Many of us go into our marriages with the very modern idea that it will be a completely equal partnership. Part of that partnership is equal division of the household chores. After all, wives, we didn’t make all the messes, why should we have to clean them up alone? For most of us, these rose-colored glasses of equal division of the housework dissolve to the reality of us doing the majority if not all the work leaving us to ask in dismay, “Should my husband help with housework?”.
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Should my husband help with housework?
A lot of women would like to hash this out with gender equality and “antiquated” gender roles while protesting the slavery of women in marriage. But, that’s a topic for another time. I can answer the question of should my husband help with housework by asking another question:
Does your husband work while you stay home?
If your husband works a traditional job while you stay home then your home becomes your job. It’s as simple as that. The two of you are partners. If you worked in a small office then you would expect your job description to differ from that of your coworkers.
The same is true when your husband works outside the home and your job is the home.
- You are not being enslaved.
- You’re not being treated unfairly.
- There is nothing antiquated about your gender roles.
- You are not anti-feminist.
Don’t over-complicate the question of who’s responsibility it is to do the housework by trying to divide it equally. It’s as simple as your husband works outside the home and your work is your home.
If you and your husband both work equally outside the home or if you work part-time outside the home then by all means, determine a fair division of household chores.
Why We Resent Homemaking
I’ve met a lot of wives who when asked “should my husband do housework” feel resentful over the fact their husband doesn’t help with the household chores. They balk at the idea that their husband would like to come home to a tidy house and a hot meal.
Our society does not exalt homemaking anymore. We’re almost embarrassed to admit we don’t have a job outside the home. Feminists call homemakers lazy, unambitious, uneducated, and unqualified to do anything else. Why is this?
In short, various women in our fairly recent history got their panties in a knot and decided they didn’t want to be housewives so you shouldn’t either. Bad housewife, bad!
They grouped every homemaker together, stamped the anti-feminist label on them, and shamed us to the point we start feeling resentful of or even oppressed by our role.
In order to avoid our embarrassment, being labeled an “oppressed woman”, or having our husband labeled as a domestic tyrant we try to soften our role with a hastily added, “but of course my husband helps with the household chores.”
Everyone fills some kind of role in life. Some of us are doctors, some are plumbers, and some are homemakers. We need them all.
Even with these realistic arguments on the merits of being a homemaker, you are bound to feel overwhelmed and resentful at some point. It has always been my dream to be a homemaker but I do get burnt out on occasion.
There are ways for you to avoid resentment as a homemaker.
- Be as intentional with rest as you are with work. When you’re making out your schedule and to-do list for the day, block out 15 minutes here or 30 minutes there for you to rest and recharge.
- Stop trying to multi-task. I know it’s a big bragging point for women to share just home many things we have going on at one time but it’s also a leading cause of overwhelm and resentment. Do one thing at a time, do it well, and do it quickly. You’ll find yourself crossing more off your list faster in the long run.
- Develop routines. A lot of people shy away from routines because they want to be seen as a free-spirit or laid back. Routines are strictly for the “type-A’s”, right? Not at all! You will be surprised at how easily you can adapt to routine. They don’t have to be difficult and elaborate but putting something on autopilot is so helpful in avoiding the stress a lot of homemakers feel.
- Be diligent and purposeful in your homemaking. Make a mission statement beyond just “so my house will be clean”. Decide why being a homemaker is important to you and let it motivate your work.
- Find ways to recharge as you’re doing your work. Put on some music and turn your mopping into a dance. Listen to a motivating or education podcast while doing your laundry. Learn a new language while cooking dinner. Find ways to keep yourself energized and charged as you’re doing your work.
It is your job. Be proud!
But let’s get back to the original question of, “should my husband help with the housework?”. Make no mistake about it. Housekeeping is a big job! The bigger your family gets, the harder and more time-consuming housekeeping becomes. As a homemaker, you should feel tremendous pride to be trusted with such a responsibility of keeping your home tidy and safe for your family.
Still not convinced? Think about it this way. If you left the house first thing in the morning, battled rush-hour traffic, worked a stressful job (because what job isn’t stressful these days?) with very few breaks, battled more rush-hour traffic and got home just in time for dinner would you want to do a bunch of housework?
As a homemaker, you should feel tremendous pride in your work and not expect your husband to do it anymore than you would expect a coworker to do your job if you worked outside the home.
What should we expect as housewives from our working husbands?
Just because the housework is primarily the job of the stay-at-home-homemaker doesn’t mean we should allow our husbands to dominate us and treat us like slaves (or house elves for my Harry Potter fans). We should have some expectations of our husbands in regards to the homemaking.
