Tricks/hacks to divide housework more fairly as a couple?
May 26, 2019 12:13 PM   Subscribe

While things are more equal in relationships than ever before, there's still a pretty well documented imbalance in housework and emotional labor among cishet couples. Looking for concrete examples from ALL types of couples about how you divide housework to feel fair. Bonus points for tricks that especially helped after having kids.

Every couple I know struggles with the problem of how to figure out what balance of housework, paid work, household management tasks and emotional labor that are fair between two people. Assuming both parties want equality and fairness, what are some practical ways to expose the volume of labor involved, divvy up the work, avoid resentment/defensiveness, and make a household run smoothly and happily?

Imagining we could learn a lot from same-sex or non-conforming people in couples who aren't dealing with as much societal expectation around the division of labor. But also, would love to hear from other cishet couples about how they made progress on the issue.

And to get really real: how do we make dudes feel less defensive about the whole thing?

All the research says the household labor imbalance gets immediately worse in the first 4 years after having kids, so bonus points for any specific tips/tricks for that stage of life.

Thank you!
posted by amoeba to Human Relations (32 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think this is the article you're looking for, just published in The New York Times this week. It's about entering actual data on a spreadsheet to show exactly who's doing what in a household and where realignments need to take place. It's pretty brilliant.
posted by Elsie at 12:33 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


John Gottman (whom I will buck the trend and not recommend generally) has a list of chores for couples to review. (No connection with that blog, just the first link that had the list.) I like it because it includes some emotional labor tasks, but you can add/subtract what works for you two.

I've done the exercise with a partner about noting who you think currently does what, who cares most about what, etc. And I've done it as a straight spreadsheet about assigning or signing up for chores. You can work it a number of ways. One slice I found helpful was to categorize those by how frequently you want those things done. That gets at some of the "but I do all the yard work" [once a season] protests in stereotypical households where that's a justification for not doing more daily chores like monitoring homework or something.

Before you have kids is a good time to spitball with each other about whether you'll reward for chores done or whether they're part of being in the family. And what the consequences are for not pitching in. That way once kids come along, you'll be better poised to implement any plan without having to explore it under the duress of parenting.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:36 PM on May 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


we do mostly ok generally dividing up tasks according to whoever hates it less.

One thing I insisted on early is that husband does 80-90% of kid cleanup supervision, so we don't fall into the stereotypical "mean mom nags while fun dad hides" misery trap. Recommend.

I am grateful to have a cleaning service every 2 weeks for stuff like cleaning the bathroom. I consider it a crucial investment in household harmony.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:40 PM on May 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


Haha, you buried the lede! >how do we make dudes feel less defensive about the whole thing?

Not your job. If dude can't have a productive conversation about making a household run in a way that works for two grown up people without getting defensive, chores aren't the problem.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:41 PM on May 26, 2019 [38 favorites]


Half of a cishet couple with three kids (and pretty stereotypical arguments about household labor) here. Rather than actually negotiating like sane people, we agreed* a while back on the goal of chore-assignment (to minimize what fraction either of us feels like we're doing) and literally optimize for that. We come up with a big list of what chores/tasks need doing, each (secretly) assign "costs" to each chore out of 100, and then do brute-force minimax--i.e. we look for the division of labor that minimizes the maximum sum of chore costs. We revisit the matter once or twice a year, or when major new chores come up. There's a (neglected, because kids) implementation you can use here - http://minichore.herokuapp.com/allocate/ I find this avoids a lot of defensiveness on both sides.

* By which I mean I proposed this knowing it'd be kind of hard to object without calling into question one's commitment to the stated outcome. Whether that is fair or good wifely behavior is a separate matter.
posted by cogitron at 1:01 PM on May 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


Queer couple with a kid here - we’re both women. I am home with the kid, my wife works full time. We divide up chores very explicitly, mostly based on who hates or who doesn’t mind various tasks. I also do most things that can be done with a kid (grocery shopping) and things that require being home for a while but don’t take much supervised time (laundry). I do significantly more than half of the chores right now (by agreement), because the kid is old enough to play by herself some and because she has preschool two mornings a week.

