Feedback & tips on division of duties?
July 26, 2017 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I have a list of mostly household stuff that I want to offload onto my husband. Please, may I have some feedback on this list? Is it reasonable? Tips for discussing it with him?

For context, I'm a SAHM of 2 under 2 (but actively working on career prospects). He works full-time at a physically demanding job (think landscaping/maintenance). Here's the list (bold are things he already does regularly & totally voluntarily, nonbold are things he doesn't do currently, or does randomly or only by request)

Take out trash (kitchen & diapers especially) whenever the bins are full
Scan house for recycling on recycling days
Take out trash and recycling on the proper days

Bring in mail & packages

Put clothes in a hamper if dirty, or fold & put away if clean
Hang up towels in bathroom to dry and reuse if clean, or put in hamper if too dirty

Give feedback on meals & help meal plan
Make some meals
Get toddler cleaned up & released after meals
Help clean up & stash leftovers after meals

Deal with car problems & maintenance (schedule appointments, take cars in, check fluids & tire pressure)

Run errands
Help out with kids at appointments

Change some diapers
Help with bathing kids

Take toddler out to play in the yard a few times a week

Feed cats once a day
Help brush, pet, and play with cats

Take care of thank yous & birthday presents etc for his side of the family

Stay on top of own health & make any needed appointments

Come up with & maintain own system for reminders, appointments, to dos, want-to-dos, etc

I included what he already does for context and to be fair. I'm probably forgetting a thing or two I'm sure.

So my questions:
1. Is this a reasonable list or does it need changes or a different approach?
2. How do I bring it up without falling into that mom role ("here are your chores") or the manager role?
3. How do I acknowledge and express appreciation for his hard work without being condescending?

I'm sorry if any part of this is super dumb and obvious... You guys are pretty amazing at this sort of thing, and I've definitely made progress in learning to communicate thanks to mefi, so TIA!
posted by Baethan to Human Relations (35 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Give feedback on meals & help meal plan

I think this one offers a great opportunity to say "Cool, so I'll take taco Tuesday - which dishes do you want to tackle?"

Is he interested in cooking? Does he/you like to experiment? Could there be try a new recipe every week idea if he's into novelty?

Personally, a lot of household admin stuff bores me, so I've taken to scheduling them. The first of the month is bills and pills (definitely stolen from a mefite) - it's working pretty well so far and I can see many things on this list that can wrap into that.
posted by teststrip at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2017

Put clothes in a hamper if dirty, or fold & put away if clean
Hang up towels in bathroom to dry and reuse if clean, or put in hamper if too dirty
Take care of thank yous & birthday presents etc for his side of the family
Stay on top of own health & make any needed appointments
Come up with & maintain own system for reminders, appointments, to dos, want-to-dos, etc

OK, these are all basic life things (meeting own individual needs and cleaning up after oneself) that are reasonable and best for any adult to do for themselves. That's on him and doesn't "count" when you discuss sharing a workload.

It's hard to tell about the rest of the stuff because you haven't posted your own workload. But the baseline here is that even though he works outside the home, you are both working full-time physically demanding jobs and I honestly think most everything else should be split somehow so that you both have equal workloads outside of the work you each do for 8 hours a day or whatever.

Some of this (diapers, kid appts, bathing) is also just basic parenting stuff that he should be equally involved in not just to take workload off of you, but to hang out with the kids and to model that not just moms do kid stuff.

