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.
Who: Lynn P.
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Relationship status: Married
What do you and your partner do professionally? I'm a stay-at-home mom who homeschools two of our three kids; he's an engineer
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? House
Do you have any kids or pets? Three kids and 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.
Since I work inside the home and my husband, Jeff, works outside it, a lot of the little day-to-day house management things fall under my jurisdiction. In the beginning of our relationship, I also worked outside the home (as a teacher) and things were divided a little differently then. Now, with three kids under the age of eight and more responsibilities on our plate than we know what to do with, it's less "divide and conquer" and more "just GO and hope everyone makes it through the day."
On the day-to-day, that means I get the kids up in the morning and make them breakfast (Jeff has to leave for work early, by 5, otherwise he would help). I do the dishes, laundry (with three kids, there's always at least one load a day), take care of the dog throughout the day, make lunch, and, of course, teach the kids. We do six-hour schooldays, and I have to prep their lesson plans and keep up with some administrative tasks. My oldest (who's 8) started out going to "regular" school at the school I taught at. I spent so much time with other people's kids and felt like I hardly got to see my own. When I got pregnant again with my youngest, we made the decision I would stay home and teach them until they're of middle school age.
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 take care of all our grocery shopping, as well as ordering most of our cleaning supplies and miscellaneous needs in bulk. Since I'm home so much, I'm the one closest to what we need, and it honestly feels simpler to knock that out myself versus try to relay it to Jeff and cross my fingers that he gets the right things.
How about your partner? What chores do they do daily, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
Jeff has to leave really early in the morning, but he'll take out the trash on his way. When he gets home from work, he's usually right back out the door to take at least one of the kids (sometimes all of them) to an extracurricular activity. This is often my first break of the day. We approach dinner based on what the extracurricular program for that night looks like. I'd say he takes care of it about half the time. Jeff is 100% on putting-to-bed duty with the kids, but I'll often help out with the bathing component of that. At night, the dog is also all him!!
What chores does your partner do weekly and/or monthly, and how did they and/or you decide they’d do them?
All money-managing things are in his jurisdiction. He's the one receiving a paycheck at this juncture in our lives, so it just makes sense.
Is the way you and your partner divide tasks similar to the household you grew up in? Why or why not?
Both of my parents worked full-time when I was growing up. My mom still took on more of the traditionally female roles (like cooking) in addition to her job as a principal, but for the most part, I'd say Jeff and I actually have a more traditional way of dividing things. It's not how I expected things to be at the start of our marriage, and it's not how things will be forever. But it's the way things are right now out of necessity!
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 sure there are things we could be doing better, but it feels like there isn't time to figure out what those things are.
1. Who makes the bed?
We're really bad about this and usually don't make them.
2. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
It's been months since we went out to eat. I think he did.
3. Who makes doctors’ appointments? Dentist appointments?
We do our own.
4. Who picks up the dry cleaning?
We don't dry clean.
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?
8. Who makes sure the tags on your cars are up-to-date?
We take care of our own cars.
9. Who vacuums?
10. Who was the last person to dust something?
I guess me?
11. Who was the last person to clean your toilet?
I made him do it.
12. Who buys groceries?
13. Who brings in the mail?
He usually does.
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?
Depends on who is getting married.
17. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
We're going to the beach as a family this summer and he did most of the planning!
18. Who planned what you did last Friday night?
The kids did.
19. Who planned your last date night?
I can't remember.
20. You need a gift for a friend’s housewarming party. Who buys it?
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Who Does What" in the subject line.