Reading my various blogs and forum haunts today has started me down this pathway. I suppose I am continually surprised by the amount of heat that comes up about the financial and domestic chore inequalities, both perceived and actual. While today’s reading was primarily from the other women, I know plenty of men who have equal amounts of anger and bitterness toward their wives/significant others on the same sorts of issues.
I am not immune to it, either. I do try to be aware of it, so it does not linger and fester and become a Very Big Thing that results in a messy meltdown of Fukishima proportions in my own household.
Thinking about it, here is what happens at our place:
- Financial earning – me 100%, M 0%
- All other things financial – me 99%, M 1% (listening to me tell him what we’re doing and why is about the extent of that)
- Cooking – M 80%, me 10%, going out or ordering take-out because we’re lazy 10%
- Dishes and kitchen clean-up – M 90%, me 10%
- Laundry – M 62% (washing and drying), me 35% (folding, ironing, putting away), 3% lost clothing in the process (usually socks, but periodically jackets and shirts mysteriously disappear between the dirty and the clean laundry baskets)
- General Housekeeping – M 50%, me 35%, regularly left undone because we don’t notice or care 15%
- Landscaping/pool/home maintenance/repairs – M 90%, me listening to what needs to be done and how much it’s likely to cost and/or wanting to hire it out 10%
- Car maintenance/repairs – me 90% (taking to and dealing with the dealership), M 10% (diagnosing problem before making appointment with the dealership, picking me up when needed, washing and waxing cars, etc.)
I make light of it, because these items are not hills I wish to die on in our relationship. Years ago, when the kids were still in school and living with us 95% of the time, our home had a much more “lived in” look and feel to it than present day, because we had 2 or 3 more messy individuals in residence and 2 people working full-time plus overtime and side gigs and kids with busy social and extracurricilar activity lives. In those days I did a lot more of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. We were also renting, and lawn maintenance was always included in the rental agreements. The kids could also be cajoled or nagged into cleaning up after themselves, and we did a lot more take-out with the hectic schedules and lives we led. M did help, when asked or if the chores were eating into our joint activities leisure time.
Once G graduated from high school and M came home from over-the-road driving, our lives changed subtlely. M was significantly more appreciative of being at home and far more likely to take care of housework/home chores without my asking or having a seizure over things not getting done. When he left the workforce 5 years ago, the shift became more and more apparent, as the general housekeeping chores and laundry began getting done during the day while I was at work. Then it was the cooking – he started watching YouTube and learning how to make things we enjoyed in restaurants. I still had to do vegetables, salads, side dishes – M is all about the main course – but it was a lot easier when it was a team effort. M also cleans up the kitchen most of the time. Part of this is because he’s far more organized and efficient and does not use every pot and bowl in the house preparing one meal, and partly because he thinks I do not rinse the dishes well enough before putting them in the dishwasher. Whatever. I am happy to let him be OCD on this, because I would much rather empty the dishwasher than fill it.
I remember one conversation about finances and household chores around the time we bought our home. We were in the midst of inspections and planning our strategy for updates/remodeling and M was worried about the expense. He was torn between not wanting to go back to driving and feeling as if he were letting me down by not earning. I told him that this was where we needed him to be right now, because if he were driving then I would be stuck taking time off of work or trying to work from home to supervise the work being done at our new home. What I wanted/needed from him was that he continue to being chief domestic manager, including the housekeeping and such, so I did not become resentful about having to get up and go to work every day while he got to stay up late and sleep in later because he had no specific place to be. I am sure I said it more diplomatically, but clearly if I am out of the house 9 or 10 hours a day, 5 days a week I have less time to clean the house, do the laundry, and prepare food. He got my meaning, was reassured, and his anxiety dissipated.
This is not to suggest everything is sunshine and rainbows at our house. It is pretty sunny most of the time, but not always. I have my moments of wishing for more time to do what I want to do and being mildly to wildly jealous that M has all this time to do whatever he wants. He has his instances of wanting to do things and not appreciating my objections or budgetary restrictions. We are married, though, and our partnership is one of shared goals and realistic expectations. While it appears uneven, we both understand the way our lives are structured plays to our individual strengths. Is there inequality? Only if what we are at odds about what we value and what matters most to us as a couple.