(I might think about what would be better for some of this stuff - would you prefer to have help with bath/bedtime or might it be better to alternate, so that one of you can kick your feet up every other day.)
posted by lalex at 1:04 PM on July 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

While the list looks more than reasonable to me, I'm not sure this is the right approach. Many of the tasks fall into the categories of "clean up after yourself" and "notice when stuff needs to get done and just do it". Apparently, not everyone is socialized such that this comes naturally. I don't quite understand how this is possible, but there it is and it's rather gendered in my experience. I don't know how to change this behavior of obliviousness. The other difficulty I see is exactly the mom dynamic you mention, as you're handing down the list as fait accompli and I wonder whether a more open discussion with joint problem solving would reduce resistance and defensiveness, increase a sense of ownership and responsibility, and thus work better in the longer term. This is such a difficult issue and so rarely resolved in a fair way.
posted by meijusa at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Seconding lalex that those things lalex listed are normal "being an adult and taking care of yourself" things that shouldn't even count towards his share of household responsibilities. You are already taking full time care of two people - yourself and your child. You shouldn't have to take care of a third.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

It works much better at my house if we each have full responsibility for chores from start to finish. So I do all meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and scrambling if things don't go to plan one week and my partner is fully responsible the next. Or another example, we both clean up after ourselves bit taking trash out and replacing the liner is my partners job. I handle the laundry, but we both put our own into the hamper. I got sick of doing all the appointments so now we are each responsible for one kid per year from start to finish. This cuts down on the "helping" perception. Now we both know our responsibilities and have to ask each other for help if we can't meet them.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

First up, being a SAHM of two under two is more heroic. Being heavily pregnant while full time caring for a one-year old? Looking after a newborn with a toddler? You are incredible. That is more physically and psychologically demanding than any paid employment I can think of. Well done.

Secondly, to answer your questions:

1. Any division of labour is reasonable if you both agree that it's fair and are getting similar amounts of leisure time.
2. You can't hand him a list like this without by definition having already fallen into mom/manager role. The fact that you list some tasks as "Help with..." underscores this.
3. You say thank you every time he does something you appreciate.

This is probably going to be a long thread about emotional labor. This stuff is so very fraught. You are going to have to work very, very hard at changing all of this and it is unlikely to get significantly better in the immediate term without a concerted effort from both of you. Thanks, patriarchy.

You might enjoy this post on the blue: How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids

(As an aside, I really hope parents of boys are paying attention to this. No amount of Wonder Woman is going to help bring about gender equality unless we raise our boys to feel responsible for their own well-being and relationships).
posted by bimbam at 1:26 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot, we both participate in the bedtime routine, and he reads the bedtime books! It's a lovely ritual.

meijusa: yes, exactly "clean up after yourself" and "notice when stuff needs to get done and just do it"! I also have no idea how to teach this, it was a long learning process for me that I have worked very hard on. I thought maybe listing specifics would help more than asking him to just notice and deal with stuff, that might be overwhelming. But I don't know!

Re my workload, it's typical SAHM stuff I think, childcare and managing the household, finances, whatever else comes up. I try to make time daily for career-related stuff (certification at the moment) and need to add in more exercise. So we're both definitely busy! I'll be working outside the home in the next year or so. Eventually we'll need to split household duties more evenly, but I don't want to dump a bunch of stuff on him all at once.

songs_about_rainbows: oh, that's a brilliant tip! Love the idea of one week on, one week off for meal handling!

I'm skimming quickly for now, but will be rereading and reflecting asap!!
posted by Baethan at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2017

I've just finished being a mom of 2 under 2- now I have a one year old and a 2 year old. I am a full time mom and my husband does all the things you would like your husband to start doing. Two kids this young has to be serious teamwork, we both feel we are working full on all the time. But I wonder how you could get your husband to do these things... mine is self motivated... he likes a tidy house and healthy meals... so he makes an effort here because otherwise he'd be in a much less tidy house and have frozen lasagne every night. So maybe encourage by stopping the things that aren't vital to you?
posted by catspajammies at 1:37 PM on July 26, 2017

play with cats

As long as he's not actively ignoring the cat (like if it comes up to you for a boop) I'm not sure you can really ask people to play with animals if their heart isn't in it. I mean, you can, but I'd at least make that the lowest priority.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

