On Men and Housework

I come from a traditional English family. My mom didn’t work when we were little; she was wholly responsible for the running of our household. She did all the childcare; she did all the grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. My dad worked very hard in his job and looked after the yard and other ‘man’s work’.

After I went to school, my mother set up her own business, with a friend. They were self-employed, dedicated, and she showed me that I could do anything I wanted to. By the time I was in my teens, she was working a full-time job, and she was good at it. And she did have ‘help’—we had a cleaner, an ironing lady, and a gardener. But it was still assumed that as the woman, she was totally in charge of it all, and these people were ‘helping’ her out, rather than helping the family out.

I’m not criticizing my parents in the least. My mother is an inspiration to me as a workingwoman who put her family first. They were amazing parents; I had the happiest of happy childhoods. They were following the social norms. But as I moved out on my own, it struck me that my mum (and, I often think, her generation) had, in a way, been tricked. They had been expected to give up work to have the kids, and, as a part of that, had taken on everything at home. Then, when the children started to grow, and they ended up working full-time, they were still expected to do all those household tasks, just like before.

I was sent to a girls’ school, primarily because of the quality of the education. In some ways it was what you imagine an English girls’ school to be like. We were always addressed as ‘Girls!’, by the very upright teachers, who sported tweed skirts and wore their hair like Princess Anne. I didn’t notice it at first, but once our class turned sixteen, we were suddenly referred to as ‘Ladies’ as if a mystical transformation had happened in the space of the eight-week summer break.

I was taught Chaucer and Shakespeare, I studied algebra and trigonometry. The education really was first class. But also, during school hours, we were taught other things. I remember a one-hour lesson on how to apply make-up. We had a tutorial on how to pluck eyebrows so you looked neither angry, nor permanently surprised. Because we were expected to go far in our careers, we were taught how to shake hands with conviction at a job interview—by a serving British Army Officer, no less. We were shown how to take a suit jacket off during a meeting without straining the shirt buttons across our chest. I received instruction on how to get out of a car in a skirt without allowing anyone to see anything I didn’t want them to see (imagine one hundred seventeen year-old ladies in a school hall, sitting on chairs in imaginary cars, perfecting the ‘closed-leg swivel’. I could definitely teach Britney a thing or two).

But although all this ‘training’ seems out-dated, the overall theme of my education was simple: You Can Do Anything. I had no doubt, and I still don’t, that I can be anything I want to be. Ok, maybe my chance at being part of the pro-tennis tour is behind me, and I’ll never be President of the US by virtue of my birthplace. But if I wanted to be Prime Minister, and I worked hard, I think I could do it. When I wanted to launch my own business I knew I could. I didn’t need anyone’s permission. And a man was definitely optional.

So my education, though seemingly very traditional, was actually quite feminist. And I decided that I would do things differently from how my parents had done it.

When it came to looking for love, I was picky. I was confident, independent, self-sufficient. I had no doubt that, if I didn’t meet the right person, I could live a perfectly happy, productive, and fulfilled life on my own. So when I eventually did fall in love, I was equally surprised, and practical. I had expectations, both of myself and my boyfriend, and if they weren’t met, well, he simply wasn’t the man for me.

Six or seven years into our relationship, he got down on one knee (see above, about my being rather traditional) and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes. (Admittedly after a little confusion, including, ‘What are you doing down on the floor? Are you looking for a contact lens?’)

We started to look for a house together. And right on schedule, out came my practical side.

I explained that I would not assume responsibility for the running of the household simply by virtue of being born with a uterus. I said that before we lived together, we needed to sort out who would be doing what at home. I did not want housework to be a source of arguments, nor, which is worse, did I want to spend my life nagging him to ‘help’ around the house. (Hint: it’s not ‘helping’. Cleaning up, cooking, and doing laundry is not helping, it is simply ‘living life’.)

We set about dividing the tasks necessary to run a household. I enjoy cooking, so I volunteered for that. I’m not so keen on grocery shopping, but since I was going to use the ingredients, and knew what I would need, it made sense that I shopped for them. My husband enjoyed cleaning. Perhaps not so much the act of it, but the satisfaction of a job well done, and the gleaming kitchen afterwards. So he was to take on all cleaning.

Other household chores were divided up by who wanted to do what. No account was taken of gender, although we did look at who worked longer hours outside the home, and apportioned other work fairly so that neither of us felt overburdened.

We are lucky in that we enjoy opposite tasks, but of course there were a few jobs that we both vehemently didn’t want to do. The main source of tension was changing the bed linen. We both dreaded doing it when we lived separately. Finally, we agreed we would do it together. We now have a system for it that is quick, and dare I say, quite fun.

We don’t argue about whose turn it is to do what, because we both know. He doesn’t always clean to a standard I would like, but if I mention the windows look dirty, he’s on it. Similarly, if I’m feeling tired, he might get cereal for dinner, and I apologize, not because I am here to serve him, but because I’ve let the team down, just a little.

We’re not overly rigid about it—if I’m wiped out, he’ll boil us some pasta and mix it with sauce; if he’s having a bad week and I can see the bathroom needs a wipe, I’ll do it. But I love knowing I’ll never have to clean another sink unless I feel like it, and he enjoys never having to think, ‘what am I going to make for dinner?!’

I think the key to implementing this was that we did it before we lived together. I set the expectation that the running of a household is the responsibility of all who enjoy its benefits. And as our circumstances change, I’m sure we’ll reassess our arrangements.

My friends tell me I’m ‘lucky’ and that, ‘he’s a keeper!’.

But actually, luck had nothing to do with it.

Had he objected, I guess he just wouldn’t have been the man for me.

Photo by: Jessica Schilling Photography 

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  • Stephanie

    “I set the expectation that the running of a household is the responsibility of all who enjoy its benefits.”

    Yes, exactly. My fiance and I are on the same page with this. Great article; thanks for sharing.

  • Sunny
  • Chores have definitely cycled around at my household, and we try to adjust them around schedules. Right now, Bunny works a freelance gig on top of his day job so I just have more time in the day and end up doing more of the everyday/must be done type chores. But he kicks in more than his share, and there have definitely been times where he’s done way more in the chore department than me.

    I like the idea of dividing up chores and sticking with that division. I’m not sure it would work for us, but I’m really glad to hear it’s working for you!

  • Amy March

    Burning question: how does one remove a suit jacket in a meeting without straining the buttons across one’s bosom? #whydidlawschoolteachmenothinguseful

    • Jess

      I was taught this at my American Catholic (co-ed) school in one of our few classes that was all girls. It involves dropping the shoulders down and a little forward to get them out rather than pulling them back. I could show you but I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. I don’t have it quite mastered anymore as I am 50lbs and 3 cup sizes bigger than when I was in high school, so there’s a lot more straining than before.

      I was also taught the skirt/car trick and got all fuddy old nun when Brittany had her vagoo all over TV.

      I hated the nuns when I was in school, but once I got out into the real world I realized I was heads and tails above the majority of my peers because of all their strictness…Like when a colleague busted her buttons taking off a suit jacket in seminar!

    • Yes! This! I went to a women’s college and I’m sad there was no class on getting out of cars. I always fail at that.

    • SLG

      Yes! I was riding in the back seat of a possible-future-boss’s car yesterday, and we pulled up into her sloped driveway… and let’s just say my exit from that car was inelegant.

      I realize this topic doesn’t fall under “practical wedding” or “reclaiming wife,” so it might not be covered here, but does anyone know of a good source to learn all this useful “proper comportment” stuff? I know how to set a table and which fork to use (thanks, Dad), but the taking-off-a-suit-jacket thing makes me very curious.

      • Getting out of a car gracefully is SO practical wedding.
        I did it badly at my wedding, it was so awkward and I cringe looking back at the photos of it – I was always looking down, and I just look unco-ordinated!

    • Alexandra

      Honestly, I’m more curious how women were trying to take off their suit jackets that ended up in straining it… My best conclusion has come down to the fact that I have such terrible posture, I start with my shoulders dropped down and to the front.

      On the other hand, plucking eyebrows would be an amazing class. Why don’t they teach this stuff normally? Even just a course on how to file taxes, or manage personal finances would be so much more helpful than knowing the difference between Miosis and Mitosis.

  • Class of 1980

    My mom is in her 70’s now. Mom worked in the early years of her first marriage in the late 1950’s. In fact, she was the sole breadwinner for a while. Then she stayed home with us, returning to work when I was in high school.

    My dad definitely expected her to continue doing all the housework and cooking. He did virtually nothing, nor did he suggest outside help. I always thought he was a jerk, especially since he had tons of days off in his job and she had none.

    I’ve said it a thousand times here, but I’ll say it again … I will never understand why men got away with no housework in the days when they were sole providers, but women are expected to do a double shift.

    If there’s one pet peeve I have, it’s this one. I firmly believe that when one person takes on ALL the responsibility of running the household, their career suffers in comparison to their partner. That’s because running a household can be a career in itself.

    If you WANT to run the household, then choose it consciously, not unconsciously. It can be rewarding in it’s own right, and some of the most influential people in my life were dedicated housewives.

    But if you work full-time and take ALL the responsibility, be prepared to put your job on the back burner compared to your spouse. A study was done that showed that people spending more than a few hours on housework per week actually made less money!

    Boy, can you tell this post hit a nerve? ;)

    Hayley, I congratulate you. You nailed it.

    • Kara

      I never understood all that either and it seems grossly unfair. However, I have routinely seen my grandparents (both sets are now in their late 80s/90s) routinely help one another. While my grandmothers “run the household,” my grandfathers routinely pitch in with “stuff” – particularly now that they’re all getting a bit older/less capable. I think, honestly, it’s because they love and respect each other enough that they pay attention to one other. It’s a great example to me and my husband (and cousins and siblings) – especially since we have so many examples of the other in our lives.

