Friday, November 25, 2011

Division of labour

Image from here

This is a post that has been stewing inside me and needing to be written for a long time.

My brother and I were brought up by our dad, due to our mum being unwell and being in a nursing home from when I was nine. My dad cooked, cleaned and he can even sew (no, really!) so my expectations of what the man of the house does isn't the usual.

When Harvey was born I suddenly felt a pressure to be 'Suzy homemaker' and it made me angry. I must say that Mr CP in no way inferred/said/demanded that I do everything but I was angry all the same.

I feel that because I became a mother, there was some sort of expectation for me to become in charge of looking after the whole household (maybe my own expectations of myself...?). But how is that fair? I don't make all the mess, the Mr uses this house as much as I do. In this year off it would be easy to take on more than my fair share because I am not 'working' but really, I am. The Mr goes to paid work for 40 hours a week and I look after Harvey while he's not here. That's my work. Fair to say it's more than 40 hours a week too.

I decided that we needed to determine the set tasks that we would each complete.
I do the cooking, he does the dishes. I do the washing, he mows the lawn.
We alternate the floor cleaning and bathroom cleaning on a weekly basis.

Except, we don't.
Every week I have to remind the Mr that it's his week to do the floors or bathroom (EDIT: Mr CP DOES do the other jobs, the battle is the floors/bathrooms and general picking up/tidying. I don't want to misrepresent him as a slacker because he is definitely not that. The issues are mostly mine. Mostly ;o). There is a three day window in which to do your set chores (work and life get in the way sometimes) but every week I have to nag, be bossy and threaten to get a cleaner.
It's driving me nuts.

So I want to know, what is your division of labour?

How do you decide who does what? How do the household chores get done?
I'm looking for some wisdom from everyone.
I don't want to be a nag (channeling screeching offence to fishwives ;o)


Ab x


  1. Once a fortnight, we have a cleaner in. (Best money I've spent!!)
    What the cleaner doesn't do, we share. We just have an agreement that if something needs doing one of us just does it.
    That first year with babies is the hardest. If you can just get through it without collapsing you're doing amazingly well.

  2. We have a very simple division of labor. John earns the money and I do everything else. Sucks to be me! LOL

  3. Our labor was divide by inside and out which was a bit unfair because outside is more fun. However, I also got to do all the baby/child care as well as all the running around and not having anything for myself or being allowed to leave the house if he was expected at any time within the next few hours! I think an at home Mum can do more than a working one by a long shot but it helps her to know she is loved if the man helps out without being asked or, if asked, without to much of a to-do. It probably also depends on the nature of the child/children as they make a difference to how much the Mum can realistically do. Cherrie

  4. I have been married for 32 years and know what you mean. DH has always help, but I had to learn early not to ask if he could please do this or that, but to say this or that needs doing now.
    Also early on DH use to leave his washing next to the wash basket, well I left it there for over a week until he realised I wasn't going to pick it up and wash it.
    I think giving men a choice in when to do something they will put it off and off.
    Good luck.....

  5. Let's just say I am teaching my boys to do their fair share..

  6. My ex and I had a weekly cleaner. I cooked, he washed up. I did the washing, he did the garden. That's what worked for us!
    Now I have a fortnightly cleaner (to do absolute basics) and I'm stuck with the rest myself!

  7. Bit of a sore spot here too. He works full time and I work part time 4 days (20 hours) so his argument is I am home more and I should do it. He pretty much does the outside and the rubbish and I do the rest

  8. Apart from having a little one to look after you are singing my song. My DH gets up (long after me) showers etc and eventually makes his way downstairs to where breakfast is ready and if needed the fire is going. Once scoffing himself he goes to the lounge, watches the news, cleans his teeth then buggers off to his paid employment.
    I clean do the washing make the bed clean the bathrooms, bedroom, lounge, kitchen, laundry, prepare dinner, iron, mow lawns, serve in our shop (for which there is no pay) do the gardening and still be there to ask how his day was. I too feel that the division of labour is well off but I do think I have brought it on myself as I have this feeling inside that tells me 'this is my lot and to get on with it'.
    I know how you feel, if you find a solution please let me know - in the meantime, good luck and keep smiling. xx

  9. Hhmmm, well.... the one I've had for over 40 years has never changed so I can tell you with certainty, they won't...!!! I can't say that I've actually cleaned the floor for a long time..! The Railway Man taught all our children the difficult art of cleaning the loo, bath, shower and washbasin and he still cleans the bathroom more than I do. He vacs (the damn dyson bites so I won't use it..!) sweeps and will wash the floor if I was to ask. He's never done dishes or windows...sigh!! My big issue is that he doesn't cook....really, not at all..!! He has been known to eat cold baked beans if I'm not there and washing, well, we won't go there will we...
    If I had to average it out, I'd say I'm pretty lucky really....but I wish he could cook.. :o)

  10. After reading all the comments I came to the conclusion none of us have exactly what we would like in our DH.
    My DH cooks the meat etc on the barbie each day and I do veg or salads. He does brekky dishes while I go swimming (in the summer), we do tea dishes together.
    He has never made a bed,done the bathroom or loo but I guess I am still with him after 40yrs + so can't be too bad.

