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.
Step 1: Please answer the following questions; you can fill this portion of the exercise out together.
Names: Mary Pharris and Patrick George
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Relationship status: Happily Married
How long have you been together? 8 years
How long have you been living together? 7.5 years
What type of home (e.g, condo, house) do you have? Apartment
Do you have any kids or pets? One dog, Kingsley. You can follow his adventures on Instagram @Kingsley_Says!
Step 2: Please answer the following questions separately in another document— i.e. your partner must not see your responses until Step 3. Both partners will answer all questions. (Note: Please be as comprehensive as possible when thinking about “chores” — chores mean not only physical household tasks, but mental and emotional ones, as well, like remembering a relative’s birthday or hiring a contractor).
1. What chores do you do daily? List as many as you can think of.
Mary: Cook dinner, organize our calendars, take care of the budget, attempt to tidy up, take Kingsley on walks. We generally try to keep our apartment clean, but really each of us just tidies up when we see something that needs cleaning!
Patrick: Clean, do dishes, take the dog on walks, cook dinner sometimes, random errands
2. What chores does your partner do daily? List as many as you can think of.
Mary: Does the dishes, makes the coffee in the morning, takes Kingsley on his morning walks (I’m not a morning person!), cookes dinner on nights I have work events or volunteering, and takes out the garbage.
Patrick: Runs the household budget, usually cooks dinner, cleans, runs “admin” for our dog
3. What chores do you do weekly or monthly? List as many as you can think of.
Mary: Hmmm, the budget can be daily updates or sometime only weekly. I meal plan and grocery shop on Saturdays, take care of Kingsley’s admin (walks, vet appointments, daycare, etc.). We each do our own laundry, and usually have a team effort when it comes to apartment deep cleans like changing the sheets, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
Patrick: Bathroom and house cleaning, laundry, errands for the dog or the household
4. What chores does your partner do weekly or monthly? List as many as you can think of.
Mary: Things like cleaning are usually a team effort, so Patrick definitely helps with vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, etc. We both hate cleaning and would rather spend our time out exploring NYC, so we really have to hold each other accountable to make sure we get what needs done, done.
Patrick: We don’t really have weekly or monthly chores, but we try to do what’s needed if we’re both up for it.
5. What chores do you outsource? This can include both paid and unpaid outsourcing (e.g. a relative picks the kids up from school for you).
Mary: We use Instacart for grocery shopping though I do all of the meal planning and ordering. We also have a walker for Kingsley and he goes to daycare once a week (shout-out to Animal Loving Care!).
Patrick: Grocery shopping, dog walking (mid-day)
6. When you go out to eat, who picks the restaurant and/or makes the reservation?
Mary: Hmm, usually we have a back-and-forth and always come to an agreement on what we feel like eating!
Patrick: Mutual decision
7. When something in the house/apartment is broken, who makes sure it gets fixed?
Mary: Definitely depends on what the issue is, but it’s usually pretty evenly split. And we’re both lucky enough to have jobs with flexible working, so depending on who has what that day, we’ll decide who has to work from home for any maintenance. It’s really a team effort.
Patrick: Depends on the nature of the job. I think we’re 50/50 here. If I need to fix it she’s good at reminding me.
8. Who was the last person to dust something?
Mary: Dust? Haha, usually during our apartment deep cleans, so I can’t remember!
Patrick: We dust equally (not enough)
9. You’ve been invited to a wedding. Who RSVPs?
Patrick: Mary, usually
10. When planning a trip, who books the flights? The hotels?
Mary: Me. I’m obsessed with planning travel and logistics. I find it really fun and am already thinking about plans for 2019! Gotta get those good deals on flights :)
Patrick: Always Mary, she’s an expert trip planner
11. Who was the last person to realize you were running low on toilet paper or toothpaste? Who bought more?
Mary: I’d say Patrick is good at reminding me about that stuff, and I’ll add it to our Instacart order. Otherwise, it’s really whoever is going to CVS first.
Patrick: Mary usually keeps our groceries stocked but I pick stuff up as needed.
Step 3: Please transfer your responses to the above questions onto this template. Compare your responses, then answer the following questions.
16. Did your partner answer the way you believed they would? Was there anything in their responses that surprised you?
Mary: No, not really. I feel like we both contribute pretty equally, and take charge of the things we enjoy doing/don’t mind doing. I love to cook, but hate doing dishes, so I end up cooking most of the time and Patrick does the dishes. Though, Patrick always offers to help!
Patrick: I think it came out slightly more equitable and 50/50 than I thought. I sometimes feel guilty letting Mary do all the budget stuff and most of our travel, but she’s very good at both and I’m generally not.
17. After completing this exercise, do you believe you and your partner have been dividing chores in a logical, fair way? Why or why not?
Mary: Yes, I think so. We really try to have an equal partnership, but are always willing to give-and-take since we both have busy schedules.
Patrick: I think we both put an emphasis on doing what needs to be done and not “keeping score.” We try hard to keep mindful of each other’s schedules. I could find other ways to contribute extra since she does the budget.
18. Is there anything about the way you run your household that you now plan to change?
Mary: We need to clean … and maybe re-stock the fridge!
Patrick: It reminded me I need to clean the apartment again, so I’ll get to that this week.
Interested in participating in FGB's Who Does What series? Email [email protected] with "Who Does What" in the subject line.