For most of human history, the “who does what” of housework was pretty clearly spelled out, with gender determining each partner’s specific role and contributions. Thankfully, that’s (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 share with us the amount and nature of housework they actually do, and how they and their partners decided to divvy it all up.
Who: David C.
Where: New York City
Relationship Status: In a relationship (not married)
How long have you and your partner been together?
Almost four years.
How long have you been living together?
About 2.5 years.
What chores do you do daily, and how did you and your partner decide who’d? be the one to do them? Please describe.
We don’t do many daily chores. We take out the trash and recycling every few days as necessary. We haven’t assigned certain chores to one of us or the other; it is more a matter of convenience. For the recycling and trash, one of us usually does it in the morning on his or her way to work, depending on who is in less of a rush.
My partner usually picks up the mail because she remembers to do it more often and often gets home before I do. If we’re having something delivered, we’ll usually have it sent to one of my parents’ apartment buildings because they have doormen, and I’ll pick it up because I’m at their apartments more often.
What chores do you do weekly and/or monthly, and how did you and your partner decide who’d be the one to do them? Please describe.
We do the laundry every couple of weeks or so, sometimes in our building and sometimes dropping it off to be done (my partner prefers to drop it off, whereas I prefer to do it myself in our building if I have time). If my partner is dropping off her laundry, she usually asks me if I want to add anything to be done (which I usually take her up on for a handful of things). If I’m doing laundry in our building, I’ll do everything in the hamper, which usually consists mostly of my things with a few of hers. Overall, I think it evens out.
We run the dishwasher about once a week. And we both load the dishwasher as we use things. I think I’m a little better at making more things fit in it, so I’ll often take a couple of minutes to rearrange things in the dishwasher before running it. I think my partner puts the clean dishes away slightly more often than I do, but we often do it together. I think the time it takes to put the dishes away more or less evens out with the time I take to rearrange the dishes in the dishwasher.
In terms of cleaning the apartment, I’d say we abide by the “see something, say something” rule. If one of us notices that we need to vacuum the living room or clean the bathroom, he or she usually mentions it and we jointly take some time to do those things over the weekend or plan a time to do it. If it’s a small thing, one of us usually just takes care of it.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
My mom did more of the household chores when we were growing up, presumably because she was not working when we were children. When we were very young, my parents had a housekeeper who would come over every once in a while. After my parents divorced, my mother continued to do most of the chores at her apartment, while my father has a housekeeper come over once every two weeks.
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?
I think we’re both fairly lazy about things that require more time and effort, such as vacuuming, dusting, or scrubbing tiles in the bathroom. If we divvied those tasks up, it might make them slightly easier. I think we do pretty well with everything else. Before we lived together I lived mostly by myself for the past four or five years, so I’m not used to relying on anybody else to do chores around the house. I honestly feel like we could rely on each other a little more often for some of these things.
1. Who makes the bed?
Nobody, unless we’re going to have guests over. Then I’d say it’s about 70-30 in her favor.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
We usually decide together; if a reservation is needed, she usually makes it.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
Each one of us makes his or her own appointments.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
If one of us is taking things to be dry cleaned, he or she will usually ask the other if they need anything dry cleaned and take it. Picking it up is more a matter of convenience (i.e. whoever has the time to do it).
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
Each of us keeps track of their friends and family members. For close family members and friends who we both know well, we’ll remind each other.
6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?)
We split apartment-related bills; because I lived in our apartment first before my partner moved in, most of the bills are in my name. Each month I calculate the totals and split them in half. She sends me what she owes (always promptly!) and I make sure they are paid on time.
7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed?
I do, but I occasionally try to show her how to fix things in the apartment as I’m fixing them so that she can do them on her own should she need to.
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
I had the car before we met. Everything about it is in my name and I’m more-or-less the only one who drives, so I take car of that.
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
I was, but this usually just involves me pouring some bleach in it and letting it sit for a few hours before giving it a once over with the toilet brush.
12. Who buys groceries?
My partner goes to the local grocery store more often (maybe weekly), but I’ll go to Costco once every three to four weeks with the car and get groceries and household items in bulk.
14. Who irons?
15. Who was the last person to clean out the fridge/pantry of expired items?
We do this evenly, as needed.
16. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?
Almost all of the weddings we’ve gone to together are those of my partner’s friends, so she usually does, or we do it together.
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
We usually share this responsibility because we’ll plan the trip together...unless the trip is for a wedding.
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
We were out of town for a wedding, so it was an activity related to that. On a typical Friday night, we usually talk about it during the day.
19. Who planned your last date night?
We don’t really do a formal/scheduled date night; if we don’t have other plans on the weekend, we’ll usually go out to dinner or have a drink together in our neighborhood.
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
It’s usually a matter of convenience. However, my partner tends to have a better memory for those things, so she does it more often.
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.