How real families make housework fairer

Kinderling News & Features

Nothing builds resentment more quickly in a relationship than being the only person who picks up all the dirty socks, changes all the empty toilet rolls, puts out all the washing, cooks all the food and cleans all the dishes.

If you’re the person who is not doing all of the above, then chances are you don’t even know it’s being done because, well, you’re not doing it.

Once upon a time these chores would fall under the female partner’s remit. Along with popping on some lippy when their husband comes home and slugging back a few Valium every day.

Now that more women are in the workforce, but are still shouldering most of the domestic load, surely it’s all about educating our menfolk? Maybe the solution to this dilemma is making the invisible visible - which - before men get their boxers in a twist, can work for men too if you do most of the domestic labour.

Advice I got from the Oracle (ie Facebook)

When I posted about this on my feed, I was inundated with comments from my friends. There is no doubt that dividing the domestic load evenly is a problem that is alive and well in 2018. Here are some of the ways my mates get around it.

1. Make a list

This is by far the most popular way my friends divide the work load. Some make a list and divide it into what each partner prefers to do. Others marked each chore with time required to complete it, then divided it evenly between the two of them.

Kirsty Levin from The Parents Village says that when you’re making a list you should try to include everything - even what we have come to regard as the ‘emotional load’.

“A list might start with big obvious jobs like vacuuming floors, washing clothes, or cleaning toilets, moving right down to the less tangible or obvious jobs like stocktaking food left in the fridge, shopping list making, meal planning, scheduling and planning for kid’s school or extra-curricular commitments, checking spend against the bank balance, or paying bills on time.”  

2. Go on strike

This solution comes in as a very close second.

Kylie said, “You go on strike and for a month, ONLY do housework in front of your partner. It's amazing how the dynamic changes when there’s not a clean football kit.

Another friend said she did it as a last resort, and that it was upsetting but worth the effort.

I held a strike back in 2011. It was immense. I did absolutely nothing. He [the partner] and the kids learnt very quickly that I was sick and tired of being the cleaner and the cook and playing second fiddle to absolutely everything. It went on for four days. It was very upsetting, but I used to walk in the door, have a shower and walk out like I was only person living in the house. I felt awful but it was so worth it.

I must admit when I was recently accused of not cleaning up after myself in the morning, I was very tempted to show what ‘not cleaning up after myself’ really looked like. Fortunately a well-articulated email (from me) explaining why this comment was untrue and unfair was enough for the balance to be restored.

3. Use a separate room where you throw all their junk

This is a toy room right? Apparently it works for grown-ups too.

Wendy knows that she has different priorities to her partner.

My partner's instinct to fill any clear areas randomly with his stuff is not compatible with my desire for organised spaces, and where possible, bare surfaces!"

Her solution was ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

“Now we have agreed ways to get his crap out of my way ... There's a particular shelf for the everyday bits and he's agreed to quarantine his bigger stuff to the spare room that has a door we can shut."

Listen to how two mums found their own solutions to the work life juggle on Kinderling Conversation:

4. Get a cleaner

While not everyone can afford a cleaner, Sarah says for her relationship a cleaner is essential.

"My family decided to get a cleaner once both my husband and I were working full time - it was a cost-sacrifice issue. What little time we had on the weekend, we didn’t want to spend cleaning."

Kirsty says that delegating to an outside source is one of the ‘Four Ds’. This is a way she recommends partners attempt to divide the domestic load. Here's how it works. 

5. Prioritise according to the Four Ds.

When you’ve written your list out, Kirsty says apply the Four Ds to each one. The Four Ds are:

Delegate it - because you can't do everything yourself.

Do it – because it is urgent and important (e.g. taking the garbage out before the house stinks and you get cockroaches).

Delay it – because it's important but not urgent, and therefore can be scheduled for later (e.g. stacking up the bills to pay at the end of the month).

Delete it – let it go, because it's neither urgent nor important to either of you (e.g. you get artificial turf for your yard because you both have black thumbs, or you get rid of your iron and only buy wash-and-wear clothes). 

6. Hold yourselves accountable

All of these strategies are only worthwhile if you both do what you’ve agreed. On this front Kirsty says it’s all about making not just the work, but also your commitment to the work, visible.

“Book these agreed terms into your schedules so that it is visibly a part of your other daily activities. In our household, if it’s not in the iPhone calendar or posted on the fridge so we can both see it, then it doesn’t exist. Make the mental load explicit.”