You may find it easier to delineate meals from start to finish instead of aiming for joint meal planning, cooking, and clean-up. So you cook whatever you've planned to four days a week and he cooks and cleans up after what HE planned the other days, for example. That minimizes how often you might finding yourself either nagging or annoyed, because on his nights it's entirely his deal.
posted by metasarah at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2017

Is your husband at all in tune with / receptive to the whole idea of emotional labor and its surrounding topics? Because - I think my husband and I split everything pretty fairly - but it definitely helps that he is kind of "in on it" in terms of, like, we both read the big emotional labor thread a couple of years ago and have kept it up as a conversational topic ever since. And we also talk about feminism, family dynamics, toxic masculinity, the way our (only a toddler right now) child will perceive gender, etc etc all the time. And if something new comes up (like that Emma comic from a few months ago) one of us will see it and ask the other what they think and that's a jumping off point for us to revisit questions about what we're doing in the household and how it's balanced.

If you don't have that framework in place with him, that might be a good place to start - just introducing the idea of emotional labor and talking about your existing dynamic, reading books and resources together, before presenting a list. In fact, once you are in that place, it might be better to sit down and come up with the list together, because (in my household at least) a lot of this is driven by our personal preferences, our respective free time, etc.

Come up with & maintain own system for reminders, appointments, to dos, want-to-dos, etc

This sticks out to me as being kind of a strange request - like, I think it's fair enough to say "hey you need to start staying on top of your shit and I'm not going to remind you about stuff anymore" or maybe to say "we need to decide what to-do list software we're using as a family." But I wouldn't ask another adult to show me that they have a system for doing those things, unless maybe it was an employee I managed.
posted by cpatterson at 2:12 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Would he be receptive to this comic, titled "You Should've Asked"? I'm planning on showing it to my own partner, especially because I just had a very frustrating discussion with my partner specifically about him cleaning up after himself and noticing when things need doing: and it was full of many of the usual "but I just don't notice", "well you could tell me when something needs to be done" "but you're good at it" tropes that are all so gendered and boring. And my partner is generally a very woke bae and lives his feminist values in many ways! A lengthier version of the comic is the epic emotional labor thread. Maybe your husband would read the comic or the thread? Or both??

Practically speaking, so far I've tried to automate/systematize what I can. There are hampers in every room except the kitchen and living room. We got a Roomba, which eats socks/underwear/towels that are lying around. Sure, I'm the one that has to turn it on and run it every day, but there's tangible evidence of the consequences of leaving shit laying around other than me repeatedly asking you to pick it up. Dishes are a big one in our house and I'm seriously considering moving to paper plates, since we don't have a dishwasher. I think a lot of the success of meal kit deliveries like Blue Apron is people throwing money at a problem rather than having the same defeating argument about division of labor.

To be fair, my partner has gotten better--I don't disbelieve him that he really doesn't see a lot of what I do, and that he can't know if I don't tell him. But the gendered unfairness of me being conditioned to notice, and it being easier/more convenient for him to stay ignorant than to educate himself and find ways to rectify his own lack of awareness about household or domestic labor, can get really frustrating.
posted by stellaluna at 2:19 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Chores have always been a bit of a sticky spot for my household. My husband just doesn't notice mess, his mother is a bit of a hoarder so his idea of "normal" is off, he is also terrible with abstract ideas like "as needed".

With his enthusiastic approval, he really does want to help around the house once we had a big talk about the emotional labor thread on the green, that basically came down to your worry. I didn't want to be his mother.

So we implemented a white board system. He has jobs he does on certain days on one side. ie Mon/Wed/Fri check recycling empty trashcans etc. Full, half full whatever those are the days they are emptied and has a column for jobs I need done that day if something comes up (heavy boxes moving, filters changed I can't reach, get a card for your Dad etc). While that still pushes the emotional labor of remembering onto me, I keep a google calendar to auto remind me so it's not a huge chore and once it's on that board it is his problem. I've had to let him crash & burn regarding Mothers Day presents one year for him to really grok that. He now adds jobs as he thinks of them to the list himself & has personalized the set up to suit him.

