Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Division of Labor

I sometimes read these statistics about how women who work full time still do 70% of the household chores and they blow my mind.  (I'm not sure that's the actual statistic, but it's something close to that.)  But it also got me thinking about the way David and I divide up chores, especially now that I'm back at work.  Even though my hours are part time, the days feel very rushed since I'm getting myself and the baby ready to go in the morning, and trying to get out of the house with clean diapers, a wet bag for dirty diapers, a change of clothes for the baby, her hane, her bottles, the pumping accessories I need, my purse and phone and papers and planner and water, and I have to eat breakfast and feed the baby before we head out the door.

I'm curious as to whether our division of labor matches up with many of your households, and whether I'm really lucky or part of the happy commonwealth in having a husband who pulls so much of his own weight.

David and I both feel more comfortable when the house is clean, but he is far more anal-retentive than I am, at least about certain things.  He loathes clutter (though seems not to notice crumbs on the counter) so I never have to nag him to clean up.  I'm much more of a clutterbug than he is, and I tend to haphazardly distribute books, magazines, and shoes throughout our house.  I don't mind leaving things out if I have an ongoing project; David wants everything put away at the end of the day.  I have a lower tolerance for dog hair dust bunnies than he does.  But he will take it upon himself to vacuum the house and clean the bathroom on a Sunday afternoon while I'm reading or playing with the baby.

After Eliza died, neither of us had any motivation for cleaning.  Our vacuum probably went untouched for a full month.  We did what we had to do to not live in squalor, but we just didn't care about our house being tidy, let alone gleaming.  Finally we got to a point where the filth was bothering us, but we still didn't have the energy to deal with it.  So we hired a house cleaning service to come every other week for a thorough dusting and wiping and cleaning.  And then even when we started coming back to ourselves and having more energy, we liked it so much that we didn't want to stop having them come.  So our house gets a deep clean every other week, and we do the surface stuff in between.

My Duties:
- feed the baby (multiple x daily)
- wash the bottles and pumping accessories (daily)
- wash the dirty diapers (one x daily--we decided that a daily load of laundry is actually easier than every other day so we have fewer diapers to stuff and we're never in danger of running out of clean diapers to take to daycare)
- pack Zuzu's things for daycare (daily)
- make the bed (daily)
- dust-bust the bathroom floor after blow drying my hair (every other day)
- do all the laundry besides diapers (We generate 5-6 loads a week.  Sometimes I spread them out, more often I do them all on Sunday afternoon.)
- fold and put away my clothes and Zuzu's clothes (I make David put away his own stuff)
- pick out David's outfits and iron David's clothes (I do two outfits on Sunday night and two outfits on Tuesday night, plus a pair of khakis for him to wear on Fridays.  The truth is, I enjoy matching up his shirts and ties and I find ironing to be relaxing.  I'm weird, I know.)
- pick out Zuzu's outfit and accessories
- vacuum (As often as the dog hair starts to spaz me out, which is usually twice a week.  To be honest, I have a pretty high tolerance for dog hair these days.)
- empty dishwasher (occasionally)
- water plants (when they start to look wilty)
- clean up after dinner (occasionally; David usually cleans as he cooks--a brilliant trick he learned from his Grandma)
- make dinner (occasionally... maybe once a week, and I act like it's a huge deal)
- bathroom cleaning (before company comes over... just being honest here)
- pick up and declutter (I maybe do this once or twice a week now--the house actually gets less messy since I'm back at work with less time for "projects" at home)
- pick up baby toys and dog toys (daily)
- feed Cooper (every evening)
- feed Little Mac (on demand whenever David beats me by saying "Not it" first; last night she demanded three meals.  She freaking loves her senior dog food.  We acquiesce because otherwise she wails and it's intolerable to listen to)

David's Duties
- make dinner (almost every night)
- clean up dinner (usually, but I will offer to help unless I'm nursing the baby)
- pack his own lunch (daily)
- lawn care (weekly in the summer)
- garden tending (daily in the summer)
- chicken keeping (daily)
- bathroom cleaning (weekly)
- vacuum (weekly)
- pick up and declutter (he probably does this daily to some extent)
- put away his own laundry (weekly)
- put away baby's laundry (when asked)
- do an occasional load of laundry (when asked)
- stuff diapers (daily)
- pick up baby toys and dog toys (daily)
- feed Cooper (every morning)
- feed Little Mac (on demand; whenever I beat him by saying "Not it" first)
- bathe Cooper (whenever he smells like ass; maybe once a month)

My list looks longer, but many of my jobs are "occasional" and I think David's jobs are way harder.  I'm lucky that he enjoys cooking and he's lucky that I don't mind laundry duty.  Outside of those job divisions, I really feel like we split the household chores pretty well.  When I think about it, it's really like he does the heavy lifting on the weekend and I do most of the stop-gap stuff through the week (minus the cooking).  Sometimes I give the baby a bath.  Sometimes he gives the baby her bath.  We also make an effort to give each other "gold stars" when the house looks especially nice.  Or the dog smells especially good.

