7 Tips for a More Equal Household


Feminist marriage hacks for the designated worrier

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

started Mother’s Day weekend by loading myself and a bag of potted roses into the passenger seat of the car, heading off to our preschool’s Mother’s Day party. As I did so, I pointed out to my husband David that—no matter how egalitarian our marriage—I was still the one keeping track of teacher appreciation week, and running out during the work day to get flowers and write cards. (Keeping rather poor track, or I wouldn’t have run out at the last minute on a Friday afternoon, but still keeping track.)

So when I opened the Sunday Times to read “Mom: The Designated Worrier,” I sighed, because here it was in print. Proof that no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t break the gender molds. That, as the article articulates:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t. Disregard what your two-career couple friends say about going 50-50. Sociological studies of heterosexual couples from all strata of society confirm that, by and large, mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items. And whether a woman loves or hates worry work, it can scatter her focus on what she does for pay and knock her partway or clean off a career path. This distracting grind of apprehension and organization may be one of the least movable obstacles to women’s equality in the workplace.

But then I kept reading. And instead of feeling depressed, I felt cheerier and cheerier as the article went on. Because sure, our balance of household labor isn’t perfect (is that even possible?), but we were doing a damn good job of avoiding many of the traps the author laid out. Perhaps this is generational, since Judith Shulevitz says:

With new generations come new hopes. According to research done by the Families and Work Institute, more millennials share domestic labor—and the management of it—than Gen Xers did.

But perhaps not. David and I are, after all, maybe Millennials maybe Gen Xers. But we do come from households where domestic labor was not divided along gender lines (mine), and where a working mother was the norm (his). And it turns out, the behavior parents model really does make a difference. I don’t think twice about men being the primary cook, and David doesn’t think twice about women being the primary breadwinner. For me that means that it’s worth all the extra effort it takes to try to create a more egalitarian household, because I want to model that for the next generation.

Over a decade of trying to hash out our approach to household chores, we’ve worked through a lot of obstacles, including one of us not being very skilled at cleaning and cooking (me), one of us not being fantastic at financial management (him), being overworked and overtired and not having a lot of time to spend on the house (both of us), and the inherent gender divide that comes with the chores of raising very tiny children that one of you gave birth to. In that same decade, our responsibilities have gotten greater, our house has generally gotten cleaner, and our fights have gotten fewer.

So in the interest of sparking conversation about what works (and what doesn’t) here are seven things that we’ve learned over the years.

1. Different people are primarily responsible for different tasks. Over the years, David and I have varied how we divide up our tasks, but we always divide them up. Currently, David is in charge of cooking, and the related grocery shopping (this will probably never change). He’s also in charge of day to day financial management… and diaper changes. At the moment, I’m responsible for an array of duties including daycare drop off and pickup, laundry, and yes, organizer and keeper of lists. We have a few shared projects, including general cleanliness of the house… and raising our kid.

This division of household departments leads to a huge reduction in fights, not just because we both know what our jobs are, but also because we’re both managing our own jobs. I don’t tell David how to cook dinner, and he doesn’t tell me how to manage the laundry. We can ask for help if we need it, but instead of the muddled and fight inducing, “WHY DO YOU NEVER HELP ME WITH ANYTHING,” the conversation is more likely to lead with, “My back is hurting from pregnancy; I need you to carry the laundry up the stairs.”

2.Be a good teacher (and lower your standards). For a woman, I have something of a unique perspective on How to Teach a Grown-Ass Adult to Do Stuff Around the House. In short, I grew up in a household that was in enough disarray on the chores front, that I didn’t emerge with a clear skill set, or a lofty set of standards. (You don’t use gloves and a scrub brush to clean the toilet? Dish soap does not in fact work in the dishwasher? You don’t say!) As a result, I have a pretty clear idea of how to guide skill acquirers in a helpful way, and how to shut them down forever. Here, from the New York Times article, is how not to do it:

I’ve definitely been guilty of “maternal gatekeeping”—rolling my eyes or making sardonic asides when my husband has been in charge but hasn’t pushed hard enough to get teeth brushed or bar mitzvah practice done. This drives my husband insane, because he’s a really good father and he knows that I know it. But I can’t help myself. I have my standards, helicopter-ish though they may be.

What, you ask, might work better? Other than trying to cut down on eye rolling, the following formula has worked for us:

  • Explain tasks to people clearly. Just because they don’t know how to do laundry, or run the dishwasher, doesn’t mean they’re an idiot. It just means nobody ever taught them. And the good news is, with the exception of cooking, most household tasks are not actually that… complicated. If your partner can’t remember which setting applies to which kind of laundry, that’s nothing a note taped to the laundry basket can’t fix.
  • Don’t micromanage. While I’ve learned to do a lot of things around the house, the one thing I’ve gotten less skilled at over the last ten years is cooking. Why? Because every time I try to do something in the kitchen, David walks in (even if he’s deathly sick and I’m trying to help out), and starts correcting me. “Actually, you should cut the onions this way.” “Actually, if you season the pan first you’ll have better results.” ACTUALLY: if you want it done your way, you should do it your damn self. All of which is to say, if you teach someone how to do something, and then walk around telling them they’re not doing it well enough, you will very quickly find yourself doing it on your own.
  • Lower your standards. Yeah, maybe you like the bathroom cleaned to a specific level of shine, or the laundry folded a particular way. But the joy and pain of partnership is that the other person might not agree… or might have different (and possibly lower) standards. If you want any hope of sharing chores over time, you have to let people’s standards be different than yours, within the realm of reason. (Cleaning the bathroom once a year is probably not good enough, but the mirror not getting washed regularly? Live with it.)

3. Beware the (bullshit) gender argument… except when it’s actually factual. Right after Shulevitz’s posits that, “Gay couples, on the whole, are more egalitarian in their division of labor,” she turns around and tries to float this argument:

Allow me to advance one more, perhaps controversial, theory about why women are on the hook for what you might call the human-resources side of child care: Women simply worry more about their children.

If there is one argument I’m tired of, it’s the “women just biologically have more desire to care for their kids/take care of the household than men.” I mean, sure, there are some women for whom this might be true… and there are some men for whom it is also true. But that comes down to a mix of personality, and yes, socialization.

But the bottom line is this: when it comes to managing a household, running lists, and keeping things organized, anyone can do it if they set their mind to it. First off, there are tons of families with two dads where the dance recital costumes are somehow procured, dinner fixed, and the laundry washed. Turns out, when you don’t have an excuse or someone to fall back on, testosterone does not prevent you from managing those straightforward actions. And second off, as someone who does both jobs, I can assure you that being a CEO and running a household are very similar skill sets. So unless you’re going to tell me that men don’t have the skills to be CEOs, I’m not going to buy that they don’t have the skills to help manage their households and children.

However, there is this one major caveat: childbirth. During the period of our lives when we had a very small and nursing child (a year ago/a month from now), or I was pregnant (three years ago/right this second) we were not able to choose how we divided things up. I, unfortunately, had to do the heavy lifting on pregnancy, and having done that, was the only one who could do the heavy lifting on nursing… which often meant being the primary caregiver. It took us many months, and a lot of fights, to wrap our heads around just how not egalitarian the whole process was, and how far out of our control it was. What we’ve learned is simply childbirth and early child rearing is hard, it’s women-centric, and sometimes that sucks. As a result, David has to step up in a million ways (because if I’m nursing for seven hours, I’m not also going to be cleaning the house or cooking), and we’ve sometimes had to rearrange our career hours, and/or hire help. In short, we can’t make childbirth egalitarian, but we can try to hack (at) it.

4. Let people play to their strengths. All that said—different people have different strengths, and they sometimes fall along traditional gender lines. It’s not always worth fighting, just on principal. I might not be a better cook, but I’m a better list maker. So gendered or not, I’m the one currently carrying around the list of things that need to get done before the baby arrives, and forcing us to check things off. Sure, I could resist on the grounds that managing the list is traditional women’s work, but the truth is I’m naturally good at it, and David’s naturally terrible at it. And sometimes being egalitarian means letting everyone do what they want to do, instead of forcibly dividing things exactly evenly.

5. Set a schedule (or not). There are a lot of brilliant ideas out there about chore wheels and chore schedules, and they work for a lot of families. For our family though? They’ve never really worked. Now that we have a kid, and more things to manage, we have something of a vague schedule—grocery shopping for the week usually happens on Sunday, laundry usually starts on Saturday, general cleaning and tidying takes place at various predictable intervals throughout the week. But that schedule is really driven by the person in charge of the task (see #1). If I want to do laundry on Monday instead of Saturday, well, that’s nobody’s business but my own.

6. Sometimes it’s time to bring in help. For many of our ten years together, hiring anyone to help us out with chores or household tasks was completely out of our budget. But when hiring some help was a vague possibility, we didn’t do it for years, because we couldn’t figure out how much was worth spending, or how to justify it to ourselves. In the last year, we decided to start small, and it was a game changer.

Instead of bringing in a cleaning service once a week, or once every other week, we settled on once a month. They come in and do the deep cleaning, I give all of the workers a pretty large cash tip, and the whole situation feels like win. Sure, we’re still sweeping the floors and vacuuming in the interim, but we’re no longer wondering how long, exactly, it’s been since the toilet got cleaned. But beyond that, we’ve decided to practice self-care by hiring people to help with smaller projects that we spent lots of time worrying about, and never seemed able to accomplish. Hire a Task Rabbit to paint our bedroom? Best money I ever spent. Hire a gardener to clean up the yard after winter? My pregnant back just was never going to manage that. Hiring some help to warm up meals and generally take care of us after the baby is born, with no family around to help? Turns out my sanity is more important than… whatever I was going to spend that money on.

In short, we’ve had to realize that hiring help isn’t a sign of moral failing. And we’ve worked to re-prioritize our spending a bit. Sometimes self-care is more important than objects, and sanity more important than savings. Plus, we try to think about how we can best hire people that we pay fairly, so we can feel good about it.

7. Think carefully about how you balance your life outside of the home, as well. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that an egalitarian home life just… happens. But it doesn’t. Not without a lot of planning and discussion and thought. If you set up your lives in a traditional way, where a male partner is bringing in most of the money and working the longest hours… the female partner will probably end up running the household. Why? Because someone has to. And that’s fine, if that’s the choice that works for you. But having realistic conversations early (and often) about what realistic division of responsibilities you can live with is key to building a household intentionally, and not just stumbling into prescribed roles. We have a reasonably egalitarian household, but we also work similar hours, at jobs we care about equally, with similar levels of responsibility, and bring home reasonably similar paychecks. It would be lying to say that didn’t really help.

How about you? What are your struggles with egalitarian household labor? What tips and tricks have worked for you? What problems are proving intractable? Where could you use a little moral support/advice/man-have-I-been-there’s?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Mags

    I agree with all of this and we do it pretty similarly as you guys. We actually separate more of the chores based on time (he will cook breakfast, do childcare drop off, walk the dog in the morning, basically everything that needs to be done between wake up and 9:30am, while I do childcare pick up, cook dinner, walk the dog in the evening, and accomplish everything that needs to be done before family dinner at 6:30) which works out really well. That said I disagree with number 2 pretty substantially. Yes, it’s good to not micromanage too many things the other is doing, but the example given I find perfectly reasonable to expect to get done. As in, yes, teaching the child to brush their teeth twice a day (if my husband always skipped teeth brushing then that would be the same as my child just never brushing his teeth in the morning — eew) and do their homework (or study for the bar mitzvah) is perfectly reasonable. So if my husband is only half cleaning the dishes so there is still food on them or not disciplining our child appropriately then I think it is his job to get better at the chore and not mine to stop eye-rolling (and vice versa, if I burn every dinner and no one wants to eat then it doesn’t count as cooking dinner).

    • Eenie

      Although I would say within reason. If it’s a habitual missing the mark of what has been agreed to be acceptable vs. it’s missing the mark every once in a while that is a different story. I agree over all with the idea that if it’s someone’s assigned duty they should have some control over how it’s done. And having your partner critique doesn’t make you more willing to do it well. Sometimes dinner gets burnt and your kid won’t brush their teeth in the morning.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I think I agree with this in principle but practically speaking, I’m not a fan of harping on a grown ass adult as though they are a child. There’s some stuff people aren’t going to do to your satisfaction (even brushing the kid’s teeth) and I think you have to decide if it’s something you really want to fight about, be passive aggressive about or just handle yourself. If it’s a habitual issue, tasks might need to be rearranged at that point.

        • Meg Keene

          I could not agree more.

          (Also, I try to notice all the stuff I am not so good at (there is plenty), and realize that when I get nagged about it like I’m a child I get pissed, and it kills my desire to improve. Which… is probably a pretty normal reaction.)

        • qj

          Spot on. And to your last point: yes. Sometimes things need to be rearranged. That’s okay too.

    • Amy March

      One of my (male) coworkers didn’t quite get a handle on nightly tooth brushing, his assigned chore, because his kid was sleepy and didn’t want to and it’s hard to brush a sleepy grumpy three year olds teeth.

      His wife is livid. Because it’s also really hard to see your 4 year old under general anesthesia because they have so many cavities.

      In principle, I completely agree that it’s important to let people have chore autonomy and not enforce impossibly high standards. But when I look around at my young family friends I see a lot of men getting away with playing fun daddy.

      • Eh

        Wow I would have been livid too. My husband has slipped up on his chores from time to time (he has forgotten to pay bills a couple of times) but nothing that bad (we don’t have children yet though). I don’t micromanage his chores so I wouldn’t notice that he wasn’t doing it up to a required standard until there were red flags (all of our bills are sent to a joint email account so see when the bill amounts seems off).

    • guest

      yes, definitely. This has infuriated me in office environments I have worked in. Women tend to solve problems, and men tend to wait for them to be fixed (obviously this is a vast overgeneralization). I have seen so many men walk up to a jammed printer, shake their head and walk away. But the printer tells you what door to open to remove the paper! No one has taught me how to fix a jammed printer, it is just incredibly obvious. But because I (and women in general) am willing to take responsibility to fix something, I get to spend part of every work day doing “office housekeeping.”

      • guest

        Whoops, this was meant ot be a reply to the responsibility to teach yourself thread below.

      • Meg Keene

        I would argue that it’s unfair to make that a gender based assumption/ stereotype. In our family, I’m 100% the person who will walk away from a jammed printer, or a thing I can’t get to work, or whatever. I just throw up my hands and get super frustrated and stop. David is the person who will work on the problem FOREVER until it’s solved. (Does the printer need to be TAKEN APART? Yeah, he’ll do that too.) It’s just personality based.

        And it’s totally one of my weaknesses (though the fact that he won’t let go of it till it’s solved is arguably one of his). But it’s fine. I have other strengths, he has other weaknesses, and we balance each other out.

        For me at least, writing things off as “it’s because you’re a guy that you’re doing this,” is the fastest way to start a fight and never make any progress. Acknowledging that we all do things differently and all have strengths and weaknesses to work on works better, at least in my family.

        • guest

          But, in engineering office environments I have seen this happen over and over and over again. To the point that I think it is actually detrimental to the productivity of women in the office. Generalizations about genders are often bad, and of course on a person to person basis they vary, but I am sure that if you put out a survey in engineering offices over who does “office housekeeping” and how much of the work week is spent on it, you would have interesting results that would explain some of the gap in perceived capability between men and women. I have literally had higher up women tell me to stop doing these things and stop helping for the sake of our gender, and I think they are correct. But messy fridges, jammed printers, etc still annoy the heck out of me. Of course, my background working in male-dominated large office environments is quite different than yours.

    • Lindsay Rae

      I think it is a matter of how crutial the chore is and how you present your micromanaging. Children’s hygiene is obviously pretty important and maybe that requires another conversation. But I used to stand over my husband’s shoulder while he washed the dishes and always had a comment – you’re wasting water, using too much soap, etc – and it drove him NUTS (um, rightfully so!) and we fought about it a lot. Turns out Tip #2 above was written for me. I should have just lived with it, let it go. He was doing the dishes because I had just come home from work totally exausted and I should have appreciated and enjoyed that. Important to remember that teaching someone to do something (that they may not have ever done before) requires patience.

    • Jessica

      I totally agree that it’s reasonable to expect that each partner carry out tasks to a mutually-agreed standard (most of time, with everyone being understanding about the fact that life happens). However, they key word is “mutually.” I think that, too often, the person with the higher expectations thinks their belief about what “done” looks like should carry the day. In that case, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the other person should complete a task the way you would – you’re welcome to do it yourself to your own standard or to divide up the labor and each complete it to a level you can both live with.

  • Marie

    #6–Outsourcing tasks and hiring support is, indeed, a game-changer. One of the mercies of being an economist surrounded by other economists is that paying other people for domestic services is considered common sense, not a moral failing. Even as grad students, my friends and I hired someone to clean (the same lady, she cornered the market for econ grad students :) ). As soon as I moved in with my fiancé, I hired a new cleaner, and my fiancé, who had never had one, was just so happy.

