How to Teach a Grown-Ass Adult to Do Stuff Around the House


Featuring your awesome teacher, Rachel!

by Rachel W. Miller, Contributing Editor

How to Teach a Grown Ass Adult to Do Stuff Around the House | A Practical WeddingHow to Teach a Grown Ass Adult to Do Stuff Around the House | A Practical Wedding

After Eric and I had been living together for a little while, I realized I just couldn’t be responsible for all the meal planning and the majority of the cooking; even though I genuinely enjoy cooking, I had other shit to do. And since eating tons of takeout was neither affordable nor particularly healthy, I suggested that we split the cooking. We’d divide Monday through Thursday nights and each of us would be responsible for taking out the dogs and cooking on two of those nights. We could each choose the recipes we made on our nights. Meanwhile, the other person could go to the gym, work late, or go to happy hour on the “off” nights. On the weekends, we’d either get takeout, alternate nights again, or cook together. This system turned out to be wonderful in a lot of ways, but in the beginning, Eric was skeptical. Because for it to work, it meant he’d have to really learn to cook. But that was OK, because I knew how and I was willing to teach him.

In all honesty, teaching people can be a pain. It’s time consuming. It takes patience. And having to teach someone else to do something you feel they should have learned years ago feels unfair. WHY IS THIS MY PROBLEM? WHY DIDN’T YOUR PARENTS TEACH YOU TO DO THIS? WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME GET OFF THE COUCH? I’LL JUST DO IT MYSELF. Believe me, I get it. But the thing is, someone has to teach people to do stuff. Most of the time, parents and teachers do it. But sometimes they don’t, particularly if they don’t know how, or if they subscribe to old-fashioned gender stereotypes about what a young person should be taught. So then the teaching falls on another member of society. Is this fair? No, I suppose it’s not, but until we raise a new generation who knows how to do things that aren’t tied to gender stereotypes, there will be stragglers. And, turns out, we can’t raise that new generation if we don’t all know how to do stuff. So do it for the greater good. (And because it will likely benefit you in some way in the long run, and you’re selfish like that.)

Today, I’m going to teach you to teach someone else how to do something: cook. I chose cooking because it’s often loaded with gender stereotypes, and also because it’s something I’m good at. If you and your partner have cooking figured out, you can replace “cook” with anything else you may need to teach a person, from “clean a toilet” to “change a tire” to “do your taxes.”

Start small. Right after my mom moved me into my first apartment when I was 18, she taught me to cook by teaching me one thing: how to cook ground beef. She taught me to make five recipes with ground beef: chili, tacos, sloppy joes, hamburgers, and spaghetti. She also taught me to grill chicken, but it’s more difficult to cook through so it freaked me out, and I quickly gave up on it. If she had started with that, I’d probably still be relying on takeout. But ground beef was so easy to cook ; I stuck to those five recipes for a while…and that gave me the confidence to try new recipes.  Slowly but surely I learned how to make stir-fry and baked mac and cheese, and now I feel confident beating egg whites into stiff peaks and making a turkey roulade. (I do still avoid grilling chicken though.) And it all started with ground beef.

Give them plenty of chances to practice. Another reason my mom’s lessons were so helpful was because after she taught me, she went back to Michigan. I was on my totally own. I had to get resourceful and, you know, look on the Internet. But really, that space allowed me to try new things and experiment. With some chores, you really only get better at it through practice, which is one reason I suggested we alternate nights. Cooking together or just having Eric cook on occasion wouldn’t have had the same effect.  Sometimes, you just need to be alone with a pot, a knife, and a bunch of vegetables.

Be willing to answer questions… but also share other teaching resources. Even though she left me on my own, my mom was always around to answer questions. (She still is.) So when Eric is cooking and I’m around, I answer questions. I come look at something to tell him if I think it’s done. If he asks me when I think he should start the green beans, I tell him. When I’m not around…he figures it out. When I learned to cook, I didn’t have the advantage of Google and YouTube; now, when I don’t have time to help him, I often remind him to look something up. After all, I didn’t learn to chop garlic properly until I saw Rachael Ray do it on TV.

Don’t freak out when they do it “wrong.” One of the beautiful things about cooking is that there are a lot of ways to do it; some ways allow you to develop your own style and even a new recipe, while other experiments will seriously screw things up. The good news is, you’ll know pretty quickly whether that new thing you tried is the end of the world. So you can say, “Hey, I’ve found that cutting peppers for fajitas works a little better if you do it like this,” and then show them your method quickly before handing the pepper and the knife back… but to continuously get pissed about their pepper-chopping technique and snatch the pepper and the knife away every time is not good for morale, or the development of pepper-chopping skills.

Don’t freak out when they do it right. Not only is an overly-enthusiastic “OMG GOOD JOBBBBBBBBBBB!!!!” with every bite condescending, it also acts like being a grown-ass adult who can do grown-ass adult things is special, and, frankly, it’s not. I mean, I still feel awesome every time I successfully iron something (because it basically never happens) but I don’t need anyone giving me a participating trophy and telling all their friends about it like I’m an elephant who can paint or something. Being able to do things that adults need to be able to do is normal. Crossing gender stereotypes to do it needs to be normal. So be grateful, eat the made-for-you-with-love-dinner (or pee in the cleaned-for-you-with-love toilet) and know that even if they thought cilantro and parsley were interchangeable, they are learning.

Photo from Rachel’s personal collection

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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  • N

    Making dinner each night is tough. E and I decided to divide chores based on what we each do best. He vacuums, mops, washes the dishes, and does the laundry while I do all the cooking. It works out because we each feel like we got the easy job.

    But making dinner each night after a long day of work was just too tough. So I started doing what my single mom did when we were growing up. I make a big pot of soup, a roast, and prep all the vegetables on Sunday then reheat throughout the week.

    I may take your advice on teaching chores to get E to clean the bathroom properly. Right now it’s the one chore we both shun and it would be great if we could get an alternating schedule going.

    • Violet

      Oh man, N, I need your wisdom! My husband and I are both frankly too busy to be cooking dinner every night (get home too late, in some cases, waaaay too late). I was making a big thing on Sunday (chili, soup, etc) to eat for the week, but to him, it’s not a “real” meal without a protein, carb, vegetable, blah blah blah. So I figure, then he can make something himself, right? But he… doesn’t, and he ends up eating cereal (which ironically, also isn’t a “real” meal by his standards), and then I have to hear him complain about it. (Also, neither of us are particularly good cooks: we are recent transplants from urban-take-out-land.) Any thoughts? Any meals you make on Sunday that are more solid in nature and can last the week?

      • Jennifer

        My fiance does the same thing. Either cereal, or if we have cookie dough in the fridge he will eat a whole roll of that!

        My go to meals right now are chicken fajitas and beef tacos, because both reheat well. I also have a super easy recipe for a cheesy taco bake that I make with the leftover taco meat – I’ll make it as soon as we finish the tacos and stick it in the fridge, and it will last all week.

