, mopping), we mostly work in parallel, let’s say on Saturday morning, we blast music very loud, he vacuums, I mop, or he cleans the kitchen and I scrub the toilet, depending on what we feel like doing on that day and because it’s 2 people working at the same time, we finish in no time and it is kind of fun because of the music + crazy dancing that get sneaked in.
    There have been “fights” for instance on my forgetfulness that leads me to leave doors open, or leave little messes trailing around (that don’t bother *me*so much, but matter to him) like the bottle of cream on the sink instead of in the shelf, because I left in a hurry.
    We have to work on this things, I should be more careful because this disturbs him (if I was living on my own, it wouldn’t be an issue) but this home is the home for both of us… so there is no “this is your mess, you clean it” philosophy going on.

    • Hlockhart

      I think the idea that all messes are “ours” only really works if you have similar expectations for cleaning. My partner isn’t a slob, but (apparently like Rachel’s partner) he has a higher tolerance than I do for his collection of coffee cups on the desk, or using a books shelf to store random papers. We both have to adjust: I need to relax about the cups and papers, and he needs to be more diligent about taking care of them. If I were to put everything away to make myself more comfortable, then he would not be doing his part to make our place comfortable for me; if I kept getting upset about a little clutter, then I would not be respecting the fact that it’s his house, too.

      • sandyliz

        HLockhart, I totally agree with you on this. Actually not because of my fiance, but his dad, with whom we currently live. Dad sets things down wherever he’s standing and doesn’t clean much of anything (or even see the difference between clean and dirty). This makes it impossible to “share” messes, because we don’t define mess in the same way. It’s a daily challenge to find the balance between bugging him to clean up and ignoring things that really aren’t a big deal.

    • Erin

      I agree with not drawing lines between his bowls and my cups, or whatever. The lines get blurry anyway! He carried in the mail and left it on the table, but most of it is addressed to me, so whose responsibility is it? Those are the pans I dirtied, but he ate the food! Etc etc. I might feel differently if my husband refused to lend a hand for cleaning type chores and I was constantly picking up after him and never vice versa, but I’m fortunate in that, although my clean-radar tends to go off before his, he’s also willing to lend a hand. I may carry his mugs to the sink all the time, but he knows that I /hate/ dealing with trash and I have not had to empty a trash can since we’ve been married.

      Like you, we do most of our cleaning together, which I think really helps. When my cleaning radar goes off, I find myself doing the choice thing that you do with kids a lot – he neither wants to do the laundry nor the dishes, but if I ask ‘do you want to do laundry or dishes, and I’ll do the other?’ he at least likes getting the choice. I think partly it makes him feel less like I’m nagging and more like we’re cooperating, and it makes me feel that way, too. And there are some things we know we just prefer. He hates to vacuum and dust. I hate to scrub the bathtub. So when we take a Saturday morning to clean together, I usually do one, he does the other.

      The other super effective thing we do to split chores re: cleaning is the 15 minute clean. Whenever things start to feel cluttered or messy, one of us will say ‘can we do a 15 minute clean?’ Sometimes this is before we head out somewhere or before bed or something – doesn’t matter. We set the timer for 15 minutes and walk around picking up anything and everything we can. This mostly deals with shoes that have been left out and mail that hasn’t been sorted, but we can also do dishes or dust the living room or throw in a load of laundry. Fifteen minutes isn’t likely to get your bathtub scrubbed, but you’d be surprised what it does do! I find that most of the time 30 minutes (his 15 and my 15) is enough to get a cluttered apartment looking quite nice again!

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        I love this 15 minute technique :) Might steal it.

        And @HLOCKHART, I agree, I think it is about both partners making an effort to keep the other comfortable / within the clean tolerable threshold.

      • http://arduousblog.com ruchi

        This is exactly what we do — pretty much every day we set aside twenty minutes (with a timer) to clean together. I find that it has cut down DRAMATICALLY on the household chore related arguments in our house, and I feel peaceful because the house is almost always clean. We also have a cleaner who comes in twice a month to do the big stuff, so really for us, the twenty minutes every day is all we need to keep our place clean.

        • http://becomingbrown.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

          OMG! I needed this idea. My husband is a workaholic and the cleaning drives me nuts. And it’s not so much the ‘cleaning’ that is the problem as it is the actual sorting and putting away of things which we HAVE to do together or else things get ‘sorted’ away to the point where someone gets upset. I asked him if he was willing and I think we are instating a ‘clean up’ measure for each day after dinner. Thanks!

    • Rowan

      I agree with you. I approach housework as what it is: work we are both responsible for. We are a team and we both need to be giving 100%. It doesn’t need to be 50-50. *Right now* we have pretty gendered division of the housework because my husband works about 60 hours a week and I work not a minute more than 40. So I have a lot more free time. I’m not going to play for four hours while he works until 9 and then complain that I had to cook AND do the dishes. If we were both home at 5 and he was playing video games instead of working, then it would be different. I expect over our hopefully long lives together, this will change and we’ll change with it.

      But if I ever get annoyed at doing the lion’s share of the housework, I don’t ask if it would be good in a zombie attack, I ask: are we both giving 100%? If the answer is yes, I remind myself we are a team and chill out. If the answer is no (if he has had several days off in a row and I’m still doing most of the chores), we have a discussion and will often clean together (music and dancing as well).

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        I like your “are we both giving 100%” check in. My husband generally works a lot more hours than I do, so I do most of the chores during those times. But while he’s been in training the last few months and working fewer hours, he has really stepped up how much he does. When he’s back to working 80 hour weeks, he’ll still get his dishes into the dishwasher, his clothes into the hamper, and the trash taken out, which will be his 100% considering how few waking hours he has at home.