I wonder if our job division is more even than most couples?  I think it's only fair that the person who does the cooking shouldn't have to do the laundry, but I expect that is not the norm!

I'd love to hear how it works at your house--at least the laundry/cooking breakdown.  Are there chores I've completely forgotten about?

My least favorite chore right now is washing the bottles and pump parts.  Or maybe putting away laundry since much of my closet is still ill-fitting (Hi, muffin-top.  I hate you.).  I like folding the laundry and ironing it and I also like feeding the baby.  I don't mind making the bed.  And I'd rather vacuum than cook any day!

On a somewhat related note:  How did people cloth diaper in the days before washing machines?  I cannot even imagine how gross that would be.


  1. I think Ben and I are exactly 50/50, especially since we both have academic jobs now and literally split our work days in half (2.5 for him and 2.5 for me).

    I love to clean the kitchen and do the dishes at night while he plays with the kids and cleans up the toy room/family room, but otherwise, we both just do everything when it needs to be done, and on Sundays, we clean the house from top to bottom. He also vacuums the stairs and the family room/guestroom 3 times a week, and I maintain our wood floors daily.

    We even divide kid activities down the middle-- he does karate and I do little gym and we switch off with hockey. He is a PTO officer, and I volunteer in the kids' classrooms. He coaches basketball, and I... oh shit.

  2. I have no idea, quantitatively, how our division lines up -- I do know that both of us feel that we get the short end of the straw, and that one of the first things I'm planning to do after we move is look in to getting a cleaning lady, something we've talked about for a few years now but which I've never quite been able to really envision (me, having a cleaning lady??).

    My husband works from home and I'm an academic, so we're both very flexible. For the most part, laundry is my job and cooking is his; he also takes care of the cat boxes and the trash, and vacuuming. I mend clothes, do almost all of the baby stuff. He washes the dishes that don't go into the dishwasher. We both put away the dishes about equally. Grocery shopping depends on who is otherwise going out of the house of a given day. Making the bed is almost wholly my territory.

    Um. I think that's about it. We don't really do that many other chores. Listed, it sure looks like Joel does more than me, but when you factor in that I'm the one who gets up with Gwen in the morning rather than sleeping until 10:00am, I feel vindicated.

  3. As a bachelor, I'm forced to do 100% of the household chores. However, by not having a child or dogs or a yard and by cultivating a high tolerance for living in squalor, I've managed to deal with it.

  4. I agree with you on the washing cloth diapers, Brooke! I am ready to go to everyday rather than every other day, it does seem like we cut it close sometimes with the number left for daycare (our daycare seems to go through way more diapers than we would on a day at home...).

    I think our division is pretty well balanced, too. I do most of the cooking and he does most of the dishes. I do the laundry, he does all the yard work. He vacuums, I dust (occassionally...oops), and pick up. I do all the feedings and wash the pumping parts at work.

    I think mornings are the most difficult, as there seems to be so much to do to get out the door! Now that I have a manual pump at home, I'm thinking of just leaving my pump and all the parts at work to cut down on what I drag out the door with me. Stuffing diapers and wiping out the Ziploc bags (daycare requirement) takes way more time than I would like. At least now my husband has agreed to go running in the morning so after work seems less hectic :)

  5. Oh, golly, how I wish my chore life looked like yours. Unfortunately, some country-reared boys' habits and roles die hard, as is the case in my house. I easily to 80-90% of all chores, including 99% of the laundry, all housecleaning and paper product restocking (I don't think my DH has ever put more TP in either bathroom when he's used the last of it, and guess who suffers that?). He does cook quite a bit but he hasn't learned David's grandma's trick, so makes an absolute disaster of the kitchen ever time and rarely cleans up thoroughly. He is supposed to be 100% in charge of lawn care, keeping the litter boxes clean (especially now that I'm pg again, better remind him of the dire consequences of that), bathing the do (which is happening maybe 2x a year, and I initiated the last bath but couldn't get the beast in the tub), and he's supposed to be in charge of garbage and recycling. He has run the vacuum maybe three times in the last 18 months. He has never cleaned a toilet. Major imbalance over here...and he's the clutterbug (and also drags in tons of dirt and pine needles and wood chips in his dirty logger work clothes. I plan to hire a housecleaning service during his pregnancy to take the burden of of me (because I can't live in filth), but he's going to have to step up with more of the overall burden.