        I want to try the whole “freezer meal” concept. Where you cook several things on the weekend and freeze them, then all you have to do is reheat them at night. And the slow cooker is becoming my best friend – it’s wonderful to come to a delicious roast without putting much effort in at all :)

        • Rebecca

          Pulled pork in the slow cooker is also amazing- barbecue style or Mark Bittman has a killer recipe that you can also turn into carnitas if you’re so inclined.

          I learned a lot of good prep tricks from the freezer meal people, but I’ve never really been able to execute on the concept. On the other hand, I do always keep servings of homemade chicken noodle soup in the fridge so I have go to food when one of us has a cold (I make mine with ginger and hot peppers so it’s extra awesome for head colds)

        • rys

          Another quick and easy option is to make boxed mac & cheese a full (and healthier) meal — I always add a green (e.g. frozen spinach tossed into the boiling water with the pasta), beans (usually black or cannellini) or tofu, and if I’m feeling fancy, extra real cheese. It takes 10 minutes, and has a starch and a green and a bit of protein. It feeds 2 people or one + leftovers. If I have more time and can add a salad to the side, even better. But it’s my go-to for crazy, hellish weeks with no time for real cooking.

          In general, I’m a fan of making big pots of soups/stews/chili for the week as they reheat well. Other options: quiche, lasagne, and gratins (takes more time to prep but holds well). I’m vegetarian so that limits the fish/meat + veg option but has forced more advance thought in some ways. Then again, some nights I just steam some tofu + broccoli and call it dinner.

        • Violet

          Thanks Jennifer! I’m glad I’m not the only partner of a dinner-cereal-eater, haha! I think a slow cooker is something we seriously need to look into. We could combine that idea with all the good ideas below about preparing and freezing vegetables, so it’s spreading the work over a greater amount of time, making it less intensive each time in the kitchen.

          • Jennifer

            Absolutely. If you do get one, splurge for one that will automatically switch to warm after so many hours so your food doesn’t get overcooked if you end up not making it home when you thought. They cost a little more ($10 to $15 more), but you’ll save yourself in the end!

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            For two people, make sure you get a small one. I have a jumbo one, and stuff gets burnt while we’re out of the house for 12 hours.

          • Amanda

            Annnnnnd — one with a removable inside so you don’t have to squeeze that bugger – along with the electrical cord – into the sink to wash!

        • Danielle

          Does anyone have a slow-cooker cookbook that they recommend? Thanks!

          • MDBethann

            Fix it and Forget About It is the slow cooker book I use. There are also some websites out there dedicated to slow cooker foods that are pretty easy to find (I have them bookmarked on my home computer, so unfortunately I don’t have them handy at work)

      • Rebecca

        If the one dish meal contains a meat, a carb, and a veg, is he on board? Or is he a strict meat and potatoes type?

        Other options: roast chicken and veggies/ potatoes, pot roast with salad and potatoes, etc. Just this weekend I made a Rick Bayless recipe that layers (from bottom up) onions, potatoes, pork, cilantro and tomatillos in a slow cooker which is going to feed us for most of this week. Keeping ready to go salad fixings and/or frozen veggies around can help buffer the veggie supply throughout the week. Taco fixings make surprisingly good leftovers, especially if you make rice and beans to go with- you can just throw the meat and fixings on top of the rice for lunches or lazy dinners, or break out the taco shells if you’re in the mood.

        We usually cook 3-4 days a week because I pack lunches and we eat at home most nights. On weekends we do more labor intensive dishes, and on weekdays we stick to “Tuesday” recipes (so named because we cooked together on Tuesdays when we were dating). Rachel Ray 30 minute meals is a good starting point for that. We use Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday and Moosewood’s Simple Suppers a lot.

        Other quick weekday meals: Learn how to pan sear and oven finish a steak (use a probe thermometer), stir fries (especially if you pre-cut veggies on the weekend and use white rice). omelettes, main dish salads (leftover roast chicken works great, or grill up some chicken breasts on the weekend), most pasta dishes, or what we call emergency sausage- fancy sausage with a veggie (frozen works) and a carb, usually some sort of potato hash (cut small and they cook fast).

        • N

          Oh Rebecca was faster to respond! I second her advice for quick weekday meals.

      • N

        Any slow-cooked meat will re-heat well and that way you get the meat you’re looking for. We like pulled pork and pot roasts. Actually I’m a sucker for any type of pulled meat and you can make endless variations on the sauce that it’s in. Roast chicken thighs are super easy and re-heat in the microwave nicely. When really pressed for time, buy a rotisserie chicken.

        For vegetables, I just wash and cut them up on Sunday and store them in tupperwares. It’s not too hard to saute some asparagus and red onion (or green beans, brussels, pick your greens) each night if you just grab it out of the tub and throw it in a pan. As long as you don’t put dressing on it, salads can be pre-made and kept in tupperware for a few days.

        For starch, you can roast root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, onions) on Sunday then re-heat. They’re not as good re-heated as they are fresh cooked, but they’re not bad. Wild rice and grains like quinoa also re-heat pretty well.

        Hope that helps!

        • Violet

          Thanks N! I’m definitely going to suggest he pre-cut and freeze small containers of vegetables. And this way, it can be something different day to day, because he can change up the vegetables. And root vegetables as a carb is something I always forget about. The man can definitely cut up a potato and throw it in the oven.

      • Rachael

        My husband and I try to do a lot of cooking on Sundays for weekday leftovers. We’ll do a big batch of an all-in-one meal like a soup, chilli, or stir-fry, or we’ll roast a whole chicken or cook a whole bunch of chicken thighs, something like that. We’ve found that if we have a meat or main part of the dish already cooked, it’s easy enough to cut up (or use frozen) and steam some vegetables as a side.

        We do cook a couple of nights a week, in addition to the Sunday cooking. Usually he’ll cook on Mondays because he works nights the rest of the week. Then on either Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll make some time to cook a big meal for dinner for myself and for leftovers for the latter part of the week. We end up eating homemade meals most nights of the week with really each of us only cooking once, sometimes twice, on weekdays.

        Absolutely essential for us is frozen veggies for quick sides as well as canned soup for those nights when we are out of leftovers.

        Oh, and I almost forgot to mention crock pots/ slow cookers! Great for winter and colder months. You can make a lot of food with really minimal effort and come home to a ready meal.

        • Violet

          I like how you’ve split it up so that you share cooking but also take advantage of leftovers too. We should have a specific conversation about who’s going to cook which night at the start of the week. It’s a big life change from just going on seamlessweb!

        • http://www.dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

          I’ll second the ‘cook in large batches and reheat the leftovers’. We do this all the time for convenience and it’s pretty damned wonderful. Generally we end up making stuff that can be made in one pot: curry, chili, stew, corned beef and cabbage. If we run out of stuff we usually have ingredients for something quick like pasta or stir fry in reserve.

      • Teresa

        You can grill a bunch of chicken, which can be used in lots of stuff during the week (salads, burritos, tacos, stirfry, etc) and buy those steam in a bag veggies that take 90 seconds to heat. My mom loves those Uncle Ben’s bags of rice that microwave in 90 seconds–they come in lots of flavors. Rachael Ray also had a show on Cooking Channel called Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day where she cooked a weeks worth of meals on Sunday…you could probably find some really great recipes there!

