I’ve written before about how my husband and I are both hopelessly messy. After reading about it, a girlfriend asked how we divide the chores in our home. I was unsure how to respond. My situation is unique. I am fairly pampered as a stay-at-home mom with (for the next few months anyway) only one child to tend to. As demanding as parenting is, I really DO find myself with much more leisure time than most of my piers. I finally told her that, in our situation, I just do all the chores and let my husband focus on his place of employment.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized maybe that’s not true. For example, while my hubby very rarely picks up a duster or the vacuum cleaner, he’s more than happy to carry copious amounts of diaper trash with him as he walks out the door. While my husband doesn’t really do grocery shopping, (nor would I WANT him to! I’m very picky about my groceries!) he takes his day off work every week to hang out with our son and let ME have the day off child care. (On these days, I do ANYTHING I want, whether that’s grocery shopping or browsing the local bookstore with my favorite vanilla latte in hand! Mmmm!) And while my husband knows just enough about our finances to handle things in an emergency, he’s the one that spends countless hours on the phone with our cable service making sure the internet I pay our bills on is working properly.
When we first married and were both working full time, we worked out an extensive chart detailing who would do what and making sure all responsibilities were even. This may work well for some families, but through five or six versions of this chart, none held staying power for us. It wasn’t until I dropped out the work force that I just quit keeping score. Only recently, I’ve realized how much my husband really DOES do around the house and how he ACTUALLY may be carrying MORE weight than me! Things like diapers totally gross him out, but he takes pride in taking turns changing, especially when my hands are tied up in other tasks. I hate all those nagging software updates and bits of maintenance our personal electronics require, but that’s his bread and butter! And the cars, of course. He’s meticulous about making sure those oil changes and tire rotations happen in a timely manner.
Honestly, I’ve been known to scoff at other people’s spouses. When my husband is so willing to watch kids in his free time, how come my girlfriend can’t get out of the house for girl’s night? It’s only as I think of their tidy home, I realize they may very well be saying similar things about my husband when she sees my mountains of unfinished laundry! If we tend to think of the household responsibilities as one size fits all, or as limited specifically to domestics, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Even if we divide the labor in terms of general “chores”, be it inside or outside of the home, it is important to think about those items that do not require much time or physical energy, but improve the household nonetheless. Our home environment benefits substantially when my husband makes time for some emotional “self care”. Those nourishing habits like exercise, reading, or getting away for a trip with his dad may temporarily inconvenience me, but the personal growth that develops through these activities offers me and our children benefits that far outweigh minor scheduling difficulties. (Also, the more my husband experiences these benefits, himself, the more passionate he becomes about making sure I have time for the same soul nourishing activities!)
I was reminded of these less tangible benefits earlier this week at a doctor’s visit. I always schedule my prenatal appointments for my husband’s day off, as it would be difficult to wrangle my toddler at the obstetrician’s office. I left them at the breakfast table and headed out alone to my appointment in the neighboring town. Imagine my surprise at the end of the visit to find my husband and son in the waiting room! “Let’s do lunch!” and, with that, we had an impromptu family date. Later, a friend reminded me that not only was this a sweet gesture on the part of my husband, but simple acts like this are important ways fathers show our little ones how to treat their mothers, and women in general. Those are the kind of “household chores” that just can’t be delegated!
So, I suggest this: stop and appreciate your spouse today. Lay off the expectations and requests for a week or so, and do your best to create the home life you want as if it all depends on you. (By the way, this attitude is at the very heart of what it means to be a SmartyPants.) Be willing to let go of perfectionism and see what household tasks he gravitates to naturally… even if it’s not exactly the way YOU would have done it! Taking a little time to chill and see how things would go on their own may just solve a world of home-keeping problems for you, and grow your marriage by leaps and bounds! I won’t pretend that my own hubby is not unusually wonderful, but I think most of us would be surprised to see the many ways our husbands jump in when it’s no longer a demand.
I write my article with the assumption that most of our spouses genuinely want to help… I still recommend giving it a break for a couple weeks, but if you’re still having trouble, there’s plenty of other resources available on this topic. I ran across this one just today! Now tell me a good story of how your partner or other family members helped bless YOUR home!