    • Ooh, an economist’s perspective on fair division of labor and outsourcing! I could read a whole post by you about this topic…

    • Yes!! Please write a post about this from an economist’s perspective!

    • GBee

      Plus you’re giving someone the opportunity to earn a paycheck (or part of one). If you have the extra resources to pay someone to help clean your home, do it!

  • emilyg25

    Hiring a house cleaner was the best goddamn decision we ever made. Yes, it felt a bit squicky at first because we have a small house and we don’t come from backgrounds where household help is common. (When I told my mom our plan, her first response was, “Why?” Um, to clean my house.) But we have a little baby and two full time jobs and we’re the kind of people who really need a tidy home to feel sane. It wasn’t something we could lower our standards enough on. Now we can spend time cuddling our baby and talking to each other.

    • I would love to do this, I just need to sort out the actual finances before jumping in. We already hire a nanny, so how much/how often would we have this person come in to clean my bathroom/kitchen? These are the details that I need to hash out. That and how do I hide it from my mom.

      • Not Sarah

        Yes on the hiding it from my mom. She doesn’t understand how we don’t have time to do the gazillion things that she does when she hasn’t worked outside of the house for over 20 years…and both of us do.

        • She only worked outside the house but never had the money to hire someone. That would be giving up I guess. That or wasting money.

    • K

      I got that squicky kind of response from my MIL (“Why on earth would you need a cleaning lady? You live in a basement suite, don’t work full time, and don’t even have kids yet!”), even though she has always employed regular outside help with their home upkeep. Dude, it works for us and keeps our marriage healthy – be happy for us, don’t question it. Plus, its so affordable and something we are both happy to prioritize in our budget. You know your life and what works best for you. I work 12 hour rotating shifts and this allows me to enjoy my days off and actually spend time with my husband, rather than stressing about cleaning the disastrous kitchen and bathroom vs getting food on the table when I wake up at 4 pm after a set of nights. We’ve already decided to double our cleaning lady’s hours once we bring kiddos into the picture.

  • So many of these things have been true for us! Another thing I will add to this list: it’s OK to fight for your egalitarian household and push back against gender norms. Sometimes it does feel easier to just do things yourself, to accept the standard line that men are from Mars and therefore can’t be bothered to clean a goddamn thing, etc. Like so many things, it can be very easy to feel like a “nag” (ugh, that word), but…fuck that.

    • C_Gold

      Fuck that, indeed! Yay Rachel!

    • Jennie

      We had trouble with this early in our relationship, when we first lived together. I often felt like I had to do it all because I had the higher standards. What finally ended up working for us was setting aside a time, on the weekend, that we both cleaned until our apartment was clean. Even if I got more done, because I was more efficient, or was showing him how to do stuff, I didn’t feel like I was doing it all or repeatedly asking him to clean. As he’s become more proficient (and a baby arrived that needs one of our attention) we no longer do this, but it was a great way to move towards me feeling like I wasn’t pestering him all the time to do things.

      Also. I hate the word nag/nagging. It needs to be deleted from our language.

    • Meg Keene

      RACHEL, in your honor that was almost the last point. “Is it emotionally hard for him? Oh well.”

      • Ah, “is it emotionally hard for him?” Is it emotionally hard for us? Yes. Then I don’t care if it is for him.

  • Eh

    From the outside, my husband and I came from very similar families in that both of mothers were the breadwinners. The big difference was that my dad sacrificed his career (especially when we were younger to save on childcare costs) and did most of the childcare, cooking, grocery shopping and other household chores both inside and outside the house (the only thing I remeber my mom doing was doing laundry every week, the gardening and cooking on holidays). My MIL on the other hand did all of the traditional ‘women’s work’ so she did a lot more work than my FIL.

    Before I was pregnant this was our breakdown:
    Me-cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, general household tidiness, general financial planning, gardening, keeping track of bdays/holiday/social stuff (we are trying to work on this since my husband needs two weeks notice to get time off work so it makes more sense that he keep track of these things)
    Husband- washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the floors, paying bills, cutting the grass

    My husband didn’t do much household work before he moved in with me. He does clean at his work so that’s where we started. His mom was very surprised that it was such a struggled since she thought that people just should know how to clean. Then she realized that she had never taught her sons how to clean. I also realized that my husband needed a checklist to clean since that’s what he had at work. My husband needs checklists and schedules, – he does not do well when tasks that need to be done ‘as required’ and require judgement – so all of his chores are scheduled so they get done.

    My husband has done more with me being pregnant since I have been so very sick. He has done more cooking and the grocery shopping. And other things, like dusting, haven’t been done in months.

  • Jessica

    Oh Meg, I love you. You somehow always write the perfect, articulate post right when I need to read it. My new husband & I just had this conversation over the weekend because things were far from equal. Despite our best efforts there were situational factors that led to me doing more (me initially not working, him finishing grad school etc.) but we need to rebalance.

    What irked me most, that we talked about on Friday in our theoretically pre-marital counseling (that’s actually happening post-wedding) is that I’m the perpetual owner of the to do list. The therapist (who was otherwise very helpful) was like “How can he know what to do if you don’t tell him?” And I’m like… Why is it assumed that it’s up to me to own the list & delegate?

    But anyway – this post, combined with the tips from the counselor will definitely help us hone our chore division better. Particularly #1, 2 & 4.

    In terms of tips sometimes I just simply don’t do what my partner has volunteered to do & I’m very clear about that. This has mixed results. About 50% of the time it then doesn’t get done. Sometimes I’m ok with the consequences & sometimes I’m not.

    • Eh

      ‘”How can he know what to do if you don’t tell him?” And I’m like… Why is it assumed that it’s up to me to own the list & delegate?’

      This is one of our struggles too. My husband has a whiteboard with his to-do list. It frustrates me that he can’t do obvious things without it being added to the list (eg call for an oil change – why does this need to be on the list as the car has a sticker that already reminds him). Things also stay on the list for months even when they are pretty simple tasks (he is supposed to register for a first aid course – this has been on the list for two months).

      • Sara

        This really has nothing to do with your frustrations, but I never remember to get my oil changed until its way past the due date on the sticker. Just doesn’t occur to me to look, and even when I realize it, I need to write it down somewhere else because I immediately forget. I’m currently 3k miles overdue. You just reminded me to add it to my google calendar, so thanks :)

        • Eh

          I am glad I could remind you :) Oh I should add that I drive the car once a week and he drives it the rest of the week. So anyways it makes no sense that I ‘own’ remembering this task.

        • Kayla

          The last time I got my oil changed, they forgot to give me the sticker, and now I have no idea what to do. Ride the bus, maybe. Sell the car. Who knows.

          • Eenie

            Did they leave the old sticker on? You can add the mileage to that. I hate that when I get my fully synthetic oil changed they still only add 3,000 miles until the next oil change. It’s at least 5,000 miles on my car so I always have to do the mental math in my head :)

          • Kayla

            They took my old sticker! Maybe they have a record, though? I’ve been avoiding thinking about it, to be honest.

          • Eenie

            Yeah they should have a record. Man. Adulting is hard sometimes!

          • jashshea

            Ha! At my last one they put the mileage at over 800k miles instead of 80k and I’m similarly confused. Luckily I drive something like 3k miles per year, so I just do an annual oil change.

          • Sara

            Oh I’d just get a new one at that point. Start fresh.

          • joanna b.n.

            Crying laughing. :) Thank you.

          • Meg Keene

            Exactly.

          • Rowany

            That happened to me and then my engine died (while my husband was driving it for an errand, poor thing). The mechanic gave me the most confused expression saying, there is ZERO oil in the engine. oops. A few months later the engine was completely dead and I sold the clunker to the mechanic for cash on the spot. Love my new used car now though, so it worked out!

      • Meg Keene

        My guess is this is just a personality thing. I put EVERYTHING on a list too. It might seem obvious to someone else, but if it’s not on my list, it’s just that thing floating around that I almost remember and stresses me out. And while I’m a list power througher, it’s often the little stuff that never gets done. Like, uh, yeah I was going to take a first aid course two years ago when I had a baby speaking of that…

        We also divide and conquer on this sort of thing. David does car upkeep (he cares, he’s good about it), I don’t. Not even having a car till our late 20s means that taking care of one isn’t as obvious to us as it is to most people, but he actually likes cars, so it goes well in his list.

        • Eh

          My husband does need everything in one place. We have a joint Google calendar (great since both of us can access it from anywhere with our phones) and then his white board to-do list. If it is not on his list he does forget about it. Even if he is about to do it needs to go on the list just in case he gets distracted on the way or things don’t turn out how he expected (call the garage about our slow leaking tire was put on the list which was good because he tried calling right away and but they were closed when he call).

          My husband is supposed to take the first aid course before our baby arrives. He actually did sign up today (he’s been powering through his list today). Neither of us had a car until our late twenties. He takes car of the car because he drives it 6 out of 7 days a week so I rarely see the car (he works afternoons and I work days so the car isn’t even home when I am home).

          • lori1813

            We also use Google and I feel like it saves my sanity sometimes. We each have our own Google calendars that we have shared with each other, and so one of us can schedule a task and invite the other person, and then we use Google Keep for various To Do lists and each list is shared. That way the chores have become collaborative, and we can have an updated grocery list (that I am mostly in charge of) and then he has the list when he does the shopping on his Friday off.

          • Eh

            I think we will try a list app. He likes his white board for his to do but I think it will be helpful for the grocery list. The grocery list has been a struggle since he will finish something and then not tell me and I am the one who does most of the grocery shopping. Since I have been so sick during this pregnancy he has started making grocery lists but I still have done most of the shopping.

    • lady brett

      “How can he know what to do if you don’t tell him?”

      that’s horrible. that said, i am totally the “designated worrier” in our house, and the thing that makes it not feel horribly unfair is that, basically, since i am in charge of listing and delegating, i can delegate whatever i want. so the spouse *does* a lot more from that list to make up for never, ever thinking about it. (and because i am terrified of phones.)

      • Meg Keene

        Ha. I love this. It is the secret power of the list.

      • Lizzie

        Ha! Super good point that makes me feel better about being the Chief Worry Officer in our household. I’d much rather worry about All The Things and delegate some of them than delegate half the listmaking and then worry that something got left off.

        I read once that “worrying is like praying for something bad to happen,” but I can’t help feeling that often worrying is what KEEPS something bad from happening.

        • Violet

          Our brains must be similar. I usually feel like worrying is my talisman against bad things happening.

          Except, it isn’t. Either the something-bad was never under my control anyway, or it was, but in those cases, DOING something keeps bad things from happening, not worrying. Worried I might pay a bill late? Set a reminder and then just DO it. Worried I might get hit by a car? Well, look both ways but also accept that I can’t control things via worrying. My worrying does not have telekinetic or healing properties, unfortunately.

          • Lizzie

            Good point–it’s not worrying that keeps bad things from happening, but acting on the worry. There’s no point in obsessing over something that could go wrong while doing nothing about it.

          • damned if you do, damned if you don’t. sigh.

        • J

          My friend’s mom asks her “why would you lose in your dreams?” as in, worrying about the future is like losing in your dreams when you have the control to win in them. It didn’t immediately resonate for me, but since then, I’ve totally found myself repeating it to myself, and it helps me let the worry go. When I’m worrying about something that I can control, then it doesn’t feel applicable – to the point before, just do something about it. But when I’m worrying about something random and theoretical, I’m basically just dreaming, so why don’t I dream about a happy future instead of a sad one?

  • Meg

    We just had a conversation about this on Sunday. We landed on a plan to treat the organization of our daily lives more like a business, in the sense that someone is “head” of something, even if the other person helps or has general responsibilities in that area. The “head” dictates. I’m Chief Financial Officer, Head of Capital Projects, and Head Nutritionist. He’s Head of Facilities and Transportation and Office Manager. This is empowering for both of us because it was feeling like I was head of everything and it was awful, even though he wanted (and did!) take part. Now we both have areas where we are the boss of the other. The trick will be for both of us to effectively lead our areas to allow the other to relax.

    I read that article yesterday. A similar article made the rounds a few weeks back (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/m-blazoned/the-default-parent_b_6031128.html) and between the two, I’m feeling fairly gloomy about the potential state of my adult life. I’m having a hard time seeing how it’s even a little bit possible for me to be the breadwinner, designated worrier, and someday default parent. Number 7 is what I’m concerned with – balancing life outside the home with the life we want for our family – when #6 isn’t a possibility right now. Something has to give, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

  • Kate

    My husband and I don’t have any assigned chores, we just unofficially split everything. Cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, bills (mostly get paid on auto) – all no problem. Not sure if that will last once we have kids and things get crazy, but for now we work well as a team on that stuff. Cleaning is our biggest growth area thought. A few years ago I tried to split up cleaning into different areas we’re each responsible for and he didn’t like that idea, said we should just clean when we notice that it’s time to clean. Now we pretty much clean what we each don’t mind cleaning (I do the bathroom and he cleans the stovetop – yuck!) A problem is that no one likes sweeping and mopping, and that I seem to notice the mess before he does. I’m not sure how to ask him to sweep/mop though without sounding like I’m keeping score. Maybe I should ask him (at a time when the floor is clean) “What is the most productive way for me to communicate that I’d like you to sweep?”

    • Sara P

      Would it help if you both just picked a day of the week to sweep and mop? It’s different than your current system for everything else, I realize :). We just picked Sunday to sweep/vacuum, since it’s the day we do trash, and since it’s just “the day we do it” we divvy it up and get it done.

      • Kate

        Yeah, that’s a good idea! One of my friends has a cleaning method of setting a timer for 15 minutes and challenging herself to see how much she can get done in that time. So it’s more of a game, and doesn’t feel so insurmountable because it’s only 15 minutes.

        • Sara P

          That’s such a great way to approach almost anything you really don’t feel like doing, too.

        • emmers

          This also helps if you’ve taken a shot. Just sayin. :)

          • Kate

            Cleans the liquor cabinet and the house at the same time. I like!

  • A.

    While we don’t have kids (yet), we DO have two dogs and hiring a cleaning person twice a month has taken care of our biggest sticking point: how to deal with the unending barrage of dog hair that builds up on every surface. It’s one of those things that seems to get worse with time and requires so much time, all the time, to take care of that it feels like there’s no real equitable way to split it up. So in this case, bringing in outside help saved our sanity tenfold without us starting to resent each other–or worse, our pups! ;)

    • Kayla

      We’ve been talking about hiring someone to clean our tiny apartment, mostly because the dog hair is out of control.

    • Danielle Marie

      We have the same issue (I’m always shocked that our dog isn’t bald with all the hair that ends up on the floor every day) and ended up getting one of the robot vaccums to take care of it. It was a big expense up front, but I love that it runs automatically every day while we’re at work. The model we have typically lasts about two years, so we worked it out to about $0.55/day for daily vaccuming over two years. We both hate sweeping and vaccuming, so the investment was beyond worth it to avoid the constant arguments over whose turn it was to sweep up the white dog hair on our dark wood floors.

      • emmers

        Ahhh, we’ve been looking at dogs and I’ve wondered about robot vacuums and sanity. I’m glad you’ve had such as good experience!

        • Jennifer

          Dogs that don’t shed! I have miniature schnauzers and they are the sweetest boys. PLUS my cat sheds more than they do.

      • Vanessa

        SERIOUSLY THO HOW ARE THEY NOT BALD.

      • Kayla

        We got a robot vacuum for the dog hair too, but we can’t run it during the day because the dog is terrified of it. Every time it moves, he barks 3-6 times then pees everywhere. :(

  • Ann

    My guy and I (not married, living together, been together for 3.5 years) have a very odd way of breaking up tasks–kind of like we are roommates. We eat different foods at dinner, but cook them at the same time so we can eat together and we wash our own dishes, we do laundry at the same time, but take care of only our own clothing. He’ll vacuum the living room and bed room about as often as I’ll sweep the kitchen and bathroom, and we keep our own stuff tidy. It works for now

    • Meg

      My husband and I have been married and living together for almost a year and still do all our own laundry, and I really like it that way. I suppose when we have a kid we could keep their laundry separate too and then take turns haha!

      • Eenie

        I’m glad we’re not the only ones! We both hate laundry so much that this seems like the easiest way. If I knew I wasn’t going to have to wash and fold my clothes I would wear a lot more. But guess who’s fault it is if I don’t have clean pants for work? Mine. And only mine. It started off this way because the first house we lived in had really small closets and he got up for work way before I did so he used the closet in our spare bedroom. It just made sense to keep everything separate.