        • Violet

          Faster rice- we both love rice; this is an awesome idea!

          • amanda

            If you eat rice a lot, look into a rice cooker. You just put rice and water in the pot (and rice vinegar if you’re my husband), press the button, and 20-40 minutes later you have perfectly done rice. Our rice cooker also has a steamer tray, so you can steam veggies at the same time. You can find rice steamers at large department stores, but for the best selection try to find an Asian grocery store. They range from one person hello kitty models to gigantic family size ones.

      • InTheBurbs

        I’m a huge fan of our crockpot. Stew, chili, and chicken tortilla soup are our go-to’s right now. Another standby is turkey brats/sausage – they go from freezer to done in about 15 minutes – paired with a frozen veggie makes a decent meal.

        • b (the other one)

          lasagna, chicken pot pie, enchiladas, soup, chili, stew, roast mac and cheese are all things you can make on a sunday to last the week. Or make big batches of small dishes and freeze them in plastic bags, than its just a matter of taking what you want out of your freezer in the morning. Have you thought of maybe just doing your veg on sunday and than only having to cook a meat after work?

          Our go-to easy meal is baked salmon, asparagus and carrots. Everything can go in the oven in one tray and its done in around 15 minutes. plus, no mess!

          • Violet

            THIS! I’ll totally suggest he can prep vegetables on Sunday if he wants them later in the week. Thanks The Other B!

      • http://karynthiandesigns.com m richards

        Rachel Rays mexican lasagna. It it is super filling (so it’ll last) satisfies perpetual takeout eaters for taste, and if you can cook ground beef (or ground turkey for the health conscious) and pour stuff, it is within your ability http://m.foodnetwork.com/recipes/28244 .

        • Violet

          This looks delicious, and yes, bonus points for anything that tastes like take out, haha!

      • KC

        I also have the “but baked potatoes with a bunch of toppings isn’t a full dinner”… or rather, *had*, as he has reformed and is now willing to consider a wider range of foods “dinner”. (he would, however, eat whatever was available. He just didn’t feel like it was a real dinner.) It took between two to three years, although obviously your mileage may vary.

        One possibility for increasing dinner-like-ness is to pair the chili with cornbread and stews/soups with rolls or regular bread (or garlic bread or whatever). If he’s insistent about vegetables, it’s pretty easy to pull a frozen veggie out and give him a serving, or, if he’s willing to eat salad often enough that bagged salad does not perish ignobly after one serving, bagged salad from the fridge.

        It sort of depends what his parameters for “dinner” are, though; if it comes on a plate and has a meat, a starch, and a veggie all in three evenly spaced spots on the plate, then it’s harder. And some people resist change more than others…

        How does he feel about lasagna?

        • Violet

          I like the strategy of adding something to make it feel a little more “full” of a meal. So if we get baggies of frozen vegetables, or he can pre-cut some on Sunday, he can heat up one of those to go with what I made. Thanks KC!

      • Laura C

        So is it that if you’re cooking, it needs to be a real meal, and if you’re not, he’s eating cereal? Because if so, then that’s not a cooking challenge, it’s a conversation to have about why he wants you doing all sorts of work for him that he isn’t willing to do for himself.

        • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

          Word.

        • Violet

          This is exactly what it is. I only know how to make last-able meals that work for *me*. If he wants a different kind of meal (and wow, you ladies provided some amazing suggestions above, THANK YOU!) then I’m going to point him to those and say, “You can make those for yourself.” In my opinion, you can either be a. picky or b. ask your partner to help you out. You can’t be both, because that’s not fair on the other partner. You get what you get and you don’t get upset! Or get up and make your own dinner! I think he doesn’t feel up to it/capable of doing these things himself (which is why Rachel’s take on educating was so interesting to me), but the answer is either learn how or change your conception of dinner. There are now SO many good options and methods here I can point him to!

      • KC

        The other thing, which I forgot to mention in my comment, was that it was useful to actually make a written-down list of meals, sorted into the categories of “quick”, “make ahead”, “regular”, “guest” [feeding a crowd reliably], and “fancy”. (and adding to the list whenever I found something new or remembered a new category, like “grilled sandwiches”). I realized that I was spending a surprising amount of time and energy spinning my wheels trying to think of what we could eat, whereas skimming down a list and saying “yep, we’ve got the ingredients [or the "base" in the freezer], that sounds good, it’s a winner” was wildly easier after a full day of work. (brain: especially tired before dinner) It also meant that we could have more variety without more cognitive effort (or am I the only one who, when tired, can mostly only come up with the things we’ve eaten most frequently in the recent past?) – which, variety is not necessary as long as you’re getting the nutrition and it’s not driving you nuts, but it’s still nice to not feel trapped in a World of Omelettes if you don’t want to be. :-)

        • Danielle

          What a fantastic idea! I get stuck in that cycle all the time. Definitely going to take some time to sort through my recipes this weekend.

          Thanks!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        To the other suggestions: Stew with barley has meat, vegetables, and starch and keeps well through the week. I’m looking forward to it now that it’s cool enough.

      • Hannah B

        Pinterest is actually a godsend for this stuff. Everything from Pioneer woman chicken spaghetti to 20 ways to fake chinese food in a crock pot…<3 pinterest crock pot hacks. :-) As far as super easy recipes go, I am a fan of salmon in a toaster oven–for two people, just get your salmon steaks and coat with a mix of soy sauce and brown sugar and cook it up in the oven setting of a toaster oven. looks fancy, tastes delicious, and doesn't intimidate even though part of the recipe says "for the glaze" http://www.marthastewart.com/314009/soy-glazed-salmon (not exact but tweak to taste!)

      • Sarah S

        We will often make a big pot of black beans on the weekend, and then use them as a basis for recipes throughout the week – burrito bowls, spinach and black bean lasagna, black bean and butternut squash enchilada skillet, black bean soup, enfrijoladas. This has been my biggest cooking breakthrough. I don’t really like leftovers usually, so making something that can be altered slightly or added to another dish makes eating much more pleasant for me. (This has also helped our budget and made us eat more vegetarian meals, something I thought would be next to impossible to do!)

      • Casey

        My FAVORITE cookbook on the face of the planet is called Well Fed, which takes you step-by-step through a “Weekly Cookup” for your meals for the week, identifying precisely how to prep and store your ingredients. The premise is “run your own kitchen like a restaurant” because you KNOW restaurants don’t start from zero when you put in your order. The entire first section of the book is all about how to get weekly dinners on the table quickly.
        It’s pretty much ALL meat and veg, because it’s a Paleo cookbook. So if your man wanted his glutinous/grainy starches, you could add those back in. But the genius of this book is how to use spices to keep everything from getting boring. The author tells you how to make a basic ground beef, then reheat each night of the week reheat with Mexican spice blends, or Italian, or Thai. Melissa Joulwan is the queen of international home-dining!