        However, we live with another couple right now who have a very different reality. She does all of the chores, including clearing his plate from the table and throwing away the candy wrappers and soda cans he leaves everywhere. She does all the laundry and puts his away because otherwise he’d leave it out forever. They work roughly the same hours. She really believes that this is just how men are. They don’t see the mess, so they can’t be expected to clean it up. It makes me crazy to watch and I can’t imagine how it will be sustainable (they are both doctors) but I remind myself that she chose this and continues to choose it. I try to be strong and not clean up after him (there are a Sprite can and empty cereal box both asking me to clean them up right now) but it doesn’t teach him anything because she’ll just do it for him. Now at least I can remind myself that he’s going to be totally unprepared for the zombie apocalypse.

        • Rowan

          Oohhh, that sounds hard. In that case I would do what you are doing (remind myself it is not my choice & not clean up after him). Different strokes I guess. Good luck!

          • Granola

            I think this issue gets to the heart of Rachel’s post. On one hand, yes I want to leave the mess so my husband will “learn.” On the other, I’m the only one who really suffers. Maybe that other woman’s reality is that the particular man to whom she is married really doesn’t see the mess, and it’s less stressful for her to clean it than to fight about it every time.

            Is she enabling the patriarchy by cleaning up after her husband? Perhaps yes. Is she doing what’s best for her and her family? Perhaps also yes.

            I still haven’t figured out a good way through when the answer to those questions are the same.

        • Amanda

          Superfantastic – I didn’t realize it until you wrote this comment, but this is exactly what is going on in our household right now! My husband works many more hours than I do (at a regular job, and freelance from home in the evenings), and I am juggling the lion’s share of housework/cooking/grown up life tasks (which I actually don’t mind most of the time). I find myself justifying it often (to others, not to myself), that I don’t mind, he is working hard (lots), blah blah blah. But what I really need to be saying is, “right now, we are both working 100% to contribute to this household and to our partnership”. Funny, it’s exactly what I think in my head, but could never put words to. So thank you!

          • Amanda

            Whoops – that reply should be directed towards Rowan, also!

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

      We actually both split the big stuff pretty easily and work parallel, as you mentioned. Where I really run into problems is the stuff that could clearly be defined as “picking up after yourself.” That includes dishes from snacks that I didn’t make or share, or stacks of his mail (after I’ve already taken care of mine) or things like that. And so thinking of my mom totally helps me determine whether a mess is “ours” or whether it’s really something that one of us should take care of.

      • Rowan

        I can see that. I guess I just like to think of everything as our mess (even if I didn’t participate in it). It helps me avoid bean counting. Do I ever get annoyed scrubbing a pan of eggs he made for himself that has sat in the sink for a day? Absolutely (it is so much easier to clean eggs right away, it annoys the crap out of me). But usually I can point to something else he did that day that accounted for his “share” (tuned up my bike, did our laundry, or just spent the whole day in front of the tv because he had been working 14 hour days on end). So I scrub the effing pan because we are a team.

        I guess the caveat to this approach is you have to have a partner who won’t take advantage and puts in 100%.

        • Marina

          I think there’s clearly certain things people should handle for themselves. (For an extreme example, a healthy independent adult should always wipe their own bum.) I don’t think there’s a distinct objective line between what’s appropriate to expect people to handle for themselves and what can be a “team” task as needed. Some people might draw the line at bum wiping, some at dish washing. Personally I feel fine washing my partner’s dishes but refuse to put away his laundry or answer his mail.

      • Claire

        The “picking up after yourself” stuff is where I really struggle. My tendency is is to fume and want him to “learn his lesson” so I’m not constantly picking up after him. Dirty laundry and dishes and left out food are my main triggers. It’s something we’re still working through, three years later.

        • Crayfish Kate

          Are you me? I was going to comment on this post, but you said pretty much exactly what I was going to say. We’re struggling with this too. I’m having a hard time finding the line between asking nicely and becoming a nag.

  • Lauren

    Bookmarked forever. I genuinely like cooking and cleaning (and sewing and crafting and all those other Pinteresty things) and my fiancé hasn’t cleaned his bathroom in 7(!!!!) months and eats cereal and Costco egg rolls for every meal. In my case it’s not about teaching him to be independent, because his independent self is doing just fine in his poor-nutrition pigsty. It’s about things I like to do anyway. And might help us survive the zombie apocalypse.

  • BB

    I LOVE this post. I think that I also frequently get irrationally mad a the chore monsters because I feel like me always cooking and cleaning up and tidying is letting down ALL OF WOMAN KIND, even though I enjoy cooking and my “mess must be cleaned up now” threshold is much more sensitive than that of the fiance. I will definitely be reading this post over and over. Thank you for your “would I get mad at my Mother for this?” and “Zombie apocalypse” mental checks, I will keep those in mind.

  • http://anniecardi.com Annie

    Oh my lord yes. I feel like I have this conversation with all of my married female friends–how do you balance feeling like a strong, mature, feminist woman with having a partner who maybe doesn’t hear all the chore monster voices? I love the zombie idea (when is thinking about your zombie survival skills not helpful?), but I think the mom idea really hits it home for me. If I clean all the dishes (and not just my own), it removes stress for that other person–something I’d want to do if it were my husband or my mom, and it’s something I’d hope they’d do for me sometimes, too.

    In those chore monster moments, I try to remember that my relationship does tend to balance out. Even if I usually see the crumbs, he usually sees when the car needs its oil changed. (Me: “Oh right. So…do we have extra oil?”) And asking someone to put away their shoes or wash their dishes isn’t necessarily nagging just because you’re a wife. It’s making sure the house is nice for everyone. Maybe some days it feels like I’m the only one who notices when we’re out of fruit, but I’m sure some days it feels like he’s the only one who remembers to take clothes to the dry cleaners.