        • Meg

          yeah I was in a family of 5 growing up and laundry always seems like some giant monumental endless task. I think if everyone’s doing the communal laundry then people probably are more likely to use more towels, throw something in the hamper that could have got a few more wears out of it than if you’re doing it yourself.

          • Eenie

            Same! Family of five. I remember the day we transitioned from “throwing all our dirty clothes in a pile in mom and dad’s room” to ACTUAL hampers sorted by color. Somehow we never had enough reds to get a full load.

      • ktmarie

        Same here – been doing laundry separate for 5 years now. I think his mom and grandma almost died when it came up once that I don’t do his laundry. I’m like – I hate laundry – why would I do someone else’s when they are perfectly capable?

        • Eenie

          Why isn’t he doing your laundry is the bigger question.

      • Mary Jo TC

        I do all our laundry because one time he put a dry-clean-only dress (that I had thrown on the floor) in the wash and it shrank and I blew up at him. I’m not sure if that’s micromanaging or me being a control freak or what. Should whoever’s doing the laundry be expected to check the tags of every item and follow care instructions? Obviously I shouldn’t throw my clothes on the floor and leave it there, but it never occurred to me that he would take it upon himself to clean my stuff that day. I don’t mind this chore terribly, but I do wish he’d put his clothes away promptly when I finish a load. I wash his clothes, but I won’t put them away. That’s where I draw the line, haha!

        • Eenie

          We have our laundry separately, but I think in general a good rule is to read the tags or ASK before washing something you’ve never seen before. Just like another rule for us is to check all pockets before you put clothes in the washer because we do not empty our pockets when taking our clothes off.

        • Caroline

          In our household, yes, you check the tags or you ask, or you leave it for the next load when you can ask. You don’t put stuff in the wash that can’t be washed that way. He’s made a few mistakes on my clothes (I think feminine clothing is more persnickity?) but nothing too too major. We did have a big fight once though about whether you check the pockets before putting the clothes in the laundry bin (his idea) or before you put them in the machine (my idea). A $100 dollar bluetooth headset had just gone through the wash and been destroyed…

          • Eenie

            I think the important part of the system for shared laundry is to make sure you both understand the rules for checking pockets and tags.

          • Mary Jo TC

            Well, I guess this is a lesson for everyone to have this conversation about checking pockets and tags ahead of time, like ahead of moving in together. We didn’t. And yes, women’s clothes definitely require more careful attention in this regard.

        • qj

          Yeah, we check the tags before washing something. Or just leave it in a separate stack if the material feels fancy or it’s a “nice” clothing item. Generally, that’s saved us.

          ETA: After the first wash, generally the tags get sorted out pretty okay. Neither of us dress super-fancy for work, either, so that probably helps, too. :)

        • Nat

          Many of my friends also say the same thing. They do all laundry because either they don’t trust their partner to do it, or the partner feels they will mess it up. I don’t think that’s acceptable (for me, and my relationship).

          For us what works is we only put clothes in the laundry bin if it can go through the washing machine (on delicate). Things that need sweater bags are put into the hamper in sweater bags. Dry clean only/handwash clothes go elsewhere (often the floor for me). If he plans to do lanudry, he will let me know and I will check if i have any laundry i forgot to put in the bin but he will never pick up clothes on the floor. Nor will I, but leaving clothes on the floor is a strictly me-issue.
          Then one or the other of us will run a load, usually when we’re running low on some item of clothing.
          We had a couple issues where he put something through the dryer that I didn’t think should but it’s mostly stuff in sweater bags do not go through the dryer which he knows.

          It works really well for us. Sometimes some of my stuff isn’t washed because I left it in a pile on the floor instead of in the hamper, but that is my fault, so I’ll run another load if I really need it, or just clean it up for next time.

        • I air-dry a lot of things, and I don’t expect anyone to know what gets air-dried and what can go in the dryer, but I put all the air-dry items in mesh delicate bags, so if magic fairies came and wanted to do my laundry, all they would have to know is that the stuff in the delicates bags does not go in the dryer. And I dry-clean nothing and the few things I Dryell stay completely separate.

      • Not Sarah

        We actually started doing combined laundry before we moved in together officially. I like it better this way because then we can separate colours more. (I just washed everything on cold when I was by myself.) He doesn’t put anything of mine in the dryer unless I say it’s okay. So if I’m not around, none of my stuff goes in the dryer.

        I also have a separate laundry bin for handwashable clothes and he knows to not touch that one.

        • Caroline

          Yes, we separate by color of the clothing, not owner of the clothing. At this point, we basically hang-dry everything, because that way, stains don’t get set (which we were having a big problem with).

      • We do our own laundry and I really like it too. It’s kind of like a little oasis of independence in household duties. lol

      • joanna b.n.

        This was the last thing we joined after we got married. Same time as mingling checking accounts. It’s a big change!

    • Violet

      Our laundry is separate too. His clothes are so much BIGGER than mine; his stuff fills up a load’s worth so quickly. Plus I know which of my things I want to hang dry from the shower rod, whereas it wouldn’t be fair to ask him to keep track of my idiosyncrasies like that.

      • AP

        This is our situation to a T.

      • qj

        We do our laundry together, because there’s never enough to justify doing separate loads of the same kinds of things (hots, etc.). We’ve learned that when in doubt (for both of us), we hang it to air-dry. Hard to goof up preferences that way. I’ve come home to entire loads of laundry (most of which can be tumble dried) on the drying rack, but was really really glad that the 1-2 sweaters that needed it weren’t shrinking in the dryer. :)

        • Violet

          I’m a When-in-Doubt-er myself! My partner doesn’t air dry anything, so he wouldn’t know where to begin. I guess because we’re so used to waiting until our loads are huuuuuuuge (what happens when you have to pay exorbitant prices for the laundry machine) it’s never been an issue getting to a full load, even with one person’s stuff. We just do our laundry less frequently and then go whole-hog when we do.

      • Oh, I just commented on my system for this above!

        • Violet

          Oh, that’s a great idea, even when I’m doing my own laundry (so I’m not digging through wet clothes in the laundromat picking out my air-dry stuff). Woah, mind blown!

    • Lizzie

      We cook and eat completely separately most days; I’m vegan and he’s an omnivore, and our work schedules don’t line up exactly. Not like I want to make dinner in heels and an apron and serve it to him after he’s had his evening cigar and brandy or anything, but it would be nice not to feel like a college throwback as I eat my dinner for one in front of the computer.

      • Eenie

        Pick a day of the week where one of you waits for the other for a meal. Cook together, and then eat together! This was our solution when I worked at a restaurant. I would either get up early and do breakfast together with him, or he would come to work on my break and eat dinner with me. Not everyday, but about once a week! It made such a difference when it seemed like I never saw him.

        • Lizzie

          Yes, we do that on Fridays for date night dinner, and it’s the one time we cook and eat the same thing. Adding a weekend breakfast would be fun…I hadn’t thought about that.

          • Eenie

            Breakfast is the best. Especially on the weekend. We treat each other without even thinking about it. Whoever has more motivation gets up and cooks everything and the other person just wakes up to the smell of bacon. With our current distant relationship, the host of the trip always makes a wonderful spread for breakfast for the traveler. This isn’t something we plan to split evenly, we just both appreciate eating breakfast and not cooking!

  • z

    Sigh. I so disagree with #2. What about the responsibility of the other person to teach *themselves* how to do something? We all can teach ourselves do things that our parents never taught us to do, right? Cleaning can be one of those things. And there are plenty of online tutorials. Cleaning is a basic adult skill and it’s childish to place the responsibility on others.

    All this teaching is just more responsibility added to (usually) the woman’s plate, and the burden of walking the fine line between effective teaching vs. micromanaging, and it comes perilously close to parenting one’s spouse.

    • Ann

      Teaching is hard. I try to teach guy some of the kitchen stuff–he just doesn’t know he’s doing it wrong (like every time he cooks something that needs to be scraped away from the side of the pan or it will burn…think oatmeal or from scratch pudding). I try to tell him/ show him/ explain to him, how to use the rubber spatula to clean the sides of the pan. He gets annoyed, and I’m back to cooking.

      • Kayla

        It sounds possible that you’re micromanaging in a bad way. If you’re telling him and showing him and explaining to him how to wipe the side of a pot (which, let’s face it, is really simple), he probably feels like you’re treating him like a child. Just leave him alone, and he’ll figure it out. He’s making pudding from scratch, FFS. This sounds like a motivated guy you’re talking about.

        • Violet

          Plus some things you can’t teach. My partner sloshes things over the side of pots when he’s stirring. It’s just a fine motor thing; it’s going to happen regardless, so I don’t even comment on it. If he could have figured it out, he would have figured it out by now, is how I see it.

          • emmers

            Truth! This is me with dripping water on the floor with doing dishes. A lot of times it’s because I literally don’t notice. I’m trying to notice more, but I’m never going to notice as much stuff (in life) as my husband does. So, us both being gracious to each other is helpful.

          • laddibugg

            Do you have a mat in front of your sink? I tend to drip water, but the mat soaks it up.

          • emmers

            We do! This is part of the problem. He worries that we’ll damage the wood floors due to drips.

          • Violet

            YES to being gracious. I use more dental floss than anyone on the planet. But do I hear any gripes about it from my partner? No. I don’t see why he should have to hear me comment on him sloshing his water around.

          • Kate

            Ahh yes! Except I am the one who is terrible at pouring things into other things. It’s really amazing actually how terrible I am at it, even when I’m trying. Now we know though, pouring stuff is a strictly not-for-Kate-job.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Youtube cooking videos. Food Network. If he’s interested. He’ll see how things are done without you having to say a thing!

      • M

        In these situations, I usually try to say something along the lines of “Thank you for making that! Can I show you how I would do x? Then you can take it or leave it.” Then I step away and let him do it my way or not. OR “Do you mind if I scrape the sides of the pan?” That way it’s still getting done and he might see what you’re doing and learn from it. As long as my attitude is always appreciative and not patronizing, we all end up happy.

    • emmers

      My husband and I have give and take over this. Only he’s often on the “this is how I think you should chop that” side, and I’m on the “if you have this many opinions about this, then you’re going to need to do this yourself.”

      We’re working on this– both he on leaving me alone if I’m in the kitchen, and me on not getting huffy if he asks me not to drip water when I’m washing dishes. When I feel micromanaged, it can be super rage inducing. I really appreciate the point about lowering standards to make this easier.

      • Kayla

        Being left alone is such an important part of learning something. Can you even imagine learning basic addition if the teacher stood behind you telling you all the answers?

        My husband got good at cooking shortly after he started cooking meals all on his own. Sometimes he’ll ask me a question. Sometimes I’m not home, so he’ll google the same thing. But he needed to learn basic cooking instincts, and he wasn’t doing that with me coaching him through every step.

        • joanna b.n.

          Yup! My work at home hubby also randomly ended up watching a lot of cooking shows at his lunch hour, and he now has insane amounts more cooking skill than me.

      • Meg Keene

        That is why I’m opposed to micromanaging. I think it usually ends differently than people hope. When I’m micromanaged it doesn’t make me do a better job, it just pisses me off and makes my motivation for doing this task ever again near zero. A few helpful pointers/ kind teaching, and then letting me alone… that does wonders.

        So at least for me, it’s really just applying the golden rule. How do I want to be treated/ taught? Ok, can I apply that when teaching the other person something.

        • qj

          Yes, this. We’ve gotten to the point where we generally recognize when we’re micromanaging the other person and stop ourselves. “I’m micromanaging. You’re capable of cooking dinner and I appreciate it. Also, you’re allowed to make salad dressing differently than me,” was the gist of what my husband said to me over the weekend while I was cooking something for a barbecue. I end up saying things like that to him all the time. Being able to recognize it + stop and affirm the other’s efforts has been really really really really helpful for us! :)

      • CII

        We cook together, and we have a few give and take principles that make cooking one of our favorite together tasks: (1) you shalt do the things you are good at and leave the other alone at their task, and (2) respect that each person needs space to complete their task. If we are intruding on the other’s space, we are nice and preferably silly about it (“excuse me [ridiculous fake pet name here] but I require access to the drawer where the lime juicer is kept in order to make you the cocktail you requested”).
        If we are doing something together AND what he’s doing may actually make a difference in whether our food is patable and/or sanitary, instead of saying something critical, (e.g., “how do you not know to level off the flour at the top of the cup otherwise you are actually adding in way more than a cup of flour??”) I try to help explain, very kindly, the technique that I think would be helpful (e.g., “hey, you know a trick my grandmother taught me about baking? If you just use a knife and push that excess flour back into the flour canister, you can get exactly the amount you need?”). A lot of times, it’s just that someone taught me a technique growing up but no one has ever taught it to my husband (because I cooked with my family and he did not), and once I mention it once, he is happy to employ it.

      • Ashlyn

        A couple of months ago, I actually went to bed one night in the middle of making very basic, nothing-from-scratch spaghetti because hubs came into the kitchen and began criticizing me for using a different pot than he would have for boiling the pasta. This wasn’t the first time in our 8 years he had tried to micromanage me in the kitchen (which we’ve discussed before) and I was done with it. I silently put the uncooked pasta down on the counter and just. went. to bed. He hasn’t micromanaged me since so I suppose we’ve come to an understanding.

        That pasta was going to boil just fine in the pot I was using. ha.

    • Amy March

      And as someone still in the selecting a life partner stage of things, if you bring me back to your apartment and it isn’t reasonably clean the first time you bring a new girl over, well then no. I have no interest in raising a husband.

      • Eh

        I love my husband but I do have to remind both of us that I am not his mother. I never went to the room my husband rented. The first time I went there was the day he moved out of the room. A friend set us up and she warned me to never go there (she went there once and his room was full of pizza boxes and dirty dishes) so I was warned. Two years later after he moved in with us we were sorting through boxes he had in storage at his parents house and there were dirty dishes and food (including open boxes of crackers and expired cans). Turns out he just packed everything.

        • joanna b.n.

          Gasp!!

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Doing laundry and basic cleaning are just life skills I expect grown people with whom I’m going to be in an intimate relationship to have. A grown man who doesn’t know how to do laundry? Not the guy for me period point blank.

    • qj

      One day my partner kicked me out of the kitchen and said, “I’m becoming an empowered GF baker! Leave me alone! Well, wait — first, tell me what the mystery grains in the glass jars are and where to find the flour mill manual.” I totally hear where you’re coming from, and agree that people can absolutely learn (and should!) how to do things where they don’t have skills. There are some things I know how to do and love (i.e. gluten free baking) and, as a result, it’s just not a skill that my partner has ever picked up.

      That said, I there are things that my partner knows how to do well that I don’t, and vice versa, but doesn’t particularly like doing. Or doesn’t have the time. Or the energy. Or needs help, or whatever. While I can absolutely learn how to do it myself, it’s often easier to ask, “Hey, will you show me how to do x,y,z?” OR to ask, “Hey, do you have an opinion about how you want this done?” than to go reinvent the wheel on my own, since the knowledge is already a resource we have in our relationship. So, agreed with Amy March below: no interest in raising a partner, though I don’t think that teaching someone else how to do something is necessarily doing so.

      • Amy March

        I completely agree! I’m not against sharing and teaching and learning our individual skills and strengths. But there’s a big difference to me between here’s how to bake bread versus here’s how to pasta or hey could you teach me how to get the mirror clean versus wait bathrooms need to be washed?

        Adulting 101: general skills = nope

        Adulting 305: topics in baking = sure

        • qj

          That’s an excellent breakdown. And I didn’t realize this at the time, but I think *at least* passing Adulting 101 was a prereq for any partnership I ever (seriously) entered into. And a big part of that class is: “Learning how to teach yourself skills that would be helpful when they become helpful.” Knowing how to change a baby? Not necessary. Knowing how to learn to change a baby when suddenly in a situation that requires it? Necessary.

          • And being motivated to learn when it’s time to learn something…and following through….

          • Violet

            I agree with all of this. Just also adding that it gets harder if you meet as kids and have to both figure out Adulting 101 within your relationship. It can be done, but not everyone gets this metric beforehand, so it can be a bit of a guessing game. I think things like overall if you find your partner responsible, trustworthy, willing to communicate and adjust based on your needs, and do you trust his/her judgment are basically the proxies for “Will this person pass Adulting 101 in a few years?”

          • qj

            True! For sure. I was definitely thinking of my experience as dating and finding a partner as an adult person, but figuring out that this person is a person who I’d like to take Adulting 101 *with* would be totally legit, too. :)

          • Anna

            I think this is a really strong point. My husband and I starting dating in college and got serious around the time we graduated. So we were kind of adults, but not really. It would have been pretty unreasonable of me to expect my husband to have come into the relationship with all of the adult skills when I didn’t even know how many adult skills I lacked.