Your chore list sounds reasonable. Some jobs might work better automated if you have the money, battery operated toys for cats to play with, or getting a good calendar app/phone combo to remind him of reoccurring jobs if he doesn't ignore his phone beeping away like my husband does. Ordering something like Blue Apron to help take some of the planning worries from meal prep. If he's not a confident cook this can help him a lot too as they are easy to follow, you can then alternate weeks, there are even sites that will menu plan for you & you just get a shopping list & recipes. If he's not up for cooking after work, can he do some freezer meals on the weekend to help out or set a crock pot up in the morning.

Try different things, make it something you work on together, remember it won't be perfect straight out the gate, keep trying & working together both of you to find a solution that helps.
posted by wwax at 2:26 PM on July 26, 2017

My experience with this has been that my partner has gotten a lot better about 'noticing and just doing it' in specific areas, but I've had to accept that he is pretty hard wired to 'oblivious', and that mess doesn't bother him. However he loves me and will a) try and notice and b) if he doesn't notice, do whatever (e.g. empty the bin when it's full not just on bin night) if I ask. So I do ask. He's also come a long way in accepting that my doing the work of noticing and reminding IS work in itself. Mostly I work on keeping the reminders neutral and kind "Hey bin needs emptying" or "sweetheart I feel pretty stressed when I can't keep cooking because the dishes have stacked up can you do the dishes now, thanks love".

To get to this fairly chilled out/mostly works point though... well it's been eight years and it's a work in progress. Things that didn't work: me doing everything and having epic meltdowns because I resented it so much; him sulking; me nagging; chore charts; rosters. Things that did work better: both reading that Metafilter thread about emotional labor; couples counselling; learning to communicate better; introducing lots of positive reinforcement whenever either of us did something that was important to the other but not our natural inclination e.g. Turning off lights (me); laundry (him); dividing things along lines of what we hate least e.g. Cooking (me) and laundry (him); accepting as someone learns something there'll be some fails (especially true for laundry) land being supportive not critical of the fails.

Oh and I went on strike. I refused to cook anything for nearly two years. And I didn't. Strike ended when he was ready to take on joint responsibility for our domestic life. We don't have children though so it was easy for me to just fix a sandwich for myself and leave him to it.
posted by t0astie at 2:44 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agreed that while the actual tasks aren't too much to ask (at all!) there might be a better way to enable him to do them, if you specify when it should happen. Some people find it easy to be oblivious to things that might need to be done, and stressful to be always on the lookout. Instead of phrasing as "take out trash whenever bins are full" i.e. asking him to constantly be on the watch for things, consider a daily ritual (eg 10pm before going to bed, or 5:30pm as soon as he gets home, etc) which involves a checklist: "check all trash cans and empty any that are full, check all bedrooms for dirty laundry and place in hamper, check (obvious place) for clean laundry and put away"
posted by aimedwander at 3:14 PM on July 26, 2017

Response by poster: Reporting back! After dinner tonight (he made burgers at my request!) I brought up the dinner question. Our convo, paraphrased:
Me: "So I read this great idea today! How would you feel about switching off on the dinner responsibility? You plan and make meals one week, I do the next?"
Him: "Oh my god no, that sounds absolutely horrible."
Me: "But I have to do it all the time?"
Him: "That is the worst idea ever!"
Me: "I KNOW MAKING DINNER SUCKS. It's always my responsibility, I hate it! Okay, second option, we sign up for a meal planning service and just make whatever it says."
Him: biggest sigh of all time
Me: "So we switch off, or we do a meal planning service TOGETHER, or some third option if you think of one that is NOT me doing everything."
Him: groan indicating great pain
Me: "Do you want time to think about it?"
Him: groan "YES."
Me: "When would you like you to talk about it again?"
Him: :( "I dooooon't knooooooow" :(

