Did you know that I studied Marriage and Cohabitation in grad school? Specifically, I studied gender roles and power structures within married and cohabiting couples. (I know, my poor husband.) Mr. A and I had such a whirlwind romance that I could have ended up with basically any type of household labor division…. I knew that he kept his room pretty clean and that he was willing to do grocery shopping, but the rest was a big question mark until we moved in together. Some couples are totally solid doing the traditional gender roles for their household: she cooks and cleans, he mows the lawn and fixes the car. A ton of couples seek to be egalitarian and equal in their division of household labor, but women still end up “owning” the household chores (Meaning, sure he helps with things around the house but only if she asks.) There is even a book called The Second Shift about how sometimes both the husband and wife are working full time and at the end of the day the wife comes home to do an entire “second” shift of cooking, cleaning, child-wrangling. Interesting, no?
The biggest thing I learned when studying power and labor is that the important thing is not how things are split in a household but how fair the people in the relationship view it.
Here are some of the things that work for us:
- Ownership. Somethings are all his, somethings are all mine, the rest is ours. Mr. A does all the laundry. Doing the laundry is SO his thing that I don’t think about it ever. I have no idea if we’re running low on laundry detergent. From start to finish (meaning he folds and puts away our clothes too) he owns the laundry. I clean the bathroom and do the grocery shopping. Everything else is jointly owned between us. When something needs to get done, whomever sees the need will do it. Mr. A is the first man I have ever lived with where we really share the household.
- Chore Time. We wake up Saturday mornings and clean the apartment. We may grumble the entire time, but we do it. Then we can spend the rest of the weekend in various forms of lazy and napping without any guild. It’s lovely.
- Chore Aversion. There are somethings I hate to do that Mr. A doesn’t mind and vice versa. (I hate laundry with a firy passion.) I think we both are SO grateful to not have to do the things we hate, we do the rest of our chores more willingly.
- Partnership. I think it’s important to remember that some days or weeks we all need a little more help. Being in a partnership means that sometimes I will do more and sometimes Mr. A will do more. We try really hard to not keep a score sheet, because that leads to resentment. We love each other. We help each other out when we see the other person needs it. We’re both working towards the same things.
- Dinner. We have a simple rule in our house: If you cook, you don’t clean up after dinner. The end.