1. He should clean up after himself.
Sure, you might do most of the laundry and the dishes but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to throw his trash away and put his clothes in the hamper. If he pulls food out of the refrigerator, he should be expected to clean it up. You spill milk, you wipe it up.
It’s also not unreasonable to ask him to help you out. If you’re cleaning the kitchen you should be able to ask him to take out the trash or put away a dish.
2. He should acknowledge how hard you work and not be critical when it doesn’t always get done because of unforeseen circumstances at home.
I saw a video once where a man thought the things his wife did for him happened magically. He marveled to his friends how he could leave his trash on the coffee table and it would magically disappear overnight or toss a shirt onto the floor only to have it somehow neatly fold and put itself away.
We don’t always notice the things that happen every day and we start taking it for granted. Our husbands should acknowledge how difficult it is to keep a home. He should never shame you for “just hanging around the house all day”.
3. He should never be critical if work doesn’t get done because of unforeseen circumstances.
Sometimes life throws us a curveball that keeps us from getting the housework done every day. Maybe our errands took longer than expected. We might have had to take a kid, or elderly parent, or pet to the doctor. We might be feeling sick ourselves and not able to work as much or at all. You might even just need to take a mental health day and that’s ok!
4. Children are also a full-time job.
If you have children at home, your husband should acknowledge (or be made aware!) that they often impede keeping a tidy house. As much as we would like to believe our little angels are going to clean up their messes and play with one toy at a time, the reality is kids are little tornadoes unintentionally bent on destroying just about everything in their path.
There are days when it gets out of control despite our best efforts. Do your best and don’t worry about the rest. Your children are more important and tomorrow is a new day.
5. Support and encourage your efforts.
A fellow homemaker once lamented to me that no matter what she did to try and make her homemaking more efficient her husband would scoff at her and tell her, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He would berate her anytime her plans went awry and call her out with a triumphant, “I told you so!”. It got to the point she just stopped trying and eventually their marriage dissolved.
It is not unreasonable to expect our husband to support and encourage our efforts in our homemaking.
How do we get our husbands to help with household chores.
Just because we’re the homemaker doesn’t mean we can’t get help from our husbands. After all, they live in the home too and while we shouldn’t ask our husband to clean a toilet or the baseboards when he comes home from work, we should expect them to pitch in from time to time. So, just how do we get our husbands to help with household chores?
1. Give them a “jurisdiction”
My husband and I have an unwritten agreement that anything outside the home or tending the flower/vegetable gardens is his “jurisdiction”. He takes care of the bulk of the yard work like mowing, getting firewood, and home repairs.
I don’t want to be asked to mow the lawn so I don’t ask him to clean the toilets.
2. Ask, don’t demand
Even if you think it’s a given, that your husband should notice something needs to be done and just do it, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to take care of it. Demanding only breeds resentment. Ask, and then let them take care of it free from your expectations.
Don’t be a nag. I’ve found the more I nag my husband about something the longer he puts it off. If it doesn’t get done after a certain period of time, I’ll ask again as if it’s the first time.
3. Know that it will not be done “your way”
And while we’re talking about expectations, know when your husband helps with housework it’s probably not going to be done the way you would have done it. My husband and I see things very differently when it comes to how a home should look and what makes a home tidy.
- I want clean surfaces and if my kitchen isn’t clean, my home isn’t clean.
- For my husband, if our home doesn’t stink then it’s clean and dishes left in the sink overnight is no big deal.
If I want my husband to help with housework, I need to acknowledge that his ideals are different than mine which means I’m not going to ask him to clean bathrooms any time soon.
4. Show appreciation for the work he does.
My husband leaves our house early and gets home late five days a week. He knows the money he makes is going toward bills and groceries and gas with very little left for his own interests. One way I show appreciation for his hard work to support our family is by making sure he comes home to a tidy house and a hot meal.
When he cleans the pool or mows the lawn, I offer refreshment and show appreciation by not expecting him to come in and mop the mess he inevitably tracks in on the floor. I’ll admire his work and thank him for his contributions.
When we start recognizing that we work hard in the home and take pride in our work and stop treating our husbands like they are oppressing us but actually show some appreciation for the work they do you will find that your husband will start doing the same.
He will feel less resentment about going to work while you stay home. He will begin to recognize your hard work. Instead of his commute home creating tension because he knows he’s trading one chaotic environment for another, he will start to actually feel excitement about coming home to a place of rest and tranquility.
Even if your husband works a typical 40+ hour a week job he will still have certain responsibilities in the home. But if you are a housewife, in other words you stay in the home while your husband goes off to work, then the keeping of the house is primarily your job and it is one you should take tremendous pride in.
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