How to Divide Household Chores Fairly in Marriage
Dishes, laundry, yard work, cleaning, cooking… oh my! The chore list is long, and the questions are many.
Who does what? How do we make this fair? Am I doing too much? Why doesn’t my spouse do more?
A big part of marriage is managing and maintaining a house and all the responsibilities a home can bring. So, where do we begin?
Well, let’s rewind the clock to before you said “I Do.” We all enter marriage with expectations. What you may not realize is that those expectations were actually birthed in your childhood, for better or worse. How? To keep it simple, your expectations for managing a house and accomplishing chores are reflective of what you saw and experienced in your home as a child.
Because of this, your view of chores is pretty emotionally-charged. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you probably have an entire belief system around how chores should be accomplished and who should be doing them. This makes marriage tricky because you and your spouse more than likely don’t share the same belief system about chores. Have you talked about how to divide household chores in your marriage?
The thing about expectations is they are often unspoken. If we don’t communicate what we expect, is it fair to get upset when those expectations aren’t met? No. No, it’s not. To avoid the drama, talk about it. Talk about it often.
So, chores aren’t the issue.
The issue is your view of chores. Now we’re getting somewhere. Peeling away those layers like an onion. It’s about mindset.
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, I came here to figure out how to divide up chores. I want to know who’s cooking, who’s cleaning, who’s doing the dishes. How do we make this fair?”
Your home belongs to the two of you, your family. You are both responsible for its upkeep. You’re a team; you’re in this together.
A 50/50 split is often not a reality. It’s usually not possible. Take into account the wholeness of your marriage as you determine who does what.
I can’t tell you who needs to do what, but here are some ideas to steer the conversation about how to divide household chores. First and foremost, the two of you have to talk about it.
Here are some questions you can ask each other:
- What are the chores? (Make a list of all of them.)
- What are your expectations for _______? (Insert the chore of your choice.)
- What housework do you enjoy doing?
- What are you already doing?
- How often should each chore be done?
- What are you good at?
- What chores are seasonal?
- What’s important to you?
- Does one of you feel more responsible out of concern for how others view your home?
Addressing household chores isn’t a one-time conversation either. It needs to happen often. Different seasons of life bring different responsibilities.
Here are some scenarios to think through as you talk about how to divide household chores fairly:
- You both are working full-time and focused on establishing your careers.
- You are expecting a child or have a child or children. (The seasons of childhood bring so many challenges.)
- One of you works from home.
- One of you is thinking about a career change.
There may be a season where one of you carries more household chores due to other circumstances. No matter what, you need to agree about what works for your family. You’ll want to discuss this often.
Once you divvy up the chore list, acknowledge what you own. To divide the chores means that you have to let go of control. Whoever is responsible owns the task. They aren’t helping out their spouse by doing it; it’s theirs.
There is no formula for fairly dividing household chores. It all begins with a conversation… first with yourself, then with your spouse. The first step is self-awareness and reflection, followed by openness and communication with your spouse. You’re a team, and you can tackle all the chores together.
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No matter what your experience or lack of experience has been when it comes to race, there is no denying that your personal experience impacts what you believe and how you behave. As adults, it also affects what and how you teach your children about race. Additionally, it informs how you respond to others who may not look or act like your children do.
Lots of people are speaking out about injustice, specifically toward black people. If you haven‘t already, now is a really good time to develop a plan of action for intentionally teaching your children that every black person has value and dignity. In a perfect world, we would know that all are created equal. At this moment in time however, there is a major focus on how black people are treated.
A great place to start is with yourself.
Even if you never actually say what you think, how you think about black people will be the basis for how you teach your children to think about and treat them. They are taking in your conversations and watching your every move—even when you think they aren’t paying any attention. If you are comfortable around black people, they will most likely be comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, they will follow suit.
Ideally, teaching your kids about race starts when they are young, although it is never too late. Here are 8 things you can do to teach your children about race.
- Be intentional about creating opportunities for your children to be around and befriend children who are different from them. For example, one mother was looking for a preschool for her son, and she realized that her son would be the only black child there. At her second choice, no white children were present. In her mind, neither of these preschools were viable options because there was no diversity. She wanted her son to see at an early age that not all people are alike and that even though they look different, they can still be friends.
