Dividing Household Labor in Families Q&A: Good Things Utah
Continuing on my previous post about how families can better share the load of family chores and unpaid work, we took to social media to see what our viewers’ thought about these issues. Here are a few questions we received:Q:
“I have a constant issue with my wife asking me to do something and expecting me to do it immediately. If I can’t drop what I’m doing and get it done, she’ll do it. It would be nice if we could be a little more flexible. What should we do?”A:
This is a very common issue. Women need to stop thinking of themselves as the gatekeeper of household tasks. If you’re feeling frustrated with the amount of responsibility you’re shouldering and ask your spouse to step it up and contribute, you have to let go of some control. Sure, sometimes it would be easier to just do certain things ourselves, but that’s not necessarily what’s in the best interest of your family or your relationships. If you are trying to shift a responsibility to a spouse, he needs to be able to do it in his own way and time.Q:
“I’m torn because my husband works 60+ hours a week, and I know he needs time to chill, but I also need his help. Also, we care different amounts about how clean our house it. What should I do?”A:
This is a great question that touches on a couple different ideas. First, it sounds like your husband is working in a paid capacity while you are working at home. These are both valuable kinds of work! I operate under the assumption that both partners in a marriage are working throughout the day; and the fact that some work is unpaid doesn’t mean it’s less valuable than work that it paid. All of this is to say that you are likely working a lot too, and it’s good for you to desire and expect your husband to contribute to home work as well.
Second, we all need time to relax and de-stress. That may mean the house won’t always be spotless, and that’s okay! Part of taking care of yourself means taking breaks from work and allowing yourself to decompress. You said your husband needs time to chill, but don’t forget that you need that as well.
And lastly, if you and your husband have different ideas about how clean the home should be, the reality is that you’re probably going to have to clean it more. If it’s something you value more, you may have to put in a little more work or learn to let some things go. This doesn’t give him an excuse to pass all of the work to you, though. You both still live in the home and need to contribute.Q:
“We just have different priorities. I like to keep things put away, while my wife cares more about the cleanliness of things. I want to de-clutter, and she wants to deep clean. How can we get on the same page?”A:
This actually sounds like a great mix! When it comes to tackling household jobs, I suggest that you do the things you care about. You like to pick things up, and she likes to get things really clean, so why not makes those your designated tasks? If it’s helpful, write down the jobs that you both have decided together to take ownership of. And the chores that neither of you like? You can divvy them up between the two of you, assign them to the kids, or, if it’s financially feasible, hire a cleaning crew to help.Q:
“I often find myself feeling selfish for leaving my husband home with the kids while I run errands. How can I shift my mindset from viewing these tasks as my job to our family jobs that we all collaborate to make happen?”A:
You feel selfish when your husband takes care of his own children?! I’m glad you recognize that there’s a need for you to shift your mindset because there’s no reason for guilt. They’re his children too, and it’s not all mom’s job to take care of them. He’s not babysitting, he’s parenting! As women, we’re socialized to feel responsible for the bulk of the unpaid labor, but modern families have the opportunity to change this paradigm and really value each others as equal partners in the sharing of child-rearing and household work.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.