How to Divide Responsibilities with Your Wife
Lesson 1: Fairness
Fairness is a tricky concept and is also subjective. You are working full-time and probably have not seen the short version of a 40-hour week since you bagged groceries in high school. You commute to the office, put in ten hours, drive home, and begin your second job. Yes, having a family is a job. It’s the best job, but it’s hard. You also have a partner who might be raising the family as their fulltime job. Think about it this way: the stay-at-home parent also works ten to 12 hours a day without a break often. Then how on Earth are you supposed to divide up household chores?
Every family is different. Maybe your spouse does not mind doing the household chores. The important part is that nothing is taken for granted and nothing is assumed to be covered by one person or the other. Even if you grew up in a family that had “boy and girl” chores, it does not mean your marriage has to be that way. Using gender to divide up who does laundry and who does yard work might be fine…or it might explode in your face.
Attempting to divide up chores 50/50 is unrealistic. It will set you up to keep score and resentment and arguments will happen. It’s hard to quantify what a chore is worth and so how do you divide up the intangible? Maybe you don’t. Some days you will do more, some less. The main point is to discuss with your spouse what you each prefer and then honor that.
50/50, 30/70, 10/90, 100/0 – dividing up the work depends on the day…there is no set rule
Lesson 2: What is the price?
Let’s take household duties in the perspective of economics. It is based on scarcity of resources and how to allocate them smartly. In the old classic An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, he argued that the secret to wealth is specialization of labor. At work, you have a defined role and responsibilities. If you are an engineer you probably do not have to write press releases and make videos. That’s not your specialty. This translates into household work as well.
Some chores are calming to certain people. Do you enjoy washing the dishes and putting them away because it provides a sense of calm and it’s a task that has immediate gratification? Suggest to your spouse that you handle them when you are home. If your spouse loves to do landscaping, let them rip away with the weed whacker. In 2018 there is no shame in enjoying one chore over another because of old stereotypes.
Once it is decided who will do what, keep in mind this might change. Preferences can change and ability to handle things physically can be altered either temporarily (hi, pregnancy) or permanently due to illness or injury. You should know how to do all the chores even if you don’t have purview over them at the moment. If your spouse goes out of town or gets sick, you need to know where the mop is, how to pay the credit card, and which grocery store has the toddler’s favorite snack.
Have you ever had a manager that micromanaged your work? Don’t let that happen at home. Sometimes we have different versions of “done” for a chore and dishes in the sink or laundry next to the hamper don’t bother one person and it makes the other person insane. Let the person who is the main “doer” of the chore decide how to do it. It’s going to save you a lot of arguments and sanity.
Just like a project at work, you probably need to set time aside to accomplish chores. You wouldn’t say “I should call Mr. Jones about that contract this week” would you? No, you would schedule a teleconference and you would prepare all the materials. People work well under schedules and systems. Have you heard of chore charts? They might seem hokey or silly but by assigning duties to people it can help keep things visible that need to be done. You can also set aside some time where you both pitch in until all the chores are done and then you can move on with your day. Maybe Saturday mornings are blocked off to do a once-over and then you have the whole rest of the weekend for play.
Do what you are good at and help your spouse when needed
Lesson 3: Childcare is split 100/100
It may seem that saying something is split 100/100 is counterintuitive, like asking someone to give 110 percent effort. But your kids are important and each parent giving their all to raising them is crucial. Sure, some parents are better at discipline and some make amazing snacks but no one should disregard any aspect of parenting completely.
Being involved with your children as much as possible is beneficial to parent and child. Even if you get home only an hour before bedtime, you should make the most of that hour during the work week. Your spouse probably needs a little mental break at that point and you need the quality time after a long day of meetings and clients.
Spend time and be involved with your child as much as possible
Lesson 4: Outsource it
There are going to be chores that everyone simply hates. Consider outsourcing it. If you can afford it, there is no shame in hiring someone else to do it. Cleaning services can come a few times a month to help take the burden of mopping and scrubbing off your plates so you can use that time to spend together as a family. Would you rather go to the zoo on the weekend or clean baseboards?
Do you have a large yard where the kids and dog love to play but needs constant mowing and weeding? Landscapers have all kinds of equipment that makes fast work of it. They can even come when you aren’t home so you don’t have to be there to babysit the work.
How old are your kids? By age three or four, they can help with basic chores and they should. Now is the time to instill basic skills like helping and being responsible for items. They aren’t going to load the dishwasher but picking up their books and toys takes one more thing off your plate. Dusting is also an easy chore that, oddly, kids seem to enjoy.
This does not mean you have to commit to a regular schedule of outside help. But what if you had some help just once a month to give the family a break? Everyone needs time where they have zero responsibilities from work and home. You need some alone time to recharge. Your spouse needs alone time to recharge. The longer the intervals between time to recharge just sets everyone up for fights and conflict. Getting someone else to do some of the things for you that aren’t your specialty and that don’t require your absolute attendance can open up some time to work out, read, go for a walk, or whatever hobby you love that helps you recharge.
Chores are hard. Most are a bummer but by just talking with your spouse and trying to shift around to make the most of your time to be able to do the fun things will save a lot of grief later on.
Outsource work that takes away time from you spending time with your family
A message from your future work-life balanced Self
Here’s a little hint, it don’t work out like that in the real life – especially with kids. These days, most wives also work so that makes it even harder.
It’s a battle my friend, you’re going to have to fight side by side with your wife and get things done. You get right flank, she gets left. Sometimes, she’s out of ammo so you have to cover both flanks, sometimes you run out of ammo and she covers you. That’s how it works for real.
Soldier on boss and git going.
Until next time!