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: John Shieldsmith, Founder of The Thrifty Dad
Location: Taylor, TX
Relationship status: Married
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? House
Do you have any kids or pets? One two-year-old, two cats
How long have you and your partner been together? Six years
How long have you been living together? Five 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 feed the cats first thing in the morning. This has always been my responsibility, as I brought them into our relationship, and I tend to wake up early so it’s a great fit. I also feed them at night before bed, since I tend to go to bed last as well!
In the mornings, if time permits and I can do so without waking our son, I will also take care of loading or unloading the dishwasher. This isn’t something I’m always able to get to, so it does fall on my wife at times.
I’ll also make breakfast for my family in the morning if time permits. Even if I’m in a bit of a time crunch, I will happily whip up a quick batch of scrambled eggs for out little guy if he’s asking!
I work remotely while my wife is a full-time stay at home mom, so during lunch breaks I almost always fix lunch for the family. This was never formally discussed, I simply stepped in and started doing it to help take one thing off her plate while she watches our son.
Once my work shift ends around 4:30-5pm, I take over parenting duties and watch our son, spend quality time with him, and all that that entails!
Seeing as I’m generally the night shift parent, I handle most of our son’s baths as well. This wasn’t formally discussed but came about naturally as my wife used evenings for chores, workouts, and so on, and I watched our little guy. Bath times in the evening just make sense!
I’ve also started taking over diaper changes that arise in the middle of the night. Waking up on the fly is one of my few gifts, so this task simply made sense!
Lastly, I am generally the one to mow the lawn when it needs to be done. My wife will occasionally mow if she wants to mix things up, but it’s usually on me!
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 handle the litterbox changes for the cats. Again, this seemed only fair as I was the one who brought them into our relationship.
My wife will gather the trash together from our bathroom trashcans, and then I will take the trash out to the can and down to the curb on garbage day. This was again, not formally discussed, but something we just kind of fell into on our own. My wife was pregnant when we first moved into our home, so I handled trash primarily then as well. I think me still taking the trash out is a habit at this point!
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
My wife is a stay at home mother, so her plate is really full as is. Throughout the day she will tidy up as much as our toddler permits.
Beyond that, she handles the dishes and laundry most nights while I take over as the full-time dad. I’m fortunate enough to work remotely, so I get to help out with little things throughout the day. We very quickly decided that her having the nights to do chores, workout, and pursue hobbies was ideal for her health and allowed me to have some quality one-on-one time with our son.
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
She’s always the one to make sure all of the bedspreads and sheets are washed for each room, and that each bed is made. She worked at an inn as her first job, so part of the reason she does this is habit and nostalgia. I’m also terrible at making the bed. (Fun fact: we were married at that very inn years later!)
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not
Not particularly. My dad worked a lot when I was little, so my mom was the one who handled most day-to-day tasks. On the weekends my dad would be the one to handle the mowing, but both of my parents would get their hands dirty in the garden.
Again, it’s really tough to judge, as my dad was on second shift for much of my childhood. This fact was a big factor in me pursuing remote work, as I wanted to make it a point to be home with my family as often as possible.
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?
Something we still need work on but have improved on in recent months is time management. Being remote, it’s really easy for us to get lost in spending time together. This isn’t a bad thing, but it has led to us making poor use of our time occasionally, which results in chores falling to the wayside and added stress.
Communication is something we definitely excel at. We learned very early on in our relationship that resolutions can only be found when problems are voiced. This point was truly put to the test when our son was born, as we were tired, stressed, and tired. Communicating what we needed was paramount to us keeping it together during those early months.
1. Who makes the bed?
My lovely wife
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
It’s almost always me (she laughed when I read this question)
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
It depends who is out and about!
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
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?
It’s a team effort: she reminds me, I fix it eventually!
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
Me (Thanks for reminding me!)
9. Who vacuums?
Both of us (Our son loves to vacuum now as well!)
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
12. Who buys groceries?
It’s mostly a family outing!
13. Who brings in the mail?
Both of us
14. Who irons?
Usually my wife
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?
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
Both of us
19. Who planned your last date night?
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
21. Who goes to parent-teacher conferences?
We’re not there yet, but we’re both planning on going.
22. When you need a babysitter, who is the one to book and communicate with them?
23. Your child(ren) has a half-day at school. Who handles this, and how?
We’re not there yet, but my wife likely will since she’s a stay at home mom.
24. Who takes your child(ren) to their extracurricular activities? (If you divvy this up, who goes to what activity?)
We’re not there yet, but we both plan on attending when possible!
25. Who planned the last birthday party for a child?
Both of us.
26. Who took your child(ren) to get a vaccination last?
Both of us.
27. Your child acted out. Who will discipline them, generally?
It depends who’s watching him, but we both discipline him when needed.
28. Your child needs a haircut. Who notices this, and who makes the appointment? Who takes them to the appointment?
We both noticed, but I made the appointment. We both took him to the haircut. (It was DEFINITELY a team effort!)
29. Your child is about to outgrow their shoes. Who notices this, and who takes them to the shoe store?
It depends who puts his shoes on, as we’ve both noticed at different points. We both take him shopping and turn it into a family outing.
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’re not there yet, but I’d stop working and we’d both go get him!
31. During weekends and vacations, who considers the children’s’ needs for entertainment, meals and their schedule (in general)?
We both handle these responsibilities, as we tend to do family activities during the weekends or vacations.
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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