Q: How do you handle the division of labour between you and your husband at home?
A: Last Thursday, Zosia Bielski wrote a piece in The Globe and Mail centered on the book How Can I Be Your Lover When I’m Too Busy Being Your Mother? by Canadian therapists Sara Dimerman and J.M. Kearns. According to Bielski, “the new book tracks how a familial dynamic called the ‘mother syndrome’ is laying waste to marriages: As many wives and girlfriends who work full-time jobs find themselves tasked with running the household (and his wash cycle), intimacy is the obvious casualty. No one, not even women, likes a nag.”
The Globe reporter went on to quote the authors on some of the typical problems most couples suffer from: Men seem to be able to relax whereas women never stop “doing;” women nag their husbands to help out with the chores; and fathers don’t seem to be as proactive as mothers when it comes to disciplining the children. After reading the article, I couldn’t stop thinking about one glaring generalization: All the recommended solutions to every problem required the wife to alter her behaviour and not the other way around. (Dimerman and Kearns suggest that women should not judge their husbands for relaxing, we should stop nagging and let them do the chores on their schedule — and if they don’t, let the chores slide so he sees the mess for himself — and mothers need to give more responsibility to fathers to teach them to be proactive).
But — and please don’t get too mad at me here because I am talking about what works at my house and not necessarily what would work at yours — the truth is, I totally agree with them. I have lowered my expectations when it comes to how much my husband of 12+ years, Jay, does around the house and it has cut down on the amount we fight.
Does it matter at the end of the day that I feel like I do more laundry/groceries/childcare/organizing/planning/scheduling/etc. than Jay? Nope. Our main goals are to have healthy kids and a happy family and arguing about who does more doesn’t get us any closer to them. I fully acknowledge that he pitches in on a regular basis, particularly on Fridays when he works at home and is responsible for the kids. (Um, yep, you guessed it, I do most of it the other six days of the week). He looks after the majority of outdoor chores (lawns, garden, taking out the garbage, etc.) and takes over when emergencies pop up (leaky faucets, broken windows) while I do the indoor stuff (everything else).
And we do try to help each other out: He’s been known to throw in a load of laundry from time to time, and I actually quite like cutting the grass, particularly because it requires driving our ride-on lawnmower and, for a kid like me who grew up in rental apartments with no yard, I love it. (And just for the record, I have stated time and time again that he is, bar none, the best dad I know). But it simply amazes me that he thinks he does more than me. However, I know I’ll never change his mind, and he’ll never change mine. So we agree to disagree. And I try not to “mother him;” after all, no one, not even me, likes a nag. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost midnight and I need to go flip the laundry.