      My husband and I tag team at the moment, with many tasks done cooperatively. Sometimes he has bad days, sometimes I do. We don’t seem to be keeping score yet though. That said, right now, we have a 2x/month cleaner, and a lawn guy. It lets us focus on the big stuff.

      • Class of 1980

        Well, like I said, my dad was a selfish jerk.

        Mom married a second time and it’s been far more equitable. I think she still does more inside the house, but her husband does incredible stuff outside like MAJOR gardening and building structures. He never stops.

        I don’t care who does what, but if one person has all the free time in the world, while the other is frantically keeping everything together, something is wrong.

        That said, my dad had to change his ways when he remarried. He started running the vacuum, doing laundry, and does all the yard/pool maintenance.

        • Kara

          Evens out cosmically, I guess! I’m glad your mom’s second round has worked out so much better.

          • Class of 1980

            Thank you. Me too!

  • charmcityvixen

    I am emailing this post to my fiance because this is the way our house is set up too. I do the cooking and grocery shopping and he does the majority of the cleaning. It works for us for right now — and I think we will probably reevaluate our system as time goes on. He gets very busy (he is going back to school), so I will probably eventually have to take on more of the cleaning.

    Our biggest thing is love doesn’t keep score — some weeks are hard, and if I have ordered Chipotle or chinese carry out instead of cooking, it’s not a big deal. If our kitchen is a disaster because he hasn’t had time to wash the dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher and I like to cook from scratch — ordeal in the kitchen when it is dirty) — not a big deal. We just try to hold eachother up and not keep any score.

    • Another Meg

      “We just try to hold eachother up and not keep any score.”

      This. I just wrote it down to stick in my mirror at home. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember.

  • Emma

    The lesson here — learn to cook! In our household, my boyfriend likes to cook (and is exceptionally good at it), so I’m the one who doesn’t exactly enjoy cleaning but derives satisfaction from a job well done. And it’s all fairly equitable. But I must say that it will always be more pleasant to chop vegetables than to scrub the toilet. Always. Even if you hate cooking and are terrible at it.

    So learn to cook!

    Just kidding (well sort of) — this is all excellent advice. Setting expectations up front is an excellent idea. We did not, and wound up having any number of arguments after we moved in together about how I didn’t help enough with the cooking and grocery shopping, and how he was allergic to scrubbing the tub or doing laundry. We’ve got it sorted now (luckily it wasn’t an issue of gender expectations, but just the exhausted complaining of two people with full time jobs who felt they were getting the raw end of the deal), but it would have been nice to avoid the following fight:

    “You NEVER figure out what we’re doing for dinner! It’s always up to me!”

    “I’d be perfectly happy with take-out every night! And speaking of which, do you even know where the vacuum IS?!”

  • EE

    “We now have a system for [changing sheets] that is quick, and dare I say, quite fun.”

    This line is great and leaves me wanting to know more!

    Good for you on being able to stick to a system that works for the both of you. My husband and I don’t have a set system, per se, but luckily for us, too, the division of labor has never been an issue. Things just fall into place based on either who’s more talented at the given task or who’s more available. It’s a shame that men’s contributions to household management are still often called “help” (similar to how fathers spending time with their kids is sometimes called “babysitting”), but luckily we seem to be moving further away from that with every generation.

    • Class of 1980

      “It’s a shame that men’s contributions to household management are still often called “help” (similar to how fathers spending time with their kids is sometimes called “babysitting”), but luckily we seem to be moving further away from that with every generation.”

      Yeah, that’s part of my pet peeve.

      My sister’s first husband used to balk at her leaving their preschool daughter with him while she did errands. He would say “Aw, you’re not going to make me babysit are you?” And she would snap back “It’s not babysitting when it’s your OWN child!”

      • Ambi

        Yep, my boyfriend told one of his friends, “Dude, you’re not a babysitter – when you’re watching your own kid it’s called PARENTING.”

        • That man deserves a high five.

      • kyley

        Ugh, that’s terrible. Sounds like a good thing that he’s your sister’s ex?

        • Class of 1980

          Definitely better. He’s not a bad person, but was clueless about stepping up the the plate once my sister went back to work when their daughter was five. He didn’t expect to have to do more.

          They say that’s usually leads to the wife filing for divorce and I believe it.

      • Not Sarah

        One of my coworkers would sometimes tell us that he had to stay home to babysit his kid, but I think in his case it’s an English issue and I’ll give him a pass. Anyone else though, UGH.

    • We often say we should do a YouTube video of it! That said, it’s how to change a duvet cover, so I’m not sure it will be that useful to my friends across the pond. We put the duvet (the fluffy part), on the bed, and then each have a corner of the duvet cover and bring that up over and under the duvet, rather than trying to stuff the duvet in the cover. Does that make any sense?

      • Carolyn

        I always end up spreadeagle and shouting with a duvet cover over my head. So yes, this seems much more pleasant.

      • Sarah

        I don’t have the mental image, but the boyfriend has a duvet. If you do the YouTube video, please link back here?

      • One More Sara

        I never changed a duvet cover until I lived over here (Europe)! I always start with the duvet laid out on the bed, and turn the cover inside out. I follow the seams up to the corners and grab the corners of the duvet (kind of like how you pick up dog poop with a plastic bag using it like a glove… sorry that was all I could think of to explain my technique.. hehe) then my partner pulls the ends of the cover down the duvet while I keep holding on the corners. His mom made his bed until he moved out of the house (AT AGE 20!) so his initial method usually involved a lot of duvet-cover-swimming and usually took at least 2 attempts. Needless to say that duvet covers are mostly my thing, while he does the fitteds and pillowcases.

        • Amber

          I also turn the duvet cover inside out and put my hands inside in the corners and grab the corners of the duvet and then I tilt my arms to get the duvet cover to slide over the duvet a little and I shake it out, then I just have to lay it down and make sure the other corners get tucked into place and then shake it some more. :)

          • marie

            I’m late to the party but the best way to change a duvet as a couple is thus:

            1. Shorter member of couple holds top corners of duvet with outstretched arms
            2. Taller member of couple throws the cover over Shorter (still holding duvet)
            2. a. Shorter wanders around bedroom making ghost noises (optional)
            3. Shorter pushes corners of duvet into corners of duvet cover and transfers corners to Taller.
            4. Taller holds corners while Shorter escapes the confines of the duvet cover.

            Task completed

  • Meg

    I’m almost “lucky” in that my fiance’s parents are TERRIBLE housekeepers. So while we were dating and he was living at home, if he wanted the house to be clean (for example, if I was coming down to stay for a week over the summer), he had to be the one to clean it. So while his cleaning style might not match my idea of gleaming perfection, it works for us–because he’s used to making clean happen, not having it mysteriously happen at the hands of his parents or a hired assistant.

    One thing that’s been working for us so far is that I take the chores I know I’m better at or care more about, and my fiance does the chores that he’s better at (or the ones that are left, usually). So I clean the bathroom every week, because he wouldn’t notice the soap scum around the sink–but he vacuums, because it’s kind of fun to pretend you’re part robot. I put a chair in the kitchen to stand on while I mop, and make myself walk around on the counter to get out of the kitchen, and he does dishes more often than I do because he works from home and is around to see them pile up.

    Neither of us dusts because it’s boring. Does anyone have a good way of dividing up the chores that everyone hates?

    • Another Meg

      We do something similar to Hayley. We both hate doing the dishes, so we usually do them together and it’s way better. We have a system (which you kind of have to in a galley kitchen) and it’s time where we can catch up on our days. For other stuff we dislike, there’s always flipping a coin, rock-paper-scissors, and Nerf gun duels for when we’re really avoiding something. :)

      • Class of 1980

        NERF GUN DUELS!!!

    • Kara

      Does anyone have a good way of dividing up the chores that everyone hates?
      In our relatively new household, we have tackled these tasks one of two ways: (1) hire it out (when/where we can afford it), or (2) do it together (twice as fast and makes it somewhat fun).

      • I kind of don’t like to clean. The boy generally doesn’t mind. But what ended being our conflict is that he will perceive things to be needing a cleaning long long before it registers with me. And thus he was always doing the cleaning, because he alway saw it.

        We had our first cleaning in our place by someone who was not us. Although I think we are both negotiating the ethics of that, paying someone for three hours of work, every 1-2 weeks, seems very very worth it to me.

        • kyley

          he will perceive things to be needing a cleaning long long before it registers with me.

          THIS. My BF and I just had this exact argument last night. I don’t mind cleaning and doing the dishes, he just notices that things need to be cleaned before I do. There’s also the issue of each having different sensitivities. I am always cleaning the bathroom, because a dirty bathroom really bothers me. He, on the other hand, is really particular about the dishes, which are never very high on my radar.

          • theemilyann

            I’m actually the opposite of you girls. I ALWAYS notice and since the boy works from home, I come home at the end of the day and get enraged because, c’MON, how many times did you walk over that PILE of dog hair on the floor, and not SWEEP?!?!?!

            So, then I’m all screamy. Don’t know how to avoid that.

    • Jashshea

      I used to dust when I was on the phone – it’s mindless and unless you have to move everything around it only requires one hand. Now my phone doesn’t work in our condo. I dust far less frequently.

      I’m super picky about cleanliness in the kitchen. And tracking kitchen inventory – buying new, throwing out old, etc. So I scrub that down all the time. He could care less about crumbs or expired mustard.

      I hate vacuuming. He hates vacuuming. We trade off.

      He doesn’t have his “thing that he likes” yet – he’s a big fan of yardwork/fixing things, but we live in a condo. I’m willing to vacuum the entire world if it means I can die w/o ever dealing with yardwork.

