Saturday, September 15, 2007
In the real world, most men do not do housework. While studies from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan confirm that this generation of couples do half the amount of housework their parents did, most of those chores are still shouldered by women. Is there a way to prevent everyday skirmishes over home-front responsibilities from escalating into full-scale wars, and still get him to put the dishes in the dishwasher? Let's look at both sides of the problem:
Her Side: “I'm tired of doing all of it all the time.” “It's the psychic energy that is so draining. I have to be responsible for things even if I'm not in charge of them!” “How come he can fix a car engine but can't figure out how to put the toilet paper on the roll?”
His Side: “When I do the grocery shopping, she says I buy the wrong tomato sauces, and then yells at me,” “She'll find one spot of food on the pot and yell, 'Is this what you call clean?'” “The fact is that I can't remember to put my socks in the hamper is not a personal attack against her. I just.... forget.”
Even the best counselors don't have a foolproof recipe for success on this one. But here are a few suggestions:
1. Figure out exactly what needs to be done and who's doing it. Keep a log of everything for a week down to the minute details: Who walked the dog, who did the laundry, who folded the clothes, who took the car in for repair, and so on. It could well be that a spouse is doing more than you gave him or her credit for. In that case, make a point of appreciating each other's efforts. By not taking chores, large or small, for granted, you create a spiral of appreciation that, in time, can erase resentment.
2. Train your kids. Instead of fostering helplessness in the next generation, make sure that your children, boys as well as girls, grow up believing that sharing the physical as well as the emotional chores at home is just what considerate people do.
3. Let go. Sometimes, when it comes to housework and children, women are their own worst enemies. You asked Daddy to dress the baby and the kid comes out with a top and a bottom that does not match? Who cares? You wanted him to do the shopping? Then let him do it his way. The principle here is simple: If you give up responsibility for a chore, you have to give up control over it, too. Besides, some things just aren't worth quibbling over.