- Teach your child about character and respect. Make sure they understand how to behave respectfully toward those who are respectful and how to respond kindly to those who are not.
- Model what it looks like to be treated with respect and hold them accountable for treating others in that manner to reinforce what you are trying to teach.
- Make it a point to be friends with families of different ethnicities. At the heart of understanding others is being in relationship with them. Engaging in someone’s world that is different than yours can help your child understand what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. Having empathy for others is powerful.
- Don’t tolerate prejudice. When you see it, say and do something to address it. Teach your children how to productively use their voice when they see injustice.
- Be an askable parent. So often, we don’t talk about racial issues because we are afraid or it’s uncomfortable. Silence and assumptions are not helpful in the effort to end racism.
- Watch movies like “Remember the Titans” or read books that open the door for discussion about racism.
- Instead of trying to convince your child that we are all alike, celebrate how we are different, and how those differences contribute unique things to our world. A young white boy asked his black friend about getting a perm to make his hair curly. The black boy told him he didn’t get a perm, that his hair was that way when he was born. While their moms got a good laugh, it was also a teachable moment.
To end racism, we must have a continuous conversation and a commitment to be part of the solution. In doing so, we have the potential to leave a legacy that future generations can appreciate.
VIDEO: Watch as Julie Baumgardner and Reggie Madison talk about the 9 keys to having great conversations with your children about race.
When I was a teen, summer meant one thing: work. And lots of it. I had 2-3 jobs lined up before school was out each summer. That’s because my goal was to make as much money as possible. Part of my motivation was to put gas in my car, pay for any eating out, and try to save for college expenses. The other motivation was that my parents believed working would help me learn to be more responsible. They also thought it would give me other necessary skills for a successful life.
With COVID-19 essentially slamming the door on the majority of summer jobs for teens, we face some challenges. The escape out of the isolation that many teens hoped for, the earning potential, and the learning opportunities that parents know come from working have been swiped right out of their hands.
In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, young people ages 16-24 are more likely to face layoffs due to Coronavirus. Why? Because they make up 24% of employment in the restaurant, retail, and transportation industries. The lack of work leaves behind the opportunity to learn about working with others, being responsible, and accountable to someone other than parents. It may keep them from experiencing a sense of accomplishment from a hard day’s work.
Now what? With Plan A out the window, this is a great opportunity to help your teen put Plan B into motion. In spite of all that COVID-19 has taken from us, there are still plenty of things teens can do this summer. These things can make the time go by faster, but also help them continue to learn the skills they need to master before heading out on their own.
Here are four ways you can help teach your teen responsibility this summer in spite of COVID-19:
1. Set clear expectations for the summer.
Even though many options have been taken off the table, ask your teen to come up with a plan for their summer. The structure still matters and makes a huge difference in a teen’s mindset and motivation. Here are some important parts they may want to include in their plan:
- Some type of work
- Help with household chores
- Time with friends in a socially distant way
- Things they need to learn to do for themselves (laundry, cooking, managing money, maintaining a vehicle, etc.
- Family time.
2. Help them think through opportunities that do exist.
Think yard work, shopping for those who cannot get out, being a nanny or manny for parents who have lost childcare and summer camp opportunities, odd jobs, or construction. Don’t forget about those special projects you or others have been putting off or need help doing. Part of the goal here is to help them think outside the box about what’s possible during a difficult time.
3. Encourage them to look at their strengths and identify what they are passionate about.
Are there online experiences they could take advantage of to further enhance their skill set and make them more marketable in the future? Can they take a distance-learning course to help them finish school faster or lessen their class load down the road?
4. Ask them to take on more household responsibilities to give you some relief while providing practical experience.
It may feel like more of a headache in the beginning, but these are all things they need to be able to do once they are out on their own. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and/or house cleaning or making household repairs could be ways they can step up and assist in a big way if they aren’t already. As a bonus, additional teen responsibilities at home is a helpful reminder that in times of crisis, everybody has something valuable to contribute to the good of the family unit.
