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Who Does What: How A Rabbi and Marriage Counselor Approaches Dividing Chores With His Wife | Fairygodboss
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Who Does What
Who Does What: How A Rabbi and Marriage Counselor Approaches Dividing Chores With His Wife
Photo courtesy of Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin
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For most of human history, the way we talk about household labor divisions has rotated largely around heteronormative gender roles. Thankfully, the idea that gender should determine the "who does what" of housework is (mostly) no longer the world we live in. But there’s still no rule book for helping partners figure out how to divvy up household chores — the physical, mental, and emotional ones — in a way that’s fair and equitable. 

So, what does the division of household chores for modern couples look like, really? In FGB’s Who Does What series, we asked readers to complete an exercise in order to share with us the amount and nature of housework they actually do, and how they and their partner decided to divvy it all up.

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Name: Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, Co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project with his wife, Rivka

Location: Baltimore, MD

Relationship status: Married

What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? House

Do you have any kids or pets? Yes, 5 kids

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How long have you and your partner been together? 

17 ½ years

How long have you been living together?

17 ½ years

What chores do you do daily, and how did you and your partner decide you’d be the one to do them? Please describe. 

I make the kids' lunches and usually dinner and clean the kitchen. I also do laundry.

What chores do you do weekly and/or monthly, and how did you and your partner decide you’d be the one to do them? Please describe. 

I usually do most of the cooking for our weekly Sabbath meals. It’s like a weekly Thanksgiving so it’s a lot of cooking. I came into the marriage knowing how to cook, so it was easier for me. I am also very organized and efficient in the kitchen, so it is easier for my wife when I cook.

How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them? 

She does carpool and laundry, sweeping, straightening up and decluttering.

What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them? 

She does grocery shopping, as she is out and about more than I am.

Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not? 

My wife used to declutter a lot growing up but had nothing to do with the kitchen. While I cooked a little bit growing up, my father would work long hours so I really did not see him doing any household chores at all. It’s still a stretch for me, as I have certain expectations of what my wife should be doing based on what I saw my mother do at home.

What’s something you and your partner could improve on when divvying up and completing household tasks? What’s something you feel you’re doing well?

My wife says she could do a better job pitching in. Our house is organized and neat and looks nice. We both like a certain standard and get it done.

We have learned through trial and error over the years.  A 50/50 split is not always realistic.  We prefer to focus on our strengths and do what we are best and most efficient at. While we both do some of the other's jobs, we try to be flexible and do what needs to be done to manage our household. This is especially necessary if you have small kids. You have to learn how to roll with the flow and not get caught up on what's "supposed to be" and just focus on what needs to be done.

Lightning Round

1. Who makes the bed? 

Rivka does, but not right away

2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation? 

We both do

3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments? 

Rivka does for the kids

4. Who picks up the dry cleaning? 

I do

5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?

Rivka

6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?) 

I do

7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed? 

We both do

8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?

Me

9. Who vacuums?

Mostly Rivka

10. Who was the last person to dust something?

Rivka

11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?

Rivka

12. Who buys groceries?

Rivka

13. Who brings in the mail? 

I do

14. Who irons?

I do

15. Who was the last person to clean out the fridge/pantry of expired items?

Rivka

16. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?

Shlomo

17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels? 

Rivka

18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?

I did

19. Who planned your last date night?

I do

20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it? 

Rivka

21. Who goes to parent-teacher conferences?

We both do

22. When you need a babysitter, who is the one to book and communicate with them? 

Rivka

23. Your child(ren) has a half-day at school. Who handles this, and how?

We both pick them up depending on schedule

24. Who takes your child(ren) to their extracurricular activities? (If you divvy this up, who goes to what activity?)

We both do

25. Who planned the last birthday party for a child?

Rivka

26. Who took your child(ren) to get a vaccination last?

Rivka

27. Your child acted out. Who will discipline them, generally? 

Rivka

28. Your child needs a haircut. Who notices this, and who makes the appointment? Who takes them to the appointment? 

I take the boys. Rivka does the girls.

29. Your child is about to outgrow their shoes. Who notices this, and who takes them to the shoe store?

Rivka

30. The last time you got a call from the school nurse that your child was sick, what did you and your partner do? 

We picked them up from school.

31. During weekends and vacations, who considers the children’s’ needs for entertainment, meals and their schedule (in general)?

Rivka

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Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.

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