  • CPM

    My fiance and I both value a (moderately) clean and (moderately) well-organized space, but we’ve found we have very different approaches to getting there. He has neat habits, but when it comes to cleaning, I have a tiny chore overlord in my head that’s always saying things like “throw-out-the-junk-mail-wipe-down-the-counters-do-the-dishes-hand-wash-your-delicates-when’s-the-last-time-you-dusted???” So I do those things, or get stressed out and grumpy because I don’t feel like doing them. (When WAS the last time I dusted?) Whereas my fiance tends not to think about cleaning until he just. can’t. take it any more, then does evvvverything in one fell swoop. Overall, it works for now, and if it stops working for one of us, neither of us is the type who would be shy about saying so :)

  • Jessica

    In our house I do most of the cooking and all of the cleaning. My fiancé has never done a load of laundry in his life (seriously, the boy hired a cleaning woman in college). He once told me that when he pictures me cleaning it looks a lot like Giselle in Enchanted, complete with the fluffy winged helpers.

    The thing is, I don’t think this makes me a traitor to my generation or a bad ‘feminist’, though I struggle to use that word. I’ve never wanted to work in big law with the billable hours and stress that requires. I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning and have a wonderful part time lady lawyer job that allows me more time at home to do those things while my fiancé works incredibly hard with his companies. This is the division of labor we chose-he works harder outside of the home, I work harder inside.

    Oh, and I want to stay home once we have kids as well.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      “Giselle in Enchanted.” Gotta love that movie :) Real life cleaning is not quite the same but you can still dance to it. Unintentionally my wedding dress ended up being a bit similar to hers (the one she makes out of curtains).
      And yes, I consider myself a feminist, and I proudly enjoy cooking, baking, a clean house (not so much the cleaning, but you can’t have one without the other), and seriously would like to be a stay at home /working from home mom when the time comes (hopefully soon).
      Also with the cleaning I find that it is a matter of starting, once you start continuing is easy ( I think I am like the fiancé of CPM, above, when I go into cleaning mode, it’s full cleaning all the way)

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

      Last night when I was sweeping, I had a song from the beginning of “Cinderella” in my head the whole time. :) But I don’t think your division of labor makes you a “bad” feminist either! Splitting chores in a way that works for both of you and plays to your strengths is great.

    • Laura

      I think the key thing here is that you and your fiance have CLEARLY put a lot of thought into these decisions, and it’s something that works for both of you. As you say – you chose this division of labor. Which is RAD! My husband and I have talked about how, in an ideal world, I would work full-time and he would be the house-husband, cleaning and cooking and whatnot.

      The problem comes in when it’s not discussed and thought-out, one person starts doing more cooking/cleaning, resentment builds up, yadda yadda…and I think for most women, the cooking and cleaning tends to land on their plates by default, rather than by choice.

  • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

    Or… you can just get a housecleaning service once a week. It doesn’t solve the dirty dishes problem, but it does take care of the laundry/bathroom cleaning/dusting/vacuuming problem.

    Typically, I cook and DH loads the dishwasher. DH was laid off, so we haven’t had the cleaning service, and DH cleans, since he is at home. Sometimes it’s not to my standards, but usually he does an ok job.

    • Rowan

      We have a “no delegating and then complaining” rule. I may not do things to his standard and vice versa but we keep our mouths shut about it. For example, if I ask him to clean something or other on his day off and I come home and it is not done the way I would do it I say nothing (other than “Thanks Lovey!”). Likewise, if he delegates vacation planning to me, he can’t complain that the hotel sucks. Just not fair. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and bear it but mostly it works out.

      • Maddie

        No delegating and then complaining.

        Someone needs to stitch this on a sampler and hang it where everyone can see it.

        • Granola

          I think the issue here is a little more nuanced than the aphorism suggests and it has to do with deviation from an understood norm when delegating.

          When I think of “clean the bathroom” it includes, say five subtasks that to me encompass the chore. If I ask my husband to clean the bathroom and he only does three of them, well then the bathroom really isn’t clean (per my admittedly biased standards). The solution here, I think, isn’t to not complain at all (which is unfair to me b/c I will probably be doing the other two tasks) but to have a conversation about what we mean when we talk about cleaning the bathroom or any other chore. Maybe I’m willing to negotiate my list down to four things, or he’s willing to do all five. But there is something unfair about not allowing any feedback at all, especially if the delegation still results in work by the partner who did the delegating.

          • http://www.alacartealbums.com jeliza

            We used to have the “that’s not how you clean a bathroom/kitchen/whatever” discussion a lot — more when I was living with roommates than now; at some point we just had to sit down and write it all out, with bullet points. And put it somewhere easy to find.

            This was especially helpful for those of us who never got *taught* to “properly” clean anything. (I had to teach my first boyfriend how to do laundry; my wife taught me how to clean the kitchen.)

          • Corrie

            I definitely agree with Granola on this one. I’ve learned to recognize that I have higher cleaning standards than my guy (I helped clean the house since age 10, he never did anything beyond his own laundry in high school). However, when we are splitting up the deep cleaning duties – like him the kitchen and me the full and half baths – I need to rely on him to account for the whole room , which includes the stove, greasy range hood, and obvious food splatters on the cabinets, surfaces that he would typically neglect. It would be unfair of me to have to go back and clean those because I delegated but he missed 50% of the surfaces because he didn’t think they were important. To remedy this, and to keep me from standing over his shoulder making sure he catches everything, I made a list of the areas that required attention in order for the kitchen to be ‘clean.’ I felt like a bitch at first, but he thought it was a good idea and it worked surprisingly well. He was able to check things off, knowing exactly what the expectations were and I knew I could rely on him not to miss something – even if it wasn’t up to my standards. He was happy that I wasn’t breathing down his neck and I was happy when I could walk into the kitchen knowing half of it wasn’t still dirty. Obviously, the list might not be the same every time, depending upon the condition of the room, but that can be negotiated. This method might not work for everyone, but it really helped us get our expectations on the same page.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            We did something similar to Corrie and her partner. The only thing I’ll add is writing the list is a chore itself. It took me several months to realize that I resented both spending equal time as my fiance/husband actually cleaning, plus extra time planning the cleaning. Depending on how specific you have to be, writing the directions can take time. Our directions began: “scrub porcelain surfaces with antiseptic – your own bleach solution, commercial bleach solution, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, or ammonia – your choice – but don’t use bleach and ammonia; all these are under the bathroom sink…”

          • LaLa

            In this instance, it’s probably helpful to detail what each chore includes and when certain parts of the chore are or are not necessary. For example, when I say “clean the bathroom”, to me this includes sweeping the floor, however it does not necessarily mean mopping each and every time. If the floor has marks on in or has not been done in a few weeks, then yes, mopping is necessary.