It works a lot better for me to have things be either my job or not my job - if we are both supposed to contribute a nebulous amount, I find that I end up trying to keep track in a way that doesn’t feel great. If we divide things up in a way that feels fair and mostly do everything on our lists, it takes a lot less emotional energy.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


The book How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids has a great breakdown procedure, loosely based on Gottman.
posted by k8t at 1:52 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the great suggestions so far! And hey, fair point @cocoagirl, but literally this is where most cishet women I know are properly stuck.

Every Facebook mom group I'm a part of bemoans this problem, at length. I've had three accidential conversations with women just in the last week who asked some variation on how they can't figure out how to get their partners to do more, and they don't know even how to bring it up without causing a fight.

So this is a hard problem — and I don't think it's practical for everyone to just ditch the guys who show some defensiveness over the issue. It has to be dealt with in some way.
posted by amoeba at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Your partner is getting defensive because he thinks he already does SO much, right? Not a problem. I’d take that comment in good faith and say if that’s the case and he’s, what, unfairly burdened?, he’ll jump at the chance to swap chores for a week, or a month, whatever. So now you do his chores and he does yours. All of them. To be extra helpful, you can both make lists before the start of the experiment and then swap them, no looking at the list though and then backing out.

That means the emotional labour tasks too. So he has to send the Christmas cards, remember the birthdays and dr appointment, remember that Snuffy needs flea medication AND deal with the normal laundry, dishes, whatever stuff it is that you deal with. But that’ll be fine, because he already does more than that, every day, right? Right?!

If he refuses to take on your chores because he knows he’s got the easier end of things, that’s your starting point to renegotiate. If he actually does take on your chores, even better. You get an easy month and he learns a lesson. Then you can move on from there.
posted by Jubey at 2:45 PM on May 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


it can be helpful to couch this in "what do you think we should do about" language rather than like "hey I've noticed you're not pulling your weight" or "let's sit down this weekend and talk about Chores."

Also, I don't know if you're having this issue, but don't wait for him to notice and correct an inequity, no matter how glaring you think the problem is. Example - in my household, cooking and general kitchen stuff were definitely in my sphere because I don't hate them. However, it made me furious that after I cooked a meal and he sat down and ate it, he would just wander off from the table like it was a restaurant, leaving me to clear the dishes. I couldn't believe he didn't see how rude it was and I wished he'd be considerate enough to notice it on his own, but it was not happening. Eventually I swallowed my butthurt and told him explicitly "hey, I'm happy to cook for you, but it makes me feel like a servant when you just get up and wander off expecting me to clean up. You need to clear all the dishes from the table, not just yours, and including the serving plates, and get them into the dishwasher." He may have been taken aback at the time, and I had to remind him once or twice, but he got over it, now it's muscle memory for him, and everyone is happy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


It's not a hard problem, it's impossible because men get angry / defensive / fight because that's how they get out of work. You can't strategize around someone deliberately shirking. It's a waste of time to do so.

You can't divorce them but at least I would just say, for your own self-respect, "you are trying to fight with me because you are, cruelly, using my emotional need for affection, peace, and approval as a weapon against me in order to get out of doing your share. It's not okay, but it's your choice and I can't stop you." And then just do everything that needs to get done.

The worst of all worlds is, IMO, wheedling and begging and whining and fake-niceing until you're a little submissive nub of a person. I'd rather do chores alone for the rest of my life.

(Disclaimer: I divorced him)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:03 PM on May 26, 2019 [43 favorites]


I'm a woman in a cis-het marriage, going on 25 years, with 2 adult children.