    • There’s an online application that divides chores up….I wish I could remember what it is called. I think it might have been mentioned in the comments in a previous APW chore post. You can list chores and rank them by how bad they are then it randomizes it and assigns them to you.

  • Jashshea

    “But I love knowing I’ll never have to clean another sink unless I feel like it, and he enjoys never having to think, ‘what am I going to make for dinner?!’”

    How about if neither of you mind cooking or shopping, but both of you HATE making the decision? On my super busy work days, I don’t mind boiling the pasta or heating up sauce, but I really hate the extra 5 minutes of “i don’t know, what do YOU want?”

    Sigh. I think at that point it’s just time to get delivery pizza :)

    Anyhow, I think the skills you were taught are SUPER important – in the real world, you’re judged not only by your job-related acumen, but by your ability to look & act like you belong (whatever that means).

    • Teresa

      A few years ago, my sister put a menu planner/shopping list in my Christmas stocking and it has changed our lives! Once a week, we sit down with the grocery store circular and our planner thingy and plan out the weeks worth of meals. Sometimes, it feels like torture to do it and other times, it’s super easy. Either way, only having to do the “I don’t know, what do you want?” conversation once a week not only takes the stress out of cooking dinner every night after work, but it means fewer trips to the grocery store, which means you will spend less money. You also save money bc you are only buying what you need for the week instead of lots of impulse buying and throwing out food that you didn’t use at the end of the week. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t–seriously!

      • Cleo

        Yes! I do this too! Every Saturday around 11am, after I’ve worked out and my bf has showered and is settling in for some video games, I sit on our bed and menu plan for the week. He knows he gets up until that time every week to give input for the next week’s meals, but once the grocery list is done, the menu is set. (And usually he doesn’t have much of an opinion, which helps, but took some getting used to)

        It takes a bit of extra time to make the list, but Teresa is right…it’s a money saver and a time saver in the long run.

      • This is the best system I’ve ever used. A menu saves so much headache, and sometimes you can even do some of your prep work ahead of time for the next day or two just because you already know what you’re going to be making.

      • Victwa

        Yes! My mom did this (ok, inequitable division of labor there) but it taught me that one list–>one shopping trip–> cheaper, easier nights when you get home. Now the fiancé and I make the list together, sometimes with input from his kids, if they’re around. This is also helpful for getting the 6 year old to eat things with more enthusiasm, even if he doesn’t like them, because if he got to choose the vegetable for Tuesday, for example, he’s flexible with eating a vegetable he didn’t like as much on Monday.

    • R

      There’s always what the bleep should I make for dinner (note that the site features rather a lot of actual cussing). It’s a random recipe generator (you can also limit to just vegetarian recipes…)

      It also helps to have a set of default “emergency” dinners that you can put together any time. For us, that’s sausages with potatoes and some sort of veggie. When I lived by myself, mine used to be doctored jarred pasta sauce with chicken breasts and spinach. The good thing about the “emergency” dinner is that you make sure to always have what you need to make it- which means when you can’t think of anything else, it’s the obvious default answer.

    • Diane

      My mom, who worked full time and was definitely the commander-in-chief at home, created “dinner nights” once my brother and I were old enough to cook. My stepdad had Monday nights. He’d never cooked before this but could reliably make baked potatoes, get the makings of sub sandwiches or order a pizza. I did Tuesdays and generally enjoyed cooking once a week. My mom did Wednesdays. My younger brother did Thursdays which often involved heating up chili, spaghetti sauce, or sloppy joes that had been made and frozen (note, bro has since learned to cook). The person who cooked was completely off the hook for dishes. This wasn’t rigid — if I had something for school on a Tuesday night we would swap or someone else would cook — but it allowed for early shopping/planning. Best of all, it meant that no one would arrive home from a stressful day to be greeted with, “so what’s for dinner?” If anyone can tolerate that question (particularly from someone whose feet are up with a TV on), then I salute them!

      • Class of 1980

        My mom invented “Do Your Own Thing Friday Nights” where we each had to cook our own dinner. Your mom’s idea is genius.

        Hilarious about being asked what’s for dinner by someone with their feet up watching TV. No one in their right mind can tolerate that.

        • MIRA

          In my family, this is known as “courteous and efficient self service” — my grandpa’s phrase

        • Jashshea

          I have a friend who cited this as the main reason for her divorce. Her: two jobs; He: unemployed. And he wouldn’t do the shopping, either.

          • KH_Tas

            That would have been one of the reasons for me divorcing my ex, except I managed to get out long before marrying him.

      • Amanda

        Oh my goodness, Diane, this is such a good plan – one cooks, the other cleans. My twin sister and I lived together on-and-off through university & post-graduate degrees. She *hates* to cook, I enjoy it. So I cooked for us every. single. night. She never complained about burned/bland food, and said she loved every meal (bless her heart). After dinner? She cleaned the kitchen. I loved the prep/cooking, and loved even more being able to say thank you to her after the meal for cleaning up the kitchen, and being able to be off the hook for the clean up. One might say we were, in fact, twinning! (Cue lame eye roll here.)

        • Victwa

          My parents have always had the division of my mom cooks/my dad cleans up. When my fiancé and I moved in together, we decided to do that too, except that because we both like to cook, we just have it as whoever didn’t cook cleans up. It’s nice to be able to relax a little either before or after dinner, depending on which night you are. I think it seems really fair and I’m a fan of it.

    • I agree with Teresa that planning ahead is key. The feeling of dinner time rolling on and not knowing what you’re going to have makes for extra stress. So planning in advance (together) is a great way around it.

      I’ve also heard of people having a rough schedule eg, Italian on Mondays, Mexican on Tuesday, Roast Dinner on Wednesdays, Leftovers on Thursdays, Takeout Fridays, or whatever. Sometimes just having that much of a prompt can make it much easier to decide.

    • Jashshea

      All great ideas! Thanks, everyone!

  • Christine

    “Hint: it’s not ‘helping’. Cleaning up, cooking, and doing laundry is not helping, it is simply ‘living life’.”
    I love this point SO MUCH because it is so important to remember this later when (if) kids are involved.
    My boss said something about “babysitting” his kids and I told him that it’s not babysitting if they’re his kids, it’s parenting.

    Also the term ‘helping’ implies that they’re doing you some kind of favor by sharing the work, and add to that that it implies that you owe them something for it. It’s such a bad term!

    • KB

      Amen!! Can I also just say that, somewhat similar to the frustration of “Well, what you do YOU want to do for dinner?”, is the realization that your partner just doing *see* the dirt/dust/disorganization. I personally feel like I’m always like, “So. Bathroom’s looking kind of gross…” and then my fiance will say, “Oh, ok, I’ll clean it.” And while that’s great that he does, I’m always wondering why (other than the fact that we don’t actually share the same brain) he doesn’t notice the grossness. Or maybe it just doesn’t bother him. Either way, it does feel like nagging when you’re the one bringing up the fact that the countertops need to be wiped down after dinner, even if the other person is happy to do it.

      • AnotherCourtney

        Exactly! Every once in a while, I’ll get home, and I can smell the trashcan in the kitchen. When I mention it to my husband, he immediately scoops up the trashbag and takes it outside, but I’m left wondering, “How did you NOT smell that before I said something??” Gross example, I think, but it shows that it’s not an unwillingness to pitch in, just a different perception.

        It also comes out when he tells me he “cleaned” the kitchen. Considering the clutter and crumbs that are still on the counter, that usually means he moved the dirty dishes from the pile in the sink to the dishwasher. He’s getting better about that one, though! :)

        • Alexandra

          I’ve always been amazed at the fact that my fiance doesn’t smell the cat litter when it’s dirty. Even just after we got the cat, I picked up a particular brand that let off an extremely perfume-y smell when the cat used it, and he didn’t smell that either. He just doesn’t notice messes the same way I do. So normally when there’s something I find has been left too long, I’ll start dropping some subtle hints about taking out the garbage. Or just take it out myself.

        • Paranoid Libra

          Its been said that women have a better sense of smell then men….it at least explains the trash smelling.

          • One More Sara

            I was just about to mention that! I have ALWAYS had a sensitive sense of smell (can smell my partner’s smelly work shoes as soon as he takes them off, regardless of where I am in our [small] apartment), and it only multiplied while I was pregnant. (I could smell the chlorine on my skin from shower water even hours after I had showered)

      • Teresa

        The countertop thing used to drive me crazy, until I realized he just doesn’t see the crumbs. I don’t understand how he can miss them (especially in our first apt-white countertops!), but after two years of suble and nagging reminders to please clean the crumbs, I just clean them myself. He literally doesn’t see them and the thought of having that fight for the rest of my life just makes me want to take a nap. He does plenty of things to keep our apt clean, so me having to clean his crumbs is no big deal. Sometimes, it makes me smile–it has become a bit of a silly joke between us. Other times, I still don’t get how he doesn’t see them!

  • Kelsey

    Hayley- this is so great! We struggle with the division of household labor at my house, less because of gender roles, since we’re both ‘ladies’, but more because I work from home and my partner works long hours. It definitely feels like I’ve let the team down some if I haven’t managed to accomplish at least some of the house chores in addition to my work during the day. Which is crazy! We work on it and we talk about it, but I think you were smart to insist that it be discussed before you moved in together.
    Finally, love the last line of your post! Thanks for writing!!

    • Class of 1980

      Whoever works less hours should do more, regardless of the location of their work. It’s the only way to be fair, I think.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Whoever has the shorter work day should do more. Commute counts as part of work hours.

        • Class of 1980

          That’ true. The commute is part of the work day.

          Maybe the worst part.

        • Cleo

          ElisabethJoanne, I definitely agree. I’ll also throw out that “more stressful commute” is a good tiebreaker.