        • KB

          I second this! I always try to say thank you for whatever my fiance does. And not in like a gratuitous, overly-sweet, “Oh THANK YOU for putting your dish away, this is cause for celebration” that makes a huge deal out of what’s supposed to happen anyways – but just a nod that justs lets him know that I appreciate him taking responsibility and/or helping me with something I didn’t have time to get to.

      • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

        I THOUGHT we had this policy, but apparently not. It’s been the caused of a lot of fights, but I think I’ve finally been able to communicate the policy to him. My husband is the “clean freak” in our relationship, so I always feel like I’m the one getting nagged. I think I’ll get one of Maddie’s samplers and hang it on the wall.

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

      Right now, weekly cleaning just isn’t in our budget. We’re hoping to pay for monthly cleaning eventually, though! But my concern is that even though it would be amazing to have someone take care of the big stuff, that small stuff would still pile up.

    • http://blindirishpirate.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

      Or… you could just clean up after yourselves. I never get the point of hiring someone to clean up after my clutter, dirt, dander and cat hair. I’d probably end up cleaning up before they ever arrived… redundant.

      The maid won’t save your ass in a zombie apocalypse. Unless she carries a shotgun.

  • Martha

    We have a very similar approach to cleaning that everyone else has mentioned. With one small caveat: when we first moved in together we made a deal: I never have to vacuum (which I absolutely abhor) and he never have to fold laundry. He certainly helps me lug it to our faraway laundry room, but he does not help fold. It’s pretty funny to me that he hates this task so much (because I love folding laundry) but I irrationally hate vacuuming, so who am I to judge?

    • Rebecca

      Hilariously, we have the same split in chore hatreds! I loathe vacuuming, and he hates folding laundry (although he will, on occasion, do it as necessary). He generally takes out the trash, and I usually clean the bathroom (since apparently soap scum is invisible to the male eye? I don’t know….).

      But seriously, I’m like one of those dogs that growls at the vacuum and then hides under the bed. I think it’s a combination of the noise/ lugging this stupid heavy vibrating machine around. Or something.

      • KRW

        Ha! I also hate the vaccuum with a passion, and joke with my husband that I’m like a dog. For me it’s definitely the noise, so I even hate it when he’s doing it (although still much better than me!). He’s very sweet about it, and usually tries to get the vaccuuming done before I get home, but somehow I always end up walking in the door right as he’s about to turn the damn thing on… Oh well!

        • http://www.KatesShortandSweets.com Kate

          Martha, Rebecca, and KRW: save up for & buy a roomba (robot vacuum cleaner). Seriously, it may be my favorite thing we bought for ourselves with wedding money. We got ourselves the pet version last year, and while the dogs are usually terrified of it, it cleans up after them (and us) and neither one of us has to vacuum. Because vacuuming is like the worst. chore. ever.

    • Carrie

      Ha! The trouble is, in my house, we both hate the same chores. Both of us haaaaate folding laundry and sorting mail (filing, shredding, etc.). So both of those tasks get put off for as long as humanly possible. (We may have actually lived out of piles of unfolded clean clothes for a month. This may have happened multiple times.)

      Even more than a cleaning service, I wish we had the money for a wash-dry-fold service.

      • Dawn

        Before my boyfriend moved in I didn’t have a washer/dryer so I’d always drop my laundry off on the way to work for the wash-dry-fold service. When he moved in and brought his washer/dryer with him I thought finally I’ll be a real grown up and will be able to do my own laundry whenever I want and always have clean clothes when I need them (I’d often forget to load the laundry into the car to drop off and then be scrounging around to find something to wear the next day). Well you know what, I hate having a washer/dryer. I want an excuse to drop my clothes off to be done by someone else again. Because now what happens is I wash my clothes and then don’t remember to put them in the dryer. So they sit there overnight and get gross and then I have to wash them again. Or I do manage to get them into the dryer but don’t get them out so they sit there and get gross (musty or wrinkly) and I have to wash them again. Or I get them out of the dryer but not out of the basket so they get wrinkly and I have to wash them again.

        Honestly, thanks to the fact that I typically wear my jeans a few times and my work clothes twice before they need to be washed, I was only spending about $30 a month having them all washed and folded for me. Part of me thinks it might be worth it to start shelling out the money again but it somehow seems absurd to do that when I have a perfectly good washer/dryer in my kitchen.

        And oh the sheets! They actually knew how to fold fitted sheets at the laundry place as opposed to now when we wash the sheets, fold the flat one and then just kind of wad the fitted one up and shove it in the closet.

        • Rebecca

          Our secret to remembering to move things from the washer to the dryer is timers! Figure out how long your wash/ dry cycles are, and then set a timer for that amount of time that you keep with you. Helps a bunch.

          Of course, we do team laundry marathons one day every two weeks- he washes, I fold, we both clean up around the house while we wait for a cycle to finish- which also helps with the forgetting, since we are in the state of “doing laundry” until the laundry is done.

        • raachel

          Um, you may have been exaggerating in your comment about rewashing a load of laundry after it gets wrinkled, but in case you are so new to laundry that you don’t know: you can just throw that back in the dryer and it’ll get unwrinkled in like 10-15 minutes.

          • Dawn

            Ha, yes I am old enough (both to doing laundry and in general) that I know that you can unwrinkle wrinkled clothes by popping them back in the dryer — I meant to say wrinkled and musty again (due to me stupidly putting the basket with the clothes back in the closet so they’re not really breathing fresh air).