  6. I am messy. But Daniel is mostly clean (when it comes to clutter). So he does a lot of picking up after me...but, BUT! I can see its wearing on him. If the bedroom gets all unruly, Daniel can add to the chaos as I started it in the first place with my clothes thrown about, and piled on top of the dressers. It's bad. I'm trying to get my act together before there is a third party living here and it gets child protected services out-of-control in the house upkeep.

    I wash clothes, do all the cooking/meal planning, keep the kitchen clean with all the washing and putting away.

    Daniel folds and puts away the laundry (when I'm too lazy to finish it all in one day, and leave the clean basket of clothes in the living room for sometimes days), puts away washed dishes (when he sees I've left it), unloads dishwasher - although that's on a need to do basis - maintains the cats boxes daily, takes care of all waste/recycling weekly, vacuums weekly, dust cleans hardwood weekly, and does a full "bona" conditioning job every other month. he does a lot of the outside yard maintenance in the spring/summer/fall. I help.

    It seems like he does a lot...but when youre cooking almost daily, trying to maintain lunches for work, and trying to keep up the fridge so when you open it, there's something to eat...it's a lot. We do grab dinner maybe weekly at chipotle, or a middle eastern joint...so I lack in my department a little. But if I say "we're doing chipotle tonight because I don't feel like/know what to cook"...that's still 'meal planning', right?

    We're still trying to work out keeping our bathroom clean. Soap scum really bothers me...but I do not feel compelled to clean it weekly when I know I am not the only one making it accumulate. When I lived alone, my bathroom was always clean. Now, only when we are expecting guests. Plus, we have 2. So our main floor bath gets dusty at most.

    Daniel and I moved in with each other with a different set of skills. I had lived on my own for 8 years, and he was still living with his parents (that's what you do in his family. You only move out once married or buying your own house). So I knew what keeping a "household" meant, and he didn't.

    I'm lucky enough that he does what I ask of him most of the time. And usually takes some initiative.

    But it was damn.fucking.hard the first year. I was a little too naggy for my own liking. But it blew my mind that a grown man didn't know how to properly scrub a pot....

  7. I have unfortunately brought my husband over to the dark side of living an unkempt life. Our bedroom is atrocious. I keep waiting for the day when one of us gets tired of stepping over shi...stuff and starts picking it all up.

    The division is pretty even (I believe that if I cook, which I almost always do, I shouldn't have to do the dishes or put away the leftovers). If I wash and fold the laundry, I shouldn't have to put it away (working on this with my girls. And luckily my middle girl is an excellent folder already). I think it's more of me doing internal house upkeep, him doing the yard/lawn/fixing things inside like the leaky toilet OMG the water bill tripled, can you get a damn part or call someone or something?

    My girls are at the age where they can help with dishes and sweeping and bathroom cleaning (and ironing, yay!) so that takes away from the pressure of divvying it up between just the two of us. Even the boy, at 3, is raking. Start 'em early! (As I yell, "Earn your keep, boy!")

    The one thing you mention though that has eluded me and I know I need to REALLY NEED TO institute, is the specific day for things. The girls run out of uniforms by Thursday every week. You'd think I'd learn.

  8. I was thinking about writing on this very topic as our division of labor as just undergone a drastic change. J just got a new job and due to the fact we've been poor for 700 years he is accepting all the overtime they offer him. Which means he didn't get a day off for 3 weeks, and the weekend overtime pay was more than the weekday normal pay. He is overjoyed. I'm trying to be supportive. Also not revert back to my old habits of getting the clean dishes out of the dishwasher as needed and then run it again when they are all used. It worked fine when I lived by myself, now not so much. Do you mind if I steal use this post as my inspiration?

  9. Please mentally delete the word "steal" or "use". Lame.

  10. Hmmm... I do most of the domestic crap, not because I have to, but because I prefer it WAY over anything related to outdoor jobs. We have a large lot, so Elliot is a busy bee. And then there's the whole renovation situation that has him working 'til all hours and I think the rest should be my job for now.

    But, when there is no yard to tend to (winter) and no renovations, we share mostly all the duties except cooking. Elliot seems to think cooking = throwing in a frozen pizza. Which I like, but it doesn't count! I refuse to be the submissive wife and he's not the type to assume I should be the domestic one, so we're good.

