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: Budapest, Hungary
Relationship status: Married
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? A small apartment in a city block.
Do you have any kids or pets? Nope, none yet.
How long have you and your partner been together?
About 6 years.
How long have you been living together?
5+ years, moved in the day we got married.
What chores do you do daily, and how did you and your partner decide you’d be the one to do them? Please describe.
To be honest, we don’t really do much in terms of daily chores.
One thing I do sort-of daily is wash my lunchboxes (when I have no clean ones left) and thermos to get them ready for another workday. My husband loves washing dishes but it’s just more convenient if I’m the one keeping track of my lunchboxes, so he lets me handle them.
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’m in charge of making things shiny again. So I do all the dusting, wiping, and mopping everywhere in the house. This is on a weekly basis, usually on Saturdays.
Early on we concluded that my husband loves cleanliness but doesn’t have the patience for it, while I love to tidy things, but I can’t lift an empty cardboard box without breaking a sweat. So we agreed that I’d keep things clean while he does the heavy lifting and jar-opening.
I’m usually in charge of the laundry, though my husband often is the one hanging the clothes up to dry.
Finally, we have a few plants in the house which I’m officially in charge of watering. My husband has always been terrified of having living things in the house, thinking it’s way too much responsibility, and he can’t bear the thought of something dying under his watch. So we agreed that if I wanted flowers, I’d have to keep them alive.
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
The only daily chore we diligently perform is logging every penny we spend in our handcrafted spreadsheet. And by “we,” I mean my husband. He loves fiddling with spreadsheets and he’s in charge of planning our finances anyway.
We were in a really tough spot for years, so we had to find a way to keep track of our money. We originally agreed to both track how we spend. But I never had the focus to remember/log everything, so I asked my husband to keep track for both of us.
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
My husband was in charge of washing the dishes for years. He gets into a trance when washing dishes. So that was a no-brainer.
We then got a dishwasher because we just didn’t have time, but my husband still is the one who more often than not gathers the dishes and starts the machine. He’s also usually the one to muster enough willpower to put the clean dishes away after the cycle is done.
He takes out the trash every couple of days as part of our “heavy lifting” agreement. He’s also the one to receive the groceries when they get delivered, as we do one big monthly purchase and buy a bulk of everything… so he gets to lift even more.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
I grew up with my grandmother and my mother. My grandma would do literally everything around the house from cooking to cutting down trees, so what I was most often left with was keeping my room in order.
That being said, moving to a dorm changed a lot of that. The way we divided tasks with roommates was much more like how I would eventually do it with my husband: based around preferences. We also had a schedule with my roommates, which we don’t do with my husband.
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?
To be honest, we should try to spend a lot more energy on keeping our apartment in order and not waiting on the other to do their part, even if we agreed on who does what.
We had to endure a renovation while living in the apartment. We’re still finding dust and debris all over the place, and for a while, it will take extra effort to keep our home livable and welcoming.
That being said, we don’t really consider chores a burden, more like a chance to meditate on things, so we find it relaxing. I think this mindset helps a lot.
1. Who makes the bed?
Currently no one. I would be the one doing it if we were able to have guests.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
Both of us, with strategic leadership by my husband. I get anxious if I have to make a choice, so he brings forth 1-3 ideas and helps me pick one. He’s also the one to make reservations.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
The one who has to go.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
We never had to, but most likely my husband, cause he’s the one with a stay-at-home job.
5. Who keeps track of friends’ and family members’ birthdays?
For parents, everyone tracks their own. The rest? Facebook.
6. Who pays bills? (Or if you divvy this up, who pays which bills?)
My husband is the one who pays every bill.
7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed?
My husband. It might take a year, but it WILL get fixed eventually. :-)
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
We don’t have cars, but since I loathe them I’m pretty sure it would be my husband.
9. Who vacuums?
I did when we had one.
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
As an unexpected turn of events, my husband just cleaned his computer and desk.
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
12. Who buys groceries?
We sit down and order them together. When not ordering online, we usually go to the store together.
13. Who brings in the mail?
Whoever doesn’t forget to check it when they arrive home.
14. Who irons?
We don’t iron, but I would be doing that if we did.
15. Who was the last person to clean out the fridge/pantry of expired items?
It was a joint venture; we did it together.
16. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?
Depends on the connection: my husband for his friends/family, me for my friends/family, up for grabs if the friend/acquaintance is mutual.
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
That would be my husband, after we plan things together.
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
No one. We always stay home on Fridays and have some me-time for ourselves.
19. Who planned your last date night?
Usually we sort-of do it together. One of us will have an idea or two, and we’ll plan the details together.
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
We’re awful at buying/receiving gifts, so we always do it together.
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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