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I have read a few articles lately about gender inequalities at home–where moms, including working moms, foist the bulk of household work onto their capable shoulders either due to lack of cooperation from spouses or their absence.

It got me thinking about how we divvy up household work so that my sons and daughter see mama and dada working together.

When we were first together, before we got married, we talked about how we envisioned our lives in the actual day-to-day. As we were both working, the days were filled with motions, appeals, and paperwork. The evenings were divvied up with cooking and tidying and errand running. We fell into a pattern of who liked to do what, and who hated doing something the least, and who was good at what. We also did almost everything together because we were newlyweds without kids.

Add three small kids and me eventually staying home and the paradigm shifted. We are in a pattern now that’s working. Maybe you’re in flux of juggling work & little babes and tots and household duties are ready to break you, as they have been me. (a few snaps from instagram.)

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1) list out what you love & what you hate.

You know I love a good list. We broke it into things we loved and things we hated. I love cooking. He hates dealing with anything technological in the house.

Once we had basic allocations of hates and loves, we knew we were in the ballpark of figuring this all out.

I hate doing dishes at the end of the night. Basically, by the end of the day I hate doing anything except putting the kids to bed and retreating. Any household work that needs to be done after 7 isn’t going to be done by me.

He loves late night Target & coop grocery runs on Sunday nights. It is time to make a few phone calls, clear his head, get prepped for the week ahead.

I don’t do everything despite being the one who’s home all day. In part because although my role as a wife & at home mom is to do the best I can, it’s not to be a servant. I want to make things nice for my husband but I also want to stay sane. Somethings I reserve for him {see, e.g., the poopy diapers) and somethings I set aside because it’s fun for him to experience them with the kids (crafts!!!!!). It’s good for the kids to know the house is all of ours and we all tend to it, even if I’m the one mostly in it.

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2) split up childcare.

I’m home 12 hours without him during the day. That’s sometimes a really long long day. Buuuuuuut when he crosses the threshold, he’s on as Chief Dada. His dinner is ready & the kids have already eaten and the house is only sometimes a hurricane. He gets an hour and a half with them, and brings the tot to me when he’s ready for bed at 7/7:30. It’s a block of time in the evening where I can do anything or nothing at all. Conversely, on weekends, I take the kids to their morning activities and AA hangs back and plays with the little ones who aren’t bopping around. He gets a run or two in on the weekend. We enjoy family time mostly on Sundays and that’s great, too.

When the kids see Dada not just as “fun” but also the guy who’s cleaning up and fixing meals and dealing with their temper tantrums, it gives me as primary caregiver a little extra credence. I’m not as fun as Dada, but he’s just as good at dealing with their insane child behavior as me, albeit less beaten down by it and probably approaches it with a fresher eye//ear.

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3) bring in help.

We aren’t made as people to do it all. We can’t run homes, businesses, jobs, kids’ schedules, education, keep marriages alive, stay centered spiritually–on our own. We have family living with and near us. They bear the brunt of babysitting and extra hands for big projects. My dad is a regular at Costco mostly for me & the kids! My mom babysits constantly.

Maybe you have a cleaning service, or a babysitting swap, or a groceries delivered. Maybe you don’t worry about a clean house (me! me!) or you curtail extra curricular activities (me! nothing in the evenings!).

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4) insist on sharing the fun stuff and the bad stuff.

Okay, I don’t share everything. I reserve all poopy diapers in cloth diapers for someone else to rinse out in the toilet. Beyond that, I do try not to hog all the good snuggle time and sweet moments of motherhood–he does bedtime with the two bigger kids every night so he gets his fair share of that. We also try to gauge if the other parent is going to explode or go wildly insane due to incessant night time demands of small children and accordingly will step in. Even if we’ve just settled down for a nice episode on netflix or a riveting book or a phone call with my sister that really could go on forever.

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5) someone always has to empty the trash.

Now that our oldest is 5 and a half and tall for his age, he’s getting really good at helping take the trash out. No, he can’t reach the cans with the heavy bag or swing it over his shoulder, but he can get every item of garbagio to the back step.

But someone has to put it out in the bins. And I’ve figured that because someone has to do it, it’s kinda a metaphor for running a household. No one person will ALWAYS do one job (unless it’s breastfeeding). Even when it’s not on my column of things to do, someone has to take out the trash. If we leave it on the step too long, our vagrant squirrels will shred into it. Sometimes I take it out, sometimes AA does. Sometimes we give each other withering glares about it. And that’s okay too.

