The Division of Labor at Home
Tips for sharing childcare and household chores
5. Step back. Many women think that being CEO of the home gives them the right to micromanage their husbands. Instead, think about the good bosses you’ve had. Usually the best ones are those who tell you what needs to be done, but let you figure out how to do it. So don’t tell your husband how many seconds the strained peas need to be microwaved—just stand back and let him figure it out.
6. Create a task list. Decide with your partner what chores you want to be solely responsible for and what you want to split (dinner, laundry, etc.). Look first at what you like doing, and take those tasks. Have your partner do the same. Make sure this division of labor makes sense for you as a couple and that it fits with the rest of your day. It might not take the drudgery out of washing the kitchen floor, but it can make you less resentful of your partner!
7. Live with less. If being overworked in an effort to make more money is contributing to imbalance in your life, reassess. In challenging times, many companies cut back, and families have to do the same. DeGroot says that there’s an upside to lean times: “In many cases, frugality leads to freedom. The more careful you are about spending, the more freedom you may have later on.”
8. Start small. In readjusting time demands in your life, seek small change in how you work. Ask your employer if you can reduce your work hours from 40 to 35; request a compressed workweek with four 10-hour days; try to telecommute a few days a week. If none of these options work, you and your partner can try to stagger the start and end time of your workday so you can minimize the hours your child spends in daycare and maximize family time.
9. Buy into GEM. DeGroot believes in “GEM”—good enough mode. At work, the boss helps you prioritize. Do the same at home. You and your partner might agree on your top two priorities, but what about numbers three, five, or eight? Maybe they fall off the list. DeGroot says that now that her girls are 12 and 18, she’s finally able to sweep the kitchen floor more than once a week. “The point is, I’d rather be playing Monopoly with the kids than chasing down dust bunnies,” she says.
10. Leave well enough alone. If it ain’t broke, well, you know the rest. If you like to shovel snow and your partner loves to dust, so be it. Throw gender stereotypes out the window and figure out a system that works best for your family. Ignore everyone else.
All bosses want to know how changes affect the bottom line. The bottom line for your family is that even if your household chores aren’t split 50-50, you can find a system that works for you and brings you peace of mind.
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