We have always, always had a 50%-50% partnership in every aspect of our relationship, including but not limited to cleaning and parenting, and the emotional labor that goes along with both. This is partly because he's just a good guy raised by rather radical parents (for their day) - both parents worked full time even after the children were born, and his dad pitched in with laundry, cooking, and child care. It's also partly because I relayed my expectations regarding division of duties before we moved in together. My father was one of those "I work hard all day, why isn't my dinner on the table!" kind of guy and I vowed I wouldn't be in a relationship that wasn't a full partnership.

I bore the pregnancies, gave birth, and breastfed. He got up at night feedings and changed their diapers before handing them off to me to nurse. He knew their clothing sizes, the names of their teachers, when show-and-tell was, when the doctor's appointments were. Whomever made an appointment would write it on our family calendar. We'd discuss the upcoming week on Sunday, dividing up appointments, carpools, grocery runs, errands, etc.

When I started working outside the house full time, he took over laundry duty full time, because he works from home and so was able to move clothes from the washer to the dryer. I put the clothes away when I get home. We both write grocery items on the white board in the kitchen, and he helps me plan the weekly dinner menu. Sometimes we go to the store together, sometimes I go alone because I like it. I do the bulk of the cooking because, again, I like it. If I'm sick or don't feel like cooking for whatever reason, he goes out and pick something up. He cleans up after I cook, making sure to put food in containers for me for lunch at work.

He cleans the litter boxes, I clean the bathrooms. He mows the lawn (I have grass allergies) and I vacuum the floors. We both keep the kitchen counters wiped down and cleaned, we both keep the common areas cleaned and tidy. Right now we're working together on a deep clean of the master bedroom.

All of that above is stuff we do now that the kids are gone. When they were home, they were fairly equal participants in all of the household maintenance.

I literally would not have married him if he had not shown me, incredibly early, that he wasn't going to a full partner. My mother was and is miserable because she's the one who shoulders everything and I was determined that I was not going to live that way. I didn't marry a child, ffs.
posted by cooker girl at 3:30 PM on May 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


Cishet presenting couple with one toddler.

Defenesive, gah yes.

I give choices. Do you want to do x or y thing. I also outsource a lot of the parenting tasks, one off tasks, and large but structured tasks.

I would say before you get into a dark cycle just see a marital counselor and they can be the heavy!

I also unload a bunch of second shift material to my partner via articles and quotes from books ... I have sent him screenshots of that emotional labor article where she talked about how it always causes a fight to bring it up... right after it caused a fight to bring it up....

And I've said things like look, either you actually want an egalitarian relationship like you said you did, and you'll start to be more proactive here, or you're a lying liar face. He doesn't want to be a liar so he tries more.

He does drop offs, many pick ups, takes child to doctor appointments, and manages *everything* not work related by himself when my disability is acting up. (The house goes to shit usually but if I were doing all the things I wouldn't be able to keep it tidy either.)
posted by crunchy potato at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2019


The way I don’t with this with a partner who have a disability and couldn’t shoulder any of the cleaning was that we had a standing agreement that in the event I would choose not to do it anymore, he would pay for it to be outsourced. We actually did reach this point once I got to be about seven months pregnant and I told him I simply wasn’t going to scrub the bathtub anymore at this point. He had no problems hiring a cleaner. We also had an ongoing understanding that any events or commitments involving his family or his responsibility to negotiate, and any involving my family were my responsibility.

But we never did get around to resolving, because he passed away unexpectedly before we have a chance, was the presumption of the default parent. He had no problems texting me at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday and saying that some guys were going out after work and he’d be late. Is presumption that he was just of course for you to say yes to those kind of things because I would be there for the baby was going to be a tough habit to break for him.
posted by ficbot at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well, I have a a 100% equitable cis hetero situation with one kid in the mix and I'll tell you what it took. You ready for this One Weird Trick?

My husband decided to be an adult.

