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 couples to complete an exercise in order to share with us the amount and nature of housework they actually do, and how they decided to divvy it all up.
Name: Patrick M.
Location: Greater Chicago area
Relationship status: Long-term relationship with live-in partner
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? Apartment
Do you have any kids or pets? 1 dog
How long have you and your partner been together? 6.5 years
How long have you been living together? 4 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.
Because I work from home and generally have more wiggle room in my morning schedule than my partner, I am almost always the one to take our dog Darth Vader (an extremely non-threatening shih tzu) out for his morning walk. I will usually do that first thing, and while I’m out she’ll get a pot of coffee started. A lot of the dog care falls on me throughout the day, as well, but he was mine before I met my partner. And again, I have a little more schedule flexibility as I don’t commute.
Outside of taking care of the dog, I am also usually one to the handle laundry. We use a laundry service that picks up and drops off at your house, so I collect all the dirty clothes and coordinate with the service for both pick up and drop off. Since we’re still living in an apartment, there isn’t as much home maintenance as we will likely have to deal with in the future with a house, but if something isn’t working in the apartment, etc., I am usually the one to coordinate getting it fixed with our landlord. I am often the one taking out the garbage, too.
Most of the chores I’m responsible for were divided up this way because I have more time to take care of little details at home. With a commute that can sometimes take three hours total daily, my partner has less flexibility. But our work situations could wind up changing in the future, and I guess we would reassess chores then.
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 get our car serviced whenever it is necessary to. I also iron pretty regularly, as wrinkles drive me nuts. As far as household cleaning goes, we try to clean up our own messes and not let things sit around. If someone sees that the kitchen countertop needs to be wiped down, they will take care of it right then and there. We also have a maid who comes in every two weeks to give our apartment a little extra shine.
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
She cooks a lot; it’s something she really enjoys, so she wants to take ownership of it. We just finished doing Whole 30 together, and that was all her — the meal prepping, grocery ordering, etc. But when we’re not trying out new diets, she is usually still the one in charge of what we’re eating. She is also usually the one to notice when we’re about to run out of things like toilet paper, soap, etc. at home. She will either pick them up from stores after work or place delivery orders through Amazon. That will usually be a little thing here or there a few times a week, and one big grocery run a week that she goes on or sometimes we both go if it’s a weekend day.
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
My partner manages all things having to do with household finances, etc. I’m terrible with numbers, and she's an accountant — it just made sense for her to take this on. In this area, she pays our bills, handles our taxes, and manages our investments and retirement savings. I would frankly be lost on all of this without her.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
My mom stayed at home throughout my childhood and my dad traveled a lot for work, so I would say it is pretty different.
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’m not sure what we could improve on. I think our current situation is working pretty well for us. For what we’re doing well, I think we’re good about sticking to a pretty consistent way of doing things. That leaves fewer questions about who’s responsible for what and what expectations are.
1. Who makes the bed?
We don’t do that.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
We alternate, but she might choose slightly more often, though. We’re bad at making reservations.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
Both of us.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
Neither of us.
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
That’s usually Facebook.
6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?)
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 both do.
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
We don’t really dust.
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
I think she did.
12. Who buys groceries?
She does, sometimes we both do.
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?
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
We both do.
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?
That one’s almost always her.
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.