Christine Park

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chore Wars

Have you seen the cover of the newest TIME magazine? Husband and wife, armed with a mop and a baby, ready to do battle. The tagline reads, "Let it go. Make peace. Men and women, it turns out, work the same amount."

First of all, let me just tell you how I came across this article. I had just spent two vacation days living the single life without husband and kids, visiting my best friend in San Francisco. I was feeling a little guilty about neglecting my family and home, when this mag greeted me not-so-subtly on the kitchen counter. Did Gene strategically place it there, to remind me of all the kid-watching he'd done while I was gone? How much I owed him? He denied placing it there. But I dutifully proceeded to read. The article's basic premise was that more men are now pulling their weight at home, so why do women still think they're slacking off? 69% of women interviewed felt they did most of the work around the house, while 53% of the men disagreed, feeling they worked just as hard as the women when it came to cleaning up.

Countless conversations with my married female friends confirms this thinking, whether these women work or not. One told me her husband has never cleaned up after a single meal. Another tells me hers refuses to change any poopy diapers. Yet another husband let the dirty dishes sit in the sink for a week (she left them there to try to make a point.) Mine drives me crazy by watching TV in his pajamas when I'm rushing around trying to get myself and my kids ready for church on time.

Still, when I hear my friends' complaints, I consider myself lucky. My husband contributes quite a bit, despite being raised in a traditional Korean household where his father did NONE of the household chores. I've never thought about quantifying each of our shares but it breaks down something like this... I grocery shop, cook, dress and pack for the kids, do playdates and appointments. He does the bills, the dishes after we eat, takes out the trash, cleans the toilets. We both do laundry, vacuum, bedtime. He drops our daughter off at school, I pick her up.

We've had plenty of arguments, or chore wars, and we've gone through a lot of trial and error in our eight years of marriage, but what we've learned can be boiled down to a few simple points:
  • Watching your own children is NOT work. It's called parenting.
  • Marriage is a partnership... that means ALL give or ALL take never works.
  • A chore divider like can be a lifesaver because it keeps track of whose turn it is to do shared chores.
  • A hard day at work doesn't excuse you from responsibilities at home.
  • Nagging doesn't work.
Obviously there are days when we cut each other slack. I'm on vacation today, so I spent the day going to brunch and doing yoga while my husband was up at 6am and worked until 5pm. So I gave the kids baths and put them to bed while he decompressed in front of the TV. When I'm running on empty after a week's worth of only 4-5 hours of sleep a night, he lets me crash and he takes over kid duty. We are not above bargaining or trading chores either, like baseball cards. "If you put the laundry away so I can take a bath, I will clean up the play room later while you watch Top Chef." The study concludes that men and women who share household burdens evenly are happier. Makes sense. Less resentment and inequality=less fighting.

Also, in my working mom life, I realized it's easier for me to let some things go. Bed not made, I bite my lip. Full laundry basket, I look the other way. Or I just do it myself. I can't complain about my husband's lack of initiative if I don't show any myself. And in the meantime, I'm training the children to start helping with chores. Is a 4-year-old too young to clean toilets? (That's both my and my husband's least favorite task.)

No comments:

Post a Comment