So DTMF? I kid, I kid. College was the only time in his life he didn't have a lady in the house doing lady things, so I'll cut him a little slack. But this is my hill to die on. Fucking hate making dinner....
posted by Baethan at 4:15 PM on July 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

Hi, so this is two hills to die on. I know it looks like the big hill is Dinner Preparation and Clean Up, but the big big big hill here is Being A Team Player Willing To Talk About The Team WORK (you are doing an A+ job at this, he is not). And that's super important to how things go moving forward as your kids grow up and you both grow as people and as a couple.
posted by sadmadglad at 4:31 PM on July 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

Wow. Well, so, in my house, dinner does fall to me because he just can't do it and I'm not interested in eating his experiments. So, we did three things:

One, I explained that while I'm willing to be the cook, I need him to be the one to clear the table, not leave it to me like I'm his waitress, and to get the stuff into the dishwasher, etc. Not just his plate either! (I had to explain this.) This makes, a both practically and psychologically, a big difference.

Two, meals I make are SIMPLIFIED. I mean siiiiimplified. I mean a meal is often a rotisserie chicken plus a bowl of cherry tomatoes; or Costco meatballs and some cut up bell peppers and cucumbers and maybe some fruit is on the table too. Nutritious, tasty, cheap, adequate. (Boring? Yeah, it sure is, but I'd rather be bored than overworked in the kitchen.)

Three, we identified cheap and nutritionally reasonable places to either go out to eat or get takeout. In the current rotation are pho restaurants, his company cafeteria, and Trader Joe's sushi for takeout. (Sometimes we call that takeout stuff a picnic and eat it off paper plates in the living room while watching a family movie together and this is our idea of a Saturday night, heh. But no cleanup really is festive!) If the budget can stand it, I HIGHLY recommend this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think it is easier to get into a routine of one person taking on a task and doing it all the time than swapping a day here and there because then they have to remember it's their turn or you get to be the nag every second week. What I would do is give him the option of three tasks, ie you can either do the food shopping, cook dinner or do bedtime. And he does that every night. Which one would you like? But he doesn't have the option of noping out of all of it or swapping it for a task like clipping the hedges that only needs to be done three times a year.

My husband used to pick up grocery shopping (I now do it) every night on the way home from work as he went past the store. I would cook, (while my son practises his reading to me) we eat, my husband would do cleanup and dishes and while he did that, I would do bedtime. We both finish at the same time and then get to enjoy the rest of the night together. Works for us and my husband doesn't even think twice about it now, it's just our routine.

The idea that one person gets to kick back, drink in hand watching, while their spouse runs around frantically for two hours cooking cleaning and child wrangling is abhorrent and I dare say at the crux of low simmering resentment that bubbles for years in many marriages. Also it's been proven that husbands who do more housework get more sex. Maybe it's because their wives have less on their plate, are less exhausted or just don't feel taken for granted. But I would tell your guy very clearly that you're not happy with the situation and you want his help to fix it. His response will tell you all you need to know about whether or not your happiness matters to him.
posted by Jubey at 5:07 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, my mistake, I missed that you have two kids. So you're taking care of three people. Yeah, he needs to take care of his own shit and not act like a college freshman in his first dorm room.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:42 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

The last three items:

Being responsible for interactions with his own family
Making his own health appointments
Being his own secretary

These are things you can stop doing right now, because there is no question whose job they are. It's not part of your negotiation. If you've read the emotional labor thread, you know that women often take shit for not doing these things for their husbands, especially in regards to thank-yous and birthdays. But if he doesn't pick up the slack on these, it's time to put his family on notice that you don't have the ability to be the Queen of Birthday shopping with two small children in the house.

As for his calendar reminders and making (and keeping!) his own health appointments, these problems will sort themselves out shortly, when he starts missing important meetings. If his dentist calls the house and asks if you want to schedule his check up, give them his phone number. When anyone, doctor, family member, etc., asks you to schedule something for him, you act bewildered like you could not possibly know his availability and refer them back to him. You don't need to say, "I'll have him call you." Tell them to call him.