  11. Wives often seem disappointed with their undomesticated hubbies don't they? Mine has gone from doing nothing, nothing and nothing at all to being an absolute treasure with housework but it's taken over 40 years. I guess he was tired of living in a rubbish tip. If you keep doing all the work they'll let you!

  12. I feel your pain, I have just about got mine to do the bathroom, but also requires lots of nagging. The best solution, particularly as you have a little one as well, is to get a cleaner in. We had a cleaner up until hubbie was made redundant, couldn't justify it after that, but it really is the only way to resolve conflict of this kind. If it won't put an unbearable strain on your finances and this is the major source of conflict between the two of you, just do it.

  13. Can't offer much help in that department and my research is showing that most households have the same issues.
    Mine never does anything in the house spontaneously. I have to request it, even then sometimes its a struggle. He does work full time and also does casual work on the weekends so can't really complain too much.

  14. Nothing much happened around here for years. I pretty much took on everything (not recommended) as I was the one home all day with nothing to do but play with the four kids while he worked. But something weird is beginning to take place now that he's nearly 50. He gets up and does the dishes while making me a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast sometimes, simultaneously hanging out the washing, and folding it if it piles up. I could giggle myself to sleep most nights at my good fortune!
    So I dont have any advice or answers for you other than eventually they 'get it', x

  15. After posting that I realised I do have some great advice which was given me.
    These have stuck.
    The first was from my MIL and when I asked her once how to keep up, she said to do one room a day top to bottom. Eventually over the week your house feels done. This works wonders and I still attack the house this way when I feel overwhelmed.
    The second was from my best friend. She rang me out of the blue one day very excitedly to tell me she had found the answer to keeping her house clean.
    I laughed but she meant it.
    I tried it but got really exhausted not messing it up, x

  16. hmm, thoughtful. I put pressure on myself- which only in recent years have I learnt that is not that helpful- because I am NOT naturally a clean, neat, organised person (I have other skills!). This creates some tension because my husband is more inclined to have those traits. It means he always feels he is picking up after me, which I don't like, and it means that when I make a fabulous effort, he could do it in half the time- which I don't like either! So, it ends up I do all the cooking (basically) except the two days when I work, he often does the dishes, I leave most of the crap around, I am learning to pick it up, on my home days I waste a lot of time cleaning ineffectively...I need to learn about systems!

  17. As I sit here at 11.35pm I think to myself - we all sound so whiny when we talk about the division of domestic labour in our houses. I feel just like most of you, tired and burdened from time to time, and since I work 4 days (27hours) a week and am the primary caregiver to our kids (7 &5), organise absolutley everything to do with the house, its care and maintenance, and all other duties that go with that I should be pretty grumpy, but I am not. I realised some time ago that I could jump on the "my life is rubbish due to a gender based unfair diision of labour" or I could get off that moaning pathetic wagon, pull up my big girl britches and just get the hell on with it. I mean really how bad is it? Running water, modern appliances, healthy happy children gowing up in an environment which is not even a little bit difficult. The ability to CHOOSE and afford a nice life (including a cleaner if that is what yanks your chain). And I noticed as I let go of the anger I was working on about the unfair division I became less tired having spent less energy on a useless thought process, more grateful for my prviledged life and just generally happier. I am not afraid that my life is a roundabout of domestic drudgery, I just get the boring stuff done and get on with enjoying the good stuff. Because I am happier, my family are happier and everyone wants to be around me more and quite spontaneously they began to offer to help. My husband now without prompting stops watching TV and helps me in the kitchen, puts the kids in the bath and brings in the washing. Life is a much happier place in our house , all because I let go of my anger and embraced any positive I could find in the everyday ordinariness of my life. I hope you find your happy place soon too Ab xxx

  18. Hooly Dooly.

    Seems you are up the creek without a paddle Ab!

  19. Well, lots to think about there.
    Peter does do a lot around the house, he is a bit of a tidy liker. But, he tends to do the outside things first, which bugs me no end. We will have nice swept paths in the garden, but the toilet floor needs mopping (3 boy's you know). I am very lucky to be in a position to be able to choose to be a stay at home mum, but sometimes it does not seem that it is presumed we will take on most of the duties around the house, and our hours are long and tedious some days, not talking to grown ups. I find a list stating what needs to be done works well - obviously show it to him, so we can work through them together. I think one of my issues is the interuptions - it would be great to just get the whole bathroom done without someone wanting something to eat, solving a dispute, getting a band-aid, answering a question. I actually prefer Peter to take the boys away so I can get a decent run on jobs (I do like cleaning, seriously, just dont get to do it often enough), anyway, I'm a bit all over the place, that's it from me
    nighty nite.

  20. ahh yes and it just becomes more uneven the more children you have... i have 2 kids now, but my sister has 4 and her life is manic... and her house is never clean anymore! my husband actually says that i nag him (which is awful)... but somedays i am really tempted to just go back to work so i can have a break from all the housework...
    but i do think the longer you do it for the more at peace you become with it...