  11. When I was working:

    Laundry - 50/50
    Cooking - 75 Miles/25 Me

    Now that I'm a Lady of Leisure:

    Laundry - 15 Miles / 85 Me
    Cooking - 25 Miles / 75 Me (and I still hate it, but am trying to get better - at actual cooking and liking it)

    Cleaning is another story though. He definitely helps out with that a lot more than I think the "average" husband. Probably because like David, he's a bit of a neat freak. Well - I'd say he's cleaner than I am, but I'm more organized. I'm like you - bathrooms get done when someone is coming. Miles does bathrooms ALL the time. Have at it buddy. . .go crazy.

  12. David and I were chatting about your house cleaner today. I am forever trying to convince (my) Dave we need a house cleaner, and he is doing everything he can to say we don't need one. However, he has not scrubbed a toilet in the 9 years we have owned a house, although he really does more cleaning/cooking while I take on more parenting responsibilities. Yesterday, his strategy was telling me that if we can't keep our house clean, we need less house/things and we could use the house cleaner money to go on a mini vacay every year instead. So, being as "frugal" as David is, I ran it by him, to hear almost exactly the same things you said and how he loves coming home to a clean house every other Wednesday! I guess I'll keep praying for that magic fairy, and will be jealous of you and your super clean bungalow!!! :). Oh, and Dave does almost all of the cooking and grocery shopping and pays all the bills, we share laundry duties...I have it pretty easy as far as all the house stuff goes. We have an agreement that as long as the "visible" house is presentable, our bedroom and bathroom don't always have to be. And we are considering adding a non- negotiable family cleaning time each night because the girls are horrible about picking up after themselves!

  13. This is a fascinating topic. I do most of the housework. I kind-of feel like it's my job since I'm at home all day with the little one while J works. He pitches in with dinner every now and again, helps with the dishes and takes over childcare when he comes home from work. He gets home at 4:15, which gives us a lot of evening. He will do housework if I ask, but most of it is up to me. J does do laundry, but most of the time that's up to me too. J does all of the yard/car/outdoors work/home improvements. We live in an older home and he always has a project going. There's no way I'm building a coffee table, kitchen shelves etc., but he enjoys doing it so that's what he spends a lot of time on.

  14. It's so uneven it's ridiculous to an extent.

    NYEBoy works very hard and is in grad school for his PhD, so he's not lazy, but he doesn't do house cleaning or cooking... pretty much ever.

    He'd rather pay someone to come clean, but I haven't quite allowed him/us to make that step yet. I feel so guilty.

    I wish he'd do more of the physical heavy stuff, like taking out the trash (2nd floor apartment + walking to dumpster) or taking stuff to the recycling.. but he always puts up a fuss.

    I have a bad back and a host of medical crap going on this year (muscle spasms, +more) so I haven't been the best house keeper ever, but he sure doesn't offer to help much, either. lol

    We/he decided a few years ago that it's best if we eat dinner out almost every night for several reasons. Since we're both in school (him working from/away from home, me working part time from home) that our time is better spent talking to each other instead of one person (me) having to do all of the cooking and cleaning only to "talk" for the 10-20 minutes it takes to eat the meal.

    If it were completely up to NYEBoy, we'd hire someone to clean the house on a weekly basis, hire someone to come take out trash/recycling every few days, and eat out 95% of the time.

    One day I'll realize his way is better than trying to do it all myself... until then, I'll complain lol

  15. Interesting topic!! I am loving your daily posts this month :)

    I am probably a big exception to that statistic, as I do little to no chores each week. I travel for work Monday morning through Thursday night, and am really only home in New York from Friday night through Sunday night (and I typically work a few hours each weekend). The time I spend at home not working, I don't want to be cleaning. Or cooking. So I don't.

    I use part of my per diem that I get for food each day I travel towards a team of 2 cleaning ladies that come every other Thursday. I do my own laundry each week when I pack my suitcase on Sunday afternoons - my husband Scott does his own during the week. I am not a good cook and don't enjoy it, so I don't cook - Scott cooks for himself during the week and then on weekends we go out with friends or my family for dinners and go out for brunch most weekends, so sometimes I go 2+ weeks without a home cooked meal, since I live in hotels (no kitchen) when I am traveling. We do grill more on weekends in the summer, but that is done by Scott, too. I don't wash dishes because Scott thinks I do them wrong (and I am totally fine with this!). He also thinks I load the dishwasher wrong, so he does that himself - I occasionally unload it if it's clean and I'm home and I feel inspired to do something domestic. Scott recently started paying both of our monthly bills (we've been married 2 years) which I love since I would forget to pay them and incur late fees about every other month for everything that wasn't automatically deducted. I'll rake leaves in the fall, and shovel snow if there is a storm and I am home, but I do nothing with lawnwork during the spring/summer, and gave up on landscaping/gardening after the first 2 years in our house so now I hire a kid who does landscaping at the local liberal arts college to come over once or twice a summer. I believe in outsourcing the tasks I hate to someone better skilled than me, so I can instead use my limited time at home with my friends, family, and dogs.