Obviously, we are all dealing with the unknown here and looking for ways to navigate the constantly changing landscape. Undoubtedly, there is a tremendous financial and emotional strain on teens and adults because of the limitations we’re dealing with and certainly, we need to be sensitive to this. Even in the midst of chaos, circumstances often present themselves that turn out to be positive in the end. I’m hopeful that these tips can help you prepare your teen to handle any situation that comes their way and to help them learn responsibility even in the midst of a pandemic.
Many parents would agree that a great deal of parenting time is spent teaching children right from wrong, the importance of honesty, responsibility, good character and much more. These are many of the essential qualities they will need to be successful in life – especially when your kids mess up.
No matter how much effort we put into teaching our children, there are bound to be times when they disappoint us for one reason or another.
“I can remember the first time my son really disappointed me,” says Jim Smith.* “I was angry at him and at the same time I was beating myself over the head trying to figure out where I had gone wrong in raising him. For a long time, I felt sorry for him. Instead of trying to help correct what happened, I tried to compensate. Just when I thought things had turned around, he would do something else. It is hard to get past not thinking it is always your fault when your children make poor choices.”
This type of response from parents is common. Whether it’s bouncing checks, drug use, risky sexual behavior, driving recklessly, unhealthy relationships or lying, it hurts to see our children make mistakes, especially when their choices affect their future.
Often when children, young or old, do disappointing things, the first reaction is to try and fix it. When problems arise, parents often try to control their child’s choices and remove the consequences, thinking that their actions are the loving thing to do, but that may not be true. Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do is let go.
When children are young, parents are typically directing behavior. When children enter the teen years and beyond, a parent’s role ideally shifts to coaching their children, along with helping them make their own decisions and accept personal responsibility for their choices.
If you are dealing with disappointment in your older child’s behavior, consider these things:
- See your child as separate from you and making his/her own choices.
- Understand that their behavior is not a direct reflection of who you are.
- Stop rescuing. Let them fall and experience the consequences of their choices. Experience is a great teacher.
- Recognize that you can love your child while allowing them to make their own choices. And it will probably be painful.
- Make a conscious decision to go on with your life. Know that you have done the best job you knew how to do.
- Take responsibility for those areas where you believe you fell short. Then move on and model healthy actions going forward.
Smith says that he finally realized that he did everything he could to teach his son right from wrong. But his kid continues to mess up.
“I finally told him that it isn’t that you are a bad person; it is the choices you keep making, and you will always have difficulty because of those choices,” Smith says. “At some point I had to stop taking it personally and let go, realizing I could not change him.”
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
Parenting to encourage your child’s independence is not easy. I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.
I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.
Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t.
One thing is for sure though: teaching your child independence is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.
Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own.
“We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”
According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, their child will lack independence and may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”
For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.
As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen.
As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need. And it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.
When precincts open on Election Day, U.S. citizens over 18 will have the right and responsibility to vote. When our country was founded however, only white men with real property or wealth were allowed to vote. But now, no matter your gender or race, citizens of this country have a say in who gets elected. Despite this amazing opportunity that many in other countries are not afforded, plenty of Americans don’t vote. But you can teach your kids about voting to change this trend.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 61.4 percent of Americans eligible to vote actually did so in the 2016 presidential election.
What are our young people learning about our country when we don’t take the responsibility of voting seriously? Do your children understand the meaning of democracy? Have you discussed the election and the importance of voting with your children so they will understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to vote when they are old enough?
Dalet Qualls became a U.S. citizen in April of 2018, and she’s looking forward to the privilege of casting her vote.
“I have been working on becoming a citizen of the United States for at least seven years,” says Qualls. “I had to be a resident for five years before I could even begin the process. I’ve watched many elections take place that I have not been allowed to take part in. The fact that I can actually vote in the next election almost doesn’t seem real.”
When asked what she thought about the low voter turnout, Qualls said she felt like it was a waste of privilege.
“We are really good about speaking our mind and complaining, but when it comes time to letting your voice count, the low turnout at the polls speaks volumes,” Qualls says. “I feel like all of us are responsible for exercising our right to vote. I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m planning for my children’s future.”
It is important to teach our children that voting is not just a right; it is a responsibility. Clearly, children younger than 8 might find choosing a leader to be confusing and even a little scary. However, older children could benefit from this teachable moment in time.
