Sweat Equity

February 12th, 2013 posted by Edel Jarboe

woman scowling at lazy man Home, sweet home should be filled with peace and tranquility. But what if your home is a constant battle with your mate to help around the house? Is it making you feel angry, frustrated, or even resentful? If you are like most women, you’ve probably felt all three at some point while sharing a living space with a member of the opposite sex. Because it is usually the female who ends up doing the majority of the housework just to get it done and to keep the peace. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we could count on our mates to help more with the housework? In a study of housework and second marriages, which appeared in the June 1996 issue of American Demographics, researchers found that even in remarriages, housework is relatively optional for men. This study also indicates that the husband’s ideology is the single best predictor of the level of shared housework. Men share more when they think they should, the study concludes. What is your husband’s housework ideology? Does he view housework as unmanly? Or does he see pitching in as a practical solution to getting things done? Is he somewhere in between? What is your idea of sharing household chores? Do you want to split the chores 50-50, 60-40, or 80-20? Which chores would you rather do yourself? Be careful what you ask for- your mate might make killer flapjacks, but his idea of a grocery list may not match yours.

Housework Resistance

There could be a number of reasons why your mate is housework-resistant. The roots of his cleaning-phobia could be gender-specific, task-specific, or time-specific. Male or female, we all have been socialized to view certain tasks as “male”(e.g. taking out the trash) and others as “female” (e.g. cooking). While it may be stereotypical, you cannot change someone’s mind overnight. Be patient. Redefine male and female as being loving and supportive human beings – by example. Okay, so your husband will cook and wash dishes but refuses to vacuum? Should you push the issue? While it would be nice if your mate vacuumed once in a while, it isn’t worth making a big deal out of it. Your mate’s contribution to other household chores should balance out any missing chores. Moreover, all of us have a tendency to dig our heels in when we think we are being nagged into doing something- especially when we aren’t too keen on the idea in the first place. Yes, we eventually cooperate but not without a bit of resentment. In other words, your mate should help with the housework with a loving heart and loving hands. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself right back where you started. Nagging, again, with both sides feeling resentful of their roles in the ongoing battle. Are you both very busy with hardly any time for each other (let alone the housework)? Discuss alternatives such as hiring a cleaning service to come in twice a week or sharing certain household tasks. For example, if one of you gets home earlier, this person could fix dinner. The person who leaves later in the morning could then be responsible for washing dishes. Working together to reach a solution can in itself help ease the burden of household chores. Do you keep bringing up the subject of cleaning at the wrong time? Don’t launch into a list of things to do as soon as the your mate walks in the door. Give him time to unwind from one job before he has to tackle another one. In other words, take your mate’s feelings into account. If he’s just settled down to watch his favorite television show, he is not going to be too receptive to your cleaning requests.

Reach a Compromise

When Jessica* went back to school last year, she and her husband Sam would fight about the housework. “I was going to school, working, and doing the majority of the chores.” Jessica says. “But then we made a deal. I work and go to school and he does the laundry while I try to help whenever I can. That seems to work the best for us right now, ” she states. “We also have a deal regarding cooking and washing dishes.” She continues. “I cook and he washes the dishes.” Clearly, seeing the amount of stress his wife was under, Sam decided to assume more responsibility for the household chores. If you are in a similar situation, ask for your mate’s help in a clear and direct manner. Try to reach a compromise and break it down into specific tasks if necessary. What do you absolutely need his help with? What would be nice but not necessary? What would make you ecstatic? Decide what your cleaning priorities are and divvy up the chores accordingly.

Work It Out

Steve and Ashley have an understanding of sorts. “Everything will be going well for a while. He’ll do his set of chores and I’ll do mine. Then, “poof”, Mr. Clean is gone. I have to nag him to get him to do chores again.” Ashley says of her husband Steve. What’s going on here? Perhaps Steve’ willingness to do housework is motivated by his desire to please his wife and once she seems happier, he forgets about doing housework. And perhaps Ashley’s egalitarian ideals make her feel as if she’s receiving less help with the household chores than she actually is. What’s the solution? They need to talk about housework expectations. “Steve does clean the litter box all the time and he folds the laundry.” Ashley admits. ‘It’s just that I wish that he’d take the initiative when it came to cleaning the bathroom, picking up things, or washing the dishes. I hate it when he makes me nag.” She says with a grimace. “We both work and I think we should both be responsible for the housework.” Ashley finishes.

What does Steve have to say?

“I don’t mind doing household chores. I just have a higher tolerance for dirt.” Steve says. “I really don’t notice if something needs cleaning until she points it out. I usually think it can go a few more days until it actually needs cleaning.” He continues. Steve and Ashley are now trying out a new cleaning system. “We sat down and talked about it, and Steve suggested assigning specific chores to each of us for specific days of the week so that he’ll know when something should be cleaned.” Ashley volunteers. “It’s posted on the refrigerator.” Steve says proudly. “So far it’s working.” Ashley adds with a smile.

Be More Realistic

Perhaps your partner already sees himself as making a sacrifice for the family. If your husband works long hours or has a second job, it is unrealistic to expect him to be able to pitch in fifty-fifty with the household chores. Clara and Kent have this type of agreement. “I try not to bug him too much about chores because he works long days,” says Clara. “The last thing he needs to worry about is cleaning the bathrooms,” she continues. “And Kent does most of the cooking anyway,” Clara adds. If your partner really is doing what he can around the house, ease up a little. Think about it. Wouldn’t you rather spend the little time you have together pleasantly, rather than fighting about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher? In other words, make sure you and your mate are clear about each other’s housework expectations. This is the key to housework harmony. *The names in this article have been changed.

Edel Jarboe (2 Posts)


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Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!


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