In this post, I explain a mind shift that took me some time to make, and it really helped me to clear my conscience. It was a turn from considering myself subordinate and getting mad each time I felt housework was not shared equally, to realizing that in fact, I’m doing the part that in a company would be done by the manager. And I liked the idea.
Just remember that every couple is different. Every relationship is a unique combination of temperaments, personalities, and skills. What I write here is solely about my relationship with my husband and as a piece of anecdotal evidence, may work similarly for some families, while won’t work for others.
Different approaches to sharing housework
When we first moved in together, I was decided to share all the chores equally. I was a little crazy about dividing them evenly. I wanted each of us to do the same things in turns so that both of us do the same amount of housework. As you can imagine, doing the dishes every other day turned out to be doing the dishes from two days, and cooking dinner every other day meant we ordered a delivery 3 times a week. And of course, we argued a lot about that.
Later on, I noticed that there are certain activities that I detested and my partner didn’t mind. And vice versa, there were other things that he didn’t want to do and I either found them not so bad or even liked them. It felt only reasonable to introduce a different system, in which each of us would be responsible for a given task from the beginning to the end. But this didn’t work so well either as I felt dissatisfied with various things: the way something was done, the frequency, etc.
It turned out the problem was my attitude towards housework and sharing the responsibilities. I felt it was only done right when it was done my way. I believe many moms can relate?
At the same time, I became a section leader in my scouting organization. That meant I was in charge of several scout troops and my work was mainly with the troop leaders, not the kids themselves. It was basically a first-tier management position. I quickly discovered that I had issues with task delegation. It wasn’t a big problem until I was organizing a 3-day camp for over 200 scouts. With such a big event you cannot do everything on your own.
Learning to delegate
It took me a couple of years to discover that the young adults I was working with were masters in some domains I had no idea about. It was a very refreshing feeling as it took some responsibility off my shoulders. Of course, I had to monitor their work, but I could trust they will do a great job. In fact, a better job than I could do in many areas! For instance, I learned Canva (the app I use for the graphics on this website) from one of my troop leaders, who took care of our fanpage for some time.
In our organization, we are all volunteers. Everyone gives as much time and energy as we can and want to. When I first became a mom, my newly-acquired skill of task delegation was more than needed and I appreciated it. That was the time when I delegated everything I could and only did the things that I really had to myself.
What moms actually do
Around that time I also found a meme that really made me pause and think (I’m sorry, but I can’t find it right now). It was in the form of a comic strip. There was a family having some friends over. The woman was cooking and looking after kids, while the man was chatting with the guests. She said angrily that he could help her a bit. He replied there’s no need to be angry, she should have just asked.
The rest of the meme was a discussion on the fact that actually she shouldn’t have asked. He should have felt responsible for the house, and the party, and the kids, just as much as she feels. At the end of the comic strip, the author highlighted that statistically women think about what is still to be done at home, even during quality time, thus making the quality time of less quality. Whereas statistically, men don’t. This leaves women more tired because of all the management work they do so to speak in the meantime, in their heads.
The finger for pointing
I am not going to propose any global solutions, nor decide whether it’s the men’s problem that they don’t care, or women’s problem that we cannot relax and be present. Probably, the problem is on both sides and we’ll need to cooperate to make the situation more fair.
I just want to highlight what I realised one day.
Around a year ago I was chatting with some friends and I said I felt dissatisfied with how housework is divided in our home. I had to organize all of the housework and my husband did his part, but the management work was mine. One of the friends pointed out “But you like to be in control. Why do you want to force your husband to take control if you like it so much?”
That was pretty shocking, because it was 100% true. On one hand, I was trying to make him take half of the responsibility, but on the other hand, I subconsciously sabotaged it. I suddenly remembered another friend told me long ago that I have “a finger for pointing”.
Managing the household team
After I looked at the situation from this point of view: that I’m the manager and he’s a team member, finally all pieces fell into place. I didn’t have to “make him” or “ask for help”. I could simply delegate.
In another family I know, it is the husband that does the household management work, because his wife is… a full-time manager in a corporation and she doesn’t have the time.
Other team members to share housework with
This model also helped me accept the help of my mother-in-law. She’s a pensioner and more than willing to spend time with her grandchildren. Before that mind-shift, I felt bad when she came to our home and did our housework. I felt I wasn’t good enough at keeping our home clean and tidy. When I realized I’m the manager and she volunteered to be another team member, I even started asking her to do some small things or told her politely how I preferred certain things done (earlier I, for example, couldn’t find anything after she unloaded our dishwasher).
And don’t get me wrong. I really appreciate my mother-in-law helping at our home. I work with a team of volunteers in scouting, so I know how to say “thank you, you did a great job”. The fact that I consider myself the manager means simply that I volunteer to take the responsibility of organizing and managing the housework activities. This includes delegating tasks and responsibilities to other family members.
You may say that actually nothing changed. I still do what I had been doing before. The difference is in three things.
First, I no longer feel I’m a kitchen slave. I am the boss here, that means I make the rules. Thanks to that, I no longer feel guilty when I have to change or skip something. When we order a pizza, because we didn’t make dinner – OK, I needed to manage our resources (time, energy, and money). Earlier, I would have felt guilty for being disorganized.
Secondly, I can finally relax. When I realize that I’m planning the next hour in my head, I try to put things on a list, on paper, and focus on the present moment. Multitasking is an energy drainer. When the things to do are on a list, they won’t go anywhere and I can focus on the task at hand – or simply relax and forget about the to-do list. A little mindfulness exercise.
Third thing is appreciation. When you realize you’re doing the counterpart of a well-paid position, you value your work more. If you value your work more, you speak more proudly of it and thanks to that, others appreciate it more as well.
The moral of the story is to accept your personality and temper. Divide the responsibilities in a way that suits you and your family. Just make sure that everybody does their part and nobody feels they do more than acceptable. And do appreciate what everyone does – what you do, too. Accept what you have and appreciate the members of your team.
Of course, there are more ways to share housework. What is your solution? Write it in the comments.