      • Jade

        Having started with a boyfriend who thought adding hot dogs to mac and cheese was the best he could do in a kitchen and who now can take a chicken and some fresh vegetables and end up with a classy meal I second the start small method.

        Regarding the “what to cook” question I’d suggest looking at how much time and effort (both mental and physical) you are both able to put towards cooking each day. Does the idea of doing more than reheating something sound daunting? If so you might need to stick with the make food Sunday plan. Otherwise you might be able to get away with prepping Sunday and doing the actual cooking either every day or every other day (most things can stand to be reheated once). Having recently started grad school I understand not having the energy to cook most nights.

        Suggestions: Quiche can be popped in the freezer or fridge after baking and go well with a quickly cooked veg or salad, pasta sauces can be made ahead and the you just heat the sauce and cook pasta. I default to looking at recipes from Smitten Kitchen because she has so many and most of them are fairly easy (and really tasty). Pot pie filling can be made Sunday and topped with either biscuits or pie crust and then baked. Anything that is braised is likely to reheat well. Things that require a couple days to marinade can usually be set up fairly fast and then popped on a grill or in the oven. For warm nights I like to make a salad of greens and top it with cooked onion and bell peppers, tuna or other fish, sautéed spiced garbanzo beans, and some oil and balsamic vinegar. And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you end up eating sandwiches a couple nights a week. We like tuna with capers and arugula. :)

        Hope some of that helps!

      • MDBethann

        Lasagna (and there are lots of good recipes out there where you don’t have to pre-cook the noodles)
        Spaghetti with pretty much any sort of sauce
        Stir-fry
        Pepper halves stuffed with rice, beef, & tomatoes
        Tacos – make filling in advance & then all you have to do is assemble
        Crockpot any sort of roast – pork, beef, etc.
        Actually, anything crockpot. They are your friends for dinners that you can prep in advance.

        I can go on and on. I usually try to make 2 dishes on the weekend if I can that will last us for most of the week. That way, we can alternate and not get sick of lasagna or something. And then we aren’t eating dinner at 8 or 9 pm.

    • k

      I did this once when I was single and while it wasn’t just cooking on the weekend, it was damn efficient, and tasty and healthy too. The portions were way bigger than I needed but for a guy who doesn’t just sit at a desk or two people who do, they’d be pretty good I think. Plus it’s Men’s Health so it has Dude Cred.

      http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/shop-once-eat-week

      I’m also a big fan of Dinner: A Love Story, both the blog and the cookbook, because even if you don’t have kids, getting a fast, simple, healthy dinner on the table is a big fat win.

  • Grace

    Wait…people still iron clothes?

    • KC

      Only for interviews!

    • Rebecca

      Steamer all the way, over here.

  • Jennifer

    My fiance and I moved in together in August, and we are still trying to find a balance in housework. Initially he mowed the lawn and took care of the pool (we found an awesome rent house!) while I cooked every meal, did laundry, and cleaned the house. I was totally cool with that arrangement until fall came around and outdoor work is a little less demanding – he still has some stuff he does (chopping wood) but that’s about it. He helps out with dishes most of the time, and will begrudgingly sweep or mop if I ask, but he has no idea how to cook (unless you count grilling on the charcoal grill I bought him for our anniversary).

    The problem with trying to get him to alternate nights of cooking with me (after I teach him) is that he’s a volunteer firefighter, so if a call comes in he has to leave, even if he’s in the middle of cooking. Maybe we’ll make a permanent “I cook, he does dishes” agreement…

    • Anne

      We do this and I find that it works pretty well. I really like to cook, and my husband’s not super into it, but I followed this rule with roommates in college and I like it. If my husband cooks dinner, then I do the dishes.

    • Corrie

      The standing rule in our house is that one person cooks and the other person does the dishes. We both love cooking and initially would alternate nights. Ever since my guy started playing basketball on Tuesdays and Thursdays a couple years ago, those have become his cooking nights so that he doesn’t have to come home to a bunch of dirty dishes waiting for him at 10:30pm. We’ve found this works really well and it has become a default schedule, but still allows for flexibility if one of us won’t be around during normal dinner making hours. Sometimes we just have ‘do whatever’ nights where we each fend for ourselves for dinner if both of us are running around after work. On the weekends, we try to plan out our meals for the week and only buy what we need, which also makes it easier for either one of us to just pick something off the list to make and not have to put thought into whether we have the ingredients. It makes life so much easier when we actually do it. :o)

      • Jessica B

        That is how it used to be in the house, but recently my room mate and I realized that it was a lot more effective for our very small sink for the person who cooks to do dishes as they make the meal (like washing the cutting board while waiting for something to heat up), and that way it’s not overwhelming the small space we have. Plus, she cooks one pot meals more often than I do, so it’s not very fair that I dirty a million dishes and she only dirties 3-4.

        We do split up the cooking to 2-4 times every two weeks, make a big pot of oatmeal for breakfast once a week and then reheat it on weekdays, and keep a lot of boxes of mac and cheese around for when we don’t feel like cooking. We’ve lived together for 2 years, and it took awhile for things to settle and to find a good rhythm.

        • Courtney

          Yes! This is my arrangement with my husband, mostly because I have a habit of cleaning up as I go along, and he absolutely does not, and I thought it was unfair for me to clean up DISASTER KITCHEN when cleaning up after myself is easy. Also, small kitchen – I hadn’t used that excuse before. :)

          Pretty much everyone tells us that we’re doing it wrong and I need to be doing the dishes (because OMG I have a husband who cooks!), but this is what works for us!

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.com Charise

      I’m another with the I cook, he does dishes arrangement. Because, well, I love cooking and meal planning and hate cleaning; he doesn’t cook much (he’s a champion on the grill and with breakfast, though!) and he has more exacting standards of cleanliness than I do. I also pack up leftovers for lunches, while he wipes down counters and sweeps the floor.

      Every now and then, I’ll be nice and take care of the dishes, especially if we’re tired and decide to leave them for the next day if it’s a work-from-home day for me.

  • Emmy

    I highly, highly recommend How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman for beginning cooks. I insisted that my ex and I split cooking nights just like you and Eric, and he loved learning from that book. It has a lot of tasty, easy recipes and lots of useful information about technique and equipment.

    • Harriet

      Agreed! My partner is also expanding his cooking horizons, and he loves Bittman.

    • Laura C

      Best cookbook ever. Especially the way it’ll have like 10 variations on a recipe, so if you get the hang of one, you suddenly have a whole bunch of possibilities.

    • Jessica B

      I came down to the comments to say this! He also has the sections broken into smaller books that are sold in a set, broken up into the different meats and a book for veggies. That man taught me how to cook!

    • Rebecca

      Alton Brown’s books have been remarkably popular with almost every guy teaching himself to cook that I’ve known personally. Something about the way he teaches encourages them to go from “simple pot roast” to “I make my own marshmallows!”

