One issue that seems to always come up when talking about family arguments is household chores. Maybe one person feels like he or she is doing it all or that nobody else cares. On the other hand, maybe there is that one chore that nobody wants to do, so it just doesn’t get done, and everybody is worse off because of it.
How chores are distributed can magnify other underlying dynamics in a family. Maybe everyone expects mom to do all the cooking and cleaning because of the family’s more traditional dynamics. Perhaps the constant struggle of getting the kids to do their part is really just evidence of an underlying discipline or respect issue. Chores are kind of like money in relationships; it is a tangible way to see issues that lurk beneath.
So who should do the bulk of the housework? That definitely depends on who you ask. What I have found to work the best is some simple math. Each person ought to contribute proportionally to the time they spend at home. It just makes sense.
If that seems complicated, let me simplify.
- In a household of two adults, both working full time, split housework evenly.
- If one spouse works while the other stays home, the bulk of housework can be managed by the spouse on the homefront.
- In a household with children, the same rules apply while keeping in mind the kids’ ages and ability to help.
- If one spouse works 40 hours a week and the other works 15 hours a week, both contribute, but the one home more often does most of the housework.
- One exception may be the type of work being done. Take into consideration if one spouse is in a season of exceptionally back-breaking labor or mental exhaustion.
With that in mind, how can the chores be split? If it’s enough to say “let’s split the chores evenly,” and encourage one another to help out, then you shouldn’t have to do much more.
That doesn’t always work, though.
If you prefer to make expectations concrete, try this system:
- Begin by making a list of all the chores that need to be done regularly. This could be things like sweeping, dishes, laundry, cooking, mowing/ lawn care, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
- Then each partner can pick out a few things they don’t mind or enjoy doing and can specify their least favorite chores. For example, when my husband had to have a uniform ironed frequently, he did the ironing because I had some strange hatred for ironing and he didn’t mind it much. On the other hand, I don’t mind doing laundry, so I did that.
- With your list in hand, you can begin determining who does what until everything had been claimed. Now your expectations are clear and everyone has agreed to it. You can involve kids in this process, too.
This is not to say you can’t help one another or do things just because it needs to be done. I have found, though, that simply nagging someone and saying “I wish you’d help out more around here! Can’t you see XYZ is such a disaster? You just leave it for me to do!” is much less effective than actually assigning chores that everyone can agree on.
There are all sorts of other ways to distribute chores, but clarifying expectations is often a helpful step if you find that the housework is an issue.
How do you divide up housework? Is this an issue in your household?
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