            I know there’s tons of solutions (setting the timer is good or even just not cramming the dry clothes into the basket and putting them where they’re going to get unpleasant again). I just really hate laundry. I’d rather do any chore more than doing laundry. Partly because it does seem endless. Other chores I feel like I can tackle and see the improvement in less than 15 minutes but laundry just seems like a marathon of chores and you still don’t really see any difference (I mean, beyond the obvious of having clean clothes — but it’s not like when you do the dishes and suddenly you have a pretty kitchen again).

      • Anna

        Maybe I’m too old to understand this, but – laundry. You put the clothes into the machine, put the powder in and press a button. Come back later. Etc.
        Remember lugging your entire family’s dirty laundry to the riverbank and scrubbing each item out on a wooden board, lugging all the wet clothes back, hanging them on a line to dry and taking them down hours, if not days, later? Alone? (Because it was women’s work.) OK, I don’t either. But these days it’s not a gargantuan task, especially if two people are doing it.

  • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

    What a clever and helpful post! Kudos, Rachel, as your writing was hilarious AND insightful. Plus, your mental checks make so much sense! No matter the cause we champion, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking every. single. decision. we make has to benefit all of woman-kind or human-kind, or whatever the case may be. Even though it’s important to live by your values, answering for every single decision we make in our lives is just too much pressure to put on ourselves. Thanks for the reminder to step back and reevaluate.

  • Karen

    Since I’m in a same-sex relationship, feminism isn’t part of the discussion. It’s about what-needs-done-when and who’s-good-at-what. For example, my partner came into the relationship with two big dogs and two snakes. She will always do poop patrol in the backyard and she will always be the one tending to the snakes. She likes to do laundry so she thinks of it more often than I do and she doesn’t mind folding at all. She likes to vacuum and do the floors so I do the bathrooms. I love to cook and try to clean up as I go along but afterwards if there’s stuff left over, she’ll clean the kitchen. She’s also really great at chopping veggies.

    We both empty the dishwasher when it needs doing. I like to go through my mail and get it over with but she lets hers pile up so we put it in a neat basket on a bookshelf so it’s no longer on the counter. Basically, if one of us is “working”, the other is too. I think I’ve got it pretty darn good! We’ve been living together since the end of October. There have been a few adjustments along the way but we’re finding our “groove” of what works when. This is the best relationship I’ve ever been and I think a lot of it is because we see ourselves as a team, not as individuals living separate lives.

    • 39bride

      In my hetero relationship, feminism isn’t part of the discussion, either. We have split chores according to our likes/dislikes, time we have, etc. He works ridiculously long hours and I work at home with a lot of flexibility, so day-to-day cleaning and food prep falls to me.

      I cook from scratch everyday (love it and very good at it), do all the shopping, straighten things up (including dishes/kitchen) wash the clothes, and make the bed.

      My former-Marine, football-loving husband folds the laundry while he watches football, does all the bathroom cleaning (usually on commercial breaks), vacuums, helps me unload the dishwasher if I ask him to, and takes care of car care and dry cleaning because for some reason I hate those last two.

      It works for us, and that’s the point about all of this. Nobody is holding us hostage to supposed roles (other than ourselves).

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    It can be super hard not to let every life decision become an issue for All The Women. I like that you’ve got some litmus tests there to come up with a way to distinguish what you can actually tackle as a feminist issue vs what are just things to work through in your own relationship. It’s hard when the chore divide feels like it’s going down traditional gender lines, particularly when you’re not a fan of those activities.

    I consider myself so lucky that my husband and I are mostly equal contributors chore wise, just in different ways. Right now we’ve been cycling on and off who’s doing the bulk of our chores: I’ll do most of everything for a few weeks, get sick of it and give up at which point he picks up the slack pretty seamlessly and takes care of everything.

  • LAS

    When my boyfriend and I first moved in together, I struggled with the chore monsters a lot. While I *knew* that most of the time I was doing more of the household chores simply because I cared more about cleanliness, it sometimes felt like I was doing more because I was the woman in the relationship. These concerns about they way gendered assumptions might be playing a role in my relationship were completely new, and placed extra stress on the already new stress of merging lives into a single space.

    I thought that for our relationship to be fair, chores should be divided 50/50. However, I found this type of thinking destructive. It led to too much monitoring of the other person in an attempt to ensure that all work was performed equally.

    One book that really helped me sort through some of these issues was Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson. They discuss applying the laws of economics to your relationship. Two principles that really stuck with me were the law of comparative advantage and specialization. They discuss not taking on every chore you are good at, but the chores you are relatively better at. For instance, if it takes my boyfriend twice as much time to mop and swiffer than it does for him to to the dishes, then he has a comparative advantage at doing the dishes. Especially when compared with me, who is much faster at mopping. Plus, I hate doing dishes, and he really doesn’t mind. Therefore, dividing responsibility for the dishes 50/50 really doesn’t make much sense.

    Once we let go of the idea that fair meant a 50/50 division of labor, the chore monsters began to retreat and we both began to feel more confident about our relative roles with respect to chores.

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      I second your recommendation. Spousonomics was great.

  • Rowan

    I laughed out loud at the conversation you had with your dishes. They sound really whiny.

    • Claire

      I also laughed to myself (in a boring work meeting) at the dishes argument. I think your husband’s dishes must be related to my husband’s dishes – they have very similar tactics.

  • Laura

    I feel like reading your blog posts is like watching the movie Inception… or going for a psychic reading. How are you tapping into my thoughts?!

    My fiance and I are just going through this ourselves. We moved to a new town, and were able to move into a house instead of renting an apartment. Along with the snazzy fireplace and the deck in the backyard, there is a LOT of space that gets dirty and grimy FAST. We had like a 2-3 week showdown where I wanted him to be mindful of wiping his feet before coming into my freshly mopped kitchen or of just putting the dirty dishes and utensils into the dishwasher which is empty and WAITING for dirty crap instead of dropping it in the sink! There was the argument where the dog was lying in the unmade bed (barf & why?), cat on the kitchen counter (double barf)… and I hated having to be the nag and complain about that stuff.