          It takes me a little over an hour to get to work and I work 9.5 hour days. My boyfriend works 8 hour days and has a 2.5 hour commute by public transit. I drive my own car.

          While my commute is filled with podcasts and a lovely, scenic drive, my boyfriend has to brave 2 busses, the subway, and 1 more bus. If he misses one of his first two busses, his commute extends by at least 45 minutes. So I try to pitch in a bit more when I get home to ensure he has an ordered space to decompress in (as my decompression has taken place on my drive home)

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Very interesting, as I can read on the bus and subway, but traffic stresses me to no end, so a lot of my commute is relatively stress-free “me time.” (A lot of it is also reading for work, so my commute hours really do count as work hours.)

          • Alexandra

            Quanitfying who’s commute is more stressful can be tricky though. I commute for 1.5 hours minimum, through 1 bus and 2 subways, but I also spend most of that time reading or sleeping. He spends 45 minutes in rush hour, knowing the office is a mere 20 minutes away. A lot of the time, I think I’ve got the better end of the deal… At least until some delay makes that a 2.5 hours commute instead.

        • Jen

          Yes! I was going to add this. Once I complained to my ex about him not doing dishes and he said because I’m only part time, I should do more housework. But his work was under 10 minutes biking, while I took public transit across town. And the bus times sucked
          for getting across town, so in addition to 45 minutes on the bus each way, I had to get to work a half hour early and stay a half hour after. I also usually end up working more than part time because of lazy coworkers, so I was pretty angry. He just played video games all day before and after work. And he knew how dishes drove me crazy with my past roommates, so I thought we had an understanding before we moved in. :/

          Glad he’s an ex!

      • Meredith

        Yeah I agree in theory. It starts to get dicey for me, at least, when I’m working 65 hrs/ week and my partner works 80-90 hrs/ week. I mean, I *am* working less hours. Perhaps this is where throwing money at the problem is the right solution.

        • Class of 1980

          Definitely throw money at it.

        • Jashshea

          I second the throwing money at it. Also, yikes. Routine weeks like that can damage your physical and mental health in many many ways (seen and unseen). Be gentle with and take good care of yourself and your partner.

          *off soapbox.

    • Thanks Kelsey! Don’t be so hard on yourself, if you’re getting your work done, then you’ve contributed to the team plenty.

  • I love this! And I love MHA. Our marriage is a little different because we’re BOTH ladies, so there actually isn’t an (outdated) societal expectation that one of us will do one kind of job and the other will do another. Instead, we just have to split things up the best way for us. This MOSTLY works, except we both hate doing the dishes and putting away laundry. Ah, well. We’ve figured out ways to make it easier, hah!

    • Remy

      My sweetie and I sat down and processed about chores when we moved in together. :) She is fine cleaning the bathroom forever (YAY OMG YAY), as long as she never has to do windows. I feel like I got the better end of that deal, because we live in an apartment and how often do we need to clean the windows? I LIKE laundry, but I am rarely home to do it, so she usually ends up running the clothes to the washer and dryer, and then we sometimes fold together or do it separately on our own time. She definitely does more housework, because she is home more often. As she has said, “I’m going to do this work whether or not I lived with you, so I don’t mind doing it.” And most things I probably just wouldn’t do if I lived alone and had the same amount of work/school/church (60+ hours/week) as I do now.

    • MDBethann

      My DH and I have those same two problems too – we like cooking, but not doing dishes (and not everything goes in the dishwasher afterall), and the laundry honestly just sits in piles in laundry baskets in our room until we need the said baskets to do more laundry.

      However, we have devised a system for dinners – DH is responsible for Tuesdays & Thursdays, and I do the rest of the dinners and he does one breakfast on the weekends (he loves to make pancakes). While it doesn’t sound equitable on the surface, most weekends I make a big casserole or something and then it works as leftovers for a few nights, so it doesn’t really mean a lot of extra cooking for me, and I like to cook anyway. He also has the less fun jobs like trash, recycling, and kitty litter duty. Cleaning the house we do together.

  • Lynn

    The PA and I have been through this a few times now. I think we’re settling into a routine. We have rooms in the house that are our responsibility. I do mine; he does is. He doesn’t do his as often as I’d like, and I try really hard not to nag him about them…although two weeks ago when he was off work for a week, we did have the babe-it’s-getting-bad-in-here-it’s-time-to-really-really-clean-or-else-I’m-not-going-to-be-comfortable-cooking conversation. He looked around the kitchen and was like, “Oh. Make me a list of what has to be done, and I’ll do it.” He’s been home this week because he injured his shoulder, and when I got home from a 14 hour day yesterday, even injured, he had done his best to clean up the house. (& I was grateful puddle to see how proud of himself he was for having done it)

    We’ve had some arguments about it, but these days, it’s more of a teamwork thing. And I’m glad because I need one less thing in my life to be stressed out about.

    • Remy

      I think the list thing can work great with the right personalities. I LOVE making lists and checking things off on them. Currently each of us has a GoogleDoc with several categories (Homework, Contact, Pay, Clean) including one for Honey-Do. Either of us can update the other’s (functionally, I do most of the updating to both). I like that it makes expectations clear in advance, and feel better when I can see that progress is being made — especially on her list, since I wasn’t there to do the things myself. It feels a lot less like nagging, and it’s easy to see when there is an unfair imbalance. It also helps me feel accountable — if that “write a thank-you note to Granddad” has been on the list for a week, she knows to remind me in person.

      Recently, I’ve been trying a last-thing-before-I-leave-home-in-the-morning priorities huddle. “What are the most important things you have to do today?” (Today it was an afternoon job interview, putting away last night’s dinner leftovers in the freezer, shaving, and laundry. And to call someone about wedding stuff if there was time. She asked me to run an errand after work, and I reminded her when I would be home and that I had the evening free — have a brief break before the fall semester.) Again, it has to work well with the individual — some people would completely rebel at being assigned tasks, while others flourish and feel more competent working from a list.

  • This is so timely. I just moved in with my fiancé 2 weeks ago, and we’re struggling a bit getting into the groove of living together. He has high expectations for cleanliness and I’m a bit of a slob. Then there comes the issue of me being currently unemployed. It’s really hard for me to have him come home and ask me what I did all day. I’ve been trying to do all the chores, which is great for him because he doesn’t have to worry about doing his job and household tasks, but I feel like we’re starting out our marriage on the wrong foot with the expectation that I’ll do all the domestic tasks forever.

    On a lighter note, your school sounds awesome. I’m jealous that my women’s college didn’t give us those same classes.

    • Granola

      I felt this way when I was working freelance and unemployed, and all I can say here is that it often will change. When I was really upset about it and said to my fiance “Well what happens when I get a job, I don’t want to still have to do all this!!” And he looked at me like I was daft and said “Well of course not, we’ll just revisit it and see what works then.”

      So not that you shouldn’t work for something that feels equitable to you, but don’t fight what would work now based on a fear of getting stuck with it forever.

    • Alexandra

      Doubly what Granola said, I often worried that I was going to get stuck doing all the housework I was doing before when I started my job. And for a little ways into it, I still felt like I was being expected to do the cleaning I’d done while I was unemployed, even after I’d suddenly become the one with 3 hours of commuting to his 1 hour. So I said something. And we turned around and revamped the chores. It actually worked out better for me, because he prefers to clean when no one else is home, which clearly wasn’t happening when I was always home.

  • Exactly to everything!

    One thing I wonder about is the fact that I’ve seen people say that although they had everything divided along very equitable, gender-neutral lines as a couple, biology can end up screwing up the balance for new parents, especially if they’re exclusively breast-feeding (and even if you aren’t, how many loads of laundry equate to gestating and birthing a baby?!).

    I’d be interested in reading about how couples with kids rejigger the scales (scientific term) to make sure that mama isn’t trying to vacuum and breast-feed at the same time, or something.

    • Class of 1980

      I don’t think it’s worth worrying too much about temporary changes. Biology trumps a lot of stuff.

      It’s more about what is equitable – time and energy wise.

      • Yeah, as long as it is truly temporary – I see a lot of “…and then we had kids and everything changed”-type narratives, which are discouraging.

        • Class of 1980

          I think it depends. If one of them quits work to be at home with their child, then the chores should shift accordingly. If one starts working more hours, the chore balance should shift.

          But if both are working full-time at pretty much the same hours, and both jobs are equally tiring, then I don’t understand why anything would change.

          Of course, with a child added to the mix, who spends the most time caring for it has to be factored into the chore balance too.

          I’m wondering what specifically your friends are experiencing.

        • One More Sara

          I mean, it DOES all change. Suddenly you have one more mess-maker that doesn’t contribute to the cleaning of the messes (at least not right away). You also have extra laundry and extra dishes and all the baby stuff…. I could go on but I don’t want to give anyone a panic attack. I think in these situations, it’s just really best to have an open line of communication. If Mom is having trouble getting X done, she should be able to ask her partner for help. The responsibilities will change, but as long as each parent can communicate his/her needs, things should work themselves out.

    • Jashshea

      Good q. I’ve seen many of my friends households go from pristine to sloppy when the baby shows up. Which is a function of both the general situation (new baby/tired/new stuff) and the fact that the women were largely responsible for both the cleaning and the baby-stuff.

      Many of my friends are also super neat people (I will not call them freaks), so they had to learn first to ask for help, then sort of reset the expectations that they didn’t like to have to ask. Their husbands, for the most part, stepped up. Or called Molly Maid.

      I think it’s mostly just good communication coupled with really just admitting that everyone’s expectations are different and we all have to merge expectations (which in some cases means occasionally sucking up something you don’t like for the greater good) and continuing to rejigger (science!) when it’s no longer appropriate for the situation.