That's it. Prior to that we had every discussion, argument, interpretive dance, tried every to do list and spreadsheet, everything that you read on all your parenting groups. And then he finally got it and made the choice to be a fully functional human adult. Now we just talk idly about house stuff, sometimes jot things on a whiteboard, but mostly just look around and see a thing that needs to be done and do it, in generally equal amounts. It's great. Highly recommend A+
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:44 PM on May 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


and I don't think it's practical for everyone to just ditch the guys who show some defensiveness over the issue

'doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this.' etc.

hyperbolically writing off solutions pre-emptively because they require bravery and great risk-taking is a great way to keep things the same as they ever were.

of course sometimes it's not just difficult and a sacrifice to leave, it's impossible. because you'll starve if you do, or because he'll kill you, or because you'd have to leave your children behind with a prick who won't clean his own house.

the thing, and the reason I say this so often, is that when you lay all your cards on the table this way, those guys can see the cards as well as you can. when you stipulate up front that leaving someone who takes advantage of you and displays contempt for you is a ridiculous and unrealistic option, that it just can't be done, the question that's left is: how can I negotiate with a hostage-taker, from my position as a hostage? and the answer is: very carefully, and not very effectively. If you know you won't leave, he knows you won't leave.

so sure, keep scoffing at the idea of not putting up with this, treat the very suggestion as a distraction to be rhetorically disclaimed before the real conversation starts. but there is such a thing as bluffing, you know? if you can't bring yourself to believe that leaving is a choice you have, at least make him believe it. because if he doesn't believe there's any realistic threat to his family or his comfortably dominant position in it, or any serious consequences that can come of him saying Yes dear out of one side of his mouth and doing nothing out of the other, then any "hack" is just a shortcut back to impotent '50s-style fuming in facebook groups forever.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:48 PM on May 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


Find and get clear on both of your priorities. Question traditional households and how they may not be something that fits into your world (for me, holiday cards are a bogus construct, for example. I am woman, I don’t do no stinkin’ cards for god’s sake). Classify each chore in terms of importance for each person. If you need to have clean laundry, you are in charge of laundry. If he needs fresh veggies everyday, he’s in charge of groceries. People do what benefits them. Mostly, question traditional assumptions of what is necessary. Reducing what is needed in ‘running a household’ does wonders in living a meaningful life with your family.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


He cooks; I clean.

Cooking includes grocery shopping; planning; and declaring "cook's night off"/ setting out the leftovers. It does not include catering to my every craving.

Cleaning includes laundry, vacuuming, general picking up, and supervising the housekeeper (when we have one). It does not include cleaning up his specific messes.

Both categories have overlaps and both include helping each other out when asked.

We started this when we got married and it has generally kept us feeling like things are pretty fair. We both feel like we got the better end of the deal.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:08 PM on May 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


My ex and I had a routine, every Saturday morning, he would do the dust mopping of the hardwood floors, I cleaned the upstairs bathroom. When my daughter was 9 or 10, she cleaned the downstairs bathroom (which she used the most), and did sweeping and dust mopping.

We traded off scooping the kitty litter, did yard work together, he was in charge of washing the car, as that was his thing, we traded off taking the trash to the curb.

When I had my son, I was nursing him, and exhausted, and made a schedule on the paper calendar for my ex and daughter to trade off doing the dishes, because I said, "hey, raising a small human here, I am not doing dishes for a while!"

Currently, I do all of the cooking, because that's my hobby, and I do dishes and most of the house work, as my husband works full time and also has physical limitations (hip implants and arthritis in his back and shoulders), that prevent him from bending down to scoop the kitty litter, or standing for long periods of time. I did buy a broom and dust pan on a stick, so he can sweep. He also does the trash/dump and recycle run on weekends.

I am super picky about things, like to the point where I'll get miffed if he does happen to do the dishes, because I want them done a certain way, and I know where everything goes. But he does offer to help out, which for I appreciate, and he helps with laundry, which we do together at the laundromat.