Taking this approach has vastly improved my life. (Thank you MeFi!) My husband still misses important meetings and doesn't do a stellar job of keeping a calendar, but he is light years better at it than when we married.
Good luck!
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:50 PM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh, yeah and I wouldn't even bother negotiating his appointments, birthday cards, health issues or putting his own laundry in a basket (are you FUCKING KIDDING ME) this is adulting 101. Stop. Just stop it. If he loses a tooth because he is too damn lazy to make a dental appointment himself, well, that's the price for learning your wife isn't your unpaid servant. He can only foist these chores on you if you willingly pick them up in the first place.

If I were you, I would attempt to have a productive discussion about everything else that's not his own life maintenance shit. Then if he still refuses to help, just stop doing some things and let the natural consequences teach him he has to pick up his act. Didn't pay his car license? Looks like he'll cop a fine. Didn't put his clothes in the laundry hamper? Whoops, you're wearing a filthy shirt for work. Don't argue, don't nag, just don't do it.

I had to enact some of this for my husband because I refused to be his mother or his servant and he either had to learn to do it or accept the consequences. Unfortunately his parents ruined him by doing everything for him growing up so it was up to me to finish raising him. He's great now, but I get to do it all again with my own son.
posted by Jubey at 6:13 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have been in your situation. It is super easy to say what an adult should do on their own, but it just isn't the reality for most people. I also think that things that felt like no big deal before having kids can turn into the things that push one over the edge after. It's one thing to cohabitate with a slob you love when you both are out of the house all day, and it is another when you have two tiny slobs making a mess every where and a third bigger slob making messes he should take care of.

I highly recommend the book "Halving it All" My biggest take away from the book was that in order to be able to split household duties it means letting each other do things their way. Like for instance- you want him to play with your toddler outside, he might want to play inside, or take the toddler on an errand- it isn't up to you to decide what will happen, just that at that time he is in charge of the toddler, and what he does with your toddler is up to him. Same thing with the laundry- if he wants to keep his laundry in a basket and not fold it, or just shove it in the drawers- that is his choice to make. Find an agreement that you both can live with- don't leave clothes and towels in my way or on the floor- but what he does with them after he moves them is on him. Pick your battles and stick to them. If you don't want to make dinner every night and he isn't willing to make dinner then maybe those nights are the nights you eat cereal or sandwiches.

Finally, I will tell you that these years when your kids are so young- you are down in the weeds. It can be a very hard time for everyone, even the best couples, but the message you need to get across to your partner is that right now you are establishing routines and rules that you are going to raise your kids with, and it is important to get on the same page generally, and then both step back from extreme expectations. He doesn't have to fold his clothes, you aren't going to make a 3 course meal seven days a week (again as an example.) These rules and routines are not going to be like this forever, but for the near future they are the things that will make life easier.
posted by momochan at 6:18 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

On a general level, it's much more effective to lead with the basic problem ("I'm getting decision fatigue from having to figure out dinner every night") and then brainstorm solutions TOGETHER rather than identifying the problem by yourself, coming up with a series of solutions, and asking him to pick (a), (b), or (c). If he refuses to participate in troubleshooting/problem-solving, that's actually a more fundamental and possibly problematic issue. However, "I need to think about it first before we talk about it in detail" is a perfectly legitimate way of participating in problem-solving.
posted by drlith at 6:30 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree but the way it was phrased, in particular when the OP asked when do you want to talk about it again and he said he didn't know, made me think it was just an avoidance tactic to never have to deal with it again...
posted by Jubey at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Early on in my marriage, I had a similar-ish conversation with my husband about how he would often go "OK, FINE" in this dramatic, teenager fashion when I would ask him to do something around the house.