    • Claire

      A good friend of mine mentioned to me recently that the arrangement that works for them is to count breastfeeding time as a sort of built-in chore time. They both work outside the home full-time and she also breastfeeds exclusively. Basically, he recognized that she spends a lot of her “free” time essentially tied down while breastfeeding or pumping. So, to try to even out their contributions, whenever she is feeding or pumping, he gets busy tidying up or cleaning the house. Works for them.

      • Class of 1980

        Breastfeeding takes up an enormous amount of time. People who’ve never been around it have no idea.

        • Pumping too. It cuts into work time, meaning more time at work overall.

          (Yes, one can work while pumping, and sometimes I do, but a non-stressful mindset aids in a more productive session, so trying to work at the same time can double the length required. That’s why I read APW during pump breaks… Today’s wordless wedding – excellent!)

    • Christine

      Yes, and how do you avoid the “Well, I carried the kid for 9 months and then breast fed him for the next (whatever), so I think you can handle a few extra chores” reaction? Or just the physical exhaustion that goes along with it…”sorry honey, I can’t vacuum tonight because I’m exhausted from CARRYING A CHILD IN MY WOMB” ;)
      I mean, that kind of guilt trip seems unfair but there IS a different kind of work involved.

      • Class of 1980

        If a guy is too immature or clueless to know about the toll pregnancy takes on a person’s energy level and sleeping needs, then he’s not ready to be a father.

        • Victwa

          I mean, sort of. I’ve also seen friends who did a lot of taking over all baby stuff (beyond the breastfeeding/pumping issue which clearly the non-baby-carrying partner can’t add to) and then stay quiet about the toll it was exacting on them. Their husbands/partners didn’t necessarily realize the exhaustion/toll/frustration this was creating because they weren’t saying anything about it.

        • Edelweiss

          I agree with Victwa- also the pain of pregnancy varies as does the challenge of raising an infant. A man might hear his sister saying the “hardest part of being pregnant is the morning sickness but the rest is invigorating” and then his wife might not get morning sickness but have excruciating back pain and be more affected by the sleeplessness. The wife needs to TELL her husband what she’s feeling because that is all unseen.

          Analogously, we’ve been battling a flea infestation the past two weeks. But our schedules are such right now that we’re not home very much at the same time. It’s easy to assume he has it easier than me because I can’t see what he’s doing and I’m exhausted. We have to communicate what we’re doing and how it’s making us feel because otherwise it’s easy to assume the other person isn’t having it as tough and give them the extra chores to take on. If a husband has a bad week at work and isn’t hearing how the pregnancy is affecting his wife it might be easy for him to assume she can help out more than she can.

  • A.

    Whoo boy, could I write a post about this. The challenge in my household is that if I’m not careful, *he* ends up doing way more of the housework. He’s just naturally domestically oriented, but I know that’s not excuse for me not to keep up my end. I came from a home with a stay at home mother, but somehow domestic duties never “took” with me. As with so many things in my relationship, we have a gender flip on this one. I’m the messy, chaotic, “lazy” one, and he’s the clean, neat, task-oriented and organized one. It’s extra hard, because there are so many things out there telling women that they should be the great housekeepers, and it’s so clearly different for us that I feel bad about it sometimes.

    • This is a bit of an issue for us, too, not because my partner is necessarily much more “domestic” than me but because he works from home, so if he has time, he just takes it upon himself to do errands/chores that need to get done (of course, the reverse also happens – when he has busy weeks I come home to disaster zones and empty cupboards, but that’s a much more rare occurrence).

      What irritates me though is when I mention that he did something, I get all these annoying “well, you have him well trained!” comments. Um, no. I have my dog well trained (ish; he’s a stupid dog). My partner is just a considerate human being who doesn’t consider me his maid.

      • Yes, exactly! ‘Ooooh, you should keep hold of him!’. Um, no. If you want this arrangement, chose someone who doesn’t assume you are there to serve them.

    • “there are so many things out there telling women that they should be the great housekeepers”

      One thing that really annoys me is that if people call round unexpectedly and the house is not quite up to scratch, I know they’ll think, ‘Oooh, she’s not very clean and tidy’, rather than, ‘Oh, he’s a bit of a slob’.

      It’s still assumed, by a surprising number of people, that house work is the woman’s domain. It needs to change!

      • Class of 1980

        WORD. I’ve rented several homes along with my business partner, who is a man. One landlord brought a potential buyer in to see the house and before he left, he looked straight at ME and complimented me on how great the house looked.

        I. was. fuming.

        I didn’t live there all by myself, so why was it assumed that I was the sole reason for the condition of the house? If we follow this line of reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, then it becomes all my fault if the house isn’t up to snuff.

        And that is bullshit, people.

      • Oh my goodness yes. I used to know a lady who would actually make comments about other women along the lines of “I don’t know about her, she just doesn’t keep their house very clean.” What? THAT’S what you’re going to judge her on??

        I really should have had some snarky comeback.

        • That’s one of the reasons I don’t have people over. I don’t need to feel judged for unswept floors, which don’t, honestly, matter to me.

  • Lisa

    We have our chores divided equitably, and not based on gender at all (having a feminist fiance rocks!). I do the meal planning, cooking, and clean the kitchen because I enjoy cooking. He does the dishes and cleans the bathroom. We do vacuuming and grocery shopping together. Whoever has more free time does the laundry. (I’m a teacher so right now I have lots of free time, so I do the laundry. During the school year I’m teaching and taking grad classes at night, so he does the laundry.) It’s a pretty good system. We both do our share to keep the house running and no one feels over-burdened.

    I agree with the OP, if he didn’t do his share of chores, he wouldn’t be a “keeper”!

  • Bethany

    This is such a great article! When my husband and I first moved in together (when we were dating) chores were a touchy subject – mostly because I mostly detest cleaning, and grew up in a typically messy house. He, on the other hand, grew up with a mother who cleaned constantly. It wasn’t that he even expected that I do the cleaning – I would feel bad that perhaps my expectations for cleanliness weren’t as high as his. As a result, I would become defensive when he ever asked me to do any cleaning.

    Then we finally just sat down and talked about it all. I found out that he in no way wanted me to be the obsessive cleaner that his mother is. I told him that while I didn’t like cleaning, I wanted to have a cleaner home than the one I grew up in. While we don’t have a clear distinction of who does what, we try to take one weekend morning to clean together – he’ll do the grittier kitchen cleaning, while I sweep and organize. I do most of the cooking, but he likes to cook too.

    The thing that I’ve found to be most important in all of this is appreciation. Although we’ve lived together for 5 years, and married just one month, we still genuinely thank each other on a regular basis for all these household jobs, whether it’s cooking a spectacular meal, washing the dishes, or taking the dog out when neither of us want to. We all want to feel appreciated.

  • I love how simple this post is. Because, ultimately, it is simple: women do not have to run the house if that’s not the best way for it to work in your family. Simple. You are a partnership and things have to get done, one of you has to do each thing and it doesn’t have to be you.

    I would just like to point out, in case anyone was wondering, some of the things Hayley ‘studied’ at school are not the norm for most British schools! But lucky her!

    • Yes, totally. The older I get, the more I realise my school was slightly eccentric. We also did synchronised swimming if that’s any indication!

  • katieprue

    Something that has made our chore balance better is that I’ve made a conscious effort to stop saying, “thank you.” Simply saying only those two words implies that my husband is doing me a favor. I try to be more specific, like, “Thank you for keeping up with those dishes. It’s great to have a clean kitchen, isn’t it?” Making it clear that we are working towards a goal together (not having a filthy house! woo!) has lightened the stress of chores in our household. We also bargain with each other a lot. Since neither of us really likes to do many chores, we try to balance it out when we’re doing something. For example, if I’m going to the grocery store I’ll remind him that it would be really nice to have that sink of dishes done when I get back. Or I’ll scoop the kitty litter if you’ll take the trash out after. I’ll wash the clothes, you wash the towels and sheets. You de-clutter, I’ll sweep. Partners are awesome.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I see your point about the implications of “thank you,” but I disagree. I was taught to say “thank you” even for things I could expect as part of normal family relationships.

      My future husband was not, and will soon be told he needs to say “thank you” more often, because my resentment is building.

      • katieprue

        Oh, I absolutely say thank you. But for me, more needs to be said. It really helps me to get away from the notion of helping out vs. doing one’s part.

        • rowany

          We say thank you all the time for chores, and the kicker “I really appreciate that you did X.” It just goes both ways, and it helps both sides feel that their efforts are being recognized, and who doesn’t want that?!

    • Taylor B

      I’m a big fan of bargaining for the things we dislike (luckily, not the same tasks) but I am insistent that we both express gratitude for the things the other does. Now that we live in a shoe box, this habit has become invaluable!

  • I love the explanation of your schooling. My partner went through the British education system and had a very similar experience at her all-girls schools. She is very traditional and feminist also! So happy you were able to work out a way to live life that respects both of you. I agree, this is just how it should be.

  • Jo

    “Had he objected, I guess he just wouldn’t have been the man for me.”

    Fist bump. That’s what I’m talking about!

    • Corrie

      YES. This is exactly the part that resonated with me. My friends who live with their husbands/significant others are always amazed at how equitably my boyfriend and I share chores, and just the general amount of housework and cooking he is willing to do. They ask how I “get him to do things,” like I had to train or bribe him in some sort of way. I just tell them it’s simple – I wouldn’t tolerate him NOT contributing to housework or cooking on occasion. We both work full time jobs and try to fit in regular exercise, so our household would not operate if we didn’t equally share the load. If I cook, he does dishes. If he does laundry, I put it in the dryer and fold it (or help him fold it). When it comes to cleaning the bathrooms, we split tasks. I tend to handle cleaning the kitchen because I have higher standards of kitchen-cleanliness than he does. He is better about picking up general clutter than I am. Sometimes we are TOO equitable and have trouble not keeping score, but after living together for 4 years we’ve gotten a lot better about it.