            Particularly for people who get married relatively young, it’s ok to still be figuring this out in your marriage. Just because the balance of household tasks points a little heavily towards the woman for a split second in your marriage doesn’t mean that your husband is a misogynistic lazybones who wants his wife to be his mother. My husband is respectful, loving, and hardworking. He likes to learn new things, and he cares deeply about my happiness and well being. I feel the same way about him. We will keep working on this, and hopefully someday we’ll be awesome at running a household together.

            That’s what I like to think, anyway.

          • Violet

            I think qj and Amy March have a good point that applies to probably most readers here; I just wanted to throw out a perspective from a different situation. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one out there who had to figure out Adulting 101 with my partner as we went! As I mentioned to Katriel earlier, we’ve adjusted our division of work at various points over the years based on changing circumstances, with the help of a whole lotta communicating and goodwill.

    • Yup, agreed. There is absolutely no reason that any woman should be spending time teaching basic housekeeping when we can google literally anything we want to know including “how do I scrub the toilet?”

  • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

    I read that piece this weekend too, and this is something we need work on. There are responsibilities my husband always takes care of (after dinner dishes, trash, insurance), but it feels like there are so many things that I’m in charge of (social calendar, all the to do lists, making sure our apartment isn’t a mess). I think our biggest issue is that my husband has more evening/weekend commitments. So he really does have less time to get household chores done. I want to support him in things that make him happy, but it hardly seems fair that because he’s off playing sports, I should have to pick up the slack on the cleaning. But at the same time I think he’s probably only got a few years left to play this much, so is a messy home something I’m willing to swallow for a short while to make him happy? Not sure.

    What has helped us a lot is trust and responsibility, on both sides. My husband keeps a lengthy to-do list with everything for his life. It’s different than my system, but it works for him. If there’s something he says he’ll do, I trust that it goes on his list, and then I try to let it be. And I have to be organized and take responsibility – if I say I’ll do something, I need to make sure it gets done. It’s a lot easier to remember all the tasks he didn’t do than it is to remember all the things I forgot that I said I’d do.

    • Amy March

      The real issue seems to be that your husband has time to be playing games with his friends because he has a wife to clean up after him. And I’m sure he’s great and day to day it doesn’t seem that stark, but I think it is worth asking why leaving the bulk of the chores on you to amuse himself makes him feel happy. Because I’m betting for a lot of women the emotion they’d be feeling is selfish.

      • Meg

        I’m with you. If my husband were doing that I’d go to the gym those nights so when we’d both get home to the same chores waiting for us.

      • april

        I more or less agree with both these comments. First, you should definitely be making time for yourself to do the things you enjoy – go to the gym, schedule time with friends, or take a class. I think it will help to keep you from resenting the time your husband spends on his “commitments” if you have a few of your own. Second, talk with your husband about the division of chores. If you don’t want to have a big conversation about it, just start small – like, “hey, the apartment is kind of a mess. I know we both have a lot going on this weekend, but why don’t we spend 2 hours Saturday doing some cleaning.”

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        Thanks for the perspective. I think what I find particularly challenging is that he doesn’t expect me to clean up after him. He’ll spend a lot of time on Sundays cleaning, but he doesn’t have time to do much during the week. I’d rather tidy up and do a little cleaning throughout the week, because otherwise to me, it feels like we spend most of the week with a messy home. But if I’m the only one home on Wednesday night, I’m the only one cleaning.

        • Perhaps the chores that fall to you could be the ones that most help you feel like the house is clean/tidy (dishes? surface cleaning? sweeping up?) and then you could spread them out as you want during the week, and then the chores that are less obvious or need to be done only about once a week (laundry? vaccuuming?) could fall to your partner?

    • emilyg25

      It’s so important for each member of a couple to have time for their own interests, but not at the expense of family harmony and balance. Perhaps he should pull back a bit on his sports commitments.

      • Lizzie

        Or…hire a cleaning company.

    • Kayla

      What kind of time commitment is involved in insurance? Am I missing something? Isn’t that about 5 minutes a year?

      • z

        It can be a lot of time if you’re shopping for insurance. Or getting the car inspected, or if something happens and you need to file a claim. Or if there’s some sort of issue with health insurance approving certain expenses, seeking reimbursement, etc. Dealing with these companies can be an enormous time-suck when something comes up. Just getting my daughter added to our health plan when she was born was an administrative nightmare for no good reason.

        But the other issue is, there are a lot of these once-a-year type issues. If only the daily or weekly responsibilities count, that isn’t fair to the person who tends to handle a large number of quarterly/annual/irregularly scheduled issues. Because it’s not just the insurance– I do our taxes, I make sure our bar dues get paid, I manage annual charitable giving, I make sure we don’t go over the limit on retirement savings, do the taxes on our nanny, etc. etc. There are enough once-a-year things that I have to spend at least a few hours on something each and every month.

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        For us recently, it’s been a lot. We’ve had four work-related benefits changes in the last year, and my husband is the one to sit down and crunch the numbers to decide if we should change. He’s also the one to submit reimbursement claims for things. And we’ve had some car changes that also required insurance changes. He also took care of figuring out life insurance, and all of our beneficiary designations. I guess I probably meant more broadly – he deals with almost all the paperwork that comes into or affects our house. Sorry, I didn’t mean that as a comprehensive list either. The conversation up a ways about oil changes reminded me that getting your oil changed is a thing you have to do. My husband always takes my car when it’s due.

        If you’re only spending 5 minutes a year dealing with insurance, tell me your secret!

        • Kayla

          Ah, that makes way more sense. I’m always wary of “women’s work” getting way less credit than “men’s work,” but it sounds like he does a lot more than just re-enroll in insurance each year.

          My employer just sends out a questionnaire once a year during open enrollment that asks what option you want for each type of insurance. You select a few radio buttons, and that’s it! Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with filing or getting any claims approved lately.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            Oooh that sounds nice! I am very happy that we have access to affordable health coverage, but it has been…complicated. We’ll suffer through one more change in the next few months, but then neither of us will be in jobs without sick leave or where our supervisor has had to go beg HR to cobble together some basic benefits. Yay!

  • april

    Our division of labor is pretty much dictated by our schedules. My husband has a fairly inflexible schedule and commutes an hour and a half each way for work. I live 2 miles from where I work and have a very flexible schedule for 9 months of the year. As a result, I wind up doing most of the mid-week chores – making dinner, doing laundry, waiting around for repair men, doing light cleaning, etc. On weekends, he takes over cooking and we grocery shop and do the occasional deep clean together. The trade-off? For 3 months of the year my job is hell. I work late nights and weekends and have zero energy to expend on domestic activities. My husband takes over *everything* during these 3 months.

    One benefit of this arrangement is that it has helped me to let some of the small stuff go. Our apartment is comparatively messy during the 3 months where I’m working non-stop – and that’s ok. We may end up eating black beans and rice three nights in a row, and that’s ok too. Maybe my husband will accidentally throw some of my delicates in with the general laundry and I’ll wind up having to replace a bra – it’s not the end of the world. For those 3 months, he is the ‘designated worrier’ and I get too focus on my work. It is seriously one of the things I appreciate most about our marriage.

  • Greta

    The thing I struggle with is scheduling and commute times. I work from 8 – 4 and have a 5-minute commute from my job. My husband works from 8-5, and has a 45-60 minute commute to his job. He also makes significantly more money than I do. Because of the commuting time, I end up doing most of the grocery shopping, cooking, and other household tasks simply because I get home earlier than he does. Sometime it just seems to be fair, because he’s not choosing to spend that time commuting, but at the same time, I feel like I do A LOT more than he does. How do other people handle commutes/schedules that are not equal?

    • MeganW

      My fiance is a vegetable farmer, which means for several months of the year he is extremely busy and for others he is home all day. I have a 9-5 with an hour commute on each end and my schedule does not change seasonally. What this means is that during the winter he cooks, we grocery shop together, and do weekly cleaning together. During the farm season, I cook, grocery shop, and clean alone. So in the end I am doing a lot more than him. To even things out we’ve decided that he will always be responsible for certain things like car repairs, taking out the trash, loading the dishwasher. Is it a perfectly even split? No. But for me, the MOST important thing is that my fiance communicates to me how much he appreciates all that I do for us both. I do not have expectations that our lives will be perfectly fair and split down the middle, but if he can acknowledge that (and he does, often and with great heart and feeling), then I feel respected, validated, and appreciated.

    • emilyg25

      I started doing most of the cooking because I used to get home first. But we do most other chores on the weekends, often together. Also, when I cook, he cleans up after.

      • Violet

        I think the “One cooks, the other cleans” is a common one. But in case there are any other compartmentalizers like me out there, it can work the other way, too. I know I like to know when I’m “on” versus “off” for the night. If I’m cooking, I’ll clean prep materials as I go, and I have no problem cleaning up the dishes when we’re done. If he’s cooking, I’d rather just ignore everything that’s happening in the kitchen for the night. That way I’m either “doing dinner” or relaxing. That gives me nights where I truly have the night “off,” versus feeling like there’s always something every night. Obviously this only works if your partner’s up for it, but I just wanted to throw it out there as an option. We’re also not super rigid about it, but it’s the general framework.

    • Leah

      I’m in this same boat – My husband, most days, commutes about 45 minutes each way. I work from home. So I’m the one who has time to clean, grocery shop, and run other errands. Most of the time, like you said, I’m thinking, well gosh I’m really glad I don’t have to commute 1.5 hours each day, a little errand-running time is the least I can do. (he also makes more $ than me). BUT it’s hard not to let a little resentment sneak up on me when I feel like I’ve done way more than he has in any given week. I try to be really up front when I feel it building up – and try to use the same language every time so that he can know I’m referencing the same issue each time – I think that helps a lot because it becomes shorthand, and I don’t have to worry about fully explaining myself each time. I say ‘hey, can you do x, remember that i worked today too’ – and he knows what I’m trying to say. He also knows that frequent expressions of gratitude – thanks for cleaning, thanks for shopping, thanks for cooking, go a LONG way toward keeping that resentment from building up in the first place. It mostly works well, and doesn’t come to a head often. (also, he is totally an equal partner in household stuff on weekends, etc – it’s just that commute time that is the issue on weekdays).

    • Katriel

      Right now this is how our family is (10 min commute for me, 50 min commute for him). But we’re moving and so our commute times are about to swap. Which we’ve discussed NEEDS to mean that he picks up all the household/child stuff I’ve been doing in that 80 minutes of commute time. So I guess we’ll see if it’s just a logistical issue that will easily transfer, or if he honestly can’t see what I’ve been doing with that time…

      • Violet

        Or, it might be somewhere in between. Our marriage experienced growing pains when my partner went back to school and I kept working (but with a new commute multiples longer in duration and higher in stress). At first I think he thought we’d keep doing chores 50-50. Which, nope. We gradually shifted things, and he’s been the main chore person for the past year and a half. Now that his program is ending, my commute will go back to what it used to be, and he’ll begin working insane hours. It’ll have to flip the other way now, with me doing the bulk of the chores. So by way of saying, it can happen, it might be a process, but I have hope for you guys. : )

    • Kayla

      You could try scheduling more tasks for him to do on weekends. Since you’re doing all the cooking during the week, it seems fair for him to do all the meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekend. Then during the week you know that he already contributed when he had time to, and maybe it won’t feel as unfair.

    • kate

      yep, i work from home, so my commute is, well, zero. and i have felt that there’s the expectation that as soon as i’m done working i can start on household tasks, which yes i CAN. buuuut…it’s not necessarily the most fair solution in the bigger picture.
      so what’s helped a lot is #1 & 2 above – there are some tasks that are mainly understood to be his responsibility and so i just don’t do them, even if i have time, even if it means they wait til the weekend or his one day off that’s not until next week. obviously some things have to be done at certain intervals (like groceries) though too, so maybe those stay under your umbrella because you have more flexibility or maybe you schedule it with him – what’s a day/time that he CAN go pick up groceries? maybe he can do it on the way home from work one night or maybe he can take 1 day a week to pick up groceries during his lunch hour.

      you just have to be creative with solutions and clear with communications, but also willing to be flexible because the most fair solution might end up being you do a little more at this point in your lives because that’s the way your schedules are. someday that will change and then you adjust the household balance accordingly – remembering that just because this is how it is now doesn’t mean this is how it’ll be FOREVER also helped release me from a lot of the resentment.

      • Brittany

        I’m a teacher, so it is simply a fact that 95% of the time I will always be home before my husband. I think it is important to think of daily chores not in an equality frame of mind, but in a quality of life frame of mind. Sure, it would be “fair” for him to do 50% of the household work, but in reality I am home at 2:45. He’s home at 6-6:30. I can get home, grade or lesson plan, make dinner, do light cleaning, feed our little guy before he gets home and when my husband have a few hours to eat, relax and hang out. Or, I can insist that he do 50% of our housework, and I can relax starting at 6:00 by myself when he gets home, and wait until 7:30-8 for him to be done. It’s a no-brainer. I love him and want to hang out with him and our kid. I want us to have as much free time together as possible. That’s 1000 times more important to me than the perfect equality of our housework. As we learn in teacher school, equal and fair are not the same, and we always aim for fair over equal.

        • Mary Jo TC

          I’m a teacher too, and I do something kind of similar. It feels fair because he’s working at work and I’m working at home in the afternoons. I will say, though, that when I was at a school that started super early and had to wake up and be out of the house 2 full hours before he did, I felt entitled to stop doing housework a full 2 hours before he got home. And he could pick up the slack in the evenings when I went to bed 2 hours earlier than he did. In theory anyway. It didn’t work 100% of the time. Our current schedule is much better now that I’m at a school that starts at a human hour. I like the way you prioritize time together in the evenings. That time is so important.

        • kate

          yes, totally. that’s a great point too

        • This is how I feel! I work from home 2x/week, and have a 12 min commute with a 7:30-3:30/4ish schedule the other days. He has a 45-60 min commute so is gone 6:30-5:30 or 6:30 every day. So I run errands and grocery shop, cook dinner, AND still have time to go to the gym and often relax/read (if it’s a no-errand day) all before he comes home. Sure, I could make him do a few more things, but that would take away from our quality time together, and that’s not worth it. As you say, fair does not necessarily mean equal.

  • qj

    Thanks for writing about #3. We’re currently in a similar scenario to you with jobs/income: similarly loved careers, similar hours, similar incomes, etc., which just makes things pretty dang easy to balance out. We’re heading into my unemployment (aka “maternity leave” – contract ends two weeks before tiny human arrives and timing was miserable to find a new gig with a delayed start date, so I’ll look later), tiny human arriving, and I’m a little terrified of all pregnancy-nursing responsibility that seems biologically inevitable and with the household responsibility that I think *should* fall to me since I won’t be bringing in an out-of-home income (self-imposed, not partner imposed). Grappling with what all of that means for our fought-for egalitarian partnership, I expect, will be an ongoing process.

    • lady brett

      right, but all that time that you’re not working, you’ll be *keeping a baby alive* – which is not a zero on your side of the “how much work did you do today?” chart!

      • qj

        Right!!! Thanks! Of course. It’s so weird: I (don’t think?) I’ve ever thought that someone else staying home to care for baby/children/older relatives = no work (it’s **so** much work!), but for some reason am struggling mightily with that idea for myself. Need to squash the noise in my head.

        • Eenie

          Once you’re actually home with the baby your expectations for how to keep your partnership egalitarian will become clearer. Plus how does your partner feel? You don’t have to decide now, or when the baby is a week, or a month, or two months etc. You can’t plan for everything. And a kid is always changing. So the split of duties to feel fair needs to change too.

          • qj

            Oooh, yes. Thanks. I keep thinking baby arriving = have to have stuff figured out, but this is a good reminder that baby arriving = all kinds of new things to (keep) figuring out at different stages in the game. Partner feels similar to me, so although we’re both grappling, we (thankfully) on the same page that we want to continue to work together in ways that are egalitarian, and that things will shift again when I return to work at some point.

          • lmba

            Yep, it’s impossible to plan out perfectly, and the balance will always have to shift.
            For example: NEWBORN PHASE. Who does which chores depends on so many factors. Are night wakings shared or is one person losing all the sleep (and therefore dealing with impaired abilities the next day)? Does feeding take 10 minutes or 1.5 hours each time? Is your kid extra sensitive/colicky/sick? How is the childbearing parent recovering physically from delivery? Was there a C-section? Is PPD a factor? Is your kid spitting up on everything 1600000000 times a day? How much help is available from fam/friends?

            In my experience, having a baby who took months to get the hang of eating and many more months to get the hang of sleeping… meant that I physically was not capable of doing a lot of the household tasks I had done prior to his birth. The exhaustion was too extreme, and the extended nursing sessions crowded out any “free” time for things like… making dinner. This was a huge bummer because I *like* cooking dinner and prefer the food I make, but I just couldn’t handle it at the time. Once we worked out the breastfeeding/sleeping kinks a little bit (around 8 months in), I was able to start picking up chores like laundry and cooking more consistently. (This was followed by an amazing feeling of competence. LOOK AT ME, I CAN ENTERTAIN A BABY AND ALSO WASH CLOTHING AT THE SAME TIME. Big relief after 8 months of being able to do just the baby stuff and pretty much zero non-parent-adult stuff.)