    I think, as women, we have to recognize that the Suzie Homemaker cliche exists because women (for the most part) have the ability to care for the home in a way that men don’t. I agree that I won’t be relegated to picking up dirty boxers and cereal bowls forever (btw, does anyone else’s fiance use MIXING BOWLS to eat cereal? a la Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? CAVE MEN!!) and they can do that themselves. I just see it as my role to spearhead the “we-don’t-live-in-a-hovel” initiative and they need to be brought back in line on occasion. He does it for me when my car looks like I’ve been living in it for 3 months.

    Keep it up, Rachel. Now, can you tell me where I’ll be living in 5 years? :)

    • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com Stephanie

      When DH and I first got married, yes, he did use mixing bowls. I just about died when I saw that. :)

      • Crayfish Kate

        Yes! My fiancé also eats cereal out of mixing bowls! The amount of cereal that constitutes a ‘bowl’ for him is…about half the box. You’re not alone :-)

    • Other Katelyn

      “women (for the most part) have the ability to care for the home in a way that men don’t”

      How is that?

      • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

        I missed out on this gene.

    • Rachel

      Maybe I am the exception, but I am not sure that the Suzie Homemaker cliche exists because women (for the most part) have the ability to care for the home in a way that men don’t.

      To me, it feels like more personality. When I was single, and most of my friends were single, it seemed I knew just as many single men that kept their space clean as single women. And my housemates and I (all women) seemed about as messy as houses I knew of all guys. Both sexes had people who kept their individual rooms spotless, and others who left their crap and messes for everyone else to deal with.

      I have noticed with my friends, it seems once they move in with the opposite sex that personalities seem less evident, and gender stereotypes kick in. That makes me wonder if it’s more cultural expectations that create the women-taking-better-care-of-the-household phenomenon I wonder if *subconsciously* some guys still think that now that they live with a woman they are more in charge of keeping house, and women subconsciously assume that the guy is a cave man.
      In my marriage, my guy seems just as capable at caring for our apartment as I do. We both have our specialties, but he managed on his own for many years – and seems just as good or better at it than I am.

      • Maddie

        Yes to cultural expectations. I mean, it was only in the past century that women in this country were even allowed to work outside the home. For a long time it was the expectation that they kept the home clean, and hard to break that cycle, which is why I think so many of us probably fall into this argument time and again.

        I will say, there is nothing about me that is better at tending the home than Michael. I am, however, FAR better at destroying it to the point of unrecognizable.

        • Rowan

          It is also external pressures. I know that when my MIL comes over, if the house is not clean I will get judged, not her son. Fair? Absolutely not and I hate it but I’m also the one running around cleaning before she visits so I guess I’m partly to blame.

        • Vanessa

          If we’re checking our cultural expectations, please remember that the notion that “it was only in the past century that women in this country were even allowed to work outside the home” only applies to married, middle/upper class white women.

          Our country has a long history of women working outside the home (for example as maids, teachers, nannies, factory workers, prostitutes or agricultural workers). Claiming that women only started working outside the home recently marginalizes these women and does a disservice to feminist history.

          • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

            Don’t forget teachers! Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder in the late 1800s? (Ok, that was before she got married.)

    • Alexandra

      My fiance totally eats out of the mixing bowls. Or puts ice cream into cups. Though I’m glad that the “Eat Chef Boyardee out of a can, rinse the can out, fill it with ice cream and eat the ice cream out of the can” thing died out after University.

      I also don’t understand how he can fail to see the soap scum in the sink, and crumbs on the counter. He cleans the kitchen, and always forgets to wipe down the tables. I do my best not to complain about precisely how he does chores when he does them though.

      On the other hand, I now have a new roommate, and her BF does some of the weirdest things when cooking or cleaning… Every time we pull something out of the dishwasher that should have been handwashed, or put away the carton of milk that he left in the living room, we just shake our heads.

      • 39bride

        “I also don’t understand how he can fail to see the soap scum in the sink, and crumbs on the counter.”

        My dear, appreciative, wonderful husband KNEW I had to run out to Bed Bath & Beyond one Sunday morning to get an anti-fatigue mat before spending the day baking Christmas cookies… (it was expensive, so we discussed it first).

        And yet two weeks after Christmas he stood in the kitchen, looked down, and said, “Wow. I like that one better.”

        Huh??? Umm.. Honey, remember that I got a new one two weeks ago?

        “Yeah, I just didn’t notice that it was different from the old one until today.”

        *Head, wall*

        Folks, the old one was tan. This new one is flaming red. So, I learn not to take his lack of noticing little things seriously… If I accept that he just doesn’t notice details, everything makes so much sense. :P

  • KB

    “When I first moved out at eighteen, I hated doing dishes so then I let them pile up, which made me avoid doing them even more, and then my sink got so full of dishes that mold started to grow in the drain. But that was the young, impulsive me! The new adult me? Puts dishes in the dishwasher, cleans pots, and puts clean dishes away right away. And feels great about it!”

    This is me, 100% – I lived like SUCH a slob until I moved in with sorority sisters who had to have an intervention with me about the dishes. Now I’m the Dish Police.

    Also, has anyone found that kids change the chores equation or your feelings about feminism and chores? Like, right now, I feel like the “we both clean whenever and whatever needs cleaning” philosophy is where it’s at, but I can definitely see becoming more poloarized about it when there are kids. I wonder if it still works in that case because you’re then cleaning up after your child AND your partner AND yourself.

    • Marina

      I was actually just about to write a comment about this. Perhaps I’m weird/unusual, but I’ve found that having a kid actually helped me feel MORE balanced in the chore-arena. At least in my head, it’s become less about his mess and my mess, and more somebody-has-to-clean-this-and-the-baby-sure-isn’t-going-to. Mess is family mess now. Also probably part of it is just that there’s MORE mess, so both of us are just kind of constantly cleaning.