      • Corrie

        Also, if my boyfriend cooks food for us to bring to a friend’s potluck and someone compliments me on how yummy it is (or asks for the recipe), I make a point to say, “Actually, D made it – isn’t it good? He likes to cook. You’ll have to ask him for the recipe.” I like to give my boyfriend acknowledgement, plus I enjoy the surprise on my friends’ faces. I think it also helps break down the gender assumption that I’m the one who cooks everything.

    • Airplane Rachel

      I completely agree!

      We do things around the house similar to how Hayley described. I guess it must be something I value as a personality trait or characteristic of someone, that we don’t divide things up so meticulously but that we just naturally do them when we know it needs to be done. Its kind of like if we naturally mesh well with the up-keep of our house, its a sign we will do well with larger things in life and its one less thing to stress over. Of course we talk about who does what, when and how well, but we are on the same page about it. Maybe that’s it – we really need to be on the same page in order for our relationship to flourish. I don’t mean that we are exactly alike but our communication needs to be right on so that we know the expectations, otherwise, like Hayley said, we just aren’t the right people for each other.

  • Anne

    “I explained that I would not assume responsibility for the running of the household simply by virtue of being born with a uterus.” Love this.

    I have recently come to terms that I will not be a housewife like my mother or my fiance’s mother. Both were on top of their game with making sure the house was (spotless)clean, there was dinner on the table every night, and parenting while our father’s worked full time jobs. BUT, they did not work full time or part time until after we were teenagers. My fiance and I both have to work full time jobs and don’t have the type of free time to put as much effort into the house as we would like. We’ve come to the understanding that it’s OK if there is dust on the mantle and cereal bowls left in the sink until tomorrow. When we do a deep cleaning on the house, we will do it together with shared chores. So far, it seems like the system is working. We’ll see what happens when kids are added into the mix.

  • Emily

    When my husband and I first moved in together, we were working at the same internship, and ergo, the same number of hours. After that, we both got jobs that were separate, but were almost identical in labor, hours, and schedules. However, I was always the one doing the housework. Having come from a traditional family, my mom had always done all of the housework, even when she went back to work. It always bothered me how little my dad would try and how my mom would always have to ask him to do something as simple (and obvious) as taking out the trash. So when my guy was oblivious to the needs of our home I got resentful. How can he not understand that the bathroom is filthy? After I spent two hours making him dinner, can’t he just take 20 minutes to do the dishes? In college, I played this unspoken “game” with my roommate where I would let our bathroom trashcan pile up and overflow, stacking one piece of trash precariously on top of the mountain of tissue wads, hoping she would finally give in and clean the damn bathroom for once. She never did and I always emptied that stupid trash can. I played the same games with my guy, and he never figured them out, either. It took me a long time to finally talk about it with him. What didn’t dawn on me in all my frustration is that he really didn’t think about these things. Which shouldn’t have surprised me, since when we lived apart his room was always a disaster. He was an only child, and his mother did everything for him when he was growing up, so in his mind (subconsciously), these things just happened. It took a lot of time, but we finally worked out a similar agreement to the poster’s, dividing up chores based on we like or at least don’t mind doing. We are still working on it and perfecting it. I still come home after a particularly long day hoping that today will be the day I walk in and the apartment is sparkling clean (it never is). But then again, there are days he comes home hoping I have already fed our two cats and cleaned their litterbox so he doesn’t have to (I didn’t). I feel as our generation gets older and begins to raise children in a household where the parents are sharing the responsibilities, these gender-biased dividing lines about work will begin to be blurred.

  • Sara

    My parents always had an easy household management style. They both work full time, and my father’s job has him on the road for 50% of the time or working out of the house the other 50%.

    My father literally can only cook two things (he claims the only thing he makes is reservations), and my mother is a great cook. So she arranges dinner plans – whether it be take out, frozen food or home cooked meals – and he does dishes. On the off chance he cooks, she does dishes. My mother starts laundry because my dad has screwed it up a bunch, but he folds everything and puts it away. I’ve seen them both dust, vacuum, etc. and they have a cleaning woman my father calls ‘Madame Dusty’ that comes in 2x a month for the deep clean. Literally the only thing housework related I’ve ever seen them disagree about is the placement of bowls in the dishwasher (dad says bottom rack, mom says top. its actually really funny)

    I will say that they both love gardening, but hate mowing – my dad says that’s why he had sons (he use to say ‘that’s why he had children’, but I was once asked to mow the lawn when I lived at home, and my younger brother had to re-mow it afterward. Now only my brothers are ‘allowed’ to mow/trim which is fine by me.)

  • Nicole

    The issue my husband (of 10 days!) and I run into, which others have mentioned, is different standards/tolerance of mess/dirt. I want/need our home to be much cleaner and picked-up than he does and sometimes resent that I have to manage the cleaning schedule (i.e. it’s time to clean the bathroom…dust…sweep…etc.). He’s great about splitting up the chores and happily does his part, but I usually have to initiate.

    I often end up either feeling guilty for asking him to do work that he wouldn’t otherwise think of/care about (like not dumping the contents of his pockets all over the house), or feeling annoyed because he hasn’t cleaned to my standards. Any tips for this conversation?

    • Cleo

      We have the opposite problem (I’m the messy one), so I can tell you how my boyfriend broached the subject with me….

      “It’s very disorienting for me to see your things spread haphazardly over the house and it makes it hard for me to relax when I get home if I see all these things all over the place. If you want to dump things, can you please keep it contained to your nightstand and the area around it?”

      Substitute nightstand for table or closet, or even get him a basket or box for his things if you think he’d like that. I still have the freedom to just throw my things everywhere when I get home (and not feel stressed about immediately putting everything away), but they’re in a contained spot, so the bf feels like our home is organized.

      As far as the cleaning to your standards, I would suggest one of two things:

      1) after he cleans, find a spot he didn’t clean so well and say, very offhanded and breezily, “Hey, when you next clean xyz, could you make sure to get this part better?”
      2) Remind yourself to that it’s his job to clean, and, as long as he’s not doing a job that makes it look like he didn’t clean/half-assed it, that’s his job, and if you want it to your standards, and it really bothers you that it’s not, think about taking the job over. If it doesn’t bother you that much, then remind yourself that you have an amazing husband who does… (and list several things)

      I’m not trying to be glib on that last suggestion, so I apologize in advance if it sounds that way — it’s an honest suggestion, and might be helpful to not have annoyance pent up at him over something that’s (at least in my mind) fairly trivial

    • Alexandra

      I heard a great suggestion the other day about getting “clutter catchers.” Just decorative baskets that you put in key locations, like the coffee table or beside the entrance. So long as the contents of the pocket end up within the basket, everything feels much cleaner, and every couple days you just make sure you put the stuff away from it.

    • Remy

      What about making a regular schedule for cleaning? You can work on it together and have the discussions about why the toilet needs to be cleaned once a week instead of once a month (or whatever), and then you’ll have a calendar that says “Monday – laundry day” or “Thursday night – take trash and recyclables out” or “shake out door mats — 1st and 3rd Saturdays”. (I dunno! there are lots of sample lists online.) That way you aren’t having to notice and nag (or do it yourself, resentful that he didn’t notice) every time something hasn’t been done in a while and it starts infringing on quality of household life. And since he happily does chores when asked, that’s the hard part taken care of. Now you’re both aware of when they “should” be done.

  • Amber

    “Had he objected, I guess he just wouldn’t have been the man for me.”

    Exactly! You have to look at the person you’re going to marry and decide if how they are is what you want to deal with for “forever.” If your guy treats you in not the best way, doesn’t do his share or has any other annoying/obnoxious habits, you’re going to live with that for the next 50 years, so figure out now if they’re worth putting up with. (And if you want kids, think about how that will compound these kinds of issues AND that your children will be like him.) Sharing chores should be standard, not something “lucky” women get.

    One of the first conversations with my husband included him saying he would never expect a woman to take his last name, which definitely showed how different (unfortunately) he is from a lot of guys and that he could be the guy for me. If I had married someone who wanted me to change my name, that obviously won’t work and would be setting myself up for a lifetime of issues.

    We split things fairly evenly. I handle getting the car serviced, all our finances, all our trip planning, and he does dishes (when there are any), bathroom, kitty litter, and cooking (when it happens) and we share vacuuming, laundry and grocery shopping.

  • Cleo

    The biggest point of contention in my house now are the dishes. I blame my dad for being so considerate for this.

    At home, my dad always cleared the table and did the dishes. When I asked why he always did these things, he said, “because your mom cooked.” This was said so matter-of-factly that I assumed this was how it was in all houses, a social norm. (And when I asked my mom why my grandma did the dishes at her house, she said she did them because she liked them done a certain way, so I chalked that up to an anamoly) I didn’t figure out that most people considered doing the dishes “women’s work” until I was 20. Seriously.

    I inherited my mother’s love of food and cooking, so I always assumed that my spouse would do the dishes after I cooked (and that was definitely an appeal of wanting to do the cooking). But, when I moved in with my boyfriend, we had a heated discussion about it — my point was that it’s only fair that he pitch in when I spend an hour or two every night making us food. His point was that he’d be perfectly happy eating takeout every night (it’s what he did before he met me), so why should he have to do the dishes for something he considered unnecessary. I very briefly contemplated only making dinner for myself, but I’m not that passive aggressive.

    Once I brought up the fact that I spend 4-5 hours every Sunday doing prep work for dinner during the week (chopping things, making sauces, putting together casseroles, etc.) and adding doing the dishes to that would only make my stay in the kitchen longer (he misses me when I’m in the kitchen), we found a solution.