He got a nice talking to about how being begruding about housework made me feel like shit because he was making it clear that the work mostly I did around the house was annoying and beneath him and what did that say about how he felt about *me*, since I was the one doing all this stuff?

Things have changed around the house since then.

So yeah. Double down on what you were doing there in that conversation. Make it crystal clear that (1) you need to have this conversation, and (2) him reacting the way he did is exactly why you need to have that conversation. Don't let him avoid it; don't let him put the additional emotional labor on you of figuring out "How can I frame this so I get minimal whining?".
posted by damayanti at 7:21 PM on July 26, 2017 [21 favorites]

You could try 'would you rather', except without the 'rather'.

'I'm setting up some more formal arrangements for getting things done. You can have [thing on list I want you do] or [much more terrible thing on my list I'm totally sure you'll never do]. Which one is it going to be?'

He might also respond better to 'You're In Charge Of The Thing' rather than a list of chores related to The Thing. 'You're in charge of the bin. ' Alternatively, 'You're In Charge Of The Result' / 'the bin can never be more than three quarters full'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:46 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

My husband is a very linear thinker who can't multitask, so asking him to spot dishes in the living room or notice when the trash is full is doomed to failure because his brain simply doesn't work that way. He can only perform one task at a time, so "noticing" tasks are all doomed to failure. HOWEVER, I gave him a list of shit that needs to get done to shut down the house for the night (lock the doors, check the cats' water, survey for dirty dishes, check the trash, pick up the laundry) and "shut the house down at night" is a discrete task he can totally accomplish by focusing on just that thing instead of having to notice small things all day. Yes I would prefer if he noticed dishes and laundry all day and did them as he went, but if I wake up to clean kitchen counters and a dishwasher that ran because he dealt with it all right before bed, GOOD ENOUGH. I notice a lot of your list items are about "noticing," so it's possible giving your husband a list and asking him to do those tasks all at once before bed would get them done. It's hard to learn to notice as you go, especially if your mind doesn't work that way, but anyone can take a short checklist and briefly glimpse around their living space for ten minutes.

For the toddler play, I'd say "He needs to play outside three times a week for health, that's your job, award him penguin stickers."

I have never been able to rope ANYONE into meal planning (and grocery list making) with me, family, roommates, or husband. I can get them to shop! And cook! But not plan. I have a friend with a 45 meal rotation on index cards and she basically shuffles them and takes twenty or thirty each month (depending on eating out and leftovers) to avoid planning. Menu planning service also good. Or a list like taco Tuesday, pasta Wednesday, take out Thursday, meat and veggies Friday, leftovers Saturday, so you don't have to PLAN per se, just pick a pasta recipe you're in the mood for that week.

One person should be in charge of cleaning and taking care of the toddler after dinner, the other of leftovers and kitchen cleanup. (I prefer to cook + clean on my cooking nights, and take the kids on my non-cooking nights, but that's a personal preference, lots of people prefer one cooks, the other cleans, and whoever isn't in the kitchen has the kids so both do some kitchen and some kids every night.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:19 PM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another suggestion for the cooking thing is to batch cook, planning and precooking together every week or so. Disclaimer, I've never tried this with toddlers underfoot, but mealplanning and prep can be done weeks in advance if you've got the freezer space. Sit down together and brainstorm a bunch of meals that you like and have at least one major component that can be made and frozen. Then, make a shopping list, and cook for together for a few hours. With toddlers, you might have to do this in the evening after they've gone to bed.

There are a lot of resources on the internet for this, some of which are truly epic. But mostly it's about making dinner mindless. So that you don't have to make any decisions on weekdays when you are on your own, and only have to do a few minutes of work (which he could do when he got home from work).