            Similarly, during my current pregnancy I am working full-time, with a toddler, and iron-deficient anemia (UGH), and have been completely exhausted for the past… 6 months. So my partner cooks a lot more, and we eat meals-from-a-box a lot more. Not ideal, but it is how it is.

          • emmers

            I really like this description. We’re not in the kid-phase, but this makes a ton of sense!

      • Eh

        I was sick for five months of this pregnancy (I have been better for about a month – and I am 28 weeks today) and ‘keeping a baby alive’ before the baby is here is a lot of work. On top of growing a baby I work full time and commute 45 mins each way, and volunteer once a week. (I was talking to my sister on the weekend and she was surprised I didn’t go on sick leave for some of that time – that said did use up my sick days and use a lot of vacation during that time so I wasn’t working full time.) My husband did pick up some other stuff. When I am on Mat leave we will have to reevaluate chores.

        • qj

          Brf. I’m sorry you’ve been so sick, and am glad you’re feeling better! Growing a baby can be no joke whatsoever.

          • Eh

            Women in my family have difficult pregnancies. I am very happy that my husband has stepped up (my friend’s husband thought she was a wimp – she ended up on bed rest and then preterm labour and thats when he realized it was serious). My inlaws have never experienced a woman with such a horrible pregnancy (note: my brother’s wife pregnancies are worse so I thought my pregnancy was going pretty well) so they brush me off sometimes. For some reason they thought it was ok to serve food to me I have an aversion to three times in less than a month (twice the same weekend). I also can’t be around food while it is cooking so my husband and I didn’t come visit before supper one day and they were upset even after my husband told them I won’t be able to eat if I am there while it is cooking.

    • Jennie

      My previous employment before baby didn’t feel feasible to me once baby arrived. I’m working on applying to grad school and watching another kid 27hrs/wk in addition to keeping our baby alive. The first few months after she arrived, even though I was home full time, most of my life was keeping her alive. My husband would come home at lunch to give me a break (he works 2miles away so this was easy), then cooked dinner almost every night. When she was a little older/not attached to the boob 24/7, he would come home and take her for a walk while I made dinner or cleaned dishes. So even though we went from both working to him being the only one working outside of the house, he also picked up a lot more household work in the early months, while I was spending more than 40hrs/wk doing baby care. Now at 5.5 months out, things are evening out again, I’m only working 10hrs/wk less than him and I’m taking an online class, so even though I’m here more he’s still helping keep our house livable.

      One thing we struggle with is finding childcare for the times we both can’t be here. Even if I’ve said, you need to be home with baby while I go to class. If something comes up that he wants/needs to do during that time, I’m the one who has to talk to his mom about watching the baby, not him. I’m never sure in that circumstance if I should let him figure it out and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t get to do his thing, or to just go ahead and talk to his mom and make sure it’s taken care of so I don’t have to worry.

  • AllieKat

    My question: how do you ensure your partner actually follows through on his/her responsibilities? I’ve been making an effort to delegate more to make things more even, and since part of the issue is that my partner doesn’t always notice or recognize what needs to be done, I explicitly ask him to do certain things or give him a to do list with recommended deadlines for each task (that he agrees are reasonable). However, he won’t actually do the things on the list unless I remind him regularly that the deadline is coming up, or if he notices me doing something similar (e.g., if I start washing dishes, he remembers that he’s supposed to do some of them). It’s getting to the point where nagging takes almost as much effort as doing the task myself!

    • z

      First of all, stop calling it nagging. It’s communicating! The solution to nagging is for the person who made the commitment to fulfill the commitment without being reminded.

      Unfortunately, the only solution I have found is having a Big Talk and really making clear that it is a Serious Relationship Issue. Don’t lose your temper, but don’t let the matter drop. Communicate that it is frustrating and fundamentally disrespectful to break his commitments to you. Offer to help develop a more organized system of chores, but ultimately do not back down from the idea that he must carry his share of the load without being managed like a child. Repeat that conversation for as many weeks as it takes until the situation improves. Sorry you’re in this position, it totally sucks.

      • Ella

        YES YES YES. AllieKat, I’ve been (am?) there. Add on to that a whole other level of my husband having some real fears about being manipulated (thanks MIL) and a passive-aggressive attitude. Be aware of your actions that they don’t get too controlling — that’s the place I’m in now, and trying to get myself out.

        Z is so, so right. Time to have the Big Talk that this is a relationship issue and needs to be addressed. It might take time and you will have to be patient. Good luck!

    • Eh

      One thing we did was schedule my husband’s chores. He cleans floors on Mondays, cleans washrooms on Tuesdays and preps the garbage/recycling on Wednesdays (garbage day is on Thursday). So even if the job doesn’t need to be done on that day he has to do it (downside – if it needs to be done sooner than that it doesn’t get done unless I do it since he doesn’t get where that line is that says ‘this is dirty and needs cleaned now’. He is pretty good with his weekly chores, he slacks more on his daily chores (he works in a restaurant but doesn’t think that our kitchen counters needed to be washed daily). The to-do list is a challenge. If it doesn’t have a deadline then it doesn’t get done (putting air in his bike tires was on the list for weeks yet it would only take a minute to do). I think my husband has a hard time understanding time and how long things take to do (he frequently tells me that things take him longer than he expected), and he is a procrastinator. I remind him of the importance of things on his list (we are having a bbq for my bday this weekend so some things need to get done) but I don’t get frustrated until after they are past due.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      My husband occasionally needs reminders about random one-off tasks that aren’t chores – gifts for people, RSVPing to his work and family events. I’ve found two things to be helpful: 1. I will say, “This is the last time I’ll bring this up, so make sure it’s on your to do list. Please decide if you want to go to X, RSVP, and let me know if we’re going.” And then I don’t bring it up again. 2. Think critically about if something really needs reminding. My husband was dragging his feet on getting fitted for tux rental for a friend’s wedding. It was driving me nuts that he didn’t just take care of it, but the wedding isn’t until August. He has time. Also, if he forgets (which he didn’t – he went last week), he’d be the naked one, not me.

      • Eenie

        Yes. I remind once, let them know it’s the last reminder, and then hedge my bet that he’ll forget and protect myself from the repercussions. The hotel block for our friend’s wedding ends today, make sure you make a reservation! He didn’t, and he had to pay an extra $150.

        • Lauren from NH

          Yeah but when you are married/in a long term relationship that stuff does impact you too. If you share expenses then that just cost you an extra $150 (unless you require that it come out of his personal money), if he shows up looking like a shlub, you both as a couple look less polished and put together…so I tend to think in a lot of cases this doesn’t work when you are codependent.

          • Eh

            I asked my husband to get two quotes for some work to be done on our house. He only got one quote and signed the contract right away and didn’t discuss it with me first. The quote was higher than what we agreed upon. The consequence was that he had to pay the additional amount out of his personal spending money. He learned that he needs to get at least two quotes and not sign contracts until he discusses it with me.

          • Amy March

            And you as the woman in the partnership are the one facing judgment for “letting” him go out in sneakers.

          • Eenie

            I guess I don’t care about anyone’s opinion who thinks like this. Which isn’t to say it won’t happen, but I don’t dwell on it.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            This crap irks me. Or if your kid is dirty and all eyes turn to you like your child doesn’t have a father. I can’t be bothered to care about someone who thinks it’s my job to make sure my husband looks put together. He’s 40 freaking years old.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            The money one is tough. But the looking like a shlub? If it’s better for my marriage to occasionally have a sloppy looking husband, I’ll do it. There will be times where I’ll cover for my husband because we’re a team. But there are things that I will let him drop the ball on, because they are his balls (no pun intended – heh) and they don’t need my micromanaging. Other people might view my husband’s failings as my failings, but I don’t. And that’s good for our marriage.

          • Vanessa

            Hear hear! If I forget to pick up my dress from the dry cleaner the week before a wedding and end up wearing something sloppy or inappropriate for the context, I’m sure that no one would ever blame it on my guy. (Except maybe his mother, and that’s a different issue entirely.)

          • Lauren from NH

            Sure. I find it to be a kind of “damned it you do, damned if you don’t” thing for some tasks. While I set him up to take care of his own damn self as best I can, if he doesn’t and I know I will be more impacted if I knowingly let the train crash, I will intervene and take care of it. Not quietly mind you, but sometimes shit just has to get done.

          • Vanessa

            Yeah, but it also impacts your relationship if you are the one picking up the slack because there’s no accountability. I’d rather have a few experiences that end up being more expensive or embarassing (this wedding tux example wouldn’t really phase me, he looks how he looks it doesn’t reflect on me) than a lifetime of resentment because I was always having to take care of things he should be more than capable of doing on his own.

          • Eenie

            I think the $150 is worth it (we’re not combined finances yet, but even if we were this would be his issue. Where is the money coming from to cover the extra expenses?). He’s now on top of all wedding related hotel reservations (not just “his friends”- I can’t help who they send the invitation to) because he felt so stupid for throwing away that money. My point is, let your partner feel the consequences. If I reminded him 20 times and then booked the hotel, he would learn that if he doesn’t do something I’ll do it. And that doesn’t fly in my book. If he looks like a schlub, I’ll tell him that and I’ll make sure everyone else knows he’s a grown ass adult and I do not dress him.

          • CP2011

            Exactly!

      • jashshea

        Same. I don’t emotionally take on things that only impact him (routine appointments or scheduling for him). I don’t expect that he’ll remind me when my car needs an oil change, so I don’t do the same for him. I may remind him of something if I’m aware of it and it appears he’s forgotten, but I don’t make a habit of it.

        We’re working on a shared calendar/to do list so that we can both get better at life management.

        • AP

          The shared iCalendar and Anylist app made our lives SO much easier!!

          • jashshea

            I’ve just integrated my google calendar with my iphone calendar (like, yesterday). So I’m trying to figure out how to cross share that, I guess? I want to keep g’cal b/c it reads my emails and adds things to the calendar w/o me doing anything.

            So many tech options!

        • Not Sarah

          Does anyone know of a good shared to do list for a cross-platform couple?! There are plenty of great iOS ones, but one of us has an iPhone and the other an Android phone.

          • Kayla

            It isn’t a fancy app, but we use google docs for everything, and I really like it for to-do lists.

          • Not Sarah

            Wait, how do you use Google Docs for to do lists?!

          • Kayla

            Ours is in a spreadsheet. It’s just one column for task, one for who’s responsible, and another for status. There’s also a sum if formula off to the side that tracks how many things we each have outstanding. We’re working on adding a time column so we can keep better track of who’s doing how many minutes of work, but that hasn’t quite happened yet.

          • Todoist! That’s my favorite and my life is run off of it and I love it so much.

          • Me too!!!

          • Not Sarah

            I really like that it has the “after N days/months/weeks” repeating tasks feature that Remember the Milk does, but the mobile app sync’ing is free! We’re giving it a shot.

          • todist.com is amazing and there is wedoist.com too, which I have not tried yet. But I LOVE todoist and have been using it for probably 3 years now. I think you can integrate it to phone too, but I haven’t yet. I just always keep it open in my browser.

          • Not Sarah

            Thanks! We’re giving that a try. Their website is pretty slick!

          • soothingoceansounds

            I posted this downthread but my husband and I tried a bunch of different cross-platform options & liked Wunderlist best. It works on my iPhone, his android, & is also available via the web.

      • Eh

        I need to remind myself about your second point frequently. My husband comes from a family where his mom did everything for her husband and children. She feels that her husband/sons failing reflect poorly on her so it is her responsibility to do these things. In her opinion this responsibility transferred to her sons’ wives (that is not how me and my SIL feel). So when my husband slips up on something my MIL berates me and says that he’s not good at it so I should do it (social convening and communication with my inlaws are a constant battle). I remind her that he is a grown ass adult and is fully capable of the responsibility. (My husband backs me up on this.)

        • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

          The hands-off approach can be tough. I think I’m lucky in that my husband doesn’t drop the ball very often, and my MIL would never do that. But you still run the risk that your spouse will only have dirty pants to wear, right? For me, it’s a trade off. I’m willing to risk having a husband who occasionally looks unkempt or misses an RSVP deadline for the feeling of partnership it brings to our marriage when I’m not responsible for his stuff.

          Also I’m an obnoxious know-it-all, so an “I told you so” every once in a great while satisfies some sort of primal need for me.

          • Eh

            lol not ‘dirty pants’ – my husband wore pants with a rip down his side seem to my sisters rehearsal supper (my MIL was horrified when we told her this story – in my defence I he was at my dad’s house and came with my dad as I was helping decorate all day). I did assist him by asking my BIL if his mom had any safety pins (then he pinned the rip from the outside which made it look worse so I sent him back to pin it from the inside). He is an adult and dressing himself is something his parents should have taught him a long time ago.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            Hahaha. I can’t remember the exact circumstance, but at some point in the last year, my husband and I were traveling somewhere where he would need to wear a suit for one day. He packed three. When I asked him why he was bringing three suits, he said, “In case I rip out the butt on two.”

          • joanna b.n.

            Touche. Truly it’s on her!!

          • Eh

            When my inlaws go on vacation, my MIL packs for my FIL. She was surprised to hear that my SIL and I don’t pack for her sons. This came up after we went on a trip and I mentioned to my husband that he should pack at least one ‘nice’ outfit (a button down shirt and slacks). He thought it was odd since we were on a very casual vacation. I mentioned that we might go out one night. His mom agreed with me that you should bring at least one nice outfit but then made a comment that it would be easier if I just packed for him.

          • Laura

            My husband was in charge of his own attire for our wedding. He realized on the morning of our wedding that he didn’t have a clean white dress shirt, so he ended up pulling one out of his laundry hamper and ironing it. I still crack up about him wearing a dirty shirt to his own wedding. But that’s on him, not on me!

          • Eenie

            I love this story :) But look! He solved his own problem. How adult of him.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I would suggest communicating with him and asking him what he need to be able to remember, etc. Is it just something that’s not at the top of his brain and he forgets? Would phone reminders help? Does he resent you for reminding him or does he actually find it helpful? You can’t re-wire the way his brain works, so work with it.

      • Violet

        I agree about the re-wiring thing. One thing that works for him as a cue is when he observes AllieKat cleaning, he thinks, “Oh, cleaning!” This can be leveraged. Myself, I hate trying to remember things, so I set out little visual cues as breadcrumbs. For example, I’ll forget to take my allergy pill every morning if I leave it to memory. So the night before, I set it out where I can see it when I wake up. Maybe AllieKat or he can come up with something like that- put the sponge in a funny place or pull the vacuum out the night before.

      • MC

        Ditto this. I have a much better memory than my husband and he actually appreciates (to an extent) when I remind him about things, because he’d rather I remind him than forget and feel bad about it later. So even though for awhile it felt to me like I was “nagging” him, I got used to it because it was helping our household function and he didn’t feel like I was being condescending. And phone reminders have been GREAT, because now I only have to remind him half as much.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Oh totally. I mean, if he doesn’t mind being reminded it might not be such a big deal. If it’s a hardship to do the reminding, maybe there’s another solution in the wings. My husband and I have VERY different ideas of what messy looks like (his messy is fairly neat to me). So he’s learned to just ask me to straighten something up if he think it needs it bc my gauge is totally different. Once he understood that our gauges are different he became ok with reminding me and I’m fine with being reminded. It worked out. After six years lol.

        • joanna b.n.

          Also, how you remind matters. “Hey hun, just wanted to remind you about that task that we talked about last week in case it slipped your mind” feels way different than “Hey, when are you ever going to get around to that task we discussed last week, huh?”

    • Lawyerette510

      A few years ago I told my partner that I hated having to keep on him about things because I didn’t want to be the nagging girlfriend etc and it made me feel like crap etc and he said “but I don’t feel like you’re nagging I take it as a reminder.” That changed a lot for me. Yes he had work to do to be more considerate of my feelings but also I realized the main reason I felt bad for communicating with him about what needed to be done and how we should divide it up was because of societal tropes about the nagging girlfriend/ wife.

    • kate

      we have this issue too and it’s ongoing, but besides what’s been mentioned already, something that has helped was me telling him to take a look around once or twice a week and imagine what might bother me (i’m the tidier one) or even just what *could* be done. doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t have to be the most urgent thing, but look around, find something that needs tidying or cleaning, and do it, for just 10-15 minutes even.
      he’s been pretty good about this so far because he can do it on his own schedule (he works a lot of long/odd hours) and it helps to cut down on the number of tasks i have to manage/remind him of because he’ll knock a couple off each week without me being involved at all.