    We agreed that I would do dishes as needed during the week (we don’t have a dishwasher and it’s easy for me to wash some plates while i’m waiting for onions to caramelize or water to boil), and make sure everything that was dirty was soaking in the sink, but on Sunday, my boyfriend’s job is to put the dishes in the dish drain away and do all the dishes that are in the sink. This means he has to do most of the heavy lifting on a job I hate, and I get to take our dog on a walk before buckling down in the kitchen.

    Most of our other chore disagreements are solved this way:

    Him: Why aren’t you helping me with x?
    Me: Because last time, when I did, you told me I wasn’t doing it right and took over.
    Him: [grumbles and continues with x]

    It works out very nicely. I get to do something I love (cooking) and he takes over the monotonous stuff that he has an opinion on

    • Remy

      adding doing the dishes to that would only make my stay in the kitchen longer (he misses me when I’m in the kitchen)

      That struck a chord with me. :) I don’t really like doing dishes, but I REALLY hate doing them alone while my sweetie is off doing something else in the other room. I also hate when they pile up and are gross (sometimes I insist that she does the gross stuff, since it bothers her less, and then I do the lighter stuff, dry, and put away). If I do the dinner dishes right away after we’re done eating, she’s still hanging around the kitchen to keep me company.

      Now if I could only convince her to wash her prep stuff while the food is cooking. ‘Cause I never use that much stuff when I cook, and when I cook I wash my own dishes (those things are probably related).

  • Not Sarah

    “(Admittedly after a little confusion, including, ‘What are you doing down on the floor? Are you looking for a contact lens?’)”

    THIS! My boyfriend asked me to date exclusively by carrying me out to the balcony and getting down on one knee and I’m surprised he managed to get out there with all the confusion I was expressing and then of course I was trying to get him to stand up too once we got out onto the balcony.

    “I said that before we lived together, we needed to sort out who would be doing what at home.”

    I really like this approach – thanks!! :)

  • Laura

    More reasons for me to regret not attending an all girls school… *sigh* Maybe in my next life.

  • Jess

    I loved this post! My fiance and are are lucky in the fact that we both enjoy a clean and organized living space and it was important to us to split up chores from the very beginning. I clean the bathroom, he cleans the kitchen, I do the dusting, we both like vacuuming (I know, we are weird), he takes out the trash, I do most of the cooking, and we share laundry. The roles aren’t hard and fast though- if I am home and the trash needs to be taken out, I do it. If I’m coming home late from work, he is in charge of dinner.

    This set up works great for us and I’ve found that it’s all about communicating and making your needs and expectations known up front before getting stuck in a routine you aren’t happy with.

    PS: I did the same thing when he proposed to me (even though I was kind of expecting it)! “What is this? What are you doing?! When did you buy that??” I barely even let him ask!

  • B

    Here’s my problem: My husband is in total agreement on the distribution of chores…but rarely does his. Or he’ll do them on “his time,” which means a sink full of dishes, trash and recycling piling up, his stuff everywhere, and an overgrown yard. I have no idea what to do. We talk about this constantly and it never gets better. I either have to live in filth until he gets around to doing things (if ever) or do everything myself.

    I have always been adamant that housework is a 50/50 deal, but yet I’m stuck in this cliche where he gets to act like a bachelor and I’m his maid.

    Sorry, venting.

    • emma

      Our household is similar. After a few of the same round about discussions I told my husband what really worried me is I see our time now without children as spring training (he’s a coach, makes sense for him). We need to work out the kinks and get things groovy for when we’re ready for kids. He wants kids sooner than I do so this put into perspective that he’s not totally ready and has things he needs to work on before we take that step. That has honestly helped a lot b/c he’s now not doing housework for me but for our future.

      Also, a few thoughts:

      -I can’t deal with clutter, drives me crazy. My husband pretty quick realized clutter=unhappy wife (=not getting laid) and he’s now very good at it
      -We do the cooking vs dishes divison too although I don’t mind dishes so I make sure to clean as I cook
      -While he does some chores easily, he will never say, “Oh, I should probably clean the bathroom, it’s been a while.” Or “Hey, almost our of boxers, need to do laundry.” I don’t know if this will ever happen.
      -We have a lot of house guests and he has never cleaned sheets and 25% of the time helps me do it
      -I’ve also used the “Hey next time can you make sure xyz” method and found it very sucessful, although sometimes it takes a few reminders

      My husband works and travels a lot. When he’s home I like to relax together – not ask him to clean. I have an internal battle, like many women of, should I do more work b/c I work less? We’ve talked about hiring help but can’t justify it. However, I’ve made a mental agreement with myself that when my workload increases we will hire help. Makes it easier to get through now.

      • Class of 1980

        I do think if you work less, you do more around the house. It’s fair and it goes for him too if he ever works less hours than you.

        And if you work about the same, then you split the chores more evenly.

        I think hiring help is a great solution for anyone who works full-time as long as it’s in the budget. I’m getting ready to do that myself.

    • Have you told him how you feel? I’d sit him down and explain you’re getting resentful and feel that you do more than him, and that’s not a good direction to be going in. He might not realise you are annoyed over it, if you keep on doing it and not saying anything.

      • B

        Oh yes, I have said it over and over. That I hate the way this is going, that it’s bad for our relationship, that I don’t feel comfortable having kids until we are better at working as a team, that it’s not fair to stick me with all the work.

        He definitely knows that I am annoyed. I’m not sure he really “gets it” though. He will sometimes say something to the effect of “Why haven’t you told me this before?” And I will point out that I’ve said it a dozen times. I have suggested counseling, if only so that a neutral third-party can try to translate my words into something that makes sense for him, but he is not interested.

        He also wants more credit for working to change his bad habits. I do try to thank him when he actually does his chores, compliment him if he takes the initiative to do things, keep the nagging down, etc. But I’m not going to throw him a parade for picking up his socks one time.

        • Alexandra

          Funny enough, what helped me was buying the book “5 Languages or Love” and reading it with my fiance. Once we’d read it, and he realized that it meant just as much to me if he would clean the dishes as it did when he took me out to some fancy dinner… He started cleaning up more. And I started coming home, recognizing that he cleaned the house, and was so much happier and thankful for it that he kept doing it. I really recommend the book, because it also talks about how sometimes, people do certain things because they see it as an act of love (Ie, I’ll cook dinner for you, because I love you) and then get offended when the other person doesn’t see that action the same way.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Seeing all of this, let me throw in my 2 cents:

      Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is under-diagnosed and can manifest as being oblivious to chores and having a poor memory for interpersonal conversations. As I understand it, it’s not so much that people with this disability don’t see the mess, it’s that it’s very hard to move from what they perceive to doing something about it.

      For more information, I recommend the book, “Is it you, me or adult ADD?” I bought it after the books at the library on adult ADD or ADHD weren’t helpful for me, as the adult partner of an adult patient.

      • B

        Hmm, it could be. He does have Asperger’s, and I don’t know how common it is for the two to co-exist.

        I think this is exactly right: “it’s not so much that people with this disability don’t see the mess, it’s that it’s very hard to move from what they perceive to doing something about it.”

      • Claire

        I was just going to go there. I have really been struggling lately with this exact issue – feeling like my partner isn’t pulling his weight with the house cleaning and chores. I need for things to be at a certain level of basic cleanliness all the time; whereas he can go for weeks without cleaning anything and then will go on a whirlwind cleaning binge. We’ve agreed to many different systems (15 minutes of cleaning a night, assigned chores, one weekend morning, etc.) but it was always up to me to remind him to “start helping”. He claims my reminders don’t bother him, but it makes me feel like a nag. I take it personally and see it as a sign of disrespect. “How can you not manage to hang up your clothes and put your dirty clothes in the hamper that is right there?”It feels irresponsible and insensitive and I resent it. A lot. I was so frustrated that we started seeing a therapist to solve this. If I’m being honest, I went into it hoping that she would help my husband realize how unfair he was being and how he needed to step up.

        Imagine my surprise when our therapist didn’t even try to help “fix him” and instead explained that “is just how his brain works”. Evidently he has Adult ADD plus an extreme tendency to operate from the Right Brain mode of thinking. This is really hard for my Left Brain self to accept. It was actually kinda devastating to hear that he probably will never just notice what needs to be done and do it himself. I know I have to let this go and stop treating this as a moral failing on his part or the resentment will choke us to death.

        I also have to consciously remind myself that, for us, this isn’t a gender-based problem and it doesn’t mean my husband is a bad feminist. After all, when he travels for work he will prep a weeks’ worth of lunches and dinners for me since I don’t cook. But, it’s definitely still a sore spot.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          The way I avoid feeling like a nag is to think of myself as part of his healthcare team. He sees 2 therapists, and lots of what he does with them is brainstorm ideas for a new line of work and develop ways to better manage his days – Things that “mentally normal” people do with friends and family, but he needs professional help with.

          And he has me to help him figure out how to work the strategies his therapists teach him into maintaining a household. He’s a “professional networker,” and I’ll be looking for a new job soon, and his training is in “high finance,” so he will be managing our investments. We each bring complimentary skills to the marriage.

        • Sarah

          YES! Trying to understand ADD when I’m very much not ADD is tricky. I know my boyfriend does better when things are routinized and he can autopilot through them. But setting up those routines is still a mystery.

        • B

          I’m sorry you’re dealing with this too, but kind of glad I’m not the only one.

          I would be totally fine telling my husband what to do and when if that would actually accomplish anything. (He already thinks I’m bossy, which I’m fine with.) I just get a lot of “not now; I’m busy; I’ll do it tomorrow.” I have pointed out that I know his secret: there is always a tomorrow!

          P.S.: That is so sweet about the lunches and dinners!

