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: Joe M.
Relationship status: Married
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? House
Do you have any kids or pets? 2 grown kids, one dog
How long have you and your partner been together? 35 years (including dating)
How long have you been living together? 30 years
What do you and your partner do professionally? We're both in sales
What chores do you do daily, and how did you and your partner decide you’d be the one to do them? Please describe.
Approximately 20 years ago, my wife left the workforce to focus on raising our two young girls. Prior to that, we both worked in similar careers and essentially split the duties. During her eight-year hiatus, I took on a promotion with some travel. At that point, my wife took over the monthly bills, and of course most of the care for our girls. A significant element that overlaps finances and time is healthcare. The doctor appointments and subsequent insurance filings are a major time commitment.
After my wife returned to the workforce, she essentially kept the finance responsibility. It had been eight years since I had done it, and she is very detailed in that. In addition, she became a very accomplished chef during those eight years. Thus, in order to maintain balance, I have become the sole cleaner of the dishes/kitchen and do all the laundry. On a daily basis, this typically includes: clearing the dishes off the table; prepping dishes, pots, and pans for dishwasher; loading and unloading; and cleaning all kitchen surfaces, including floors as necessary.
Laundry includes gathering from all bedrooms and bathrooms, washing as labels describe, and typically soaking for a few hours. Drying includes fluff and fold, separating, and hanging as needed. Any items that need taken to the dry cleaners (save for a few that are so detailed only my wife can tell the cleaner what to do), I will also take. At home, I'm doing an average of one load and unload/fold per day.
I also take out all trash, which includes going around the house to bedrooms and bathrooms. We have house cleaners that come every other week. In between, I will do the floors as necessary.
I also maintain the air conditioner filters, lawn, and shrubs. My wife is great at planting so she does that, and she spreads a ton of mulch, too. Living in the south, when hot dry spells come I am the one that waters everything.
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
Daily, my wife handles the finances, including medical insurance filings. Our kids are grown, but until their 26th birthdays, all healthcare is through our insurance. Most of this is done online. The monthly bills are once a month, but there is much more over the course of the month. Our eldest is on her own in all things except healthcare, but soon will be on her own there, too. Our younger daughter is still involved with higher education, thus finances are more involved. In this equation, my wife coordinates her medical appointments and remains involved in her daily finances. I in turn take control of her car/transportation and typically arrange our outings.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
I grew up in the traditional father works, mom stays at home dynamic. There were five of us kids. I do recall my mom and dad doing the bills together. As I had two sisters and two brothers (one brother with Down Syndrome), much of the chores were divided along traditional gender lines. I do not recall doing any dishes. I also do not recall my sisters doing any cleaning or laundry. My brother and I covered trash and the yard, and I’m sure my sisters helped mom.
As my own marriage and family situation is much different than the one I grew up in, the roles and responsibilities are much 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 don’t think either of us would change a thing. It's a fair balance and plays to strengths and abilities.
1. Who makes the bed?
Most days- neither. What’s the point? We’re not showing our house everyday and prefer just the sheet, so it’s always ready.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
Wife is a little more persnickety, so I let her pick. While she is getting ready I usually make the reservation.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
Seriously? They wouldn’t know we existed without my wife.
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?
Mixed. Wife is handy, does little stuff. I typically arrange and meet repair folks.
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
9. Who vacuums?
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
Neither of us. But if it’s broken, wife can usually fix. If not, I arrange to meet plumbers
12. Who buys groceries?
Wife mostly. Before she left the workforce with eight-year hiatus, I was the one who did that. Then she took over. When returned, she has continued much of that, as her expert cooking requires her food shopping. I continue to go approximately every other weekend or as needed.
13. Who brings in the mail?
14. Who irons?
Neither much, but I’m the only one that has touched that thing in 25 years.
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?
Seriously, what wedding?
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
I am the master of all of that, and the family usually says it's a great trip.
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
We only do things like that because of my planning.
19. Who planned your last date night?
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
Seriously, what party?
21. Who goes to parent-teacher conferences?
We both go. Probably wife has been to more, but I always tried.
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?
During eight-year hiatus, mostly wife. Other than that, even.
24. Who takes your child(ren) to their extracurricular activities? (If you divvy this up, who goes to what activity?)
Even. Anything important, we both go for sure.
25. Who planned the last birthday party for a child?
What child? Now that’s a joke, but their party is all wife.
26. Who took your child(ren) to get a vaccination last?
Most likely wife, although I’ve done that, too.
27. Your child acted out. Who will discipline them, generally?
Even. They were the subject of two monsters.
28. Your child needs a haircut. Who notices this, and who makes the appointment? Who takes them to the appointment?
They’re girls, do you want me giving them a buzz cut?
29. Your child is about to outgrow their shoes. Who notices this, and who takes them to the shoe store?
StrideRite made bank off them — wife. When older, I got involved some.
30. The last time you got a call from the school nurse that your child was sick, what did you and your partner do?
Depending on who was available, although we employed the Big 3. Don’t try that if you don’t have a fever, aren’t bleeding, and/or aren’t vomiting
31. During weekends and vacations, who considers the children’s’ needs for entertainment, meals and their schedule (in general)?
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.