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The division of labor (which is clearly not a labor of love)

Heather, over at Pittsburgh Mom, recently wrote a post about the division of labor. She was contemplating learning how to hook up their camper, which is something her husband normally did, because she is a do-everything kind of gal. But her sister-in-law said that she refuses to learn how to do it because it will just be one more job she has to do. So Heather asked us, her sisters in Pgh Mom, how we handled the division of labor in our houses, and if there were things that we did not want to learn how to do just so these things would not become our jobs.

I don't know about you, but the division of labor in our house does not always go smoothly. In theory, it should, because as I said on Pgh Mom, we both do what we are good at.

For example, I am a much, much better cleaner than Brian. The times when he cleans up after dinner, he does not typically consider cleaning out the sink and sweeping the floor part of that job. I guess because they don't have the word "dishes" in them, he must figure his job is done once everything is in the dishwasher or washed. Brian apparently is also unaware of how to unload a dishwasher. Maybe it is the "CC" that appears on the dishwasher when it is done that throws him off? Regardless, if Jordan and I spend a night or two at my mom's, you can bet that dishwasher will be full of clean dishes upon our return. The man will either use paper plates or rinse off his dishes and reuse them. I guess I should just be glad we don't come home to a bunch of dirty plates and glasses!

On the other hand, I don't have the foggiest idea how to put up a ceiling fan, work a lawn mower, or use hedge trimmers. I don't want to know either. I am klutzy and severely lacking grace. We both worry I would hurt myself if I attempted. And since he does those things well, we just go with it. Now snow shoveling, on the other hand, I would like to do, but he thinks it should be his job, because I am "just not strong enough" to push all that snow. Whatever.

Cooking is another area that has caused us untold grief (well, I am about to tell you about some of it here). When I was working mostly full time, Brian did all the cooking because he was home first (and eventually just home period since he started working at home). And, most importantly, I am not that good at it. Even more significant is that Brian will remind me just how not good I am at it when I attempt it. I read recipes and follow instructions on a box. Apparently those words are lies, at least according to Brian. And, to be fair, he has been right more often than not. Every time I cook a meatloaf, I have to cook it twice as long as the recipe says. And almost without fail, when I throw our packaged garlic bread in the oven, I end up burning it, even though I am following what is on the package. My most favorite fight was after I burnt the garlic bread and did not have enough jarred sauce to heat up (in our house, apparently we consume about 17 serving of sauce every meal). After we heatedly discussed my failings for 30 minutes, he said that he was going to take over the cooking from now on. But for some odd reason, the next day, even though he "fired" me from cooking, he actually asked me what I was planning to do for dinner. I think we mostly have this worked out, fortunately. Most days he makes the meal, but not before he asks what I had in mind. I, of course, want to say, whatever YOU are going to make, but I play along most days and come up with something that usually involves the grill (you know, man and his grill and all). In my defense, I am pretty capable of chopping up some veggies for a salad and throwing a bag of steamed veggies in the microwave. Still working on not burning the garlic bread.

I did all the shopping the first five years we were married. Just around the time we hit our five-year anniversary, Brian was not working, so he admirably stepped up to the plate. After about five months, he said that it was about time I took it over, since he had been doing it for awhile. I had to remind him that I did it the first five years, so when he hits another 4.5, then he can talk to me. Unfortunately, those 54 months got here rather quickly, and I am now in my second year of our five-year grocery rotation. Although I would not say I excel at this particular chore, I do cut coupons and shop around, so it is really better that I do it.

I would continue to bore you with how the rest of our chores stack up, but I should probably do something involving cleaning here pretty soon. Although I might be better (or at least more thorough) at this chore, I do have this uncanny ability not to notice dust that has been accumulating for several weeks or various bits of dirt on the carpet after a few days. But let's just go with my excelling at that!


Sherri said…
So funny ... my friend Sue and I have just been going back and forth about this very thing...Who does what and why or when.... For me - I do all household - cooking, cleaning, laundry, kid room organization, flower pot planting - further, I also rearrange the furniture and decide our room layout in the house - I plan all meals (unless hubby wants to grill or try a recipe - he's learning) - BUT hubby usually chooses the paint colors in / out of the house or does the permanent yard stuff - seems to want to, so that's how we do it. His job requires long, stressful hours currently - and, I just do freelance when I can get it. Way back before my kindergartner was born, I had the "bigger" title at work - I traveled and had to be at corporate meetings - while hubby worked at home and enjoyed more freedom in that respect, so... he did pack our oldest's school lunch, take her to sports practice, the pool, etc. Oh - and don't get me started on the dishwasher - I am, apparently, the only one who does that AND empty the garbage cans....
Lynnette said…
For the most part, I can't really complain about our division of labor. The thing that I can complain about, though, is the mental brain space division of labor. Let me see if I can explain.

Regarding physical chores, we often split these evenly. We both clean the house together (he dusts and vacuums, I clean the kitchen and bathrooms), we both do laundry (this is a joint effort, whoever remembers to stick the loads in, and whoever isn't doing anything when they're dry will fold), I cook, he cleans up after dinner (and he really cleans up, all the way, including cleaning the counters), I make the grocery list but I ask him to suggest dinner ideas, we grocery shop together, we both take care of our 5 year old daughter for the most part (although I find myself making the time more often than he does to make sure her teeth are brushed, hair brushed, face washed, etc.). He does cut the grass, and I pay the bills. We both hate to do weeding/yard work, so we do that together, too.

For me, though, there is no division of the overall management of the house. For instance, it's usually up to me to make sure that all of the above get done when they need to get done. I have to tell him/ask him when Lila needs help getting dressed or something. I have to manage our calendar and make sure that everyone knows what they're doing and when. I have to manage the child care schedule. I am the one with all of the mental (and sometimes written-down) to-dos, and it's my job to hand out assignments as needed.

Now, granted, I'm a project manager at heart, so this part comes easy to me. However, I do it at work all day long, and sometimes, I just really want someone to tell me where to go and when to be there and what to do when I get there. My brain just gets tired of taking care of everyone and everything in our house sometimes. I wish that there was a way to divide that job, because I really, really could use a vacation from it all. It would be nice if I could do the 5 year plan with managing the house like you're doing with grocery shopping. Although, to be honest, so many things would fall through the cracks, I'd just end up doing it myself anyway.
Facie said…
When I first started to write this post, it was more negative. Our big issue is that Brian thinks I should do pretty much everything in the house b/c I am mostly not working. And that mostly makes sense, except when you are home with your kid(s) all day, and you spend a lot of time with them, the time you do get to yourself, you want to do what you want to do, not clean. When we both worked, the division of labor was better, b/c I had less housework to do!

I can feel your pain, Sherri, though you do more than I do and have more kids to keep track of.

And, Lynnette, I am glad that you have a good division, but I do get the whole keeping track of things. Brian does not always understand that there is work involved when it comes to managing Jordan's school stuff (papers, tests, volunteer stuff, etc.) appointments, fun things, etc. Back-to school shopping alone is a like a part-time job!

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