A couple of weeks ago, Ivy had a brief post about how she was trying to write a Home-Ec 101 post on getting your husband to help with the housework. It really is a conundrum of problem. Division of household duties is high on the list of problems that couples experience. I perused three Internet articles about it and while all three articles had good things to say and great advice to dole out. I still sat there wondering exactly how I could “get” David to help me out more with housework.
Housework has always been an issue between me and David. There has never been a time in our marriage, before or after children, that housework has not presented some sort of obstacle or hurdle for us to overcome. The only time in our relationship that housework has not been an issue was before marriage when we physically did not live under the same roof! It’s ongoing struggle.
Through the years, though, I have learned a few things:
1. Nagging is bad, asking is good: There is a difference between nagging and asking. An on-line article from ParentCenter.com, “Ending the Chore Wars – how to get your mate to help on the home front” by Gail O’Connor, says this about nagging:
Be firm, but resist nagging. “Nagging isn’t very assertive — it’s humiliating to the person doing the nagging and annoying to the person being nagged,”
While I feel that I don’t often nag, I do have a hard time asking. This is because from my perspective, requesting help with housework brings up two issues for me.
- The first one is that I don’t want to feel like I’m his mother. I’m already the mother of two children and I “request” their assistance with things around the house on a daily basis. Whenever I ask for David’s help, I often feel as though I’m having to “parent” him into helping me. However, I have learned (though I have a hard time internalizing it) that David does not hear my requests for help as being “mothered”, he just wants to know what it is I want/need help with. I prefer him to ask me what I want done. To me that shows he not only cares about my needs and concerns but that he also cares about our home. But I now know, that if I really want his help, I must be the one to do the asking.
- The second is that it hurts my pride to admit needing help. In the deep, dark corners of my brain I want to be SuperMom/Wife. I want to be able to do it all and do it all very well. I’m the stay-at-home parent, I have ALL day to get these things done. I secretly fear that David is going to think of me as lazy or a slacker if I ask him to do something that I feel I could have/should have accomplished during the day.
2. Don’t bribe with sexual favors: While it’s true that women often feel more amorous towards their husbands if said husbands help pick up the slack around the house, it’s never a good idea to bribe them with sex. (My comment at Ivy’s, if you clicked on that link, was a joke y’all!) In the end, you’ll both just feel manipulated. It cheapens that intimacy between you as a couple when you start using sex like currency.
3. Let him know you appreciate his help: I’m really bad about this one. The struggle in my head is twofold. I do a lot of thankless tasks around the house, why should he expect gratitude? But…how much would I like to be thanked for what I do? Women’s FAQ Blog of Daily News, Articles and Media says this in their post entitled, “How to Get Your Husband to Help Around the House“:
Clearly, when our husbands help us around the house, we can interpret that as a sign of love, which, in turn, helps us find them more attractive. But here’s the catch. When our husbands help, they typically want to know that their work is appreciated. While we are likely to see their contribution as a natural part of their marital duty, they are more likely to see it as a special favor that they are doing for us. This can be a tough concept for liberated women like us to accept. (emphasis mine)
Basically, a little gratitude goes a long way.
4. Give him time to relax when he gets home from work: While I’m working all day at home doing “my job”, he works ALL day at a very demanding job and when he gets home, he needs to relax. At PioneerThinking.com, Edel Jarboe writes an article called, “Sweat Equity” and says:
Don’t launch into a list of things to do as soon as the your mate walks in the door. Give him time to unwind from one job before he has to tackle another one. In other words, take your mate’s feelings into account. If he’s just settled down to watch his favorite television show, he is not going to be too receptive to your cleaning requests.
I know it may sound obvious and and you’re sitting there saying, “Well, Duh!” but I find that it easy to forget this small but important fact.
5. And finally the three “C’s” of any good relationship – communication, communication, communication: Don’t assume your husband can read your mind and know that the reason you’re standing at the kitchen sink, heavily sighing every 30 seconds is because you think he should be the one doing the dishes. After all you cooked the meal, right? He should help with clean-up. Again from Edel Jarboe:
If your partner really is doing what he can around the house, ease up a little. Think about it. Wouldn’t you rather spend the little time you have together pleasantly, rather than fighting about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher? In other words, make sure you and your mate are clear about each other’s housework expectations. This is the key to housework harmony.
Communicating about housework is not easy. In fact, as I’ve tried to write this post, David and I have been trying to communicate about it via instant messaging. We apparently have some really strong feelings about it and still, after almost twelve years of marriage, don’t see eye to eye on the issue. I want to know if he’s willing to help out, he wants to keep priorities straight.
I guess it will always be, “The Great Housework Debate” for us.
Note: regarding these posts about marriage, please see my Disclaimer