In turn, I treat myself to a pedicure once a month, don't cook if I don't feel up to it (he will run for takeout if I ask), and sometimes I let the dishes slide for one day, because we don't have kids in the house. I've come home and found him cleaning the cat food dishes for me, which he knows I hate doing. It's also his job to brush the floofy cat, a task he has taken on himself.

In my previous relationship, I did get resentful from doing the bulk of the childcare. The one in between that one and this one, I felt constantly criticized for not being clean enough.

Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed, like I can never catch up with housework, but know I could hire someone to help me do a Spring cleaning (if I could get over my embarrassment at the state of my house at times). I've just accepted the fact that he can't do a lot, physically, it's not his forte, and I am more of a company cleaner, tho' I do get the kitchen cleaned up most days, the rest gets done as I am feeling up to it, as I have my own health issues, which can cause fatigue, so I do it in spurts when I am able.

One thing I have done is steer him toward dealing with his relatives and planning holiday get-togethers, I used to do that and be in charge of remembering birthdays, buying gifts, etc., and now he is in charge of that for his side of the family, which gives me a mental break.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:04 AM on May 27, 2019


Transbi het-appearing queer couple partner, no kids.

I'm the masculine appearing one but I have deep training in feminism and feminist activism and most days I do more of the housekeeping. Not like 90/10. More like 60/40.

We've decided to buy a floor cleaning bot but haven't yet executed on it.

We have a dishwashing machine but our pots and knives have to be hand washed. We made tacit agreements there about one of us loading and the other unloading but it didn't work well for keeping dishes clean so we renegotiated that we'll do what we can and articulate if one of us observed too much untidiness and wanting help.

We have an impulse toward untidiness in general but admire friends who keep pristinely tidied houses so we sort of operate in cycles of a few weeks or a couple of months, centered around preparation for an ad hoc professional house cleaners visit. Or we'll solo (without house cleaners but together) do a half a day of cleaning on a weekend together with minor decluttering. Every few years we do a full decluttering, getting rid of boxes of stuff we boxed up to see if we'd miss it.

We do have to talk stuff out and negotiate regularly. We both had to learn to prioritize being nice to each other about it. Our culture doesn't help in that regard.

One thing that helped me was the maxim a friend and restaurant service (wait staff, front of house) instructor teaches his students: ABC or "Always be carrying". When you move from room to room in the house, scan it for something that belongs in another room that you're headed for or through. If you have a free hand, pick it up, and put it down in its destination.
posted by kalessin at 6:40 AM on May 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


Another thing that helps us is during focused cleaning events we'll agree ahead of time to do like 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off. So we keep busy for 20 minutes then take a 10 minute break, not necessarily synchronized.
posted by kalessin at 6:43 AM on May 27, 2019


Agree on a level of cleanliness. Let there be no "well I don't see it" or "if you care about it you do it." Agree what's clean for your family. Because letting "the one who cares more" do it usually still just so happens to coincidentally somehow just weirdly be women cleaning more.
Another commonly cited issue is women will do the more daily chores and men the once in a whiles or once a weeks. Make sure you're not just somehow councidentally doing all the foundational chores (dishes, laundry, vacuuming) while he gets the lawn. If I still had a lawn and I could mow it to get out of doing dishes anymore I would.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:10 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm male, and spent a lot of my life not doing my part. If you'd pressed me about it I would have been able to rationalise it to myself (she just has higher standards; I do these other things; I'll get to it later; etc.).

What changed me was years of reading Metafilter. Listening to womens' experiences and stories. Eventually I realised that all the times I ignore a job, or leave it until later, or don't notice a job, I'm actually just deciding that she should do it. That my time is more important. And I don't want to be that guy.

If we start with the assumption that your partner is a good person but whose experience of the world is totally clouded by decades of patriarchy, I think it's possible to change him, but it will require a lot of patience and emotional labour (I know that it's bullshit that this ALSO becomes your job.)