    • I used to have this problem! Even with a clearly defined list of chores, an agreed up schedule of when to do them, and google calendar with scheduled reminders. Aside from trash and dishes (Which we shared), his cleaning chores just didn’t get done, and I would have to remind him after the agreed upon deadline had passed. And then when they still didn’t get done aftera reminder, I would again ask if he thought he might be able to do it before x day (several days away). It was a big source of frustration for me…

  • Jenny

    Love this! We tackle a lot of these issues in a similar manner. For most of our 11 years together, I was the chief worrier/organizer because it fit my skill set, but we actually experienced a shift a few years ago when I was pregnant with our first kiddo. Being tired all the time suddenly made me a little less reliable, and my husband picked up the slack without complaint.

    Since then, our key to being egalitarian about household management is a shared to do list. We use Wunderlist, so we both have access to it at work, at home, and on our phones. It has been really helpful in keeping us on the same page and helping us work through our daily tasks as a team.

    • emmers

      That’s really interesting– having kids as a reset point.

  • Eenie

    In terms of cleaning/keeping things tidy – You spend less time arguing about how clean and organized the house should be if you just HAVE LESS STUFF. It took me 25 years to figure this out, and I just sent the longest apology to my parents for being such a messy child. This doesn’t solve everything, but it has helped. Get rid of crap you don’t need, assign a place for everything, put things away when you’re done – no exceptions! (KonMari method) It’s no longer me who picks everything up because having an organized house makes me feel rested.

    • Meg Keene

      Less stuff AND a place for everything. We’re pretty good about the less stuff rule (though we need to give away a lot of stuff in our basement right now). But we’ve recently started working on “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” and it’s made a WORLD of difference. When you have a place to put something, it doesn’t end up just anywhere/ it’s easy for whoever to clean it up.

      NOW, if I could just solve the problem of having a toddler who likes to put every possible thing on the floor…. ;)

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        I’ve recently become a fan of the mantra, “Don’t put it down. Put it away.” You know what’s just as easy as setting junk mail on the counter? Setting junk mail in the recycling bin!

        • AP

          Truth! I totally do this. Junk mail in a pile two feet from the trash.

        • Eh

          When my husband moved into my apartment he refused to learn where things belonged. He wouldn’t be able to find something so he would ask me. Instead of getting it for him I would tell him where it was. when we moved to our house he still didn’t want to take responsibility for things having a home. since nothing had a home yet he got into a habit of putting things away. Right now we are working on our mail station.

          • Eenie

            Hahaha, I helped my SO unpack his house while I was visiting him because I hate having boxes out. He thought he wouldn’t be able to find anything because of this. Little did he know that since I organized our old house together, he had already learned “where things went”. I’ve had very few calls asking me where so and so is stored.

          • Eh

            Hahaha My husband does the dishes but I do most of the cooking. Sometimes I have to think ‘if I were A where would I put this?’ And then normally I can find it but sometimes they are in very odd places.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I adopted a minimalist lifestyle about a year ago (or at least a commitment to live this way) and it helps tremendously in this concept. Anytime I want to add something, there must be a place for it. So this way, we only get things we really really want and are willing to make space for. I recently acquired an ice cream maker after months of pondering bc I am particularly minimalist in my kitchen (I do not even have a food processor) and it felt good to have place for it and then our tiny kitchen looks less cluttered. It’s still a work in progress — we are applying this concept to each area in my home slowly but surely.

    • I’m reading Marie Kondo’s book right now. I agree, if you get rid of it, there is less to tidy. Less to stress about. As for when I’ll have the time to toss out my closet, that’s another story. I will likely take much longer than she recommends.

      • Eenie

        I think her method helps. I started just with my clothes and it took me 3 hours. Once everything was on the floor I had to continue. The process for me looked more like: put everything in pile, sort as donate/toss/keep, organize and store, move on to next category. Just don’t fold any laundry for a month like me and half the “pile” is all ready to go :P

      • VKD_Vee

        Kondo’s on my nightstand…. I’ll get there!

    • Caroline

      The less stuff thing is actually sort of amazing. I’ve been learning that this year. We recently have pared down our dishes. Now, we didn’t actually throw anything out (since we still need lots of dishes for hosting big parties), we just put the majority of the dishes in a different cupboard, and in our dish cupboard we left only enough dishes for about two meals. The dishes take SO MUCH less time. We used to spend 1-2 hours a day doing dishes. Now they can all be done in about 30-45 minutes. Because when you run out of forks, you wash a fork. It’s just that we run out of forks much sooner.

      In other areas, we are actually getting rid of stuff (bags and bags to goodwill and to the trash), but for the dishes, where we want them for parties, just putting them up away makes a huge difference. Haven’t actually read Marie Kondo’s book, but it’s on the ipad waiting for me.

    • Yes! I am working on this and plan to work on the KonMari method this summer.

  • Vanessa

    Our current division of labor is fairly one-sided, but (hopefully!) ultimately temporary. I’m working to pay off my debt, so while I’m doing that I’m not paying any rent, utilities (cable, internet, electricity, water etc) and he pays for 95% of dinners out, social events, cabs/uber, vacation costs etc. We split groceries and household items (toilet paper, kleenex, laundry detergent) roughly 1/3 me, 2/3 him. This allows me to concentrate a lot of my income (which is about half the amount he makes) on paying my debt, which is something that will benefit us both long term. The trade off is that I contribute to our household by doing most of the major cleaning. We still each do our own laundry, and we trade off cooking/cleaning up after dinner, but I sweep, vacuum, clean the bathroom and do the house laundry every week. It works pretty well for us, for now, but in the future when my debt is gone we’ve talked about both redistributing duties AND hiring someone to come in once a week (we have a cat and would like to have a dog also but I really can’t stand having visible pet hair in my home).

  • 39bride

    Currently I’m unemployed and my husband works long hours, so during the week almost everything falls to me, both tasks and leadership (he comes home from work completely wrung out, so he needs time to decompress. He’s responsible for trash/recycling and occasionally can help with things as requested. On the weekend he cleans bathrooms and mops, and takes the lead on laundry). At the moment it works very well for us from both a functional and family relationships point of view, and right now I’m focused on raising the young relatives we have custody of, which is a full-time job since they have been neglected and traumatized. But I’m very concerned about what will happen when I go back to work. Having me as a “homemaker” really makes our lives easier and allows for and I don’t see how it gets done if we’re both working. It’s not very egalitarian, but being full-time at home has made me less and less confident that “dual-income, two kids” is compatible with the quality of life the family now enjoys. I know intellectually it is possible, I just can’t see it from where we are right now, and that’s scary.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      I was working half-time for a while last fall and winter. Since I’ve got back to full-time, our house is less clean and there are more chores to do on the weekends. But we’re living with it and working on it. I don’t have any magic tricks for you, just want to say I’ve been there. It’s tough, we don’t have it perfectly figured out yet, but we’re making it work. You’ll make something work for your family too.

    • Kate M

      For us, it is not possible to have things the same with both of us working full time as it is when one of us is full time at home. And it has been tough for me to come to terms with. The trade off is worth it, we decided that together, but when I was home, the house was cleaner, the meals were better and we ate take out far less. With both of us working, we are both more tired, and we both have more to do, but that is the trade off we were willing to make for the additional income. Especially with kids, we have found that it is a constantly shifting balance. But that to me is part of what is different with marriage vs a roommate. It is a partnership that together is working for the good of the whole. And at different times it is going to require more or less from each of the partners involved.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Saying no to micromanaging and lowering standards is really what maintains the peace in our home. My husband is former military who went from crisply folded sheets and a bed from which you could bounce a quarter to being ok with my messy style of folding and a less than pristine living space. I think once we added a kid to the mix, we just stopped taking it all so seriously. I do the cooking and when it’s his turn to cook (which he’s NOT great at by any stretch), I thank him, smile and eat up.

    • Meg Keene

      OH! HOW DID I FORGET SAYING THANK YOU?

      That’s a cardinal rule that I learned from my parents who learned it from a therapist. Thank each other all the time, particularly for obvious day to day stuff. You took out the trash? Thank you. You did the laundry? Thank you. You did a not great job at something you’re trying to learn how to do/ do better at? THANK YOU. Just because it’s someone’s job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constantly express appreciation. I think that’s what makes marriages tick.

      • lady brett

        oh hell yes.

      • ACW

        Yes, yes. We are always saying “I appreciate you” as well. It never gets old to hear, and when I say it, its so very very true.

        • Kayla

          A heartfelt “I know I’ve been really busy, and I appreciate how you are picking up the slack right now,” makes me 88% less upset when I’m doing more than my share.

      • Emily Wenzel

        Yes. Yes. Yes. [Nothing to add but my agreement. I miss the thumbs up/like/agree/whatever-it-was-called thing right now.]

        • Kayla

          Exactly button!

          • Emily Wenzel

            Thank you! The ^ isn’t nearly as satisfying.

      • I had to explain thank you to G. He doesn’t think he needs to be thanked for washing the dishes or mowing the lawn, but i think we both need to be appreciated for our efforts regardless of the outcome (last night’s dinner wasn’t my best). This shit is hard, and with a baby, even harder. Just getting dinner on the table and dishes washed is hard. These things deserve appreciation.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I think it’s nice to know that your efforts toward your family and home are being appreciated and your presence/efforts aren’t being taken for granted. And anything less than a thank you whenever someone prepares food for you is just plain rude in my book.

      • Erin

        Yes!! Being nice and showing appreciation is so important in a relationship!

      • Saying thank you is HUGE. I’m positive that it’s one of the major reasons that we rarely fight about house stuff.

      • Meg

        I always make sure to say thank you to my husband for doing stuff around the house. He actually does the majority of the household work since he’s mostly been temping since moving here. Yesterday he said “You don’t need to say thanks, it’s my apartment too!” and I said “just because it’s your job to do something doesn’t mean you don’t deserve thanks!”

      • Rowany

        Sort of along those lines, my husband and I are A-OK with fishing for compliments. As messy people who have trouble noticing mess, it’s also easy to miss when the mess is gone. So if one of us cleaned up, we don’t get upset if the other didn’t thank us – instead we speak up and say “I cleaned up this morning? Do you like it?” and the other person always shares their appreciation

        • Kate

          SAME HERE! Me: “I cleaned the bathroom this morning, did you notice?” Him: “Yes! Thank you, it looks wonderful!”

        • Sara P

          I do this too! Otherwise I feel like he only notices when things aren’t done and it’s annoying. He always says thank you – it works really well for us.

        • OhNoThereGoesTokyo

          We do this whole sarcastic “bow down to the goddess” dance-like thing after the fishing where the one who didn’t notice goes “Praise seeker, praise seeker” as they circle into the other for some loving and squeezing.

      • Manda9339

        Totally. Along with saying “Thank you” liberally, I try to keep “I’m sorry” within easy reach. I find these are both phrases that quickly get at an emotional truth. “I’m sorry I convinced you to take a not-so-short shortcut. Thank you for driving me,” really means, “I value your time and your effort.” “I’m sorry I snapped at you,” means, “I still love you.” And the more I say it, the easier it is to own up to my mistakes and move on.

        • Lory_mus

          Last year Pope Francis, during a meeting with engaged couples, commented how the secret to a happy marriage lies in 3 words: “sorry”, “please”, and “thank you”.
          It really resonated with me and think it can be appreciated even by non-Catholic couples.

      • JLP

        The NYTimes op ed talks about the author’s husband “fishing for praise” when he’s taken out the garbage and the author does not feel that this act is significant work. I thought exactly this. Thank each other, all the time, for everything. It’s not zero sum measured in who says thank you.

        • Nat

          I also think there is a distinction between appreciation/acknowledgement and praise. I hate being praised on things that I think are not noteworthy, but I do like being appreciated for it.
          When my fiance does the laundry or takes out the garbage I won’t praise him for it because duh, of course he’s capable, but I do make sure I thank him. And he’ll do the same for me.

          • AP

            I think this is an important distinction. “You did such a good job taking out the trash!” is what you say to a six year old doing it for the first time. That’s praise. But “Thanks for always taking out the trash, I love that I never have to worry about it!” is just plain nice to hear. And kindness begets kindness.

      • We’re huge at saying thank you in our house. And one side effect is our toddler now walks around saying “Thank you. I appreciate it.” all the time and it’s the most adorable thing ever.

      • OhNoThereGoesTokyo

        Bam! Exactly this. Gratitude will save your marriage.

  • Emily

    Wow, thank you for writing this–I have to go, but can’t wait to come back and read the comments. All of this describes my life so much –designated worrier (AND often being told to STOP worrying!), list-maker, big-picture watcher, even teacher-appreciation gifts at the last moment!

    I try (and it’s a practice and I sometimes fail) to consciously decide how much energy/worrying I am willing to put into something. Third-grader doesn’t have a snack for school? She might be hungry, but it’s not a long-term or life/death thing. Eighth-grader is habitually lying and skipping classes? I don’t like the road we’re going down and I’m going to put all my energy behind changing it.

    Having said that, there have been times that I’ve put all my energy behind changing something and still not been able to do it. There comes a point where I have to decide whether to keep fighting or let it go for right now (the eighth-grader example was not one of these times; we are getting that changed around).

    When I worry about equality in our marriage I soothe myself by noticing how we both worry, just about different things. I’m not the one setting mouse traps or fixing gutters or taking the sink apart–not that I can’t, but those aren’t my strengths. I am the one watching the calendar and explaining that “google is not a source.”

    I’m looking forward to coming back and reading what you smart women are thinking and doing!

    • Lizzie

      “Google is not a source.” +1

    • kate

      oh man, so much amen to this: “designated worrier (AND often being told to STOP worrying!)”
      that little kernel is often what sets off my resentment even more than tasks that may feel imbalanced – if i don’t worry/track all of this, who exactly is going to do that work then?! so unless by “stop worrying” you mean, “i will do this”, it’s not a helpful reaction.

      • z

        Yes– I actually don’t like the “designated worrier” term. There’s worrying, with all its emotional and anxiety-laden connotations, and then there’s the practical responsibilities of administering a household– two totally different things. The article really conflated them.

        And +1 that saying “stop worrying” doesn’t mean the chores magically get done. My husband often says “don’t worry about it” as a way of dismissing a topic that he doesn’t feel like discussing, and we have a little fight every time he does. Because it’s a very gendered way of emotionalizing dismissing what I’m saying. I’m not “worrying” just because I have a question or want us to make a decision about something. I’m administering.

        • qj

          I like “psychological responsibility” a whole heck of a lot better than “designated worrying.”

        • kate

          YES. exactly, to everything you added.

          the “designated worrier” terminology really came from the NYT article, but i think it would have been more helpful to step away from that here too.

      • Emily

        Once (in counseling) I said to my husband “if I don’t think about X, it won’t get done. If I felt like I wasn’t the only one monitoring it I wouldn’t be so concerned about it.” He got that for me to worry less he had to take some responsibility. It helped our relationship.

        I agree that people telling me to stop worrying isn’t helpful. It’s more helpful to ask me if what I’m worrying about is something in my control/influence.

  • Alice

    Man, micromanaging. I am such a bad micromanager that it’s actually become a joke in our house. Which is a vast improvement to the fights it used to (and occasionally still does) cause. I think the trick is knowing that I’m doing it. Sometimes I’ll correct something the hubby does, and then immediately note that I was micromanaging again. Increasingly, I’ll just see something that bugs me and look away, and hubby will notice that I’m biting my tongue and tease me about it, before listening. It’s hard to keep my mouth shut, but it works most of the time, and when he doesn’t feel confronted about it he actually listens.

    • AP

      I used to be the micromanager in relationships, but I’m slowly letting go of the habit. Mostly because the fiancé is *also* a micromanager, and now that I’ve been on the receiving end of it I get how crappy it feels to not be trusted to be an adult with my own way of doing things. Fiance is very particular about his possessions, largely because he grew up in a family that shows zero respect for other people’s stuff and has had a lot of things ruined over the years by a careless sibling. It has taken him a while to realize that I’m not going to break his camera or wreck his car, that I respect his stuff (translation: respect *him*) and that my intentions are good. He’s getting better though- for instance, a few weeks ago he noticed that I take my engagement ring off and put it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink while I wash dishes. He started to lecture me about not putting it there because it might fall into the sink or get knocked into the trash…and then he noticed the look on my face, stopped himself, and said, “Sorry, love, it’s your ring. You can put it wherever you need to.” That was kind of a major moment for him. I’m taking his cue and letting up on him about the things I care more about- cooking, leaving shoes all over the house, what have you. It’s pretty freeing, actually.

      • emmers

        I love this! The realization!

        And you may be totally fine with the windowsill, but if not, a friend got me a tiny little pottery bowl (maybe the size of 2 quarters).I keep it in the kitchen for ring safe keeping. But if windowsill works, windowsill works!

