Marriage basics 101: Housework
Remember the big four areas of conflict in marriage? My wife reminds me about the fifth one--the division of household labor, aka housework!
I grew up in a family of three boys. (I have no idea how my mother survived! No wonder she gave up after a while!) Her vision of an independent adult male was a guy that knew how to cook, sew, iron and clean. So, she made sure that all three of her boys were well versed in domestic affairs. She included us in all of her cooking, and made sure that we understood how to combine ingredients, follow and then diverge from recipes, and clean up too! While I never took to sewing, I did enjoy ironing. So I guess my upbringing might have been a little unusual!
Since my mother was a good cook, so am I. As an adult, I did most of the cooking for my family. I like to mop and clean the kitchen (cooks like their kitchens to look a certain way). Oddly, my daughters resisted my efforts to teach them how to cook. They couldn’t have been less interested. But now as adults they have both caught the cooking bug. They occasionally call me for recipes, just as I did my mother.
But the division of labor is often a source of conflict in modern day families. More often than not, both parents work. Stay at home moms and dads do much more of the household duties, but they also need help too!
So what’s the beef? The fact is that working mothers do much more of the domestic duties than their working husbands. And they don’t like it.
Lots of today’s men saw their dads come home from work, sit down in their recliner, turn on the tube, and crack a beer. There they sat until bedtime. Their moms, working or not, did most everything around the house. And, they put the kids to bed, made sure they had a bath, got their clothing ready for the next day, did the laundry, made everyone breakfast, and fixed lunch for the kids too. On weekends, their dads mowed the lawn and worked in the garage. That was their model for family life.
Today’s women want to have a more equal distribution of labor. Sarah cooks tonight, and she would like Joe to clean up the kitchen. She reads bedtime stories, Joe gives the kids baths. Sarah cleans the bathrooms and Joe vacuums. There are daily tasks, weekly tasks, and seasonal ones. Everyone does their share.
And, it’s not good enough for husbands to say, “Well, I do whatever she asks me to!”, because your wife shouldn’t have to ask you. You should already know what to do, and do it.
All of us need time to play with our children without doing five other things at the same time. Only if we share these household duties will we have time to give our kids the undivided attention they deserve. And, we all need time to pursue hobbies, interests, spirit, community involvement and friends. Only if we share the daily work of everyday life can both moms and dads have those important outlets.
So, consider the following:
Develop a household plan. Have clear expectations about who will do what when. Don’t leave it up to chance. Engage your kids in age appropriate household duties. Start when they are young, be consistent and predictable, and there is a good chance they will be more helpful when they are older (I said good chance. That’s all!). Revisit the plan regularly.
Be charitable. Be forgiving. Be helpful. My wife’s idea of a clean kitchen is different than mine, but I rarely say anything about it. Her idea of a clean bathroom is different than mine, so she likes to clean them. If she is really busy or tired and doesn’t do her chores, I roll up my sleeves and get the job done. No complaining. It all works out in the end.
If you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you see something that isn’t on anyone’s to do list, feel free to do it. Living together requires cooperation, teamwork, and good will. Nurture those qualities in yourself and your family and you will love coming home at the end of the day. Model these behaviors, and your children will be more likely to become responsible, community minded adults too.
How does this all work in your household?