Here are a few tips for teaching your kids about voting.
- Talk about your values, what you believe and why you hold those beliefs.
- Ask them what they have heard about the election, the candidates and the process.
- If your children are older, get them to research each of the candidates running for a particular office, then discuss what they learned about them. This is a great way to teach young people how to be critical thinkers instead of taking what they hear in commercials at face value.
- Hold an election in your home. Give your kids the chance to share what made them decide to cast their vote for a specific candidate.
- If possible, take them with you when you go to vote.
“I hope people never take for granted the privilege we have to vote,” Qualls shares. “There are many countries where people don’t have this opportunity. Many men and women have fought for this right, and paid the ultimate price for it. May we never take it for granted.”
Image from Unsplash.com
Preparing your kids for responsibility can be a daunting task. Kay Wyma, mother of five, had a revelation one day while taking her kids to school that prompted some dramatic changes at home and ultimately led her to write Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.
“My teenage son asked me what kind of car I thought he would look best in, a Porsche, Lexus or Maserati,” says Wyma. “Deciding on the Porsche, he said he planned to get one when he turned 16. Fighting back nausea, I’m thinking, ‘What planet are you on and how do you plan to pay for it?’ All the talks about ‘materialism and how things don’t make you happy’ clearly hadn’t penetrated his brain.”
On the way home, Wyma called her friend to vent and get reassurance that the self-centered teenage stage doesn’t last forever. Wyma realized mid-discussion that maybe she was contributing to her kids’ self-centeredness.
“My kids are great. But I wondered if what we were doing was helping prepare them for the real world,” Wyma says.
“I made their beds, picked up their rooms, taxied them here and there, fixed their meals, and showered them with accolades but rarely gave them the chance to confirm the substance of that praise. My words said one thing, but my actions said, ‘I’ll do it for you because I can do it better or faster than you can.’ I realized this was a major disservice to our children. Instead of preparing them to launch, we are creating a sense of dependence on us as parents.”
After seeking wisdom from women with adult children, Wyma came up with 12 skills for her children to learn before they fly the coop. Here is a sample of what’s on the list:
- Make a bed and maintain an orderly room;
- Cook and clean a kitchen;
- Do yard work;
- Clean a bathroom;
- Do laundry;
- Run errands; and
- Act mannerly.
“After deciding on the 12 skills, we called a family meeting and we told the kids that things were going to be different,” Wyma says. “We started with their rooms. They had to make their beds before they went to school and pick stuff up from the floor. We got the usual whining and complaining, but I was actually surprised at how quickly they started doing what we asked.”
To get the ball rolling, Wyma added an incentive. She put 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child.
They could get an additional dollar each day they did what they were supposed to or have one taken away. Most of the kids chose to have one taken away if they didn’t follow through on their tasks. Interestingly, she rarely had to take bills out of the jar. But the child who chose to have money put in the jar could have cared less.
“I think people forget how exciting it is to equip your kids to tap into the opportunities that come to them,” Wyma says. “If I am always doing everything, they don’t own anything nor do they have the opportunity to be challenged and build confidence. Our children are in a very different place than they were two years ago when we started this experiment. I think we would all agree things have changed for the better.”
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
In 2014, a group of liberals and conservatives began discussing inequality and family breakdown, poring over research and developing solutions to this problem. In December 2015, they released their report on poverty and mobility called Opportunity, Responsibility and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.
“There are a gazillion reports from various think tanks and interests group on this topic, but this is the first time people from opposite sides discussed the facts about the nature of poverty and mobility today,” says report co-author Kay Hymowitz. “This came at a time when it was very difficult for opposite sides to be talking, yet we met and communicated regularly for more than a year. Through shared values and old-fashioned compromise, we defined the problem and offered a solution.”
Childhood poverty (21.8 percent) is at almost the exact same level today as it was in 1970. Broken down by race:
- 12 percent of Caucasian children and 33 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 1970. These rates remain unchanged.
- 42 percent of African American children lived in poverty in 1970, compared to 38 percent in 2012.