    • Lturtle

      Well my kid is 9 now, so while yes having a kid changes the chore equation it also makes it easier in some ways. We are of the philosophy that everyone in the family is responsible for cleaning up after themselves (you get it out = you put it away) and taking care of the family space (we each have designated chores as well). When she was a baby we were both responsible for her mess, though I did more because I stayed home with her. The kid is old enough now that she helps with laundry, loading/emptying the dishwasher, and caring for the cats. She is solely responsible for setting/clearing the table for meals and vacuuming the living spaces (not bedrooms) of our home, in addition to keeping her own room clean.

      Theoretically the division of labor is 50/50 between the adults (me and hubs) with the kid helping out in ways that fit her abilities. In reality though, I am disabled and just can’t do as much on a regular basis even though I am home all the time and hubs works outside the house. So we divided up chores according to affinity/ability, but the with understanding that sometimes hubs has to do some of my share. It works for us most of the time. Though not nit-picking about the WAY he does the cleaning was tough for me to learn. I had to say something in a few areas where it was just getting gross, but generally if he cleans it I leave alone because it is still cleaner than it would have been otherwise.

  • mimi

    I fall more into Meg’s camp here – my fiance has a much lower tolerance for messes than I do (particularly when it comes to the dog hair tumbleweeds and my clothes that are strewn around the bedroom).

    I do nearly all of the cooking and most of the kitchen cleaning and dishes. I try to keep the kitchen clean, since I don’t want to prepare food anywhere gross. We basically do our own laundry (one of the few things that I’m anal about). He usually cleans the bathroom and we share vacuuming duties.

    I’m trying to work on picking up after myself – putting the clothes away immediately; weeding out old magazines; taking care of the mail; etc. However, it drives me completely nuts when my fiance decides to clean and puts my stuff “away” – i.e. hides it somewhere I will never find it.

    For all his neat-freak tendencies though, he frequently leaves dishes in the sink and always makes a mess when he cooks. He also trims his beard over the bathroom sink and never manages to clean up all of the hair.

    • Kara

      Do you live in my house too?

  • sfw

    Great post! So much of what you said about balance between keeping the house you want and keeping the relationship you want definitely rings true over here. And I love thinking about chores in terms of their utility come the zombie apocalypse (a future my husband and I speculate about regularly)!
    We are definitely a couple who answer questions like ‘How messy is too messy to live in?’ and How long is too long to take with putting things away?’ very differently. I knew this as we headed into co-habitation so before we talked about chores and who did what, etc., I thought about the things that would absolutely drive me nuts if they did not get done on my timeline or in my way. And those are the chores I take responsibility for while the things that I can be more laid-back about go to the more laid-back member of the couple. I knew he simply does not feel the need to do laundry as regularly as I do so if I didn’t want to do all the laundry for both of us I would likely either nag or wait him out and quietly seethe as the dirty clothes piled up and up. Instead, as I do all our laundry every few days (and quiet the part of me that wonders if I am betraying my feminism in the process) he does things that I can easily overlook (like vacuuming) when it suits him. This has helped us, at least, squelch resentment, silent protests, and guilt when you two aren’t naturally on the same housekeeping page.

  • Jessica

    I love canning. I always tell people they should come get me in case of a Zombie Apocalypse because I’ll be able to preserve food for the winter out in the mountains where we hide out from the Zombies.

  • jules

    The conversation with the dishes is so like the ones I’ve had with dishes and crumpled clean laundry that sits in the basked instead of getting folded for DAYS and strewn gloves and scarves and hats. We were able to get our apartment with cleaning service included in rent (landlords had hoarders before, and they want to make sure the apartment is kept livable now… it’s a lovely bonus for us!) so the harcore cleaning stuff is taken care of, but I still get the feeling that chores are not getting done :/ And then I get into the senseless argument of I work many more hours a week and bring in the cash we are living on, why do I also have to manage the household? I have to stop and remember the stuff he does take care of, like making sure we have warm lunches every day (we both stay at home), feeding the cat when she wakes us up at early o’clock, taking out trash and recycling… things I never have to remind him to do.

  • Sam

    OMG.
    It’s all the zombies’ fault!
    Just *loved* this. Wise & witty.
    Bring on the un-dead dishes and dirty socks…

  • Ashleyn

    This. Is. Hysterical. Rachel, you had me doing my best not to snort-laugh at my desk.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has secret conversations with dishes, though in my case it is water glasses on the night stand. With leftover water still in them. Seriously, sometimes it feels like Signs took place in my house.

  • Kara

    Oooh, this totally reminds me of getting called on my dirty dishes last week. I had unloaded the dishwasher to make it empty for the dinner dishes, but ran out of steam after making dinner, then fussed at my husband (home from work late) to JUST PLEASE PUT YOUR DISHES IN THE WASHER. When…mine from the day were still in the sink. He totally teased me about that (in a nice way, but still)…

    On most tasks, we tag team–and try to be kind when someone’s just having an “I need to sit on the couch and watch tv/play an ipad game/read a book/twiddle my thumbs” kind of night. Unless the cleaning ladies are coming…then, we divide rooms and stay out of each others way.

  • Jessica

    Oh Chores, you pesky little ass faces.

    When my fiance and I moved in together we just agreed “clean when it’s dirty.” A year and a half later I’m the only person who will clean the bathtub, and he is the only person who will rake up all the leaves outside. The rest of the household chores get taken care of in waves depending on our extremely varying schedules.

    A few months ago while he was in the throes of school and work and I just had one part-time job, I admitted to him that I felt like a house elf. I’ll admit to everyone that a lot of standing up for ALL WOMANKIND was a part of that feeling. He then told me that he had felt like a house elf in the spring when I had a job traveling all over the state and wasn’t around for very long every day. This is one of those things where we will learn how to remind ourselves of all that we do for each other and what has been done for us in the past.

