The division of “household labor” is non-existent in many busy homes. Between work, kids and social outings, housework usually falls on one set of weary shoulders: the wife’s. After a while, many wives become resentful, especially if they have a day job, as housework becomes the “second shift.”
In order to avoid a marriage meltdown, creating an action plan that will not only motivate your hubby to help around the house, but create peace and balance within the marriage, is one way forward.
Determine what needs to be done. From laundry to taking out the garbage, make a list of all the weekly chores and who currently completes the task. In defining the mandatory tasks, you clear the first hurdle of your husband overlooking the tasks left undone. Moreover, identifying the exact chores can help both of you see what constitutes household work. Typical chores include:
Tidying all areas of the house
Laundry (washing, ironing, folding and putting away)
Grocery shopping, plus other sundry store visits
Cooking, washing the dishes
Bill payment and sorting
Yard work, gardening and maintenance
Getting children to any extracurricular activities, medical visits, etc.
Pet care, including grooming, vet visits, feeding, etc.
Define easy, moderate and difficult tasks. Rate each task by considering how time-consuming it is, how strenuous, and how often it must be performed. For example, washing the floors may be a moderately difficult task, what with mopping, sweeping, waxing, etc.
When writing up the list, consider items that could make cleaning easier. For example, can you upgrade the vacuum cleaner or get better detergent? These can be excellent tasks to assign to your husband. Making him feel that he has bought the items can give him a greater sense of pride in using them to prove that they’re doing the job better than the old items!
Ask for help. Unless you ask, he might not know that you need help, and you may never know how much more he can contribute. Make a date with your husband to discuss the chores. Schedule your date after a fun day or even a long week at work––just avoid booking time immediately following an argument or when something else has your husband’s attention. Grab some wine, get away from the kids (and the TV), and bring your list to the date.
Begin by telling your husband how much you appreciate what he does around the house. Reference the tasks he performs already and talk about how his contributions make a difference in how well the family functions. Then go on to explain that because you feel as if you’re taking on more than you can handle, you’d love him to help out more.
Show him the list of tasks so that he can see the multitude of household chores in black and white.
Don’t tell him that you think it’s unfair that you’ve been doing the majority of the work––chances are, he’s never thought of your housework input as being unbalanced. Just tell him that his contributions would help maintain your energy levels, and give your family more time to do things instead of waiting around while you finish the housework.
Ask him to review your list and find the chores that he wouldn’t mind taking on. Steer him toward the chores that may not require previous homemaking experience, like bathing the pets, sweeping, or cleaning the toilets.
Since he may have never tackled these “new” chores, tell him how you accomplish the work and when. Don’t tell him that he must do the chores one way and on a certain day, but instead explain how you do it and what has worked for you. Don’t freak out if he doesn’t use your exact approach.
Consider forming a team approach to the household chores. Set aside one time a week where both of you pitch in and do household chores together, after which there is room for relaxing and leisure. Saturday mornings can be a good time if there aren’t other commitments since it frees up the rest of the weekend; otherwise choose another time that fits and lets both of you do housework in tandem.
In the spirit of teamwork, break down smaller chores into team efforts, too. For example, you cook, he washes the dishes; you hang the clothes on the line, he takes them off and folds them; you vacuum the floors, he mops the rest; and so on.
Be flexible and patient. It takes time to change old routines and habits, especially when one person has been relied upon to keep the house clean. It may take lots of gentle reminders and additional persuasion, but persist until it becomes the norm in your household. And avoid keeping score; he’s likely to slip up, and you are too. Just gently remind him of his end of the bargain when he fails to meet it.
Cut your husband some slack. Just because he doesn’t do it to perfection, don’t interrupt him to fuss. Remember that if you want more help, you have to accept how he does it.
Give your husband “foolproof” housework such as emptying garbage cans, picking up laundry and sweeping floors. Wait until he’s better capable to tackle chores like laundry, where there’s the possibility he could accidentally turn your white clothing pink.
Get into the habit of thanking one another for keeping the household running smoothly. You both contribute to the harmony of the home, so both of you need to acknowledge this from time to time. The more you demonstrate your appreciation to one another, the more it becomes a good habit.
Plan cleaning in advance. Prepare his mind and his mood to be engaged when the weekend comes to clean the house. Do it together and limit the time so your family doesn’t spend the entire day cleaning. The goal is to get your husband to get involved. If it becomes too much, he may not want to do it again. Start small and build from there.
If you and your husband work long hours, determine if you have the finances to hire a weekly cleaning service. Even if one or both of you works from home, having a cleaner can make life a whole lot easier. Consider which tasks you’d like the cleaning service to handle and which tasks would still be your responsibility. Usually weekly cleaning is best left to a cleaner, while both of you will need to remain responsible for day-to-day needs and bigger cleans.
Give some of the housework to the kids. Children need to learn early in life how to manage basic household chores, so asking them to put away their laundry, clean mirrors and make their bed is a good start. Increase the amount of chores regularly until they’re doing cleaning up jobs without even having to be asked.
If your husband is willing, provide him with a “honey-do” list so he knows exactly what you want and doesn’t have to guess.
If helping around the house doesn’t work out, split the difference and ask your husband to instead run your errands, grocery shop and take and pick up children from school or practices.
Avoid treating your husband like a child or being bossy. This will only end in arguments and nothing will change. Also avoid pulling the martyr routine; all that does is have you continue to burn internally while everyone simply acknowledges that you put up with it even if they have to tolerate mumbling.
Don’t broach the subject of helping around the house during an argument or tense situation; you’ll never get the help you need and deserve.
Don’t yell at him. This can cause him to restrain from doing as he is asked even more.
If your husband has agreed to perform certain tasks but doesn’t do it, don’t nag or yell at him. Instead, ask him if he thinks he’ll still be able to do them and that you really would appreciate the help.
Never redo the chores after your husband did them. This will certainly discourage him from wanting to get involved to help around the house.
Men and women are different in many ways, so don’t expect him to do chores exactly as you would do them.
Don’t try starting a fight. This happens rarely but it can happen.