Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Division of Labor

Trey wrote about division of labor, suggesting that others discuss how the labor is divided in their homes.

We had intended to have a marriage in which we did not divide the work up along gender stereotypical lines. I think we were successful with that with parenting. With housework, well,
Hubby does the laundry, and is responsible for most (all?) of the cleanup outside the upstairs bathroom and kitchen.

Um...maybe that's it. He does what yard work gets done (not much). He pays the bills, but I keep track of how much money there is. I'm in charge of food (plan, shop, prepare, clean-up). He makes certain that the cars get taken care of, leaks get stopped, and heater/air conditioner filters get changed.

Though we would not have predicted this, and neither of us want to admit it, I tend to take care of Andrew more and Hubby takes care of Brian. It partly has to do with who was working from home when that child was a baby and toddler, and it has to do with their personalities (which may have something to do with who was home?). Since we are both involved parents with good relationships with the kids you would have to watch carefully to notice it, but it is there. Because Andrew is 17 and Brian is 12 this means that Hubby has more parenting issues at the moment (find the right counselor, talk to teachers about getting information regarding homework, make certain he has done his homework). Sometimes I feel a little guilty, but then I remember that I did all that with Andrew and I do all of it with the foster kids, and then I don't feel guilty anymore. You of course notice that I stress about all these things with Brian. It is Hubby though who does something about him. (I tend to say things like, "You're the special ed teacher. You should know what to do!")

Hubby definitely puts in MORE hours than I do in housework. This is partly because he does not make the boys do as much of his work as I do. I make them take turns planning, cooking, and cleaning up after meals, for instance. This requires a fair amount of energy and time, but eventually pays off.

Hubby does the laundry, all of it. He has chosen not to teach the boys how and to make them help. This, by the way, means that I own more socks and underwear than any other woman in the state. Have you ever heard that line about needing three of something "one on you, one in the drawer, and one in the wash"? In my house it is "One on you, one in the drawer and 20 in the laundry room." On those rare occasions when all of my clothes are clean, they will not fit into the drawers

Hubby's years doing home day care did a lot to change the gender dynamic. Prior to those years he did a lot of the work, but always and only when I directed him. I announced that we needed to clean the house. I hounded him to do the dishes (we switched dishes and laundry about 10 years ago when I realized that I could buy more underwear and ignore the laundry room more easily than I could buy more dishes and ignore piles of dirty ones in the kitchen). If anything went wrong, any part of the normal structure of life slipped, I was the one who had to figure out how to handle it.

It infuriated me in the early years of our marriage. That I had to remind him to do his chores made me insane in a way that he just couldn't understand. I tried talking to him. I tried yelling at him. I tried "forgetting" to do my chores ("Dinner? Oh, I forgot to cook. Could you remind me tomorrow?"). Nothing worked. Not until he was the one home full time.

To a certain extent that still happens. He still only takes out the trash when I tell him it needs to be done. He is still capable of saying to me with a straight face, "Geez, it's overflowing. Why didn't you tell me it needed to be taken out earlier?" I now tend to shrug, having realized that it doesn't actually help to say things like, "Why don't you remind me to buy milk before it's gone?" or "Why didn't you notice when you were throwing your trash away? Oh wait! I remember! You leave your trash on the counter and I throw it away!"
Now to be fair, there is a long history of my brake pads being replaced, oil changed, or tires replaced because Hubby noticed that it needed to be done. And just to be scrupulously fair, I will point out that those things need to be done a whole lot less often than the trash needs to be taken out. He would also point out that with respect to general clutter and messiness, he is just as likely to notice and more likely to do something about it than I am.
I don't know about everyone out there, but in my conversation with other heterosexual women, this is a major complaint. Early in my marriage it felt like my only options were: nag; do it myself; let it go undone. It took years before the option "live with an adult who does his fair share just because it needs to be done."

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