  • Teresa

    A while back, someone posted that their dad gave them the advice of “do more than your fair share and don’t keep score.” Reading that was transformative for me. Like, literally life changing. Like Rachel, I was so caught up in only doing exactly 50% and he would have to do exactly 50% otherwise I’d be giving in the female stereotypes, etc. I work in public education, so I have the summers off and I am home much earlier than my husband. I would actually not clean during the day in the summer, even when I literally had nothing else to do, b/c it had to be 50/50. Then I read that and a lightbulb went off. If I clean when I am home and have nothing better to do, than we can spend what little time we have together on the weekends together doing fun stuff. When my attitude changed, his did too. Now, when I am out at book club and he is home, he will clean the bathroom and do our laundry. We have found a comfortable division of chores and in the process, become more thoughtful and considerate of each other’s time and our time together. Everyonce and a while he will still huffs when I ask him to do something and it sends me into a small bit of rage, but I am only human!

    • Karen

      That statement was transformative for me as well. If we’re in our relationships for the long haul keeping score is not helpful or productive. There is no way to count what is 50/50. Life happens and our goal is to always stay together, no matter what. Everything evens out over time anyway. It’s all good.

  • V

    “..his manipulative little ass-faced dishes…”made this one of my favorite APW posts ever!

  • Kashia

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the zombie apocalypse analogy. I am always making jokes about how my knitting isn’t a hobby but a post apocalyptic life skill, and now I have a new and awesome way to think about household chores and gender roles. I love it.

    This made my WEEK!

    SO awesome! Yay feminism and zombies! Rachel, you rock!

  • Marissa

    I LOVE this idea of replacing the man with the mother. I struggle with cleaning up after my partner as well, so I’m going to try it!

  • sandyliz

    Would we all feel that doing more chores is a failure for ALL WOMANKIND if we didn’t have a wide variety of media targeted to women that explains the best way to do each individual chore?

    I mean, when was the last time you saw “5 minute organizing tricks” or “10 simple tricks to make your whole house healthier” on the cover of Men’s Health?

    I have to remind myself that I am not defending feminism by my way of doing or not doing housework. I also have to remind my fiance that sometimes I clean like a crazy woman because I’ve been societally conditioned to, and that’s when he needs to step in and do more.

  • Louise

    In my household, my husband does almost all of the day to day cleaning/maintenance and about 50% of the cooking. I wish I could say it was a feminist arrangement, but I’m really just terrible at cleaning and organizing and my wonderful man happily picks up my slack. I realize that feminism made this possible, though. And his parents, who taught him to take care of himself.

    I wonder if I should be doing more to consider feminism in my day to day life…?

  • ElisabethJoanne

    There are lots of complications to our chore divisions. He has ADD, so there’s lots of things he just can’t do (things requiring certain kinds of concentration and memory). This also means there are few chores he can recognize on his own need doing. He needs more sleep.

    7 months after he moved in, we’re finding a balance. I’m learning what he’s good at (trash, dishes) and what he’s not (paying bills, putting dishes away). I’m learning what a reasonable number of assignments is per week or per day, and also that it’s not really about the number or how long they take; he’ll always have trouble completely following through. So, dishes are a good assignment, because doing 90% of the dishes is still very helpful. Paying bills is a bad assignment, because doing everything but putting the check in the mail is just confusing.

    The latest wrinkle is quashing my resentment that I have to do any chores at all, because he’s unemployed. Growing up, the spouse who did not work outside the home did most of the chores. But we agreed he could take through March to look for work full time, and then we’d reassess the situation.

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      I have ADD and it’s hard for me to get started on tasks that seem big because they overwhelm me mentally. But it works for me to break something down and do it methodically. When we lived in an apartment, I’d clean the whole place every other weekend and HAD TO start in the kitchen and work my way back to our bedroom, one room at a time in order to keep myself from getting detoured by something else I could be doing. Doing the whole place in one day tapped into my ability to hyperfocus. I’m no good at bills though. And while I’m good at putting dishes away, not so much at closing cabinet doors afterward.

  • Mrs May

    I am married to a lady and in my experience I would FAR rather clean and cook all the things than try to get her to do it. If I asked, she would, and in desperation, I do ask, but usually, I just do it. I care about it. She cares about other stuff and does that stuff- the fixing, the bills, and myriad other stuff that is uncounted. I can’t understand all this resentment- if the house must be cleaner for you to be happy, just clean it, for yourself. I am grateful I don’t have to negotiate feminism as well as vacuming on Saturday, I’ll tell you that!

  • Ashlie

    Your conversation with the dirty dishes had me in fits of laughter!

    Fantastic post. There is nothing wrong with keeping things at a certain level of cleanliness because you like it there, feminist or not. I do all the cooking because I LOVE to cook. Well, and because my husband’s idea of dinner is slapping some meat on two slices of bread or pouring milk over cereal (although he can make something delicious when he really wants to). But he does the majority of the housework. He’s way better at it than me and knows techniques for perfect laundry and spotless dishes. Plus he usually gets frustrated by the mess before I do. I could definitely step up my game in that department since we both work full-time, him often more hours than me. I agree with the earlier comment that we both need to give 100%, and that’s not necessarily a 50/50 division down the middle when other factors are uneven.

    At least, based on your assessment of necessary skills, I’ll be able to keep him alive in the zombie apocalypse!

  • http://mygirlsimple.wordpress.com Ashlie

    I wanted to tell you that I really, really enjoyed your writing. Also, I constantly get nervous that my particular skill set (writing, reading books to children, teaching first grade, remembering thank you cards) is NOT preparing me for an inevitable zombie apocalypse, so using chores as a sort of practice ground made perfect sense to me :) Thanks for such a great insight!

  • Ann

    This is a great way of teaching boys and girls the importance of being self-reliant without referring to gender roles: what would you need to know in the case of a zombie apocalypse. It is funny but gets them thinking. And you can steer clear of the stereotypes.

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  • Lindsey

    I’d like to preface this comment by saying that this post was the best of all time.

    This hardcore resonated with me since the boyfriend and I moved in together roughly 8 months ago and he hasn’t yet learned to put his cereal bowls in the sink or clean the litterbox. With that having been said, I kind of refuse to vacuum and neither of us dust. But honestly, dusting skills will almost never come in handy during the apocalypse.

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