Housework is boring and thankless, but unless you want to come home to domestic disarray or if it’s financially possible to hire a cleaning service, there’s just no way around it.
And if there’s discontentment when it comes to pitching in with the chores, annoyances snowball, frustrations kick in, and eventually, you’ll snap. There are, however, ways to help manage your shared duties better that we’re sharing below. Plus, we tap real women for their tips.
There’s no splitting it totally 50/50
There’s almost no way it’s possible to split your household chores right down the middle. And honestly, it’ll just get tiring keeping track, not to mention somewhat calculative. Create a comprehensive list of all the chores that need to be done regularly (like ironing or scrubbing the bathroom) and consider a more fluid way of organising your tasks, like a roster or deciding on the chores each will undertake.
“I live with my husband and two stepsons. We have a roster in our kitchen with the days and chores listed. It’s flexible in the sense that we can discuss whether we want to stick to one chore or if we want to rotate.” – Faridah, 40
Discuss expectations and priorities
There’s one thing about living with someone else – they come with a different set of ways and beliefs on how a household is run. For example, you might consider rolling up your clothes and stuffing them in the closet acceptable, while your partner is more ‘Marie Kondo’ level when it comes to organising.
My husband, for example, conscientiously washes the walls of the shower stall after he’s done with it, and has the uncanny ability to organise his belongings like a flat lay. Meanwhile, I’d probably give myself a score of 6.5 out of ten for tidiness.
If you haven’t already lived together before, now’s the time to discuss. Talk about and decide on your topmost priorities; like if a clean toilet is more important to you, than say, having a made bed every morning. It’s easier to compromise on issues that matter the most than to completely satisfy everyone.
Also, be flexible and allow your partner to accomplish tasks in their own way. Don’t be overly critical if your significant other is not doing it exactly how you want it either – as long as it’s decently done, leave it be.
“It was quite tough during our first year of living together because we carried over vastly different attitudes from our own households. But over time we learnt to choose our battles and also let go of things a bit. I’ve come to terms with the fact that a household that is 100 per cent or even 90 per cent clean and tidy is impossible. If we can have a home that’s 70 per cent clean, it’s good enough.” – Melody, 33
Ideally, your partner can tolerate (or maybe even *hopefully* enjoy) the particular chore that you abhor. Taking on something you aren’t adverse to or are better at means you’ll find yourself less likely to sit on the job. Identifying these preferences or strengths will help you divide the chores more effectively.
But what happens when you both detest the same task? One way, of course, is to take turns doing it so no one gets stuck with the same role. Or tackle it together – this makes it somewhat more enjoyable and you’ll get to connect, and feel the accomplishment of finishing a task as a team.
Just be careful of taking on certain tasks all the time just because you think you ‘can get it done faster’ – if you don’t give the other party a chance to learn or practice, how will he or she ever get it?
On that note, you’ll also want to think about rotating chores on a weekly or monthly basis so that one partner doesn’t get stuck doing the same task repeatedly. This can also help each partner gain experience and skills in different areas.
“We mapped out our tasks when we got our house. Thankfully my husband takes on the things I don’t want to. A decade later our routine remains the same and we’re still happily married!” – Wen Lin, 37
Consider each other’s schedule and timeline
One might be a morning person and prefers to get chores out of the way while the other leaves it until the end of the day. Chances are, you might come across the stack of dirty dishes he’d left to tackle after he’s done with his workout.
Pushing someone to tackle a chore when he or she isn’t ready could pave the way for disgruntlement. Is your partner going to work late nights for a demanding project? You might have to be prepared to take on a little more of the household chores.
“If he’d like to get certain tasks done that aren’t generally on our weekly roster, like sorting out the storeroom over the weekend, he’ll give me a heads up and ask if I’m okay with it. It sort of gives me mental prep, and I can plan my time ahead.” – Wendy, 38
It’s not just about the housework: Mental load
Mental load, also known as emotional labour, is basically having a checklist of things to do at the back of your mind. When it comes to domestic duties, it’s stuff like not forgetting to pay the bills, picking up the kids, remembering to call the plumber and so on.
In some cases though, a lion’s share of the mental load can fall on the shoulders of one spouse. We don’t have anything against the guys and we’re sure this doesn’t happen with every couple, but a study by University College London (UCL) stated that women are still doing the majority of housework when living with a male partner. Inequality – perceived or not – can wind up with one spouse feeling overburdened and emotionally dissatisfied, which can spill over to other aspects of the marriage.
It boils down to either side taking the initiative, and knowing that each is working to make things easier for the other.
And we’ll leave it right here: It’s not on a partner to have to constantly delegate chores or to ask for help (does “All he/she has to do is tell me what to do” ring a bell?), it’s a shared responsibility.
Taking charge of your own duties communicates that you are in on this partnership and are willing to work as a team.
A version of this article was first published on Her World. Text: Michelle Lee.