      Other good beginner cookbooks for branching out: Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday, Moosewood Simple Suppers (vegetarian), Italian Easy

      • april

        My husband and I both learned how to cook by watching Good Eats with Alton Brown (you can find most of the episodes on YouTube)! He’s awesome – like a mix of Bill Nye and Julia Childs. I like that he not only explains what you should be doing, but also *why* you should be doing it. It means you can apply the theories and techniques to all sorts of other recipes.

    • N

      My recommendation is for Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food: Light: The Quickest and Easiest Recipes, All Under 500 Calories”. It is sorted by season and mostly uses normal ingredients that you can find in your grocery store. The instructions are really straightforward so when E cooks from this book, he says, “oh, this was easier than I thought it would be.”

      • N

        Hmmm Can’t figure out how to delete this. Sorry for the double post everyone!

    • N

      My recommendation is for Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food: Light: The Quickest and Easiest Recipes, All Under 500 Calories”. It is sorted by season and uses normal ingredients that you can find in your grocery store. The instructions are really straightforward so when E cooks from this book, he says, “oh, this was easier than I thought it would be.” The recipes are also really tasty!

    • Ella

      My fiance LOVES that book. He particularly likes impressing my mom (who is not cooking savvy at all) how to chop onions that way he learned from Bittman.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      There is also a How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I also love Heidi Swanson’s cookbooks and blog (101recipes.com) and there’s an excellent honey baked lentil recipe I love in More With Less.

  • Marie

    Excellent advice! I would add (or rather, make explicit, since its implied in Rachel’s piece) one more thing: always try to characterize other’s culinary contributions as just that– contributions to a happy, well-run household–rather than as doing you a favor. The former promotes partnership; the latter, I would argue, promotes the idea that he’s just lightening a burden that is fundamentally yours. I think this distinction is especially important for traditionally gendered chores.

    Used to drive my mom nuts when we’d say cooking/cleaning etc was helping HER out; no, she would say–we were helping to make OUR home a pleasant place. (Though of course, there are times when we do pick up the slack for others, and that should not be taken for granted– but that’s not the topic today!)

    • Mira

      This is a great point!

      I’ve started correcting myself whenever I blurt out that my husband needs to “help” around the house more… No, it’s not HELP – he lives here too, it’s our joint responsibility to contribute to a comfortable, well-oiled home!

  • Rebecca

    My secret to chicken doneness- probe thermometer! 165 and you’re good to go. I also use it for breads that I’m not sure about (190-200), steaks, etc.

    Thermapens are the fanciest, but we have a similar type branded by the Food Network that does the trick.

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/read Martha

    I’m telling you what, Rachel needs to be hired as a full-time staff member when her internship expires. Everyone in agreement say “aye!”

    We have a pretty good balance when it comes to most chores, and I’m sure things will shift when we have a house/dog/kid in the mix. The only thing I struggle with is not freaking out when he does it wrong. My husband is just plain terrible at washing dishes. Terrible. Most other chores he’s great, no problems (and he’s excellent at mopping, who knew?!). But when it comes to dishes, eeekk – I sometimes re-wash them. And every time I do it, I remind myself that when I try to grill or fry something I catch him poking and prodding my chicken to make sure it’s done. Ah, partnership :-)

    • b (the other one)

      My fiancé once told me that you didn’t need to wash the bottom of plates because you only put food on the top, or that you didnt need to vacuum under things like tables, desks etc.

      I’ve always wanted to know where these strange theories came from!

      • Jessica B

        An ex-boyfriend told me that towels (from showering) don’t need to be washed because you’re clean when you come out of the shower, so the towel has to be clean too. It’s just water, after all.

        I face palmed hard at that and told him where that moldy smell was coming from in his room.

  • Laura C

    I should leave my fiance alone to cook. And wash dishes, for that matter. We tend to cook together, which ends up with me taking the lead on most stuff. And washing dishes, he uses about as much water per dish as I’d use for a shower and it drives me absolutely crazy on conservation grounds. But we should take another run at making that stuff work.

    He is so wonderful on so many fronts, so firm in his understanding that household labor is part of our partnership and is equally his responsibility, so cheerful about doing it when he does it … and so totally deficient in the basic habits of housework. He was not expected to pick up after himself growing up, full stop. His mother has said as much to me on a couple occasions. Couple that with general absentmindedness (undiagnosed ADD, possibly) and you have real challenges.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My husband has diagnosed and well-managed ADD. He’s good about chores dealing with things left out in the open. For example, he mailed 2 stamped, addressed letters without my even asking after I left them on the table. He’s awful about things behind closed doors. For example, cleaning out the refrigerator (his leftovers).

      I find it helps to break things down into every step. For example, not just “Take out the trash,” but “Take out the trash; replace trash can liner.” Not, “scrub bathtub” but “scrub bottom, sides, and rim of bathtub; scrub shower curtain.”

      Immediate rewards work better than punishments, as in, “Here’s a chocolate you can have after you finish scrubbing the bathtub,” not “I won’t make brownies if you don’t scrub the bathtub.”

      If all this sounds like parenting…Well, I take the view that recognizing the bathtub needs scrubbing, and teaching how to do that, are also contributions to the household. He does more physical-type chores because he’s unemployed, but my management-type chores count, too.

    • Mira

      “… and so totally deficient in the basic habits of housework. ”

      This cracked me up!

      Yes, I often wonder why my husband chooses to brush crumbs on the counter directly onto the floor, uses the same dishwater for all the dishes even when it has turned a lovely grey-brown colour and why he seems to be unable to clean up the gallons of water he somehow splashes all over the bathroom everytime he shaves. But I digress…

      I make dinner most nights simply because I get home earlier than he does. His job is normally to wash the dishes. On the one night when I work late, it’s his responsibility to make dinner and I’m always disappointed (and pissed off) when he has resorted to making TOAST. Why is he exempt from putting thought or effort into our meals? I have been at work for 10 hours – I NEED MORE THAN EFFING TOAST!

  • Anonymous

    I find the teaching lessons in this post incredibly valuable. My husband fancies himself a great cook (in truth, he’s average). Also, after I made our first dinner in a new oven that dried out my tried and true chicken dish, he now believes that I am a terrible cook. We have tried to share cooking responsibilities, but we absolutely cannot cook together. He tends to hover over me to make sure I am doing it “correctly,” which drives me nuts. Thus far, we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that there will be no teaching involved and our cooking skills will need to evolve separately. However, I am optimistic that I may be able to use the guidelines in this post to try again. Thank you for the tips!

    • Jessica B

      I cannot cook with someone else, unless we are working on absolutely different dishes. I have to leave the room and not enter the kitchen at all when my husband cooks because he doesn’t do things the way I would do them. I know that doesn’t make them the wrong way to do things, but it does bring out my control freak side.

  • b (the other one)

    My fiancé is in charge of car maintenance and keeping the cars and garage clean, in exchange I do the laundry. Everything else is split and we take turns doing chores so no one person is stuck with something they hate.

    However, its taken me a while to learn that even though I clean like a crazy person and enjoy putting together a thoughtful tasty meal, that doesn’t mean he has to be a Martha Stewart wannabe as well. If its his turn to cook and its edible and tasty and quick, and it might not be a culinary delight, WHATEVER, wee are fed and he contributed.