        • AP

          That’s totally what I was thinking of doing! A little bowl on the windowsill. Compromise FTW!

          • emmers

            I also was randomly given another one for the bathroom. Before getting married, I never even knew what I could use it for, but now it’s like, ring bowl, hell yea! And hell yes, compromisin like a superstar.

      • z

        I had this exact conversation with my husband, except it was about putting his (expensive custom) wedding ring in his jeans pocket and leaving it there, lying on the bedroom floor or in the laundry or whatever, until he remembered to put it on. Eventually I decided to let it go. Guess what? He eventually lost it. Then he lost the replacement. I was hurt that he didn’t care enough to be careful with it. But now he sees the error of his ways!

        • AP

          Yeah, for me it was either leave it on all the time and risk damaging the stone or the prongs, or take it off and risk forgetting where I put it or losing it. It’s a tough call. I’m trying to create some habits like windowsill for washing dishes, night stand for sleeping, etc. The habit is the main thing! I’m sorry your husband lost his. I’d be devastated if anything happened to mine.

          • z

            What I do is buckle it on to my watch strap and put it in my pocket or on my nightstand. Because I’m much less likely to lose something as large and as frequently-checked as a watch. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t wear a watch, so he had to come up with his own system. But it really did make the point that although you may not lose something the first 1000 times you put it in a sub-optimal location, eventually probability will catch up with you.

          • Kate

            What kind of stone shattering dishes do you have?? :) I just never take mine off because I know I’d forget it somewhere.

          • AP

            Lol! For one thing, the stone is an aquamarine, which isn’t as hard as a diamond and is prone to scuffing and scratching. Which is fine, and I fully expect it to do that over time. But it’s still brand new so I’m trying to take care of it:) It also has a high profile so I tend to knock it on things…like the kitchen counter. I also take it off for gardening, at work when I have to wear latex gloves to touch patients (it tears the gloves), and sometimes when I’m cooking/baking.

            I grew up watching my mom and grandma both put their rings on the windowsill when they do the dishes, and nothing bad ever happened to them there, even after all these years. I guess there’s a bit of nostalgia involved for me too:)

          • Kate

            That makes sense, and also, very cute for the nostalgia factor :) I probably should have taken mine off more often, the jeweler noticed that the band on my engagement ring had gone a little oval shaped when they were sizing my wedding ring and asked what I had been doing with it. When I told her ‘playing ultimate frisbee and moving’ she was kind of horrified.

  • Mary Jo TC

    I love every bit of this. I especially love that your one exception to #3 is childbirth and nursing. It’s so true that these gendered expectations are not innate, and I hate when people say they are. Our hack was that like your David, my David changed ALL the diapers while I was nursing. I did input, he did output.

    Thanks for continuing to deliver this kind of stuff, Meg!

  • Rae

    This kind of post is the reason I love APW and read it almost daily. Thanks Meg – you are an inspirational #girlboss and I love your voice and insights on these topics. Another post I’ll be sharing with my fiance and talking about over dinner! :)

  • Kayla

    I know this is a marriage post, not a wedding post, but oh my god this dynamic was the hardest part of wedding planning for me. I made all the to-do lists, and I was the one freaking out when we didn’t meet deadlines, and it drove me insane while my now-husband floated along giving exactly zero fucks about whether we did or didn’t rent the flatware.

    “The amount of attention that must be paid to such details has also
    ballooned in the past few decades…. These demand schlepping, obviously,
    but also have less visible time costs: searching the web for the best
    program, ordering equipment, packing snacks and so on.”

    This is not just about children! This is about researching caterers and figuring out what flowers are in season and suddenly having to care about place settings when you’ve never thought about them before. And hours and hours of research that took so much of my time and so many decisions that caused so much stress but weren’t even visible to my dear husband, and so many fights that started with me saying, “You’re not helping AT ALL and I am DROWNING IN WEDDING WORK” and him saying, “But what are you even working on? How are you spending so much time on this?” Because the thousand decisions that were eating all my brain power were not even on his radar.

    • CK

      Oh I hear you. This is where we are right now. He thinks I don’t trust him to make decisions but it’s more that he doesn’t even know what decisions need to be made.

      • Kayla

        I found myself imploring him to do more research and try to figure stuff out (exactly the way I was figuring it out; it isn’t like I was born with innate knowledge of flower arrangements), and he straight up acted like he forgot how to google. It was so frustrating.

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    • Eenie

      We’re trying to nail down the time frame and location and every time I ask him if he’s thought about it his answer is no. GUESS WHAT – I’m not planning this whole thing by myself. You can’t get through life saying “I don’t care.” Great, decisions still need to be made. So pick one.

      • lady brett
        • Violet

          I love Pierre…

        • Eenie

          I may get that for him as a gift. Pierre and the APW book. Required reading before we continue on this whole wedding conversation.

      • qj

        At some point during planning my partner asked, “Is it more important what decision we make or THAT we make a decision?” It was a brilliant question and helped us moving forward — coupled with us stating our preferences + importance-to-us for things on a 0-10 scale. Turns out we both had LOTS of opinions about things, which sometimes felt as defeating when we didn’t have opinions about anything/didn’t care.

        I had a preference for hydrangeas, but having hydrangeas was about a 1 to me on the important-to-me scale and NOT having them was about an 8 on his important-to-me scale so — we didn’t have hydrangeas. Worked for harder decisions, too.

        • Eenie

          I agree with you. This is a bigger issue than just in the wedding planning but in our relationship. He never tells me his opinion cause he just wants me to be happy. So I make a decision that I don’t care about. Then I find out he actually really wanted to do xyz and feel like a terrible person. I’m trying to use the wedding planning process to help figure this out for real life.

          • qj

            Oooh yes, that is tough. I used to (and sometimes can still be) in a similar boat to your partner: not stating my preference because I want my partner to be happy and then him feeling badly b/c he just made a decision to make a decision and didn’t care that much. The 0-10 thing has been really helpful for me, because there are times when he’ll say, “This is a 0/1/3 to me. If it’s more than a 0/1/3 to you, I’d like to know your input, because otherwise I’ll just make a decision so that it’s done.” And wedding planning IS real life, because real life is happening, but it’s also a good time to work on stuff. We were glad we got to try out stuff in that period before we’d signed the paperwork.Still ongoing projects! Good luck. :)

          • Eenie

            I definitely plan on adding f*cks given columns to our eventual spreadsheet for both of us. It’s just hard for me to imagine that he doesn’t care WHEN or WHAT STATE we get married in. Our families are spread out, we’re living in different states, etc. And I think we need to decide these basic things together. It doesn’t help that we’re not officially engaged yet, but work restraints means the wedding is either in the next year or we wait about three years.

          • z

            Honestly, it sounds like he’s claiming not to care, but actually he is overwhelmed and/or doesn’t want to do the work of figuring out the correct answer. Call him on it!

          • qj

            Sounds like a super column to me. And yes — the basics (i.e. where and in what state) seem like important things to decide together. I’d be curious to know if there’s something behind the “not caring.”

            That said, even though we did most things together + were pretty involved with co-decision making and divide-and-conquer tactics, he was somewhat blasé about the whole venue + booking + picking the state and timing of the wedding. We ended up booking a venue before we were officially engaged (because: time, work, money, corralling family from across the country, venue availability, etc.) b/c I happened to look @ places while visiting family (knowing that it’d be our only shot to see something in person in that location, we’d decided I’d take a peek while there), did some price comparisons to the other spots we’d been thinking about, and called and said: There are two Saturdays between April – September in 2014 that this place that fits our budget and our aesthetic and practical needs are available. I adore this place. We also don’t have to get married there. Do you want one of them? Do you have a better idea? Do you want to do something else? He didn’t have a better idea and mostly wanted to get married, period, and though I wanted to get married, I wanted to get married at this particular kind of venue — so we just went with it. I was bummed that he didn’t seem more excited about the whole thing or have any major input, but when he finally saw the place in the dead of the next winter, he started to get excited and then had all kinds of opinions about hydrangeas and picnics and ties and frisbees and whatnot. And more importantly, vows. :)

          • Alyssa M

            Oooohh… I could be totally off base here, but this reminds me A LOT of my husband because of the “not officially engaged yet” thing. He just did NOT get how much time these things usually take. It wasn’t till I broke down crying because I’d bought his ring and he hadn’t gone shopping yet, that I realized he thought 10 months was a super long engagement. Is he aware of how early these decisions are usually made? Not that you CAN’T plan a wedding in a few months, but it gets a little harder/limits your options. Cause that knowledge can definitely make the difference between an obnoxious conversation you keep bringing up, and a decision that really needs to be made.

          • Eric L Torres

            I’ve been lucky. I’ve had two weddings spontaneously put together

          • Manda9339

            That is frustrating. Decisions with my man often go like this:
            Him: A or B?
            Me: Ummmm, I guess B.

            Him: Are you sure? Because A is really super.
            Me: Sure we can do A, then. I don’t care.
            Him: Oh, whichever you want, Sweetie.
            Me: Do A
            Him: Are you sure?
            Me: Omg, do A before I smash something.
            Him: Okay. I’m really glad we decided on A, cause it really is super.

            It would be better for everyone to put their preferences out in the open.

          • Eenie

            I agree with you! We’re usually both very honest and blunt with communication. Our issue is when he THINKS I care more about something or when neither of us cares about something.

        • kate

          yes, that’s a GENIUS question. my Mr. still has the “but i don’t care about that” response sometimes and we can get unstuck by acknowledging that nobody cares so we just need to pick one and he’s capable of doing that just as much as i am.
          if it’s in the 0-1 f*cks column, choose the easiest thing and pat yourself on the back for completing that task!

    • Enry Iggins

      “How are you spending so much time on this?”
      This has been a huge issue for us as well. Luckily our parents and friends have been enthusiastic and excited to help, and I had time to work through the planning at a leisurely pace, because he absolutely does not recognize this wedding as work. He perceives the whole thing as a tired topic of conversation that I’m making needlessly complicated.

    • kate

      YEP. this has been a big struggle as we get closer to the final push, but throughout our various fights and conversations, i’ve had the realization that some of the things i’m spending so much time on and feeling resentful about are truly things he does not care about at all (say, a ceremony backdrop) AND truly do not matter to the actual ending up married part.
      so i think too, valuing your partner’s priorities and evaluating when you’re willing to take on the work yourself for things they don’t prioritize is a necessary self-reflection. there’s an element of teamwork here where we both are working on things that may be less important to us individually just because that’s part of the deal, but it doesn’t necessarily include some of the tasks i’ve been needlessly stressing over, such as the backdrop. so my new tack is to focus our shared efforts on things that actually are necessary, such as making sure there will be plates and silverware. either he can do it and free me up to work on something pretty and unnecessary or we do it together and forget about the unnecessary pretty. we’re still in the thick of it, but this approach has granted me a lot of perspective and less stress so far.

      • Kayla

        The ceremony backdrop! I am sure this is a thing created by Pinterest for no reason other than to punish brides and increase sales of gauzy fabric and/or paper umbrellas.

        I do wish I’d listened to poor husband when he was insisting that a ceremony backdrop was not a real thing we needed. I made one, and I wish I hadn’t. It was so much work, and it looked sort of silly. Husband does sometimes have a point.

        • kate

          ha! that’s helpful to know. i’m not quite at do or die point for it yet time-wise, but i AM starting to wonder if it’ll just look silly instead of stylish and awesome like all the pinterest (and APW) ones anyway. in the end, what i HAVE decided is, Mr doesn’t have to do anything about it and that’s ok. if it’s gonna happen, it’ll be my labor of love (and hopefully not ugliness).

        • Ashlah

          Ha, the same thing happened to me. A tedious project that didn’t look so hot in the end. It would have looked great if not for the stupid wind! I’ve been trying to come up with a way to re-use it as decor in our home to make it more worthwhile.

    • Missy

      Early on in wedding planning I could see us both navigating how to handle all of the moving parts of wedding planning. I struggled to balance my type-A tendancy to do everything myself while also REALLY hoping that my fiancé would magically become interested and WANT to help. Most check ins were ending in tears (from both of us) and I just didn’t feel good about it. From there, Wedding Meeting was born. Every few weeks, we would plan to get breakfast together at a local coffee shop. I would tote the the laptop and notebooks to the coffee shop and after we ate and chatted, we would discuss all of the current parts of the process. We would use the time to report what we’ve done independently, ask questions, talk about preferences, etc. By the end, we would each make our own list of things to get done by next Wedding Meeting. The process wasn’t perfect but it was significant in us learning to communicate with each other. I think the trick was that it was always on neutral ground and in public so we were conscious of being kind and listening to each other. In my vows, I wrote “as wedding meeting turns into family meeting…” because this totally feels like our way of touching base about important things and working to maintain a sense of team in our marriage.

  • Bsquillo

    I’m glad that you mentioned #1- that’s typically the way it works in our house too. I was brought up with way more cooking and grocery shopping skills than my husband (read: he has almost none), and have a much more sensitive digestive system than him, so I take on the bulk of shopping, meal planning, and cooking. I used to worry that the cooking duties weren’t equal enough, and even tried for a short time to teach him to cook against his will, but then I realized my husband is good at lots of other things around the house that I rarely do.

    That’s why I haven’t related as much to recent posts about trying to make dinner more egalitarian; for us, dinner certainly isn’t, but we make up for it by dividing up and assigning the rest of the household tasks. Whatever works, works!

  • Joy

    We’re figuring this out. For a lot of the beginning of our marriage I was looking for work, which meant I was home all the time while my husband worked. I did all the household chores /cooking /planning/shopping /everything- It made me feel productive and it felt fair. Now I have a job that requires more hours and so we’ve tried to split the tasks so they get done and not all by me. It’s not going perfectly. He does dishes everyday during the week but he wants a break on weekends so I do them then but I never get a break from meal planning and cooking. He’ll go shopping with me of I insist but it’s me making the lists, planning the meals etc.. He’ll vacuum and dust and tidy but he won’t clean the bathroom or the kitchen (because he doesn’t like to- as if I do!?) I don’t know I find it a bit irritating that he gets a break but I don’t, he gets to say no to tasks and I don’t. Lots to work on.

    • emmers

      Can you have “nights off” for meal planning over the weekend? It might mean going out to eat, or eating freezer pizza. We do that, mainly because I also need a break meal planning.

      • Joy

        Yeah I’m gonna have to talk to him about it more. I just have a weird guilt about it. Like I should be able to do it all, and such. I know women who do and I feel a bit of a failure for not being able to/not wanting to.

    • What would happen if you took a break or said no?
      Just wondering if this is problem is self-imposed, or if he would actually object if you took a break.

      • Joy

        I do occasionally take a break, the difference is, when he takes a break I pick up the slack and so it still gets done, and when I take a break it doesn’t get done. Which OK, is sometimes fine- toilet doesn’t get cleaned one week- we’ll it’ll get cleaned the next, but sometimes isn’t fine- no clean work shirts, no dinner, no lunches packed for work.

        • Girl. I feel you. My ex and I had a similar issue with household chores. We got into the (bad) habit of me doing both of our laundry all the time, and other chores as well. This worked okay until we moved to a place with a sh*tty old-fashioned washing machine that took literally 2-3 hours to complete a full cycle. So, I didn’t do laundry so much anymore.

          Ex got really upset when he had no clean underwear. And it pissed me off that he expected me to do it. The therapist I was seeing at the time told me to stop doing his laundry – just do my own. And stop helping him in other ways too. He needed to learn to iron his own shirts, make dinner sometimes, etc.

          Following the therapist’s advice really helped. Ex was upset at first, but that wasn’t my problem, and eventually he learned to deal on his own. And i had more time to take care of myself.

          If you’re up for advice, I would suggest enacting a similar plan. Take care of the chores that just affect you: make your own lunch, clean your own clothes, make dinner that you want. There may be a difficult learning curve, but he needs to learn how to do this stuff if you want the dynamic to change.

    • Kate

      Do you think that compiling a list of easy meals that your husband can choose from, complete with the groceries required, would ease some of the burden from you when you want a night off from meal planning? Personally I wouldn’t want to do the dishes every day either, so maybe he needs an alternate way to help out.

      • z

        That’s totally what I would call “parenting your spouse”. A list of easy meals is what you leave a 12-year-old for when you have to work late. Not for a grown man. Let him forage, it’s the only way he’ll learn.

        • Kate

          Ah I totally disagree. I think it’s more empowering your spouse to make the decisions that need to be made.

          • emmers

            Yea, different people are good at different things. Like, I am not going to maintain the lawnmower. But if my husband tells me that I should check the gas before mowing, and here’s an easy way to check the oil after x number of mows, then that I can do. So I’m all for helping out to make sure a chore gets done.