You probably have great secrets of sharing responsibilities and running the household. Dish!

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15 Responses to 5 Ways to Split up Household Duties

  1. Amy A. says:

    We do a division of labor largely by task- he does (nearly) all the laundry, I do (nearly) all the cooking. He does (nearly) all the pet care and yard work and snow shoveling and I do (nearly) all the grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning and floor sweeping. But . . . those parentheticals are for days when someone needs their load lightened a little bit. We are both list-making, task-driven do-ers, and when I come home to find that he has vacuumed the rug for me, I swoon. When he soothes a teething baby to sleep, I try to do the post-dinner dishes. One of the best ways we have found to show that we are in this together is to take a task off of someone’s daily round every once in awhile. It really helps :-) Happy Sunday friend!

  2. TB says:

    I like this post, and my husband and I split up duties similarly to how you do things in your family. I am not a maker, but I have a part time job that I work from home, and it can be surprisingly hectic when I get a lot of hours. One of the things I appreciate most about my husband is his willingness to get home from a long day and long commute and dive right in with the kids. Parenting really is a team effort.

  3. Lauren B says:

    I love this. Despite our traditional jobs (stay at home mom and engineer for the Navy), we have a very egalitarian view of marriage and parenting. My husband does his own laundry, cleans up the dishes every night, can put a meal on the table if need be, puts our daughter to bed every night he’s home (full bedtime routine- I too like to be hands off after 7), and he helps a great deal with cleaning. Not to mention yard work, house projects, car maintenance, and vet visits. But military life is a little unconventional- I can handle everything if he’s gone, and he pulls his weight like crazy on a day off. And since my love language is acts of service, he’ll often surprise me by taking a little chore off my list. We work hard to make sure that we don’t take each other for granted.

  4. MG says:

    My husband and I have always had a “divide and conquer” mindset. While I stay home with our 5 littles during the day, he is the breadwinner….so naturally the majority of our division of labor is sterotypical (I’m more domestic, he works outside and home and takes care of lawn etc,) we both do tons with the kids and around the house. I cook during the weekdays, my husband loves to cook on the weekend. His meals are more gourmet and often have some kind of theme or meat from the smoker, which is both a hobby of his and something me and the kids look forward to. If he gets out of work early enough to do school pickup, he will. And we both run kids to activities. If one of us is heading up bath/shower/bed time, the other is doing dinner dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. I do most of the laundry since I’m home during the day, but he has no problem taking care of a load here and there either. I love that my kids see us working as a team. When I was a kid, my dad did almost all the laundry and ironing and a huge chunk of the housework too, since he and my mom both worked outside the home. I always thought they made a great team also. I think it’s been imperative, especially as our family has grown, for us to make sure the workload is balanced so neither one of us is getting burned out.

  5. Maggie says:

    So, 15 years of marriage, four kids (two off at college!), I work a super demanding job and husband works out of house. Division of labor as follows…..Him – drive kids to school, sports, piano, doc, etc.; he puts gas in the cars, oil changes, etc.; he does household repairs; sometimes laundry, half the school projects. Me – everything else: I do bills/finances, meal planning, grocery, most laundry, all phone calls, gift buying, party planning, etc. (Youngest is now 7 so not much bedtime stuff anymore, but I am usually on bedtime patrol). We hire out: cleaning the house, yardwork, major home repairs. We make a super team. Secrets for newlyweds? Everything is negotiable. If you can afford it, hire out the stuff you hate so you can both have steam to go to your kids’ activities.

  6. Katie says:

    “I don’t do everything despite being the one who’s home all day. In part because although my role as a wife & at home mom is to do the best I can, it’s not to be a servant. I want to make things nice for my husband but I also want to stay sane.” YES!! *sigh* I have been trying to put words to this very sentiment for years and felt relief when I read this.

    Sometimes the thought of a housekeeper is just so dreamy :)

  7. Olivia says:

    Love this post! I have a question: where did you get that bag hanging in your tub in the first picture? We have a small house and a small bathroom and that looks like the perfect solution for bath toys. Keep writing, Nell, you are truly blessed with talent!

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