“Let’s talk about who does what around our house and for the kids.”
If you parent with a partner or spouse, how many times have you initiated this conversation? I’m willing to bet more than once. The fact is, more women and moms are working full-time jobs, and many are becoming the primary breadwinners of the household. A recent Pew Research Center analysis of opposite-sex couples showed that husbands and wives are bringing in similar incomes, while wives continue to do 2 more hours of caregiving and 2.5 hours of housework. Husbands enjoy 3.5 hours more of leisure time than their wives.
This doesn’t just put a strain on these relationships, it can also negatively impact the wives’ mental and physical health.
What does an unequal division of labor look like?
Running a family and household is complex. If you’re doing this, you should give yourself the title of Chief Operating Officer. You don’t just clean the house and keep everyone fed. You’re also a social and event coordinator, which is emotional labor. You may also manage and source most new products or the household, while remembering to make doctor’s appointments and keep parent/teacher conferences. Who needs swimming lessons? Do we need to pick up more sunscreen? What food has recently been declared “yucky”? Way too much for one person to manage, especially if you’re also working a full-time job!
Are there solutions?
Couples who try solving this problem take different approaches:
- Defined roles and responsibilities - sit down and write job descriptions for the both of you. Maybe one person handles all health management for the family, while the other is in charge of groceries and kitchen cleaning. It may be a disaster when one person feels like they need to manage the other, but hopefully you can improve over time and change up assignments if things aren’t working. Sitting together and writing it all down is a powerful first step.
- Outsource (when possible) - this one’s tough because you may not have the budget and resources to hire help. But you may be surprised how much of a difference a cleaning service once a month makes! Especially if that responsibility usually falls on one person. If you’ve tried redistribution and it’s failed, this is the next option.
- Go to therapy - this one also requires some budget, so it’s not available to all. But if you have the means, it can help to have a third person facilitating these tough conversations with your partner. It creates a sense of safety, clarity and going to therapy signals a willingness to work together to improve.
- Fair Play - this is a methodology and approach for dividing household and family responsibilities. If you’re curious about it, you should check out this documentary about the approach. There is also a book and set of cards to facilitate the process. This dad on Tiktok shares his experience with the process. If you’ve tried it, tell us how it went!
Every solution should be personalized for your situation and relationship. You might take a little from all of the above rather than committing to just one. But you have to try something, because the weight moms are carrying isn’t sustainable. What else have you tried?