Chores and the Married Couple


I’ve been asked a couple times lately how Chris and I handle sharing household responsibilities, especially with a new baby coming. I should start this off by saying that dividing household chores to a point where you are both comfortable with the way the load falls on each of you takes time. And some arguing. And some whining. And some temper tantrums. Finally, after almost six years of marriage, we seem to have it figured out for our family.

But, like they say, babies change everything.

When we’re not pregnant, we share responsibilities almost right down the middle. I think the key to finding a good balance is finding what each of you are good at and what each of you can’t stand doing. For example, Chris cooks most of our dinners during the week. He enjoys it (or at least he doesn’t complain…) and it saves me from making huge messes in the kitchen. I’m a complete disaster when I cook. The food tastes okay, but the mess I make is hardly worth it. Chris likes to do the cooking and then he cleans up, too, because he is such a perfectionist that he can’t stand a mess in the kitchen. Whereas I just kind of roll over everything with a sponge, throw all the dirty stuff in the sink, and call it a day. After YEARS of arguments over how messy I make the kitchen, Chris just took over that chore and life has been better ever since.

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On the other hand, I can’t stand the way Chris does laundry. He leaves it in the washer until it stinks, he waits too long to fold everything so it’s all messy, and he doesn’t know where to put my stuff away (though, that drives me crazy because how hard is it to find my pants?!?!). Besides all of that, Chris hates doing laundry. It’s not that I enjoy it, but out of the two of us it’s just better if I do it. So, I’m the laundress in our house. I fought it for the first few years of our marriage. I mean, why should it default to MY responsibility when he wears more things that have to be washed on a daily basis than me? But I gave up that battle a long time ago. I like my clothes the way I like them and Chris breaks out in hives in our laundry room. So, why wouldn’t I take that on?

Of course, Bean and Molly like to help with the laundry, too…

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For daily cleaning, I’m the primary when I’m not pregnant. Picking up, straightening up, sweeping, wiping up messes and spills, vacuuming, getting up the dog hair – that’s my job. I keep our house neat. Seriously, Chris could sit in the middle of piles of dog hair and toys and opened mail and not bat an eye, but clutter and messes drive me crazy! But for the deep cleaning that happens about every two weeks, that’s normally Chris. Especially in the bathrooms. His attention to detail makes him really good at this and the fact that I’m not so great at paying attention to things like mildew makes me horrible at it. So, once every couple weeks or so, Chris will deep clean the bathrooms and kitchen. It works out for us because I’m better with organization and tidiness and he’s better at details and really nitty gritty stuff.

For Bean, we actually split things dead even kind of naturally. Again, when I’m not pregnant, I do Bean’s dinner and bath time while Chris cooks our dinner. Though, he’s eating more and more of our meals instead of his own special ones, so we’ve started eating those together. Generally, I do diaper changes and I don’t normally mind. Chris will do them if I ask or if he smells something, but I’m more the one who keeps track of when Bean’s last diaper change happened. Being pregnant though and not being able to lift Bean because of my back has meant that Chris has really had to take over in his area. I can’t lift him to the changing table and so I now just ask Chris when it’s time for a diaper change.

Actually, being pregnant has changed our chores in a lot of ways. In the beginning of my pregnancy, I continued with my responsibilities. It only seemed fair. But as I got bigger and as my back got worse, I really became limited as to what I could physically do and not do around the house. Gradually, Chris has pretty much taken over everything while I’ve become restricted to sitting on my butt to let my back recover from long days teaching on my feet. And, unfortunately, that will continue for a while after I have Gracie because recovery from a c-section leaves you pretty helpless, too. But Chris is a saint and he doesn’t complain, doesn’t have to be asked, doesn’t hold grudges. He just does what needs to be done. He even goes so far as to get irritated at me when I TRY to help.

When it comes to household responsibilities, I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to have married someone like Chris. Not all husbands take on chores as willingly as he does and I actually credit his dad for this. Chris grew up living with his dad and so in their house, it didn’t matter if you were male or female, you cleaned. He watched his dad do their laundry, he saw his dad cook their meals, he learned from his dad how to keep a house neat and clean. And so in our house, he doesn’t divide chores based on gender or more traditional roles. To Chris, we both live here and so we’re both responsible. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that about him and how glad I am that he’s already started teaching Bean the same way, too.

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So, that’s about it. It took us a couple years in our marriage before it all balanced out, but that’s how we divide our chores. It doesn’t make us the neatest or cleanest people in the world, but it gets the job done. Usually…

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17 Thoughts to “Chores and the Married Couple”

  1. Mike and I have kind of slipped into traditional gender roles and I’m not really sure how it happened but it works. He won’t touch laundry and I don’t like to mow the lawn. Right now we share baby duties for diapers and do bath time together mostly because we’re too scared to do it alone. But luckily I married an Italian so he’s a much better cook than I am. That worked out nicely 🙂

  2. kaitlyn Stratemeier

    I burn food, he shrinks clothes. Therefore, he cooks, and I do laundry. Works for us!