“Despite living in a richer country than we were in 1970, we have done very little to address child poverty,” Hymowitz says. “One of the major reasons for this number staying so stubbornly high is children are growing up in very different circumstances than in the past.”
Consider the following information:
Unwed births increased dramatically between 1970 and 2010.
- Black: 37.6 percent to 72 percent
- Caucasian: 5.7 percent to 35.9 percent
- Hispanic (1990 to 2010): 36.7 percent to 53.4 percent
While the number of unwed births have somewhat stabilized recently, the rates remain very high. In fact, unmarried mothers under the age of 30 account for almost 50 percent of the births.
“In 1970, the large majority of women at age 35 were married and living with children,” Hymowitz says. “By 2010, only about 51 percent were married and living with children. In 1970, only 9 percent of women were single mothers at 35. Today, that number is 20.5 percent. This is the number we want to study.”
According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of poor families with children breaks down like this:
- Single-parent female-headed families living in poverty: 37.1 percent
- Married families with children living in poverty: 6.8 percent
“There is no way to talk about poverty at this point in history without addressing the breakdown of marriage,” says Hymowitz.
What else causes people to be poor?
Low paying jobs and lack of jobs contribute to poverty. When you look at the landscape of the labor force since 1980, some very interesting transitions have taken place.
- The percentage of men who are working has decreased from 72 percent in 1980 to 64.4 percent in 2012. For African American men, the numbers have gone from 61 percent to 49.6 percent.
- Women are more likely to be working. That number has gone from 39.9 percent in 1980 to 59.4 percent in 2012.
- Wages have become stagnant for low-wage and middle-wage men.
- The percentage of men who have left the workforce has doubled, along with the percentage of men without a college degree.
- The percentage of men in the labor force is lower in the U.S. than every other country in the industrialized world except Israel.
- Women are earning more than ever before.
“These trends affect each other,” Hymowitz says. “Fewer men are working. Those who are working are making less. Women are making more and can manage, even if it’s not very well. Not only are they earning more, they get a lot more in the way of benefits.
“When you add all the benefits, the official poverty rate comes down significantly from 47.6 percent to 24 percent. The conditions in which people are deciding how to manage their domestic lives has changed significantly. Couples see no reason to marry even if they have children. Children are the ones who pay the price for the breakdown of marriage and stable family life.”
Can the children escape from poverty?
Research indicates that 43 percent of children who are born to poor parents will be poor themselves. Both liberals and conservatives are especially concerned about this number.
“Three areas need to be addressed together: work, education and family,” Hymowitz says. “These three areas of life are what have to work pretty well for you to get ahead. They interconnect. We concluded that the 21st century reality demands that we address all three together at the same time. You can’t pull one out and work solely on that one. This is what set our group apart from other groups who have examined this issue.
“You can strengthen families, but without an education opportunity, children can’t fully benefit from the additional time and resources that two parents provide. You can improve the workforce, but if the education system fails to provide the needed knowledge and skills to the next generation, then wages will remain low. If the education system dramatically improves, but work opportunities are limited, then knowledge and skill-building will be less effective and less-rewarded. If the education system improves but a greater number of children are growing up in unstable homes, it is highly likely they will struggle with discipline, persistence and achievement – especially so for boys.
“Growing up in a family where you cannot have the kind of stability that allows you to concentrate on your homework impacts your ability to do well in school. This impacts your ability to find a job, which impacts your ability to provide for a family. Education, work and family lay the foundation and reinforce each other. If you take one of these components away, the entire thing collapses.
We organized our thinking about solutions around three values:
- Opportunity: The group recognized that social and economic changes were combining in new ways that threatened to make it harder for children to achieve the American dream. Each man and woman should be able to attain to the fullest stature to which they are capable. The circumstances into which they were born shouldn’t matter.
- Responsibility: Individuals can’t just wait for opportunity to fall into their laps. It is far better to earn money than to depend on assistance, and better to be responsible parents for children. This is essential to getting ahead.
- Security: It is important to provide people with a certain amount of security. Life throws curve balls beyond any one person’s responsibility, so we need to provide a certain amount of security for those who are hit hard.
“As we focused on our three values, we realized that in the U.S. at this time marriage offers the best chance for children to thrive,” Hymowitz says.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***