I'm a wife. A mother. And a marriage blogger. And guess what? I take the garbage (and recycling) out every Thursday. And I bring the empty bins back in every Friday. It's true.
It isn't my husband's job, and we never really decided that it is my job either, but I do it. Why?
Why don’t I leave the garbages for my husband to take care of?
I guess I'm just amazing like that. Just kidding.
Honestly, I don't even know how it started. I think I just realized that my husband is a pretty busy guy. And he does a lot for our family. Often he isn’t home from work until after dark on Thursday evenings, and then he leaves about an hour before the garbage truck shows up on Friday mornings. We've made the choice for me to stay home with our two little boys (and our third little boy coming in a few months!), and that means that I have more time on my hands than he does.
It really wouldn't be a problem for him to take out the garbage on Thursday, if I wanted him to. If I told him that it was important to me that he took care of the garbages, then he would do it. And I probably wouldn't have to remind him. He has the extra three minutes it takes on Thursday evening to roll out the garbage can, and the time on Friday to bring it back in. But guess what? So do I. It's easy for me. I'm home.
Taking the garbages out is something simple I can do so that my husband doesn't have to worry about it.
It works in our relationship. It isn't a male/female thing. It isn't even an expectation we have really talked about. I saw a need and I took care of it because it worked for me, and it has worked well for us. And, let's be honest here, I don't think my husband feels like any "less" of a man for not having to shoulder that weekly job, either. I'm pretty sure he really appreciates having one less thing to worry about (and never having to hear me nag him about it, either!).
I can do a lot because I’m home, and I have the time.
Since I stay at home, I usually do the grocery shopping and the cooking (Okay, let's be honest, I don't cook as often as I should, but my husband never complains, and he loves cold cereal!). I try to do the majority of the house cleaning, but often I don't get things done during the week and so we work together on Saturdays to keep our home tidy and clean. I try and keep my boys involved in the housework, but my husband does a much better job getting them to work, and working side-by-side with them, than I do. I'm thankful for his example, and for the kind of husband and father that he is.
My husband - who puts in a lot of hours at the office, volunteers at our church, helps run this website, spends time with our boys, and does a whole lot of other things - never complains about helping out around the house.
In fact, I often find him cleaning toilets, vacuuming, or washing walls. Without being asked.
He is really good at seeing what needs to be done and doing it. He is more than happy to iron the clothes (the few that we actually iron), wash the cars, fix breakfast for the boys, and help put them to bed. He willingly mops the floor, dusts off blinds, and packs his own lunch (I used to, and still try to remember to be thoughtful like that, but let's be honest here...I can hardly get my pregnant self out of bed just to kiss him goodbye...).
He also has tasks that are uniquely his and that I don't have to ever remind him about - things like mowing the lawn, fertilizing, taking care of seasonal yard work, doing touch up paint jobs, fixing things, and taking care of our bank accounts and investments.
We’re both busy people, but we have figured out how to work as a team. I often take cars in for oil changes, but not always. I often pay bills, but not all of them. We communicate about things. And because of this, we rarely ever (ever, ever!) have disagreements or arguments over household responsibilities (We do disagree over other topics, yes, but somehow we have figured this one out without hardly any disagreements. I know, happy dance!).
These aren't secrets, but since you are dying to know, here are four tips that have worked for us when it comes to the oft-loathed division of household duties.
1. Sit down and lay out your expectations.
Figure out what works for you. Perhaps you both work, and weeknights and weekends are the only time you both have time to take care of things at home. Or perhaps one of you stays home, or works part-time, and has a bit more time on his or her hands to take care of things at home. Whatever your situation, remember that it is uniquely yours and that you can’t compare your marriage to anyone else's.
Your situation is unique. Your expectations for your home and yard, and bills and cars, and kids and schedules, are different than your spouse's. You both came from different homes, with different expectations for the division of household duties. Perhaps he saw his dad do all the cooking and dishes, and she never once saw her dad help with laundry. Or his mom took care of all the finances and her mom packed everyone's lunches in the mornings.
You both came into marriage with different expectations of who should do what, and when. So, talk about it.
Sit down and tell each other everything you expect about how things should run at home. Some couples prefer things black and white (i.e. she takes care of everything inside and he takes care of everything outside). Some couples like to share both the indoor and outdoor duties. Some couples have decided that he will take care of the finances and she will take care of groceries and cooking. Other couples have written out specific jobs that each of them are responsible for.
The important thing is to find what works for you. You will have to talk about it, and talk about how your parents did things, and what you liked and didn't like. Talk about what chores you don't mind doing (like vacuuming) and what chores you really hate (like toilets). And then, make sure you are both clear about who does what and when.
2. Divvy up responsibilities.
Once you have talked about things, decide what the division of household duties will look like in your marriage. If you two have decided that he will always fold the laundry, and she will always do the dishes, then make that very clear. You may even want to create a written job chart (think of those gold star sticker charts from your childhood) to help each of you remember what your jobs are, and how often they need to be done.
The way you two divvy up responsibilities needs to be fair, and it needs to take into account what both of you can realistically handle. There is nothing worse than a wife who works late and then comes home to "her job" of “dishes” piled up in the sink, waiting for her every evening at 8:00pm. In this scenario, it may be best for the husband, who is home by 5:30pm, to claim "dishes" as "his job."
The important thing is to be very clear about what is expected of each of you as far as the home, yard, child- rearing, and finances are concerned.
In all of this, don’t forget to work as a team.
3. Work as a team.
Step up, do your part, and then go the extra mile.
In all that you do, constantly look for opportunities to serve your spouse. If you are getting ready in the bathroom and realize the toilet is pretty gross looking, don’t think "That's his job, I'll leave it for him." And please don’t make the mistake of saying something snarky like “Hun, it looks like you need to clean the toilet. You should probably do that more often.” Instead, decide to see the need and to meet it. It will take you all of six minutes to clean the toilet, and you will only be better off for finding a way to serve your spouse. He may or may not notice the clean toilet, but if he does, he will be super grateful that you thoughtfully cleaned it and didn’t nag him about it.
Now, working as a team doesn’t mean you just do all of your spouse’s jobs for him or her, but it does mean that if you can easily do it and it would make their life easier, that you should. Perhaps he or she has been meaning to get to it, but hasn't been able to. Or perhaps they forgot. Or perhaps they hate that job. If this is the case, you may need to talk about things again. Don’t be afraid to sit down and re-vamp your expectations and duties from time to time, remembering to be flexible about the changing seasons of life and about who should handle what.
4. Be flexible as the seasons of life change.
As the seasons of life change, so will the division of household, yard, child-reading and financial duties in your marriage. There will be many different scenarios during your lifetime that will affect what your division of household responsibilities looks like. You may find yourself in a similar scenario to those listed below.
Be willing to continually re-work the way household responsibilities are cared for, and to make sure that whatever you choose meets your current situation. Just be flexible.
As you figure out what works for you (even if that means taking out the garbage!), you will have far less conflict and nagging in your marriage, and you will find great joy working side-by-side throughout the years caring for your home, yard, and family.
Photo Credit: Middle Picture - Jason Corey Photography
“A great marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that must be created.”
- Fawn Weaver
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