Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Prevent Housework Arguments!

You don’t need a PhD in marital counseling to know that perceptions about who is, and isn't, pulling their weight around the house can fuel some pretty heated “discussions” (although it helps if a PhD has written a ).

eM and I both like the house tidy but I’m way more detail oriented than she is (believe me, it's a curse).  I used to occasionally get ticked off because I didn’t perceive that eM was doing her fair share of the housework.  What I finally realized was that she wasn't slacking, in fact eM works her ass off, she just wasn’t noticing the same things I was noticing so they weren’t a priority for her like they were for me.

Prevent arguments over housework by organizing a chore list
And eM was doing lots of other things for the team, like managing our household cash flow and all of the grocery shopping, things I wasn't thinking about while I was focused on the cleanliness of a particular room.

There were also occasions when eM thought I was taking care of a task and I thought she had it covered. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued.

So, once again, eM and I saw eye to eye on the need for a plan.  Here’s how we went about taking all the ambiguity out of our household division of labor...

We took an hour together away from distraction.

Tip: Get someone to watch the kids while you meet– you can’t do this if the kids are on you. Roll it into a date night. Go out for drinks somewhere first while you do your work and then celebrate with dinner when you’re finished.

We each took time individually to write down all the stuff we do for the team. This includes seasonal outdoor stuff, administrative stuff (i.e., manage Quicken), grocery shopping, etc.

Tip: Include the big stuff in your list and don’t forget the small stuff. The disconnect over small things builds just as much resentment as the big stuff.

We compared our lists and brainstormed about chores that needed to be done but that hadn’t made either of our lists.

Then, and this is a biggie, we figured out which chores on our combined list we each hated and which we didn’t mind. We reassigned things so that we were each doing as few things that we hated as possible.

As an example, I really hate everything about grocery shopping – finding parking, trying to find stuff in the store, standing in line, dealing with the cashier drones (sorry if you’re a cashier – I'm sure you're not a drone, or at the very least I'm sure you're king of the drones).

eM, on the other hand, really hates cleaning the bathrooms.

Since eM doesn’t hate grocery shopping, she’s taken on that chore. I don’t hate cleaning the bathrooms (at least not as much as grocery shopping) so I take that on each week.

Here’s a screen shot of our list (click to enlarge):
Prevent arguments over housework by organizing a chore list

Next it’s important to schedule out when the main jobs are done. Here’s a screen shot of our schedule (click to enlarge):
Prevent arguments over housework by organizing a chore list

No need to be a schedule Nazi!

Sometimes I’ll clean the bathrooms on Sunday instead of Saturday – no big deal. Similarly, sometimes eM will do the dusting on the weekends instead of during the week – whatever.

On the other hand, it’s nice to know that certain things will be done around the same time every week. Because I know that eM does the laundry each Friday, I make sure that dirty clothes find their way into a hamper on Thursday night if I want to be able to wear them the following week.

The main point is that you're accountable to each other and you understand the other person's contribution.

Congrats!  You have created a platform for any future discussion about work load!

Now, don't be a nag!  But if the work isn't getting done on a consistent basis over time, fall back to the plan and use it to begin a friendlier discussion.  And if you're not getting your share of the work done, address it upfront before she gets fired up about it.

With your workload arguments out of the way you will have much more time to dedicate to all of your other arguments!


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