  3. Ginny

    As newlyweds we’re still sorting out our chores list. Top of the list for discussion is laundry. JM is much better at actually doing it but he doesn’t like it; I don’t mind it but I wait until we don’t have a single thing to wear before I’ll touch it. And so the battle continues in our house. I cook, JM does dishes. We both clean.

  4. I do most of the inside stuff and he does all the outdoor duties because I hate dirt and snow. But he will help out if I ask. Works for us 🙂

  5. Sonya

    Your kitchen and laundry chores sound about like ours! I do most of the cooking, but I told my husband he had to take care of the dishes and the dishwasher because those are my least favorite chores. I do the laundry because I am very particular about how my clothes are washed. Plus before we were married I witnessed how he selected his clothes out of the dryer every day. Now the other stuff…I do it because I’m picky. I’d like help, but I also know I’m just too darn picky to let someone else do it!

  6. I just want to say wah. I wish things worked like this for us. Unfortunately, my husband grew up in a house where his mother and grandmother did everything and his father and all the kids were responsible for nothing. His grandmother still made his bed when he was in his 20s! So it never occurs to him to see mess. He is like you say you are when he cooks – the food is great but the kitchen mess makes me want to cry (sometimes I literally cry). He sucks at laundry, never thinks to deep clean, never thinks to vacuum or swiffer or dust or… well, anything. I want to devise a natural feeling system like you guys have but it just comes down to me telling him, “Here, you do this today” and him getting maybe 25% of it done. I’m ready to tear my hair out.

  7. One of my favorite things about John is that he, like Chris, will just do what needs to be done without having to be asked. Especially at holiday dinners with my family, he’ll start cleaning up the table before I even do! That recognition of a need and the willingness to take care of it is a trait I think Jacob will learn from him, too. We have good men and boys in our lives!

  8. Emily Langston

    I am very lucky too… though I am probably the one who needs to step up their game.

  9. That is a really impressive split. I don’t think I know a single married couple that divides household chores that evenly.

    My husband and I divide work but I do almost all of the inside work and he does almost all of the outside work. He does do dishes a few nights a week and cook a few nights a week and he is good about unloading the dishwasher in the morning, making breakfast and taking the garbage out. However, I like to cook dinner and prefer to unless I have to work late and I don’t want him to touch the laundry. Also I don’t think he cleans well enough inside because he doesn’t pay attention to details. I am much happier handling the inside especially if that means that I never mow the lawn, wash the car, change the oil, take out the garbage or anything like that!

  10. I thought this was a great post, especially for people who are not married but are planning to be, because chores are not usually something commonly thought of and considered. As you said, it takes years to fall into a pattern both people are happy with. When we first started living together, my husband and I split things pretty evenly (based on what each did or didn’t like to do, like you and Chris), but when I quit working I took on 99% of the housework. That might seem old-fashioned, but I think since he works so hard all day and commutes, the least I can do is make sure he comes home to a clean house and a nice meal. It makes me feel good to do those things for him, and I just think it’s fair (he has a very demanding, busy job). When I was working he did the same for me, so it goes both ways. Though he does still clean the showers (I don’t mind cleaning the rest of the bathroom, but I hate the showers) and dump the trashes, I take care of the rest. Each couple finds their own way, I suppose.

  11. Ah! Don’t you love a man who does the dishes??? I love love love that Brad does so much around the house. I tend to be the “man” in the chore area…meaning, I don’t see the mess! I’m learning how to out of an act of love for him…but it takes a ton of concentration on my part. I have to come up with goals to get done around the house before Brad comes home…otherwise as soon as he comes in the door he starts cleaning. It’s kinda ridiculous actually.

  12. I just did a chore post too! I’m such an anal freak about chores and Jon is so easy going.

  13. Ha – I once did a post called “Nothing sexier….than my hubby doing chores.” We’ve been married for almost a year and I think we’ve got it figured out. I clean the bathrooms and vacuum almost every weekend. I do laundry, but I have way more clothes than he does, which means he needs clean clothes sometimes when I don’t need them. So….sometimes he does his own. I cook and he does the dishes.

  14. Sarah C,

    My hubby and I are the same…I do laundry (he helps) and he cooks (I help). Everything else, we split pretty even. Although, he cleans out the cat litter box because I can’t get thru it without dry heaving. But then clean up the messes from cat/dog yak because it makes him yak–so it all evens out! I’m a lucky gal, my hubby is great. He even enjoys shopping with me!

  15. You’re so lucky he’s taken on so much during pregnancy! My Chris really has taken on a lot, but I sure hear about how I DIDN’T do it. C’mon…8 months pregnant. Cut me some slack.

  16. Here in Finland women rule the roost. We are all ‘new men’ here. If we complain on housework we get locked in the sauna!!!

  17. I’ve been married for just over a month, and divying up who does what has been an unexpected trial. Before we were married it was simple…I took care of my stuff, he took care of his. Now that it’s OUR stuff, everything is different! Thank you for posting this!

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