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The Lion's Share- When Housework isn't so Even

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Early on in my marriage it seemed that I handled the lion's share of the housework. I would often mention (in off-hand) comments, that it would be nice to have a little help once in awhile. It took me a few years before I learned that my approach to my husband was what prevented him from helping with the housework!

Case in point, when my kids were little, (then ages 4 mo and 2 1/2) my husband has a nasty habit of coming home, wondering why dinner wasn't yet ready and off-handedly asking, "Well, what did you do today?"- which always struck me as accusatory.
As though I had sat on my rumpus, watching soap opera's and eating Bon-Bons all day rather than chasing after a toddler, nursing a baby and trying to keep the house in order. He came home after 1 particularly lousy day and unloaded about how awful his job was, and how easy I have it. I have to say, I snapped.

The next day, I took a notepad and jotted down every single thing that I did.

  • 6.03 started morning dishes, baby cried, changed diaper.
  • 6:07, working on dishes, toddler fell off bed onto cat, fixed scratches/scrapes etc
  • 6:17, working on dishes, baby crying for breakfast- stopped to nurse baby
  • 6:35, refilling sink, dishwater is cold
  • 7:02 dishes are done, now cleaning poop off toilet seat from potty training 2 yr old
  • 7:20 fixing toddler breakfast- while holding colicky baby, baby pukes on me
  • 7:26 changed clothes in the other room didn’t hear puppy crying at the door, have to clean dog pee accident
  • 7:40 washed floor in front of door, now time for baby's bath
  • and on.. and on.. and on...

You get the point. By the time the day was through, it was more than 4 Pages long. When my husband walked through the door, he growled his usual, 'what did you do today', and I handed it to him. He didn't ask again for quite awhile. The next time I got frustrated with his lack of help around the house and asking what I do all day, I decided NOT to do anything. He was used to coming home to a spotless house, with dinner on the table, but on this day, when he walked in, it looked like a bomb went off.

He looked around, seeing piles of laundry, sink full of dirty dishes, couch cushions on the floor from the boys latest "Fort Knox" replication attempt and asked, "What Happened?” I was sitting in my rocking chair with a book, looked up at him and answered calmly, "Nothing. You know how you're always asking 'what did you do today’. Well, dear, today, I DIDN'T do it, and now you know."

While my initial approach was quite blunt, it wasn't overly tactful and didn't really help my case. Not only did he not help with the housework, but I had twice as much cleaning to do the next day.

After more than 10 years of marriage I have learned a few simple things about getting a man to help with housework:

First, since it's nearly impossible to change someone else, look at changing yourself.

How do you approach him when you want help?

Do you find yourself saying things like,

~You never do anything around here.

~Why did you do (insert any chore here) that way, you know it's supposed to be done this way. (In other words, correcting him like a child when his work isn't up to par with your standards).

~Why am I always the one that has to do all the laundry, dishes and cook all the meals?

These kinds of statements actually tend to make a person do even less than they were doing before. After all, how much are you willing to do for someone when they are criticizing you?

In all honesty, I've found the easiest way to get my husband to help is to just ask. I'll say "Hon, It would mean a lot to me if you would fold the load of laundry in the dryer while I'm finishing the dishes" (or whatever chore it happens to be).

If he folds the towels wrong (yes! there is a Wrong way to fold a towel, lol), don't criticize him for it, thank him for all that he does and let him know you appreciate that he's doing more around the house.

Avoid calling family meetings for divvying up the housework, the second you call a meeting your man's brain is preparing to tune you out, assuming that it will be another "You're wrong husband, the wife is right" type of talk.

Last but not least, if the above tips don't seem to motivate your man, perhaps you ought to pass on this interesting link that I found where it has been proven via scientific studies that men that do more around the house actually have more sex, it’s a rather interesting read and sure to turn his head!

(C) Liss Burnell 2008

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  1. jujuboys3's Avatar
    Love it! My hubby does fold towels the wrong way too. I used to just take them to the bathroom and refold them, but then realized it was defeating the purpose of getting his help in the first place, so now on those occassions I open the closet and see the towels not folded the way I want, I just smile and remember he cared enough to help.
  2. Magpieknits's Avatar
    Loved the blog. I'll be honest, I don't care how the towels get folded, just so long as they make it to the bathroom cupboard!

    Oddly enough, it was my father that got my husband doing a bit more around the house. He finally took him aside one day and had a little heart to heart with him.

    To this day, I don't know all that was said. I came in at the last comment "Son, just remember this. No man has ever been shot while washing dishes."

    Two years into our marriage, and he still washes them more nights then not!
  3. pat41198's Avatar
    I hate to brag, but I will since I have the chance. My husband does Laundry,(wash,dry,fold,hang,and put away,) and I never have to ask for his help. He will also pitch in and mop floors, do dishes, go grocery shopping, etc. I think I found a real gem when I found him 10 years ago.
  4. faxonfive's Avatar
    My husband does 95% of the cooking...I LOVE this...and the other night I came home and he was washing the dishes!! I loved it!!! I continue to praise him....good luck all!!!
  5. jaime's Avatar
    Love the blog. My hubby still needs a little training LOL
  6. Janice Terrell's Avatar
    My husband and I had a deal - He did the shopping and cooking and I cleaned the kitchen. Still not sure who got the short end of that stick!

(C) Melissa 'Liss' Burnell & 1995-2016
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