    I also am still the one who recognizes when things need to get done (less frequent cleaning jobs) and keeps track of vet visits, etc and does the budget. How I get him to think ahead and remember things is beyond me, maybe that should be Rachel’s next post!

    • Teresa

      Yes! My husband is glad to help and certainly does his fair share, but he is a bit oblivious to the fact that things need to get done. I don’t know what it is, but if I didn’t tell him that certainly things had to get done, they probably never would…

      • b (the other one)

        Yes! Some of it is just random and some of it he should really know by now (we’ve been living together for 3 years). Sometimes when I think about it I start panicking about what life will be like when we have kids, and whether or not we will ever have a more balanced share of responsibilities :/

    • KC

      I’ve put the initial work into figuring out an approximate spacing schedule for less-frequent chores that need to be split, so he can put them on his calendar. It’s not as optimized as “oh, I can *see* that the end table is dusty” or whatever would be, but… he literally doesn’t see some things (which, fair enough, I literally don’t see other things!), so it’s at least an approximation that removes a few “spotting things that need to be done and reminding husband” items from my list. :-)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      See above about having a husband who really has ADD. Recognizing things need to get done is a chore in itself, IMO. Eventually, we’ll probably have a big, family wall calendar to track such things. That worked for my family growing up. For now, I can keep things in my head, and I help him with his personal calendar.

  • Sara

    Right now we have labor divided by skill and interest: I love to cook and plan meals and coupon and grocery shop, and the kitchen is my castle to I do all the cleaning in there. Boy has NO idea how to cook. Boy is much better at laundry than me so he does that (I never remember to check pockets for tissues or tags for lay-flat-to-dry instructions), and he handles any dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher. When we need to clean the bathroom / rest of the house we usually just tackle the whole place together (unless one of us is busy / away in which case the person with free time does it).

    In all reality I probably end up doing slightly more work than him, because I’m the planner / organizer of the two, but we both feel pretty okay about the arrangement.

  • Ruth

    My husband and I have been struggling with this. He is colorblind, and he believes because of this, he can never learn to cook properly – because he literally cannot see the difference between rare and medium, the bright green of properly cooked vegies vs the dull green of overcooked vegies, whether garlic is burning, etc… I don’t know if this is actually an insurmountable handicap, or if it’s just a strongly held belief, coupled unfortunately with years of being made fun of by his siblings for his early cooking disasters, because he’s overcome his colorblindness to be very succesful in a very visual career. I keep encouraging him, but at this point, he doesn’t have a desire to learn to cook, he’s fine eating take out every night – but I am not, so I usually end up cooking. How do you guys handle a lack of desire in your partner to learn a skill, a physical and mental block around it, and a lack of seeing it as a skill worth learning?

    • Laura C

      I definitely know colorblind people who cook perfectly well, FWIW.

    • Amy March

      Talking. Lots of it. Why you value cooking at home, why he doesnt, how that fits in with your values.

      And practically, pasta. Veggie burgers. Eggs. A meat thermometer. There are lots of dishes you can make without color information. Ask him if he’s willing to try some of those.

    • KC

      There are different types of colorblind… but even *blind* people can cook. It is a greater challenge, though. But casseroles, slow-cooker recipes (really, anything that you can’t really overcook or undercook) should all be fine.

      It’s possible that the biggest issue here is that he’s fine with takeout and you’re not. If he insisted that, say, that every indoor wall needed to be repainted every 6 months, and you felt that was unnecessary, you would probably not be excited about making the extra household effort. Which is not unreasonable. It’s hard to find compromise, though, when the person who does not care about whether Thing happens has to make an extra effort to make Thing happen (because that time/energy can be used somewhere that is more appealing to them). From your point of view, home-cooked meals are benefiting both of you; his point of view may be that they’re only scratching an unnecessary itch you have, which is possibly worth doing something about (because: making partners happy!) but is also kind of annoying (because: he may not inherently prefer home-cooked food and it’s a lot more work and especially being told that he’s benefiting from something he doesn’t feel like he wants can get pretty frustrating).

      If you can pin down:
      a) why you like homecooked more than takeout (money, calories, salt/fat content, variety, there-is-no-takeout-mac-and-cheese, etc.)
      b) some meals you both like that colorblindness shouldn’t make any difference on, preferably that are relatively low-effort (braised things; slow-cooker things; casseroles; salads; soups; pasta; etc.)

      And then calmly explain to him why it’s important to you, why him cooperating is important to you, and figuring out together some way of making this not torturous, that might help? (or it might not, but you’d know you’ve tried and that this is not the hill to die on and things may change later; sometimes adjustment is slow)

    • http://www.dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

      My husband is colorblind (R/G) and cooks just fine. Hint: you husband can actually see how bright or dull colors are. Unless he’s completely colorblind, which is rare, red and green or blue and yellow just tend to look similar to each other. To explain like most color setups are in, say, photoshop, colorblind people have trouble with hue, not brightness or saturation.

    • Mira

      He can use other cues other than just visual ones – taste, touch, smell…

  • stealinghoney

    My problem at the moment is how to divide up chores when one person works at a paying job for many more hours than the other, and so is in the house much less. (60-80 hours versus 35 hours). I do more childcare and housework because I am there. Which, objectively makes sense. His hours at work also equate to greater financial resources for the household. We all bring our own gifts to the table, I guess. But, sometimes, I still feel resentful that he does less around the house. Specifically, even though I know I am in charge of the kitchen during the week, I don’t like cleaning up while he is sitting on the couch. I help him with the kitchen on the weekend so that we can get to the fun things more quickly. He has less free time than me, but it just bugs me.

    • marie

      Here is an alternative way to frame it: he may make more and work more hours, but you both work full time. You both pull a full load in terms of financial contributions. You should both pull your weight at home. The objective is for you both to contribute enough time and enough money to produce a happy household. Sounds like he need to do more at home to achieve that objective.

      I think it’s useful to frame is less as “you need to do more/ I need to do less”, and more as, “more needs to be done to make this a well-run household, and that’s going to require additional input from you.” It’s not about him making things easier for you, it’s about you both contributing to a happy whole.

      It’s also quite possible that he enjoys his market work, in which case, it’s potentially misleading to pit his doing more of it as a reason that you ought to do more of a thing you dislike (chores).

      And then, my mother’s best advice: as soon as you can afford it, hire help. :)

    • TeaforTwo

      We have a similar issue – my fiance is articling right now, and some weeks he puts in twice as many hours as I do at the office.

      I don’t love it, because I want living together to mean that the housework gets easier instead of harder, but I can’t justify to myself asking him to split everything 50-50. Many days I get home from work at 5 and have a 20 minute nap before starting on dinner – why should I expect him to come in at 9pm and get straight down to cleaning the bathroom?

      The compromise we seem to have landed on is that I want him to clean up after himself – no coming home from work and dumping papers/coat/shoes etc all over the apartment, and leaving dishes around – but I take care of most of the joint stuff for now. I make dinner most nights, and he might throw in a load of laundry on his way out the door, but I fold it and put it away. I try to get the housework done while he is still at the office – I would be super resentful if he were sitting on the couch while I cleaned up, but he would be equally resentful if he came home from work and I put my feet up and handed himi a list of chores. If I work while (at home) while he is working (at the the office) it feels more like we are both contributing to the household.