And yeah, have serious discussion about how you are not his mother, and he needs to be part of the housework team.
posted by kjs4 at 8:29 PM on July 26, 2017

Man that followup conversation sounds annoying as hell, sorry.
I would bring up the conversation again, every night. You gave him 3 reasonable options. He has brought no solutions to the table except 'status quo', which you need to be firm is actually not an option for your sanity and your relationship. With two kids and a wife he needs to grow up and not act like a spoiled teenager. Not even teenager, his whining makes him sound like a tired toddler.
posted by like_neon at 1:54 AM on July 27, 2017

The conversation in the follow-up is in itself an illustration of the dynamic where you have the role of mom and your husband is the kid that gets to rebel or resist passively. I totally get where you're coming from, but I had to learn the hard way that just offering solutions is counterproductive and I try to follow what drlith wrote .
posted by meijusa at 4:04 AM on July 27, 2017

Ugh, his response. This isn't going to be easy. But I think you need to step back and recognize he's going to be pretty blindsided by your perfectly reasonable requests, so you need to go more global here and not start with something like dinner, which I would drop.

Instead, you need to find a calm and less stressful time to sit him down and basically explain that as a family, you've fallen into a pattern that you don't like and you need his help in changing. Then tell him basically, you're exhausted doing all this stuff and yes you KNOW he also works and is tired, but you need him to start doing X, Y and Z.

Don't be surprised if he gets angry and childish. This is coming as a surprise to him and he's probably going to hear it as a list of his flaws. Make it clear this isn't a list of his flaws but a situation that no longer works for you. And no matter what, do not phrase this as him doing things that would help you, because that's not what this is.

Together, go over the chores and between the two of you, figure out what he's going to do and what you're going to do. He needs to be part of the solution.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:20 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't mastered this just sharing some rather disorganized thoughts.

Nthing the emotional labor thread. He needs to read it.

In my experience repetition is key, although you want to take care not to be too heavy handed. You prime the other person to be more receptive to your point of view the more you share it. My husband is finally hearing how sleep deprived I am from nursing all night after peppering the conversation with that idea over several days.

I have accepted that I have to do some level of management but absolutely whatever you can problem solve together, that goes over better. I'm getting ready to return to work after a break so I sat down with my husband and said here's the stuff that needs to happen regularly. Let's figure out who should he doing what, so we don't fight so much when we adjust to the new schedule. (I tried posting lists of what needs to happen in each room a long time ago, which didn't work. You need buy-in.)

As far as him doing things he should do as an adult, I suggest that you decide what your boundaries are, let him know, and remember to follow through when he probably forgets and then has the consequences because I hate to say it but yeah may not really hear you until he has a sting from what you have decided to do. Dental pain that he doesn't deal with etc.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:35 AM on July 27, 2017

oh, another thing - what needed explaining in my house, both to my kids and husband, is that there is no kitchen fairy. If you leave your dishes on the table/ in the sink / on the counter you are specifically leaving them for me and I don't like it. I'm no more interested in cleaning up your crap than you are.

I use this parlance when I have to - "don't leave that for me." It seems to get the point across much better than "don't leave that there" which I guess is more abstract.

(This is only for the kitchen because it makes me crazy to have it messy so I *do* feel compelled to clean it. I don't patrol the rest of the house.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If - and that's a whole other conversation you need to have - you have equal access to finances and say, you can calmly announce a worker's strike with a baby on the way as an immovable deadline. By A month, he needs to be doing his equal share of the childcare and housework above your daily work, or you hire a housekeeper/nanny/meal service, whatever paid outsourcing will help the most. Translate the huge amount of additional unpaid work you are being expected by him and you to undertake to keep your household running into actual cold hard cash. Then see if he wants to either diy the work himself and pitch in, or pay fairly so you have a reasonable workload with a brand new baby to look after (and the home equivalent of medical leave, hahahah, bitter laugh from someone who remembers nursing a newborn while supervising kids and preparing dinner as their father napped).

Seriously, you are doing economically valuable work that makes his job and your household possible. You need to be recognised, and it sounds like a bill from a dinner service will make the point.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:45 AM on July 28, 2017

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