  • Laura

    Is anyone familiar with the memoir “An Unconventional Family” by Sandra Bem? It talks about how the idea of household responsibilities free of gender roles was more or less shocking to society only a few decades ago. I feel so lucky to have egalitarianism be more normative now.

    • Class of 1980

      I think it was more shocking in the seventies, but started to change by the eighties.

      I’m turning 54 next week. I seem to know more husbands in my generation who cook than wives.

  • Paranoid Libra

    Part of my hubs and I’s issues with cleaning is generally just lazyness and hating cleaning. I heard about unf*ck your habitat and it helps to inspire me at least to at least do a little a day and do not marathon clean as that leads to burning out. Spending even just 20 mins a day on a specific task at least reduces what’s there and she also reinforces to just DO your dishes as you make them. It takes 5 seconds to wash a dish or just a quick rinse and put it in the dish washer. My husband would constantly put his dirty dishes on the counter….2 feet from the sink. It drove me nuts. We talked about it several times and since I have been trying to do a little at a time he has too.

  • Alexis C.

    Goodness gracious! You weren’t joking when you said, “head and shoulders above almost anything you’ll read on the subject, quite frankly.”

    This post is fantastic, Hayley! The comments are fantastic, too. Thanks, all, for sharing!

  • Gillian

    I love everything about this – the storytelling, the humour, and the message!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I’m glad the author worked out a situation that works for her household. It would not have worked for us, for lots of reasons.

    A reason with broad application is that it’s hard to know with precision what maintaining a household will entail, until you’re doing it. I had been in my apartment for about a year before I knew how often the carpets needed shampooing or the kitchen needed mopping. Now that my future husband has moved in, all these timetables need to be re-worked. The bathroom doesn’t seem to get dirty much faster, but there’s 3x as much laundry, etc. Maybe some people have a better sense of everything involved in household maintenance, how long it takes, how often it has to be done, but to make arrangements ex ante, like Solon, the author above, or Gary Chapman’s recommendation (“Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married”) would have been a recipe for quick resentment for us.

    A reason with still broad application, but not nearly so much, is my future husband has a mental disability that is an extreme version of the “he just doesn’t see the mess” complaints lots of women have. Actually, it’d be better to say his mind has a lot of trouble moving from seeing the mess to doing something about it. It doesn’t help that he has very controlling parents and little experience organizing his days.

    Our solution to “he just doesn’t see the mess”: I don’t think he will ever note that the floor needs mopping, and mop it, without “being asked.” So, I take on the “management” part of household management. I decide what needs to be done that week, and write it down for him as part of a weekly discussion. He does most of the actual chores because he works fewer hours and from home.

    • Amber

      How would something like this work: make a schedule for him, like, every Tuesday the floor gets mopped. He doesn’t need to recognize it’s dirty, he just needs to mop it and know that’s what he needs to do. Or every evening everything in the sink gets washed and he just has to know the task rather than seeing that the task needs to get done and then do the task.

      Trying to figure out a time table doesn’t mean you stick with it even if it doesn’t work for you. Guess how often things need to get done and then adjust as you see things get dirty faster or slower.

  • Mrs May

    I am always riveted by these discussions about housework…. I am married to a lady but I do most of the housework. I would rather do every dish forever than try to nag her into doing it. (I really don’t mind them.) the things i have nagged about- ie; clutter, that is not pleasant. I hate how i sound. I don’t really get how fairness plays into it- she isn’t my roommate, she’s my wife. I find the discussion of time spent kind of funny, I don’t know, i do not keep track. I figure if i want it clean, i should clean it. If I asked, I am sure she would do the task I asked her to, but I try not to. She does fold her laundry (because I don’t do it perfectly enough) and manages all of our finances (which is AWESOME) and fixes All the Things. We both work more than full time.
    This all said we moved recently and she has decided to clean the bathroom, allofasudden, I have no idea why. And she does a better job than me, I’ll tell you what. And, I believe our arrangement is equitable, either way.
    Also, I suspect if she were a man, I would not feel so relaxed… I would be keeping track and cranky about it. Curious. I lived with a man once and just the thought of the dishes forever filled me with dread. And now look at me: dishes and cooking all the time.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      That’s the attitude I expected to have before I met my future husband, and it may be the attitude I’m moving towards.

      I don’t mind the chores, exactly, as much as I minded the time to do them. I do most of my chores on lazy Saturdays, sitting at home. He can’t have lazy days. Example: I once decided to skip Sunday school on a busy Sunday. Suddenly, we had an extra hour with nothing planned. To me, it was, “great, maybe I can read a chapter of a novel or do some laundry.” For him, it was a disaster, “What are we going to DO with the extra time!?”

      When we were dating but not living together, he planned our weekends and didn’t build in time for chores. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get them done during the week, but I also realized that wasn’t reasonable considering I often worked 14-hour days. But if I said I couldn’t do anything with him Saturday morning because I wanted to clean, I felt like I was rejecting him. So we started working out a system to share chores just so we’d have as much time as possible together.

      Now that we live together, time together doesn’t need to be so scheduled.

  • Carrie

    After my now-husband and I had lived together for a while, my resentment about chores was building. I felt like I was responsible for making sure all the cooking and cleaning happened. If I asked him, he’d do something, but I was still responsible for keeping track and asking him to do it.

    So we had a sit-down talk. I told him how I felt and said “We really need to work out an equitable division of chores here.” (I’m pretty sure I used those words. We’re that kind of people.)

    He was totally and enthusiastically on board with this. He took an active role in listing what chores needed to be done, and in discussing how much time and effort they took in figuring out how to divide them up (e.g. laundry takes a long time but it’s spread out over the day, while mowing the lawn doesn’t take long, but is hot, hard work). We discussed our schedules and came up with a workable schedule for whose turn it would be to make dinner, and decided that the opposite person would do dishes. I was able to let go of feeling constant responsibility for everything.

    This worked really well — until his work schedule changed and became highly unpredictable. Now our housework schedule has fallen by the wayside. We’ve gone back to “ground state,” which means that each of us do chores when we notice them.

    This means that he doesn’t start thinking about what we should have for dinner until he gets hungry around 9 PM — so if I don’t plan, shop, and cook, we end up ordering pizza. This means I end up doing all the laundry (because I run out of clothes first) and most of the dishes (because I’m usually the one cooking), and he ends up mowing the lawn when it gets so tall a small child could get lost in it. This means the vacuuming, mopping, and bathroom cleaning only get done when the floors and bathrooms are so bad I can’t put it off any more, which means they get done way too infrequently (I don’t even want to say how long because I’m ashamed to admit it).

    As he joked the other day, “We do perfectly equal amounts of housework. Each of us does 25%.” (I kind of think each of us does more like 10%.)

    Neither of us are very happy with this state of affairs, because it means things are messy a lot. But we don’t resent each other much. (I still get upset about dinner, because cooking dinner has emotional meaning for me beyond just providing something edible, and it doesn’t for him.)

    So scheduling chores for us is just as much about battling our own laziness as it is about avoiding resentment. We really need to sit down together again and figure out how to handle it. Since his work schedule changes weekly, maybe we need to sit down on Sunday night and write out a new chore schedule each week.

    God, how we would love to have someone come in and do the vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and bathrooms, though. I wish we could spare the money.

  • kireina

    Do you think you could hold a seminar on paragraph 5? I’m still not sure that I know how to do all those things at 30ish. :)

  • KW

    Before we moved in together just after Christmas, I lived the majority of my adult life on my own, with only brief bouts of roommates. For financial reasons which were resolved around the time I came into the picture, he lived with his parents ever since college. We don’t talk about that much with others, because of the negative stereotypes associated with adult males living with parents beyond the age of 25 or so, but trust me, I made sure they weren’t true in his case before getting serious.

    That being said, I was used to doing everything. He did some chores but mostly the household stuff was done by his parents, especially his dad who was retired. We definitely had the chores talk before he moved here. Turns out that he loves to do laundry, especially folding and ironing which are the parts I despise. I love cooking, he does a bit but is content to let me do the majority. He does most of the dishes, takes out the trash. I sweep the floors, wipe the counters, clean the bathrooms. We have the same tolerance level for a certain small amount of clutter but I’d never be ashamed of my house in front of unexpected visitors.

    In the end, I am very lucky. I actually had to get used to not doing everything, and was worried that I wasn’t doing my share at first. He was worried about making sure he was contributing fully to a household that he saw as ours in a way that he never took ownership of household duties in his parents home.

    The only real point of frustration for me is that his brain organizes things in ways that are completely foreign to me, and not always consistent. He also likes to keep rearranging our 2nd bedroom, which is basically storage. I had to learn to simply ask him where he may have put something away if I can’t find it, or to ask him to find it for me.

  • Joannezipan

    Interesting…. This is our house model too, although accidentally. I cook, shop and do laundry while my husband does washing up and cleaning. I am forever feeling guilty about it as in my wad cooking doesn’t count as a job. But it is, isn’t it?

  • Judy

    The post makes me think of this comic strip: http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/coma/slideshows/doonesbury/doones-joanie2.html

    (My apologies, I wasn’t able to read the other comments to see if it was already posted.)

  • Louise

    Ahh, the work that makes our apartment livable and our bellies full. Chores never seemed like the right word to me, for the same reason that its not “helping” when its your house too, and its not “babysitting” when you’re the parent. Anyhow, we both cook (though, I grocery shop and conceive of meals, he simply fires off his meat since I am a vegetarian and do not cook meat) and my husband cleans. I mean, I tidy my “studio” (dining room) area when I am nearing a melt down, and I tidy the bedroom, but Nick does everything else simply because I don’t and he likes it clean. It’s a nice arrangement. :-) I agree though, its not so much luck as its he has what it takes to live with a person like me.