      • Rowan

        This is exactly how I see it too – I am “working” while he is working. I get home first and take care of the dogs, clean up, cook dinner, and do one other thing (dust, laundry, rake leaves, etc). I consider it work that we are both responsible for but from 4:30 -7:30 he is working outside the home and I am working in it. We are both giving 100%.

        The only time I get annoyed is when he goes from dinner to the couch without helping with the dishes. I see it as we have both been working up until that point and we should both do dishes so we can end at the same time. Once I point this out to him he is better, but sometimes I still have to remind him. He’d rather leave the dishes for tomorrow, but guess who would be doing them the next day? Me!

    • lady brett

      for us, some of this has to do with feeling “abandoned” and/or left out, rather than overworked. for me, doing dishes while my spouse watches tv makes me grumpy, but doing dishes while she sits and talks to me doesn’t – either way, i’m doing the housework and she’s not, but one makes me feel like i’m being relegated to the kitchen and out of the family.

      and in the other direction, she does most of the cooking because i come home from work burnt out and grumpy, but i almost always sit at the kitchen table and hang out while she cooks (and usually do some sous chef work – chopping veg is not her forte). might not be workable, might not help, but it’s made a big impact for us.

    • B (the other one)

      We are in a similar situation but its because I have been unemployed since March. When we work, we split things 50/50 like I wrote above, but we have each taken a turn at unemployment and during this time the unemployed one picks up the bulk of the work. So all household chores, cooking, errand running, dog walking, bill paying is on my shoulders right now. We have a similar arrangement to Teafortwo in that I expect him to clean up after himself and not treat me like a cleaner, and he also still keeps the cars nice since its also his hobby.

      Where we compromised: He is a morning person, so he makes himself breakfast and cleans up the kitchen/takes the trash out/and takes the dogs for their morning pee which is huge for me because I loathe mornings. Even when I’m working this works out for us because when he gets home from work, he crashes whereas I’m just getting started. Whats also helped is that he understands that I am handling all the chores and responsibilities as my way of contributing while I can’t financially contribute, so I’m taking stress off his plate in exchange for not feeling so bad about my situation. He recognizes that some days it sucks to have to do the dishes after you’ve cooked and he’s responsive when I ask him to do things like bring the laundry up or call a utility company.

      Even though I’m doing everything around the house but not working and he is working and not doing much, our contribution feels equitable. Is there anything that he can do that would make your situation feel more equal? Like play with the kids and give you a break in the evenings? Nothing good comes from built up resentment…

    • Keakealani

      We have a lot of this issue as I am pretty much stay-at-home semi-employed right now and he is full-time grad school + part-time job with more hours. I don’t usually resent doing the extra housework, but one way I choose to frame our lives is in our need for rest time/relaxation. Every human being needs some time in the day where they bum around watching TV or surfing the web or doing a fun hobby. This is no more true of someone who works a traditional job or someone who works part-time or homemaking. The goal is figuring out how to build in that time for both of you – if he needs that time because of long days at work, then that’s not something you can change. But if you need that time too, you’ll need to build that in, whether that means setting aside an extra long lunch/siesta time or putting dinner prep off for an hour in the afternoon. Obviously, this can’t always work out in a super practical manner, but it’s important to build in “do nothing time” even if it doesn’t feel “scheduled” like a work day.

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.com Charise

      This used to bother me, too, but not anymore. I work 40 hours a week, he works about 50 but does 4-5 hours more commuting than I do. I can run errands/grocery shop/gym and/or spend time laying around reading or catching up on social media, and still have dinner cooked when gets home; I also work from home twice a week so can get little things done during breaks then. He does the dishes and his own laundry, plus mows the lawn. Garbage and trash gets taken out by whomever realizes its too full. We divvy up the bigger cleaning (done on a weekend ~1x/month).

      It’s about an equitable split, not 50/50. I get plenty of me time (more than him for sure!), and get more of the chores done, so we can relax together the rest of the night. I get irritated just thinking about working/commuting longer stretches of the day and then being expected to come home and start cleaning, or stop and run errands, which helps me understand how he would feel.

      I guess you need to figure out if your resentment is because you really aren’t OK with how things are going or if it’s more the idea that you should both be doing 50%. Maybe start with the fact that him sitting around while you clean bothers you, figure out a solution to that, and go from there?

  • Itsy bitsy

    “Don’t freak out when they do it “wrong.” ”

    Hah! This is perfect (along with the rest of the post) and so important. And it can be hard sometimes even when it shouldn’t be. Case in point: When my fiancé and I first moved in together, our first big, huge, ridiculous fight was about…. how to properly heat up water for tea (kettle vs microwave). Seriously. These days we think it’s kind of hilarious (because really, how silly!) but at the time it was a Very Serious Matter.

    Also, “… and know that even if they thought cilantro and parsley were interchangeable, they are learning.” cracked me up. We had this very discussion in the supermarket just a few weeks ago.

    • lady brett

      one of the things i’ve been doing while teaching my wife to cook (she does almost all of our cooking, and actually enjoys it now) is to only correct one thing at a time. so if i remind her that cutting veg is a lot easier if you *slice* rather than *chop* then i’m hand-off on the fact that the veg would probably cook more nicely on a lower temperature. because it’s one thing (and a good thing) to make suggestions, but overloading on suggestions is basically the same thing as freaking out that they’re doing it wrong.

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    In M’s perfect world, every meal would be from a restaurant. He is Grub Hub’s biggest fan. He can cook basic things like rice and beans and eggs, but he has little desire to cook. And while he love my cooking, I think he’d also be ok if we ate out or had delivery every day.

    However, we are mostly in a “you cook for yourself, you clean the dishes. you cook for someone else, they clean the dishes” arrangement. Mostly. (Neither of us necessarily wants to do the dishes immediately, and so they sometimes are still sitting when the next person needs the kitchen.)

    I am planning on teaching him how to prep the “no-knead” bread dough, since it is easy to start and takes about 8 hours to rise. I usually don’t want to deal with it when I am heading to work in the morning, but he works from home. If he can get the dough started, I can bake the bread when I get home.

  • scw

    my boyfriend is the one who cooks in our house! he cooks, I clean (and bake). it works for us. he even makes me dinners to heat up on nights he isn’t home. this post makes me feel really lucky!

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/read Martha

    You know what I find hilarious about this entire discussion about men who can’t/don’t cook and see it as women’s work? There was once a time when professional female chefs were non-existent. Ha!

  • Angela

    I loved this. I was a big believer in setting the groundwork for an equal partnership with my significant other from the time we moved in together. We pretty much split everything 50-50. I do laundry, he folds. For several years we split up the cleaning chores and then decided that while we will do the basic keeping things neat ourselves, it’s worth it to us to have a cleaning service come in once a month to do the deep cleaning neither of us excels at. We split the grocery shopping and the cooking by week. I tend to get aggravated when he asks for input on the grocery list when it’s not my week or calls me ten times from the grocery store, but at least he’s trying to learn. It has gotten better than when we first started doing this.

