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.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Relationship status: Engaged
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? Apartment
Do you have any kids or pets? We have one cat, and it’s really her apartment.
How long have you and your partner been together?
We’ve been dating two years next month and have been engaged for five months.
How long have you been living together?
Just over a year.
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 am the Type A partner in our relationship, so I’m more concerned with keeping things tidy than my fiance is. When we first moved in, that led to a period of adjustment and gradually to compromise. Today, he helps keep things a little tidier than he would on his own, and I try my best not to have an anxiety attack when dishes are left in the sink (lol).
That said, I still take responsibility for a lot of the little daily tidying up. It’s usually me taking out the trash and recycling in the morning, making sure countertops in the kitchen are cleared off and dishes are put away (that’s a big thing for me visually). I go to work earlier than my fiance does, so I’m usually the one feeding the cat in the morning, too.
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 manage any deliveries we have coming into the apartment (we have groceries delivered from Fresh Direct and have laundry picked up and dropped off, which is a life saver in New York). This can fluctuate, because sometimes it’ll be a few deliveries in one week and other times we’ll go a couple weeks without any. (But no more than a couple weeks because I’m not letting our stinky gym clothes sit around, lol). I take care of this because I was already living in this apartment before he moved in with me, so I had these deliveries set up. It was just easier to continue. I also clean the kitchen — like, a full-on scrub down — once a week.
As far as money matters go, I’m the one paying rent and our utility bills because, again, I already had that set up before he moved in. Other financial things we still do separately — we have our own bank accounts, credit cards, gym memberships, and things like that. But after we get married next year (it’s a long engagement!), we will be reworking some of that stuff and will need to have some conversations around who’s in charge of what.
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
My fiance is a chef professionally, and he definitely keeps his chef’s hat on at home, too. I have gained 15 pounds since he moved in! But he’s amazing in the kitchen and I was eating mostly Seamless deliveries before him, lol, so I’m not complaining. He also keeps our bar fully stocked with my favorite wine. Since I’m the one who manages getting our laundry sent out and back, we also struck a deal that he has to put it away. He is mostly pretty consistent with that.
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
He deep cleans the bathroom once a week (like I said, I’ve taught him well, lol). He also still has a car, and since I would be fine without one, I let him take care of any and all maintenance and upkeep around that. That said, I do definitely benefit from the car when it’s beach time during the summer!
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
My parents divorced when I was young and my mom didn’t remarry until super recently, so the model I saw growing up was definitely “do it all yourself.” Today I can be a little bit of a control freak sometimes, which might stem from that. It’s been a process over the past year of figuring out how to delegate some things to my fiance and not insist on doing everything myself.
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?
Again, I’ve gotten better at vocalizing my needs to my fiance and delegating some tasks but there is probably still room for me to improve there. For what we’re doing well, we always make each other laugh, including about household stuff. He reminds me that at the end of the day, the world isn’t going to end if there’s a little clutter. So I think we balance each other out well.
1. Who makes the bed?
He’s usually still in it when I leave for work, lol, so this doesn’t really get done.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
He does! He’s the foodie.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
We do our own.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
We have it delivered (I take care of that).
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
We do this evenly.
6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?)
We do our own, except I take care of rent and utilities.
7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed?
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
9. Who vacuums?
We take turns.
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
I can’t remember…. lol.
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
12. Who buys groceries?
I buy our basic stuff on Fresh Direct but he’ll pretty often pick up specialty ingredients and things like that. He goes to food markets in Chinatown a lot. And he buys the wine, which we both consider a key grocery, lol.
13. Who brings in the mail?
14. Who irons?
15. Who was the last person to clean out the fridge/pantry of expired items?
16. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?
It depends on whose friend or family it is.
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
Usually me, but he always scouts out the best places to eat and makes those reservations.
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
He did, but we definitely take turns on this!
19. Who planned your last date night?
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
It depends on whose friend or family it is.
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.