Thinking about what would have worked with me, I'd start with establishing some principles: That you both love each other and want to support each other.
That you both value time to relax or do whatever it is that you do, and that you both need chores to be done.
That you both value equality, and that there's nothing inherent about any chore that means only one person can do it.

Then it's time for some bigger steps:
That it's easy to come up with reasons why you avoid housework, and it's easy to get defensive when discussing it.
That growing up in this patriarchal world means he's grown up with some sexist ideas about whose responsibility housework is, and that even if he disagrees in principle those ideas are still evident in his actions.
That in a two person household, every time he ignores a job he's telling you that his time is more important than yours.

If you get that far (and this doesn't all have to take place at once), then you could start to divide up jobs by which ones aren't such a hassle, and proceed from there. It's important as well to agree that the job isn't just the 'doing' part - it's being responsible for it, anticipating it, and planning for it. If he takes care of the trash and recycling, it's also his job to know when the bags are running low, etc.

All the best.
posted by twirlypen at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2019 [16 favorites]


One thing you could try is a veil of ignorance kind of thing and/or an old sibling trick if the issue really truly is the male half of the couple "not understanding" how things aren't fair as-is. This is designed to eliminate good-faith arguments about fairness. (It will not eliminate men failing to live up to their promises, though, so, you know.)

---List all of the chores that have to be done
---One of you makes 8 (or 10, or 12) individual chore "chunks" that are approximately equal to each other in difficulty. (You need to have a lot of these to minimize strategic behavior).
---The other person picks half of them to be "their" chores and half to be the other person's chores
---You can trade after six weeks, but only at the level of chunks --- you can't split up the chunks
---After three months, you do the same thing again
---Repeat forever
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:11 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


^^^The key to this is the person who cuts cannot choose. It originates from the "divide and choose" method which apparently was in the bible.

Economists love this kind of thing, and note --- as I did --- that it's fairly easy, if you know your counterparty's subjective preferences, to use those to your favor. That is why you have to split chores into a lot of different smaller chunks, instead of just two. Otherwise a knowledgeable counterparty can do something like put all the easy chores in a bundle with the one chore that they know you hate.

(You might just take advantage of known cognitive distortions and say that the male half of the couple should work until he starts to feel like he's doing way more than his fair share but if you want to get game-theory-ish with it, this is the way to go.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was nodding at cooker girl's description - I think my het marriage is somewhat similar.

- Mr. e did night diaper changes while I breastfed (and most of the diaper changes, period, while I was convalescing from childbirth)
- Mr. e did a *lot* of child supervision during the toddler years, because I was finishing school. Now that I'm out of school and Little e is in it, it's more even.
- I do bedtime and supervise at-home work from school and (usually) extracurriculars; he makes lunches.
- Mr. e does all the driving for Little e and the kitties, because I can't drive. This is a substantial imbalance, unfortunately, because Little e goes to private school. So whereas he used to do most of the cooking, from enjoyment of cooking, I now do most of it, to pay him back for this and make our evenings work, even though I sort of hate it.
- All the extracurriculars are in/near our neighborhood, and we set it up this way deliberately because of the driving thing. I take Little e to piano lessons; he does swimming; we split aikido 50/50.
- Mr. e does almost all the garden work; we split mowing, raking, and shoveling roughly 50/50
- Mr. e typically does dishes when I'm supervising little e, although sometimes we switch.
- Mr. e does the laundry and I fold it. This sort of doesn't feel 50/50 because folding is so time intensive, so in practice he tolerates my leaving it in baskets until I have an hour+ to knock it all out, once a week ish.
- We split tidying 50/50.
- Mr. e has asthma, so I do the catboxes almost always.
- Mr. e calls contractors when we need stuff done around the house.
- Mental labor: I handle most of the bills; he does a bunch of the internet chores for school, though I do most personal correspondence with teachers etc; I set up playdates; he sets up babysitters.