  • APracticalLaura

    Hah, I need to send this to my husband, who is the cook in our household and whose impatience with my slow learning curve and insecurities around cooking is certainly not helping the situation. ;)

    Recently, I’ve learned that if I do more meal planning at the beginning of the week (since I’m still heavily reliant on recipes) and communicate the plans to my husband (read: make sure he doesnt use my ingredients before I need them for my recipe), it helps alleviate meltdowns in the kitchen.

    Also, THIS: ‘Don’t freak out when they do it “wrong.”’

    Loveee this!

  • Kirstin

    I love this topic!

    The division of housework has been a conversation in our household often. There are the chores that we each naturally take:

    Me – apartment cleaning, grocery shopping, most meal planning and preparation.
    Him – Garbage, feeding pets and buying their food, killing bugs.
    Even Split – personal laundry, driveway shoveling during winter.

    Conflict chores: Dishes. Always the dishes. No dishwasher means this is everyone’s least favorite chore. Oh, and we will both wait each other out on cleaning the cat’s litterbox until no one can stand it any more, including the cats.

    We have also experienced some conflict, not over cooking food, but buying it. I tend to put more of my budget towards the staples and meal food, whereas he buys snacks and beer. Good old “wants vs. needs.” Does anyone else get into this debate every few months? I don’t know how that will change once we combine more of our budgets, but for right now it’s a hot button issue.

    I’ve noticed though that our division of labor also changes throughout the year. I work in education and don’t have regular business hours during the school year, and so there are times when my fiance is home a lot more than I am during nights. During those times he picks up a lot more of the cleaning, taking out the garbage, dishes, etc. It also means he’s on his own for figuring out dinner. During really busy times, I don’t even notice that I’m not doing things until a month or two goes by and I can’t count the last time that I actually did the dishes. Or then he heads out of town for work and I have to take out the garbage for the first time and think, “I’m doing this wrong!” Good perspective.

    Food is an interesting topic because he is the pickiest eater ever. I choose to cook because I can add in a bit more variety, while accommodating the fact that he doesn’t eat vegetables, fruit, eggs, or seafood (seriously – he eats nothing). He picks up cooking every once in awhile when he’s interested (he went to a culinary school so he’s got the technique part down, just not the variety in flavors I like), but I try to take most of this so that I can ensure I get some veggies in there every once in awhile. It’s hard to be creative when you can’t work with much and with such a crazy schedule. Thank goodness for Pinterest and a crock pot.

  • NTB

    The thing I’ve learned after being married for a year:

    We (my husband and I) are going to be married and living together for the rest of our lives, so…we share the duties and chores, and we share the burden of dishes, laundry, and cleaning.

    In regards to dishes:

    We both work full-time, so if he does the dishes while I’m at work (he works from home,) then great. If I feel like doing them when I get home if he can’t get to it, great. IF THE DISHES SIT IN THE SINK FOR AN EXTRA DAY, BUT IT MEANS THAT WE HAVE TIME TOGETHER TO EXERCISE, EAT HEALTHIER FOOD, OR LAY IN BED AFTER A LONG DAY AND DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, THEN THE DISHES WILL HAVE TO WAIT.

    Growing up, I watched my parents agonize over having a perfectly spotless home all the time. Sometimes it’s attainable, but for me, it’s not. We work and we clean when we have time, but the biggest mistake that I have made in the past is obsessing over the dishes getting done at the expense of doing other things that might be more important.

    That’s all.

    • Amanda

      I like this. I need to take a page out of your book. Perhaps, even, a whole chapter!

    • MDBethann

      My house was not spotless when I lived alone, it is certainly not spotless now that I have a husband & 3 cats. It will definitely not be spotless when we have children. We do a massive clean when we know people are coming over, but otherwise, we survive if non-dishwasher dishes pile up for several days. It’s only when the counter disappears that we grow concerned ;-)

      I really, really don’t like dealing with my chores at night when he’s watching TV (he does the garbage, cat feeding/litter, etc. while I make dinner) so aside from urgent ones, I wait until the weekend when we both have chores to do.

      We’ve also tried splitting up the cooking some, because he’s very capable in the kitchen too. He works from home full time and I commute. So even though I enjoy cooking more than he does, we’ve tried to set up a schedule where he cooks 2 of the 4 days that I commute so I don’t always have to come home tired and then make dinner. It works pretty well for us.

  • Julia

    GREAT post! My husband lived on his own for four years before we moved in together, so he knows how to cook bachelor-style. But I’ve gradually been teaching him the finer points of how to make things actually TASTE good (by adding spices, etc). I do the lion’s share of the cooking because I enjoy it, but having a few staples that he can make on days that are too crazy for me has been a godsend. And he’s adopted my amendments to these staples as if they were his own ideas! The other night he was like, “Remember when I discovered creamy pesto sauce? That was such a good discovery.” I just smiled and nodded!

  • Alison O

    Good equipment can make a world of difference with cooking. Invest in good knives. Learn how to maintain them. Watch videos online about knife skills. Go forth and prosper.

    For other cooking skills, I really like watching America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. Both air on PBS stations in some regions, and you can watch some episodes online. The recipes tend to be longer than what I usually go for, but the techniques they describe for components of those recipes are useful in general. Their equipment reviews and taste tests are also helpful.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Maybe it’s because in addition to the ADD, my husband was emotionally and sometimes physically abused by his parents from birth into adulthood, maybe it’s just our style, but we encourage each other to “freak out when s/he gets it right.”

    I take the attitude that it is healthy to thank people just for doing their jobs. So I asked him to say “thank you” every time I pay the rent or buy the groceries, because the financial sacrifices I make for the marriage sting, and him recognizing that helps dissolve the resentment. Likewise, I thank him and usually give him “special kisses” when he does the chores I ask.

    But for neither of us are the deeper gender politics issues part of this. It’s not, “Thank you for cooking dinner because otherwise that would be my job as the wife.” It’s always, “Thank you for expressing your love to me in the way I need/asked.”

    • KC

      Many households run more smoothly when there is continual gratitude for the mundane. Totally endorse this. (in the way you describe, obviously, though, not in the everything-is-the-wife’s-job-so-she’d-better-be-overwhelmingly-thankful-for-any-crumbs-she-gets-thrown way)

      Also: gratitude for the mundane means other-partner knows the effort that is being put in by partner-doing-chore, which reduces a lot of effort-disparity problems, *and* partner-doing-chore feels “seen”, which can reduce a lot of incipient bitterness.

  • Libby

    OMG! This is perfect. Hilariously, cooking is the one thing I never have to ask/coax/beg my husband to do around the house. But cleaning, washing dishes, picking up laundry, forget about it. He seriously was never expected to know or do any of that stuff at home. Thank goodness he learned to like cooking.

  • Katie

    Rachel, I think you’re wonderful.