Whose Job Is It Anyway?

Negotiating a fair division of domestic labour isn’t easy. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not always the man that isn’t pulling his weight. What is more than certain, however, is that unequal distribution of household chores will lead to resentment and major rows. If you don’t work in an equitable way, you don’t share the load fairly and, to an extent, you cease being equal partners.

Divide chores based on what you’re good at… Being in a partnership means working together towards common goals. To do that, both of you should be willing to contribute your best skills and strengths to enhance your life together. If one of you is particularly good at a certain task, it makes sense that he or she should take on that role. But before you begin dividing up the chores, it’s a good idea to take into account how much both of you contribute to the partnership already. For example, if one of you works part-time, or not at all, then it’s perfectly reasonable for that person to do more of the chores. More than likely, the other person is making a larger financial contribution to the partnership. Consider how you would feel coming home from a 12-hour shift to start housework, when your other half has had a leisurely day at home?

…and what you like to do – You should also take into account each other’s likes and dislikes. One of you may hate cooking, while your other half may be passionate about it. Obviously, the person who likes being in the kitchen will prepare the best meals. Similarly, one of you may be a better driver, or know more about cars. Clearly, for reasons of safety alone, this person should be responsible for the family ‘taxi’ and take care of the administration and maintenance that goes with it.

We’ve moved on since the 1950s – It’s important to be aware of how much you or your partner contributes to the household chores. Some women, through learned experiences and their own parents’ expectations, may feel obligated to do more than their fair share, while some men still think housework is women’s work. The key to fixing this is to realise that you’re doing more than your share and ask for help. Don’t be demanding but be specific. Say “Here’s what I expect you to do.” Whatever you do, don’t criticise. Complaining isn’t asking for help; it’s complaining and will, in all likelihood, get a negative response. Communicate non-offensively and clearly. Most people don’t realise that they’re not pulling their weight and when approached in the right manner will react better. Ask questions in a highly specific way, so your partner can respond logically. If you don’t get the response you’re looking for, therapists suggest you say: “When x happens, it makes me feel (insert feeling here).” This is much more effective than using angry words. Be calm, listen and reflect on the response before responding.

Give your other half a break – Remember, too, that on a day-to-day basis, both of you will never share tasks equally. That’s okay as long as at the end of the week, it balances out. Try to be flexible. That way, when you need a break, you can ask with a clear conscience. If there is conflict over shared tasks, as with most areas of relationships, communication is key. Talk it through and look at the potential solutions until you find one that works. And don’t be afraid to revisit the issue, if need be. Resolving conflict is all about remaining calm, understanding each other’s needs and connecting in a way that is respectful and mindful of the bond between the two of you.

How does everyone else do it? – Talk to other couples to see how they manage the day-to-day chores. Bear in mind everyone works differently – and not everyone is right. Just because your best friend is happy to do more (or less) than his or her fair share, doesn’t mean that’s right for your relationship.

In the end, it’s not about changing your partner, or your relationship, it’s about what you can both do to make things work better. And if it all gets too much, well maybe it’s time for the two of you to walk away from it all. Go for lunch together. Go for a walk. Reconnect. When you come back, you’ll be much happier tackling those day-to-day chores together.

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