    The only chores/cleaning I do regularly are wiping the bathroom surfaces down with a Clorox wipe if they get grungy between cleaning lady visits, dust buster-ing up dog hair tumbleweeds off the hardwood floors when I see them, and picking up / clearing surfaces so the cleaning ladies can get to them. (Wow - writing it all out - I feel like a jerk! Perhaps when I am not traveling over Thanksgiving week and Christmas week I'll be inspired to do more around the house...)

  16. hmmm. I refuse to take out the trash. I demand to do the laundry because I find it relaxing though I am getting used to the "free" products so we can combine ours with babies. I do miss scented detergent. We both wash our own dishes and rotate the cooking. He'll do anything I ask him too, though most things fall by the wayside. A month ago I bought a tub and dividers to sort through paperwork and it's still sitting unsorted and stacked against the wall. Also there is about an inch of dust about, but I really don't care too much. He is fascinated by how much of my hair gets shed all over so he usually does the vacuuming. I guess we are pretty even and I'm really okay with that. ~Missy

  17. we used to have a cleaning service come when i was on bedrest and i miss that woman SO much! i've been considering calling them and bringing them back. i would so much rather play with the kids, read blogs and/or watch reality tv than clean.

  18. I have an interesting situation since I am the main breadwinner. My husband complained about paying a house cleaner but wasn't super enthusiastic about cleaning himself. He finally acquiesced after convincing himself that it was "my money." So we don't have to clean, but in between every other week we could use some freshening up and I think I do that while he doesn't. Then again we are probably both a little more tolerant of the "in between dirt" since we know it will get cleaned soon enough.

    We do share cooking and kitchen cleaning pretty evenly, but we sometimes argue about whose turn it is for what. He has no cooking skills whatsoever, except scrambling eggs, so I usually take charge of cooking but he does like to learn what I am doing. Then we have a setback like tonight where I have to tell him five times that 8 ounces make a liquid cup, not 16. This is so he can partially fill a pot to make boil-in-the-bag brown rice. (We were eating separately; I convinced him that the rest of the boil in bag rice goes to the food bank.)

    As for laundry we both initiate and offer to do each others, including folding but not putting away. I would say I usually initiate the baby's laundry but the other day I saw that he had washed some (and left it in the dryer, but I do that, too).

    He changes at least as many diapers as I do, but I probably entertain the baby more, and take more time away from my own leisure activities for child care. Our baby is only a month old, and we are both on leave right now, so we will see how this all changes when we go back to work. He goes back in two weeks, and I go back at the end of the year.

    I don't want to use my "leverage" in making three times the income that he makes, but I also think it levels the playing field when it comes to the tasks at home. Imagine a husband making triple the wife's income and still doing half the regular household chores. So I think it works better this way. The only thing not working is that my husband wants all sorts of credit for doing stuff around the house, and I'm like "you're on leave to take care of your family. You don't get a gold star for not sitting on your ass playing video games all day!" Which leads me to also comment that David shouldn't get credit for packing his own lunch. ;)

  19. What is it that husbands have against housecleaners?? My mother even has a cleaning lady & thinks I should get one. My husband thought it was "deccadent" & "What would my family say?" The topic came up once at a family gathering. All the girls thought it was a great idea; all the men (who help around the house to varying degrees) thought it wasn't necessary. One cousin said her husband said, "That's money we could be spending on our daughter." She retorted, "Yeah, but it's also TIME we could be spending on our daughter too." I'm with her. ; )

    Anyway. I don't know how it works out percentagewise, but dh is pretty good around the house. I tend to accumulate clutter, although it's generally contained to certain areas of the house ; ) while he is a minimalist. He does most of the cooking, unloads the dishwasher & often loads it too. He vacuums and mows the lawn in the summer and shovels snow in the winter. I dust & clean most Saturdays. I can skip one weekend but I generally regret it by the second. ; ) For some reason, the floor doesn't get mopped too often (erk) but we don't have kids tracking in dirt & spilling things so a good regular vacuuming usually suffices. I do the laundry & ironing although dh helps fold socks & puts his own stuff away. I do all the day to day banking & bill payments while he looks after the big-picture investments and retirement planning. I also run a LOT of errands on my lunch hours, like filling prescriptions, picking up toothpaste at the drugstore and buying birthday presents, etc., and make most of our appointments. It works for us!