17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Division of Labor

I’ve recently moved from a small city apartment to a 3,000 square foot house, which has meant a lot of changes. Certainly a significant one is the amount of time it takes in any given day or week to keep the house at a reasonable level of clean. Now I’m not a neat freak by any sense of the phrase, and I don’t like cleaning, but I accept it as a reality of home ownership and a necessity of sanity and sanitarity (okay, not a word, but work with me here).

My question is this – how do you divide household labor in your home? My son is only 2, so I’m not really including him in the cleaning equation. (In the messing-things-up equation, he figures quite prominently) I’m specifically talkin’ husbands here. When I used to work out of the house full-time, we both did a moderate amount of cooking, cleaning, and general household tending. BUT, we weren’t home all that much. Now I’m a SAHWM (yes, that W stands for working – I do freelance work during naptimes and after-bed-times) and my husband works out of an office here in our home, so we are both here all day, which means all the dishes and general messiness that entails, not to mention an additional (truly messy) family member.

So now that I’m not a “working girl”, the vast majority of the cooking, cleaning, and general household duties are falling to me. Yes, my hubby is “bringing home the bacon” and allowing me to feed, clothe, and house our family. And so I do expect that a greater amount of house wrangling would be mine than was previously the case. But what I’m really wondering is, when I’m feeling truly overwhelmed and swearing up and down that he doesn’t do anything, how much am I in the right, or in the wrong as the case may be? What is a reasonable division of labor? How do things work (or not work!) in your house?


  • I frankly am scared to be in your position. As much as I envy that you own a home and that it is gorgeous and all old and vintagey-which would be my ideal home as long as rodents and other creatures did not come with it-I do not envy the square footage. I would really need to budget for some cleaning help. The missionaries here are always asking how they can serve...maybe you should take them up on it in your town...Sorry I can't help.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/03/2006 06:00:00 PM  

  • Okay, so you don't know me ,but I was forwarded your blogs, by a guy named Greg Dunn who grew up with someone in Naperville?? Ring a bell?
    Anyway...Division of Labor one of my favorite mommy struggles. I have two kids plus a number three 50 hours a week and they are all 3 and under. My husband works from home?? Which is handy, but not really a cleanliness bonus. So here is how the dirt breaks down around our house. I think I am a little demanding, but the mess and the mess makers are half his!

    So, if I cook he does the dishes. It could flip if he ever cooked!:)
    I wash and fold the laundry, he puts it away. I clean the shower, and he sprays the stuff so it stays a bit cleaner.
    I shave my legs and he wipes the leg hair (his) off the bathroom floor. (mostly because it isn't mine and it is a little grose)
    I put the garbage in the can and remind him when it is over-flowing.
    You can see a pattern that can be applied to almost anything. I also have a small project that I want to tackle every Saturday that requires a kid free hour. i.e. Digging to the bottom of the coat closet, Dust bunny removal from under the couches, Soaking in the tub while I pretend to scrub grout with a tooth brush, etc. The catch to all of this help is that you have to be okay with the way he does things. If you find you 3 year olds socks in the 18 month old's pants drawer, you can never say a word. Just be glad that they aren't still on the couch with the rest of the laundry.
    I think that because he is home all day my husband has realized that life with kids is busy, and being a neat freak is too time consuming. And also that I am not superwoman.:(
    So with a little help from him, my kids are happy and I can still look people in the eye when the come into my living room. Good luck.
    posted by Blogger Abby at 1/03/2006 08:56:00 PM  

  • I fear having a nice large house in the future for 2 reasons:
    1)you have to decorate it and have furniture that matches the house at least a little.
    2)you have to keep it clean. At least in a small space you have an excuse to be cluttered.
    There are 2 chores I can't stand, taking out the garbage and unloading the dishwasher. So my long-suffering husband does them for me. We have also agreed that Sunday is my day to change NO diapers and feed NO children, with the exception of making dinner, which you would understand if you'd had his cooking.
    I agree with Abby, I can't stand the way my hubby folds laundry or loads the dishwasher, but I finally decided if he's doing it, I'm not complaining!!
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 1/04/2006 12:24:00 AM  

  • I am also in fear and awe of a big home for the above-mentioned reasons... Right now Ed does the laundry and the dishes about half the time and I do everything else....although he does a ton of child care. That will change when I go back to work (no immediate plans to do so). Except for cleaning the floors, which I hate above all else in life, I don't mind....although I don't think I could manage a house as big as yours, Marian, without some serious resentment issues.

    One good idea from my Astoria neighbor. She HATES cleaning but loves to cook, so she trades another friend meals for a clean house. Maybe you could trade some web design for some clean floors? Who knows? Also, my former boss at work told me when I got married that a housekeeper saved more marriages than any therapist. I always remember that.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 1/04/2006 01:54:00 AM  

  • jen, love the idea of meals for clean but I just want people to come clean my house and cook me food....I think that means I need a live-in housekeeper? Dang...not enough bedrooms.
    abby, I used to hale (sp?) from Naperville once...welcome.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/04/2006 04:28:00 AM  

  • turns out hale or hail are not the correct word....see dictionary.com
    so let me rephrase: I grew up in Naperville for about a decade.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/04/2006 04:30:00 AM  

  • and welcome abby (not jen) although, welcome jen too. It's early...note to self..never post before 8 am
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/04/2006 04:31:00 AM  

