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The Day I Walked Out On the Dishes

Sharing the household chores when both parents work can be tricky

Published on: July 20, 2018

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stressed mom

When my first baby was about 3 months old, I looked around my apartment — dishes in the sink, dust on the shelves and goodness knows how much toothpaste buildup on the sink — and decided I was fed up.

I had been cleaning and washing dishes and bottles, making our meals as well as pumping milk for the baby and it was exhausting. My husband and I were teaching summer school, he in the mornings and I in the afternoons so that one of us was home with the baby at all times. But somehow, I was the only one doing any chores.

Before having a baby, we had a pretty good balance going, but since her arrival, it seemed I was the only one keeping up. 

I wrote this note: Dear husband, Baby and I are going out to lunch. Here is a list of chores that you need to complete while we are gone. Please call me when you are ready for us to come home. Love, Me.

My husband was completely aware that he had been slacking, and so he ran through the list and let me know when the apartment was clean enough for us to come back. That night as the baby slept, we sat down and hammered out all of our new responsibilities now that we had a child, and how we could work together to complete them.

The additional laundry and dishes that comes with being a parent had really overwhelmed him, it seemed, so much that he shut down instead of pitching in.

The additional laundry and dishes that comes with being a parent had really overwhelmed him, it seemed, so much that he shut down instead of pitching in.

And instead of speaking up, I had kept trying to do everything without asking for help, causing a great deal of resentment. Both of us recognized our mistakes and decided from that moment on, we would check in with one another. If I needed help, I would simply ask for it, and if he started to feel overwhelmed again, he would ask me where he should start. 

Twelve years and four more kids later, we have gotten into a great routine. While we both work, I do so from home, so it’s more practical for me to pick up a bit during the day as well as to run a load of wash each day. In the evenings, I cook dinner, and he washes the dishes afterward. While he watches a little television at night, he folds the laundry I washed and dried during the work day.  After many different attempts at lists and taking turns, we realized this was the best fit for our needs.

On the weekends, we tend to the bigger tasks like cleaning the bathrooms and floors, although as our children get bigger, we are also working to incorporate chores into our routine. If one of us falls behind, we work to pick up the slack for the other. And if the rare occasion arises where one of us is continuously falling behind, we reassess our roles. For example, when I was experiencing morning sickness, my husband completed all the chores while caring for our other children. 

Sorting out how to tackle household chores when both partners also work can be tricky, but assuming the best intentions in one another helps guard against resentment. Constant communication and reevaluation help families hone their skills and maintain a clean and pleasant home. My dramatic gesture was a wake-up call for both of us, but now we just talk out any concerns. From that point forward, we were able to conquer our chores as a team.

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