I sometimes joke around and say that the beginning of my marriage was a sham. I know, not something to joke about. But honestly, I look back at those first three months’ of marriage and I realize that it set me up for some seriously high expectations of what our life together would look like when it came to household duties.
My husband is a teacher and that means that essentially, he has summers off. I am now a stay-at-home mom. But back up five years and I was working 40+ hours outside of the home in a busy marketing and communications position.
The Honeymoon Period
As soon as we came back from our honeymoon and into our reality, we quickly found our new normal. Back then, we had just bought our first home, a four bedroom 3 bathroom house. We were parenting my 6-year-old son together. I was working full time and he was enjoying his summer vacation.
So naturally, with the time he spent at home and the time I didn’t, most of the chores, including cooking, fell on his shoulders. He cooked, he cleaned, he washed, folded and put away laundry and also took care of the yard work. Not to mention a month into our marriage, we got pregnant with our second son.
Since this was my husband’s first experience with me being pregnant, he fell right into the new dad train of thought and really felt sorry for me. He wouldn’t let me carry heavy things. He got me everything and anything I needed (or wanted) to eat because… duh… I was making a human being!
I even reminded him of the fumes that were in cleaning supplies. And I explained that if we wanted to really be careful, I shouldn’t clean the bathrooms for the next nine months. All that to say, I literally didn’t have to do much at all besides work and grow a human. But then, the summer was over and reality hit us both in the face.
The Return of Household Chores
Laundry began to pile up. My son found a new past time: practicing writing his name in dust. We started to eat out or order in more often and life just wasn’t running as smoothly as it once was. My world shifted as I realized that although I did indeed marry an amazing man, I didn’t marry a manservant. It was time to figure out how we were going to manage our household TOGETHER.
I had gotten so used to having my dirty laundry just magically appear clean and folded in my closet. And dinner to be on the stove when I got home. And groceries to be stocked in the cupboards and refrigerator. The sudden lack of fulfilled duties began to take a toll on our home life.
So it was time to make a plan.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t about stay-at-home moms, or stay at home dads, or 9-5 jobs and what’s better. This is about a partnership between two people and not dumping the load on top of one set of shoulders. It had to be about teamwork, dividing and conquering and being respectful, considerate and appreciative of what we do for each other and our family.
The best way to describe our “sharing the duties” plan is this: If you see it needs done, do it. And never forget to say thank you.
Just tonight, I thanked him profusely for cleaning my shake bottle that I had left in the garage for weeks. And he thanked me for making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen. A genuine thank you goes a long way!
Almost 6 years later, we have found a pretty good normal for maintaining a semi-operable household of six. I enjoy cooking, so I usually take that task. But he always offers to do it, especially if he knows I could use a breather. My husband does dishes and clean up most of the time, but I like to take that duty every now and then, too.
I make sure laundry is always going, but he sits with me on the living room floor to watch a show and fold clothes. We both help with baths and do bedtime. We both help with homework. They are both our children and this house is in both our names. Balance, folks. Forget about who technically is the bread winner in the home and come to the realization that both of you have work, both have jobs, whether it’s raising a family or teaching 7th grade math.
It’s a partnership, and for us, it’s worked wonders to feel like we are in it together and not alone in certain responsibilities.
He’s always there to pick up where I left off and vice versa until the job is done.
Now for a little dose of reality. After we had our first baby together, my husband grew wiser with each new pregnancy. He tossed me a bottle of Lysol, a surgical-grade mask and some gloves. Then, he gave me the ol’ football pat and told me the baby would be fine.