  • This topic has plagued our marriage for a few (7) years now. The problem lies in the fact that I was raised with a father who did house work and cooked as if it were part of the job. He never had to be asked. On his days off (my mom was a teacher)and my mom was at work, he did the laundry, baked a couple pies, organized the office and cleaned the garage. Lo and behold, I married and was SHOCKED that my husband was not like this. My father is about 1% of all men. My husband is the other 99%. So, in the years that have preceded, I've had to make an amazing discovery. ASK. ASK. ASK! If I've just had a terrible day chasing my three kids, grocery shopping, teaching piano lessons, being a Primary President and making a somewhat healthy dinner, I enlist his help. Bless his heart, he really is always willing (except when he's not, and I know I'm sometimes not, either)and all I have to do is ask him to do something. "Honey, please sweep the floor, get the kids ready for bed, take out the garbage, change the kitty litter, empty the recycle bin, empty the dishwasher, wipe off the table, help me fold laundry, etc. etc. etc." and then he does it. Pretty much everytime. Most women think that if there is something that needs to be done, why doesn't he just notice it and do it? Doesn't he hate that the dishes aren't done and the house smells like dirty diapers? Once I figured out the average male psyche (is that how it's spelled?) it saved our marriage. Well, at least for me. :) So don't be afraid to ask for help. I'll be betting that he's willing!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 1/04/2006 06:35:00 AM  

  • Oh, by the way, I'm Carrie's niece... :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 1/04/2006 09:54:00 AM  

  • The main thing that I've noticed about most husbands is that they sometimes just don't see it. My husband and I can be looking at the same messy living room and he thinks it's not absolutely clean but ok, and I think it's a disaster. Sometimes you just have to have good communication about what expectations you have. We have decided that yes, we have 3 young girls (7, 5, and 10 months) and yes, we are overrun with toys and girl things until we can finish our remodeling project so yes, we are going to have to deal with some toys filtering into the living room and dining room. My youngest just started crawling so now we have a new expectation about the vacuuming and sweeping. Although she still finds any tiny little pieces of anything!!
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 1/04/2006 11:35:00 AM  

  • Glad to see some unfamiliar names on here, welcome to the crib!

    I think my next post has to be about how to keep your husband from reading your blog and finding out how you REALLY feel. Just kidding! In reality I think our problem is that neither of us is very organized or motivated about chores. He does a good amount, and he's great about taking Max duty quite often, it's just that right now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the increase in tasks, so I get cranky about it and start griping. Once I get a rhythm down it will get better, but I think you guys are right, I just need to SAY SOMETHING. That's probably my weakest point overall, not just relating to housework, so it's no surprise to me that it comes down to that....
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/04/2006 12:03:00 PM  

  • I agree with the ask and ye shall receivce approach. My idea of a disaster and my husbands differ greatly. Maybe someday it will be trendy to have a disorganized life and instead of unmotivated we will all be viewed as mysterious and important? You never know, bell bottoms came back into style.
    posted by Blogger Abby at 1/04/2006 02:33:00 PM  

  • Ohhhh abby, I'm holding out for that day!
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/04/2006 04:58:00 PM  

  • My house is never really clean (except for maybe 5 minutes after my cleaning lady leaves). I can appreciate a clean house, but there are about a million other things that I can find to do that are more important to me (start a blog, work on a new sewing project, edit a home video, call a friend, finish up some work stuff, convince my friend to write a sitcom, etc etc.). I think creative minds have a higher tolerance for clutter and my dh is not home enough to really notice. Well I guess he probably notices, but there isn't enough time to care.

    He helps out a ton on the weekends and when he gets home a little early so we can both have a little time to relax when the chores are finished.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/04/2006 05:20:00 PM  

  • Since I am one of the friends that Carrie calls and convinces to do a variety of things besides write a sitcom (everyday decisions like...should I take my kid to the doctor? In what order should I wash my new over-dyed clothing? What are you making me for dinner?)...I feel like maybe I should take the blame if her house is ever a little untidy.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/04/2006 05:31:00 PM  

  • This is a hard one at times for me. I sometimes am really bugged that dh doesn't notice things. Why do I have to be the one making chore assignments? For example, if I don't remind him to take out the garbage the trash guys come and go and he isn't the wiser for it. I want the house to be "our" home. To me, that should mean that it's not always me who has to notice what needs to be done and ask him for his help. However, if I just sit and wait for him to notice what needs to be done, there is a better than likely chance he will never notice (at least the things that I want him to notice) and then that bugs too.

    For us, it really helps to have specific jobs. There are certain things he always does. e.g. I do the laundry, he puts it away. We can't do this with everything though.

    One Saturday though, he got inspired to clean the kitchen floor. We have this awful old yellow linoleum with little dents. The dents always look so grimy and dirty and it has seemed impossible to clean. A friend recommended Simple Green, and so I got some but hadn't done anything with it. He used it to scrub the floor and the results were astounding and a little scary. He kept calling me in to show me how much difference there was between the part he had cleaned and what was left. I was so overjoyed and giddy--the floor looked so great. Plus, he had done it all on his own. I think when he saw how happy I was with his scrubbing, he felt inspired to do that more often...really, it made me happy the entire weekend.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/06/2006 05:14:00 PM  

  • mimi, I love your story about your husband and the kitchen floor. It's a priceless one!

    Just a little update to my cleaning woes, I had a great cleaning experience today - first off, Max showed interest in 'helping' me for the first time today, so while I scrubbed my kitchen cabinets, he had a spray bottle and spunge and scrubbed along beside me. I've tried this technique before, and he was never interested, but apparently now it's fun. Okay, he sprayed me quite a few times, but I'm willing to put up with wet hair if my kitchen is cleaner for it.

    The other cleaning miracle is a my new cleaning product. I realized that one of the things I HATE about cleaning is smelling like bleach / other noxious cleaner for the rest of the day. So I found this at my local grocery store, and while it takes a tiny bit more elbow grease to get the job done, for me it's worth it for the nice smell.
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/09/2006 04:17:00 PM  

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