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: Richmond, VA
Relationship status: Married
What do you and your partner do professionally? We’re co-owners and co-founders of a home improvement business
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? Condo
Do you have any kids or pets? We have a dog!
How long have you and your partner been together?
How long have you been living together?
What chores do you do daily, and how did you and your partner decide you’d be the one to do them? Please describe.
As the owners of our own small business, our days start early — my husband, Steve, is up by 4:30 a.m.! He gets the coffee going for us both while I “sleep in” until about 5 a.m. Since he’s already up and making breakfast, I’m usually the one to walk our dog in the mornings. I’ll do the dishes when he’s done cooking and I also unload the dishwasher from the previous day. I bring in the mail and newspaper (we’re old school), too. Since we both work from home, our days tend to involve a mix of getting home and business stuff done (though work generally accounts for 90 percent of our time). For example, we’re remodeling our bathroom right now to prep for selling our condo, and I’ve been the one managing all communications with contractors, planning, etc. on a pretty much daily basis. When I take the dog back out in the afternoon, I’ll sometimes grab us food for lunch; otherwise, we’re having leftovers and each do our own thing.
We are WAY more strapped for time than we were before we became entrepreneurs, so our “who does what” is really a product of what allows us to drive the biggest impact for our business with our time.
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.
The bills and general financial management for our personal expenses (besides health insurance) are all me. The business expense stuff we’re pretty good about divvying up. We use a cleaning service every other week but will do a quicker tidy up at least every Sunday; we divide that equally, too. Anytime our dog needs a trip to the vet or an errand run that’s specific to him, that’s usually me. I’m the one who really wanted a dog so I’m happy to take care of most things he needs!
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
Daily, my husband is more often than not making sure we’re all fed. He does breakfast, sometimes lunch, and almost always dinner (except for the rare occasion we go out). He’s always been the main chef in the house and really enjoys cooking! Steve does almost all of the laundry in the house, too, and he’s usually the one taking out the trash and recycling.
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
Besides doing quick tidy ups with me, Steve is the one who does most of our grocery runs (he’s the chef after all). I’ve also delegated any tasks related to our health insurance to him; I just can’t stand looking at that sort of thing, and since we own a small business, it can be tricky to manage. He also waters all of our plants, indoor and outdoor, and takes care of the landscaping needs around our back patio.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
Not at all. My husband is my partner, figuratively but also literally, with our business. The model both he and I had growing up was way more traditional.
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 could be better at taking things off each other’s plates when we have the opportunity to. For instance, I could take out the trash more and he could offer to walk the dog a little more often. We’ve fallen into pretty set patterns, but that’s kind of what we’ve had to do to make it!
1. Who makes the bed?
Me, since I sleep in later.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
We take turns.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
We do our own.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
I can’t remember the last time we dry cleaned anything.
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?)
Me for anything personal; for our business bills, we’ll do it together.
7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed?
Both of us.
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
We take care of our own cars.
9. Who vacuums?
The cleaning service!
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
The cleaning service.
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
Again, the cleaning service!
12. Who buys groceries?
13. Who brings in the mail?
14. Who irons?
15. Who was the last person to clean out the fridge/pantry of expired items?
I think I did.
16. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
We haven’t taken a trip in forever, but both.
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
19. Who planned your last date night?
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
Usually I do.
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.