    • z

      You could announce that you want a break from cooking, so that means he gets to cook.

      Surprise, there is no Break Fairy to come in and do your chores for you! Kind of like the I Lose My Motivation When You Nag/Micromanage Fairy. Doesn’t exist!

  • Sparkles

    I’m in search of some advice in response to number 2. We have a VERY traditional division of household labour. I’m a stay-at-home-mom (formerly stay-at-home-wife), although if we’re getting technical about it, I’m going to call myself a farmer, because he wouldn’t be able to do what he does without me doing my thing, but I digress.

    I’m not very organized about household maintenance. I’ve been working on it for a few years now and it’s going to be a long haul, but I really really wish my partner would do ONE chore. It just feels like I’m an employee in my house if he does nothing to help out on a regular basis. I’ve tried several different chores that I thought would suit his schedule and abilities and he just doesn’t do them. There is a huge pile of trash in my basement because he doesn’t take out the trash, and it used to be dishes and that just got disgusting.

    I’ve tried having rational discussions, I’ve tried politely asking, I’ve told him that I want some help so it feels like he’s a member of the household, not just a pay check. I’ve tried letting it go. So many things. And I’m at a loss. Because to me, him having one regular chore would make my life feel a lot more egalitarian, in a small way, and it’s not happening, which leaves me as the nagging wife asking and asking for this thing to be done. I really don’t mind reminding him to pick up his socks, or move his apple cores. But I really really wish he would take responsibility for one thing. If anyone has any thoughts, I’d be delighted to hear them.

    • Kate M

      I would suggest that you put it more in terms of your relationship. This is not about the chore, this is about how you each view your relationship. If you are asking him something that is very important to you, and has been couched in those terms, he should be willing to step up. Especially since you do have children, and it is important for them to see dad pitching in, it is about the family working together, and not gender roles.

      • emmers

        Yes. I would do this too, because this sounds so serious, since it’s such a long term thing. I would try to communicate that this is a big.deal., maybe even in ways that you haven’t before. Like, “I really think we need to get counseling about this if we can’t figure out, because it hurts me that much.”

    • Kate

      I might be projecting my own thoughts here, but
      have you thought about framing it as teaching your child(ren) about the
      importance of sharing household work? If you read through a lot of these
      comments, it seems that how parents divided work have an impact on how children
      enter their future relationships – no big surprise there. But maybe if you said
      something like, it’s important to me for our children to understand that it is
      not just a woman’s responsibility to take care of the home, and I need help
      modeling that behavior.

      (Kate M just posted her response before mine…apparently Kates think alike)

    • z

      Is it that you ask him and he says yes and then never does it? Or when you ask him, does he outright say no?

      • Sparkles

        Oh, he’s super willing to help out, it’s just that he doesn’t do it on a regular basis. I’ve been working really hard on being really straightforward and clear in my requests, because when I get upset things get done, but it just makes me feel icky. So I ask him, can you please take out the garbage, and he says yes, and he stashes it in the basement where he passes it every day and then it doesn’t go anywhere. He never says no to a reasonable request and he thinks (very rightly) that my request for help is reasonable.

        • Emma

          I wonder if he just needs a better system to get it done? For example, right now I’m training for a 10k and I have a training schedule on the fridge and I get a big star on every workout I do. It motivates me (I want those stars! What if people come over and I’m missing half the stars??) AND reminds to get it done. It seems like the problem is not that he doesn’t understand why it’s important/doesn’t want to help, but he might need a system for the push to do it (without the push being you get upset because no fun for anyone).

    • Caroline

      The most helpful couple’s therapy session we ever had was over the dishes. My husband (who is the dish-doer) talked about how he needed me to do them sometimes, and I talked about obstacles to doing them, and we talked about ways to make it work.

      It sounds like your husband is not hearing you that this is really important to you on an emotional level. I think couple’s therapy can be a really helpful tool for working through those issues where one person is just not hearing the other person. I wouldn’t approach it as if therapy is a bad thing, (because therapy is AWESOME and not just for couples who are on the brink of divorce, but helpful for anyone who is having a hard time communicating about something), but as a tool to help you communicate better, which is what it is.

  • I’m not sure how long this will last, but since having a baby 5 months ago, my husband has really stepped up. We agree that taking the baby to the grocery store is just an unnecessary pain in the ass, so he ends up doing some of that, which he never did before. We discuss, sort and do laundry nearly daily because we have his uniforms, baby clothes, my stuff and towels. Basically the new thing is that because now there is sooo much more to do, we both discuss and try to step it up. He knows I can’t make (or eat) dinner with a baby attached to my boob, so we discuss and figure it out. We both have a little more planning going on in order to get just some of the things done that we’d like to, knowing that we’ll never get it all done. It’s been so much better in that sense, I think because I would collapse, starving, in a heap of laundry, dirty dishes and filth if he didn’t help me. If he didn’t help me, I would no longer be able to help myself.

  • Caroline

    For us, part of figuring out an egalitarian balance has also been to recognize different types of work. My husband does ALL the laundry and dishes and most of the cooking. (I actually like cooking, but it was a habit we fell into when he was unemployed).
    For a while, there was a lot of issues over him doing all the chores but we’ve (okay, maybe I) recently realized we both do chores, just different ones. I do the deep cleaning of the bathroom, the cleaning the bedroom, and especially, the decluttering that makes the house easier to clean. We’ve cleaned the house up a lot lately, so that’s been more noticeable. I keep the household schedule and the couples todo lists. I plan the vacations. I am definitely the “designated worrier”. It’s still work, just a different kind.

  • Laura

    For those who feel like their partner “just doesn’t know how to clean properly”: I realized that our problem is not that one of us has higher standards per se, but that we just have different standards. To me, a clean bathroom means getting all of the stupid hair out of the corners. That doesn’t irk my husband; he gets worked up about the faucets not being polished, which wouldn’t notice even if they were caked with gunk.

    Our solution (for now)? We alternate cleaning responsibilities. One week is sweeping/mopping/vacuuming, the other week is cleaning the bathroom. That way everything is cleaned to our personal specifications every two weeks. And the person can fulfill his/her cleaning responsibility whenever during the week seems best, as long as it gets done. Cuts way down on the nagging and arguments about cleanliness.

  • JLP

    Thank you for this. I’m at T-12 on the wedding clock, stressed, anxious, coping with end-of-semester bureaucracy as a PhD student, and drowning in housework this week. I read the article in bed next to my partner and found myself getting more and more depressed and discouraged. Maybe all the talking and work we had put in would be for naught. The gender essentialism felt inescapable. Talking to my partner about this article felt like it would inevitably start a fight. This blog post tempers a lot of that with some sanity (and helpful action!) and I really needed it today.

  • joanna b.n.

    List maker, here. I appreciated that you pointed out that this one isn’t necessarily gender-related, even though in my marriage it falls along gender lines. I’m super list-y, but so is my dad (hmm, wonder where I got it!). It actually helps me feel less ragey to realize it’s playing to strengths for us (it truly is) vs. a gender role playing out.

    Also, in terms of dividing up chores – we finally just decided that outside of the kitchen, we split chores by floor in our apartment. I do the main floor – vaccuuming and dusting and he does the bedrooms/bathroom. Oh, and yes, I totally got the better deal, thanks for asking. :) But see, I’m the listmaker, so it’s ok.

  • Alison O

    Such a good and needed post…which I guess is obvious based on the number of comments.

    I, too, am the designated worrier. My partner is a non-noticer of tasks to done and also has hilariously bad fine visual/motor skills. He requested that I delegate to him–i.e. he wants to be “nagged,” so to speak. Which, great, it’s not that he’s unwilling. However, being the taskmaster does not make me feel sexy. And, my sexual orientation is not “taskrabbit”, so I don’t care for him in that role, either. I feel like his mom or his teacher, even when the delegation is done in the most “we’re partners” way possible in terms of language, etc. I like taking on caregiving and teaching roles with a partner to some degree, but it’s a delicate balance that we’re still working on.

  • Marie

    Meg, out of curiosity, why are you highlighting the big tip you give the cleaners? Do you hire them independently? Or, is their hourly wage paid by the company insufficient/below a living wage? Just wondering why it’s pointed out specifically.

    I have a weekly cleaner and it was important to me to pay them a living wage, as well as assist in other ways where possible. Wondering if this is your thinking as well — but it stood out to me since it was specifically noted in your piece.

    Thanks!

  • Emma

    This was my number one worry before we moved in together last summer. I actually posted about it on happy hour! I grew up doing chores and helping around the house and learned to budget in high school because I had to pay for all my stuff with summer jobs. He…didn’t. Turns out the perk to me working super long hours as a teacher is that he way steps up and actually does way more than I do around the house. That being said, I do still have the “designated worrier” role. I don’t like that it’s following gender norms, but I do like keeping the lists and managing the bills and keeping the household running. One of those times I wonder if it’s socialization or “really” who I am, and if it is socialization does that mean I shouldn’t like it or should stop doing something I like?

    • Eh

      Your husband sounds a lot like my husband (didn’t do chores or learn about budgeting). I am glad to hear he helps out (mine does too).

      I would say if you like it and it doesn’t mean you are doing more work than you feel is fair, then it’s not a problem. (When not pregnant) I do most of the cooking and laundry which are both ‘women’s work’ but I like cooking and I don’t mind laundry (the idea of messing up laundry – specifically my clothes – causes my husband stress). On the other hand, being the designated worrier in our relationship does cause me stress. We live close to my inlaws and far from my family. My husband needs two weeks notice to book a day off so I have to be organized enough to find out plans with his family for holidays so he has enough time to book the day off. A few months ago we decided that I would not be social convener with his family (it was stressing me out too much for many reasons including that they refuse to make plans even knowing that he needs two weeks notice) and since they refuse to respect that he needs two weeks notice we have put our foot down about making plans with less than two weeks notice. I still need to remind my husband of upcoming events (I write the dates of upcoming holidays and bdays on his white board) but he deals with his family. I am still the designated worrier but I am a lot less stressed (I feel no responsibility if my husband and his family can’t work out when plans).

      • Emma

        That seems like a great compromise! Our compromise is that summer is coming soon :)

  • Oooh good question. Our struggles: He’s a fantastic cook and I’m terrible, so that’s easy. I guess for us cleaning has always been the sticking point. We have very diff standards based on how we were raised (just visit our parents’ houses to see this first hand). Lately things have been both harder and easier on that front – we’re now living in a bigger house with flatmates, and our lives have both gotten a lot busier, especially his. As the main income earner, the woman, the person with higher clean standards and sometimes the person with more free time, it’s really important to me that I don’t just take it all on by default.

  • So, I just started reading the article and I realized in the first paragraph that I had mis-read the title. I read “The Designated Warrior”…..which TOTALLY made sense to me because this is APW afterall. Now, off to read the post!

  • Anna

    Yeah, FH’s mother (who I love, by the way) never taught him how to cook, which I sort of understand because knowing him, he was probably a huge pain in the kitchen growing up… but now he doesn’t want to be taught how to cook because he’s terrified of the stove and oven. The heat freaks him out. I absolutely love cooking, it’s one of my favorite things to do, so I normally do all the cooking – but this combined with his complete disinterest in learning to cook means that if I’m ever out of town or busy he’ll eat frozen food or go out every night. And I’m sure when we’re in the process of having kids there will be more nights when I am present but unable to cook, and I’m not going to want to eat frozen food or takeout every night. So here’s the one-step-further-back question: how do I convince him to learn in the first place, independent of the method of teaching I then use? (I’m hoping that the prospect of babies – which we’re planning to have pretty soon after marriage – will motivate him, since he’s completely enchanted by the idea of caring for our future children.)

    I’ll probably always be the primary breadwinner salary-wise, but while simultaneously working less/more flexible hours than he does (I’m a programmer, he’s a high school math teacher); plus even though there are plenty of chores I dislike, I tend to hate them less than he does (e.g., dishes – I don’t always feel like spending the time on them, but he actively freaks out about the pruny fingers/partly eaten food getting on his hands) so I feel like I’m going to be very vulnerable to the second-shift problem once we’re actually married. We’ve lived together on and off, but never for more than a few months at a stretch… so while it’s always worked fairly harmoniously in practice, it has involved me taking on more of those chores that neither of us is excited about, and I’m not sure whether I’d be as okay with it long-term as I am when it’s only for four months.

    • Wearing gloves to do dishes solves the gross food problem and the finger problem so well! I always wear them because touching sponges is something that I really really hate, but I still have to wash dishes, so if I wear dishwashing gloves, then I don’t have to feel any of those issues. (Plus, then you can run the water super hot which I feel like helps get them cleaner.) Get him dishwashing gloves! I don’t know why more people don’t use them, because they solve almost all of my dishwashing troubles (besides the I’d-rather-watch-tv-or-be-lazy problem that currently is inhibiting my dishwashing).

    • Ashlah

      Honestly, coming from someone who also was not taught to cook, and is struggling to force myself to learn, he probably has to get over that stuff just by forcing himself to do it. I don’t think you can teach him not to be worried about the heat, but he’ll get more comfortable as he is exposed to it (and becomes more confident in his skills). As far as getting him to actually do that, it sounds like parenthood will be a great motivator for him to start trying. It might also be worth a conversation where you tell him that it’s very important to you that he be just as capable at preparing a simple meal as you. (If you actually feel this way) tell him you feel unfair pressure as the only one able to feed your family, when it should be a more equal task. You could even go full morbid about it: What would he do (especially if you have a child), if something happened to you? It’s a life skill he should have.

      I don’t have the same fear of heat that he’s got going on, but I have confidence issues that make it really scary for me to try new things (being told I was a “gifted” child has made it hard for me to accept being bad at things as an adult…). We haven’t gotten that far yet, but I can comfortably do a lot of the prep work and be kind of a helping hand at the stove. I’m slowly getting more comfortable with the actual cooking aspect of it, but I know that I just need to start doing it in order to learn it. Having a child is a motivator for me too. Good luck to you and your husband! Mine assures me he doesn’t mind cooking all the time, but I know he’d prefer I take over once in a while, and I’m sure you’d appreciate a break too.

      • Anna

        There’s a definite former gifted child thing going on for him, too. Everything up to high school was always effortless for him, college hit and was actually difficult, and since then he’s been wary of trying new things because he doesn’t want to fail at them :-/

        • Emma

          This is super late, but look into growth vs fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, you think that you are either smart and get it right, or your stupid and get it wrong. With a growth mindset, you see a mistake as an opportunity to learn. A lot of times schools encourage fixed mindset without realizing it. It’s never too late to change your mindset!

    • Rowany

      As the non-breadwinner and also chore-ignorant person (also a gifted student; was actively discouraged by mom to help out around the house in order to give me more time for studying), I think investing some money that makes it easier for him do chores independent of your help/teaching would be best. Examples: fancy dishwasher (omg we just got one and it’s SO nice); rice cooker + slow cooker (you can make thousands of delicious meals without touching anything hot in these two things); cooking lessons; robot vacuum. Maybe a nice blender/immersion blender to help him make soups. I think if you start him doing chores that work around his fears and with his innate preferences, he’ll gain confidence and start getting more advanced on his own without you. Or at the very least, he’ll be doing better than providing frozen food or takeout every night.

  • soothingoceansounds

    This is all awesome advice. Re: being the keeper of lists – this year my husband abd I found Wunderlist, an iOS app that lets us sync & share multiple lists. It’s been a total game changer, esp. since having a 10 month old means we don’t do shopping together much anymore. We use it for meal planning, too, which is a process still in its nascent stages but showing promise.

  • I call this being the chief planner, not worrier, because I’m not really “worrying” about most of these things, just organizing what needs done for various buckets of our lives (house, social, etc.). But still, yes, the mental energy involved that my husband just does not understand, ugh. I’m also more of a doer in general. Like, we’ve been needing to research/order/schedule delivery on gravel for our drive and mulch for the beds in the yard for WEEKS, and I’d delegated that to him, and finally today I just did it because I’m done with having it take up space in my brain. I try not to get upset, because I AM better at this stuff than him, and also have a more flexible job and shorter work day and commute, but maaaaaan I just want him to realize how much this is like additional chore time.

  • JAS

    Admittedly I haven’t read all 300+ comments, but I just wanted to plug an app that changed my relationship in uncounted ways for the better: WorkFlowy. It’s essentially a list program. My partner and I share lists: a grocery list, a to do list, a that looks like a cool restaurant we should eat there list, etc. No longer am I the designated list holder/knower. You’ve got a phone, you’ve got the list. Honey what do we need at the store? It’s on the list. NEITHER of us asks what’s on the list because we’re now both responsible for it.

    • Ashlah

      This sounds like a genius replacement to the refrigerator white board!

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com

    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com

    ).

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about med too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ).

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love mce and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ).

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future hucsband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com
    ).

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