The biggest difference between us is that he will use any down time productively, whereas I tend toward laziness unless I'm very aware of a time crunch (e.g. people coming over in two hours or something). Still, I think the balance that's fallen out is still somewhere in the neighborhood of fair.
posted by eirias at 10:09 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh, I also wanted to say, to the extent that labor in my family is equitably distributed, I owe a great debt to my male, Baby Boomer undergraduate academic advisor, of all people. One day when I was nineteen and thinking about doing an independent study in his lab, I went in to discuss it with him, and what I expected to be 15-30 minutes of logistics instead turned out to be a meandering, 75-minute conversation about career options and scientific potential, a significant fraction of which was a disquisition on feminism, the publication advantage for men, the persistent imbalance in the distribution of domestic labor, and the fact that if I wanted to be an academic I should never have kids with a man who wasn't going to do his fair share of the work, from diapers to birthday parties. I left that conversation and cried for an hour, but holy shit, that guy did me one of the biggest favors in my career. I'm only sort of an academic anyway, but I sure did follow his advice about men.
posted by eirias at 10:19 AM on May 27, 2019 [12 favorites]


My wife and I had some issues around this when we first moved in together, and we found chore wars to be really helpful, to the point that we were pushing past each other to try to get to the dirty dishes first. You have to have a very specific kind of brain for that to work though.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:43 AM on May 28, 2019


Here is what works for us in our hetero marriage where the male partner does a slight majority. #1, final responsibility for a task has to rest with one partner or another. The partner with secondary responsibility can and should help out, but it is the primary partner's responsibility to make sure that X gets done or delegate to the secondary partner. #2, there must be periods of more than a few days when one partner is responsible for everything, such as a work trip, vacation with friends, etc. There is no better way to appreciate the scope of what the other partner is doing than seeing how bad things get if their tasks are left undone. #3, as frequently noted, tasks have to be assigned based on strengths and weaknesses. You're not getting the best out of each other if you're not using your comparative advantages. #4, as far as possible each partner should take care of their own stuff. We each do our own laundry, buy gifts for our own families, etc. Those tasks don't benefit from one person being in charge for the whole family. We only unevenly divide tasks when it doesn't make sense; e.g. mopping half a floor.
posted by wnissen at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


Trans, bi, queer (formerly cishet) couple, two cats, no kids, Serious Issues with housework and cognitive/emotional labor that didn’t magically go away when I quit being a guy. Some things that have helped:
- Dr. problemsolved enjoys cooking and I just can’t do it, so she cooks and I clean the kitchen.*
- She hates laundry and I don’t mind it, so I take care of that.*
- We have professional cleaners come in once a month, which lets us focus more on tidiness than on deep cleaning.
- For projects like house-hunting or keeping the cats fed/immunized/de-flea’d/etc., I do 100% of the legwork* in exchange for not having to project-manage, so she doesn’t get physically exhausted and I don’t end up panicking and shutting down.
- *(But when I drop the ball on tasks to the point where she gives up and does them herself, under no circumstances do I complain to her about how that makes me feel or ask her to stop, which sounds obvious but is a boundary that we actually had to negotiate.)
- I found a good therapist to talk with about how I hate myself for never being doing enough, instead of implicitly asking Dr. problemsolved to keep providing comfort/reassurance while also picking up my slack.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 7:27 PM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


In my relationship, we hit a problem that needed to be addressed *before* this one comes up.

We value different things, and our standards were equally high, but simply different.

My partner really likes the floors, couch, and other soft surfaces to be not-dusty.
My partner was frustrated that I never vacuum.

I really like the counters and sinks to be empty-of-stuff and clean.
I was frustrated that my partner leaves tons of stuff on the counters.

Without discussing "what does success here look like", assigning additional work to one of the two partners... may be a bit premature. ;-)
posted by talldean at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't have a direct answer but thought you might find something in this link/full episode (or the book referred to therein) useful.
posted by xm at 9:47 AM on June 1, 2019


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