Tips and Tricks
Countless tasks go into running a household, day in and day out.
If ever there were an apt example of ‘the devil is in the details,’
equally dividing all of these tasks to the satisfaction of two people
would be it. So, first of all, don’t aim for absolute perfection!
Division of Essential tasks
It is pretty easy to assign the tasks that must be done that day to the
person who is available to do them. For example, the at-home
parent could do the basic grocery shopping, run the dishwasher, and
cook or otherwise
procures dinner. On days when both parents are available to take
absolutely-required tasks, the couple must communicate and make
decisions about who will do what. A general rule might be that if
one parent is making dinner, the other is ‘on’ for parenting.
Assigning responsibilities for all the Non-Critical tasks is more
difficult. Here are some common pitfalls:
- Automatically assigning tasks along classic gender
- Loading up Mom with far more tasks than Dad.
- Loading up the parent who has higher housework
The goal of equality must be foremost,
which is not a natural practice for most couples. This equality
is not in the number of tasks assigned to each parent, but in the time
required to do the tasks. Furthermore, we do not believe in
equally dividing every chore, although there are some tasks that work
well when each parent does them 50% of the time. There are
many ways to divide tasks; for example, divide them down the middle
(e.g., you each do half the laundry), 2) divide them by owner (e.g.,
spouse does his/her own ironing), and 3) divide them by task (e.g., one
spouse does the laundry, the other does the ironing). The best
way to divide a specific task is usually the most efficient way, as
as overall equality is reached.
Assign the obvious to the
parent who cares the most
Some jobs may be deeply important to one parent but totally unnecessary
to the other. In these cases, as long as there aren’t a huge
them, the parent who cares should be the parent who does the task
almost all the time. Even in this scenario, the parent who is
opting out of the task should know it is being done, appreciate the
time and effort the task takes, and be able to do the task in a pinch.
Divide and conquer
Still other jobs are not necessarily fun for either parent, but one
parent is more critical of how well or often they are done than is the
other parent. This gets tricky! Equal sharing of the
housework begins with consensus on three fronts: 1) what needs to be
done, 2) when it needs to be done, and 3) how thoroughly it needs to be
done. Once these difficult negotiations are complete the
assignment of tasks becomes a bit easier. The ‘perfectionist’
parent should be especially careful to avoid controlling the decisions,
and should be prepared to ‘let go’ to some degree. Good
enough is good enough. The achievement of equality is the real
victory. In any case, the parent who wants the task done to
higher standards should NOT automatically be the one given this task
now and forevermore!
Tips and tricks
Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Laundry: One
does ‘whites’ and the other does ‘darks’.
- Groceries: Keep
list of what is needed on the refrigerator so that the parent who
goes to buy it can get everything at once. Share the grocery
meal preparation to the parent who is home with the kids, and
trade off preparation of the meals when both of you are around.
As long as the food is reasonably nutritious, do not criticize each
- Taking out the
trash: On trash night, assuming you have weekly curbside
pickup, the parent who is not putting the last child to bed gathers and
hauls the trash outside.
- Arranging health
appointments for children: Make one parent the doctor
coordinator and the other parent the dentist coordinator.
projects: For more long term projects such as buying new
furniture or building shelves in the closet, create a master list
together and post it on your refrigerator. Decide who is in
charge of each of these projects. The other parent can be the
‘helper’. Decide on a rough deadline for any priority projects;
then let go of what your spouse is up to, and go about accomplishing
the tasks for which you are the project manager. In all cases,
the helper spouse should be consulted as decisions are needed (e.g.,
blue loveseat or red sectional?) and should have veto power. When
a batch of the priority projects is accomplished, sit down again and
reprioritize the rest, add new ones, and assign as needed.
work for you
Hopefully, you have found one or two helpful suggestions in the words
above. No solution works for all couples, and you will obviously
need to find your own way of achieving balance in household chores and
projects. Equally shared parenting lifestyles work best when each
parent puts in
about the same amount of time caring for the home, when neither parent
is in charge of the household, and when both parents are pleased with
the results of their labors.
Of course, none of this works if both
parents aren’t committed to equal
sharing. Under no
circumstance should you simply enable your spouse by doing his/her
share. The idea is to cheerfully and lovingly let the natural
consequences of inaction fall on the spouse who is responsible.
So, if he didn’t do his share of the laundry, wear only what is clean
(or buy a new outfit…oops, how did that get in here?). By
focusing on doing a great job on your own tasks, rather than on what
your spouse hasn’t done yet, both of you have a chance of owning and
taking pride in your half of the work.
Finally, don’t forget that negotiation and communication never
stop. Just when you thought you had all the tasks divided
properly, life will bring you new ones to tackle!
©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon