How Relinquishing Control Over Our Home Saved My Marriage
By Brianna Bell
PHOTO © JulieK/Twenty20
May 21, 2019
A to-do list sits on my fridge, taunting me while I read a story to my toddler, who is oblivious to the constant push and pull I feel from being on perpetual duty. My cell phone pings, and I pick it up, willing the to-do list to finish itself so that I can sit for the rest of the afternoon.
My husband and I have struggled with the division of household labour for the last few years.
I receive a notification from a local Facebook parenting group that I’m in, and decide to avoid my duties by checking in on the group. I notice that the woman posting starts off with a complaint about her partner, and I suppress an inner groan — I’m not in these groups for the partner bashing.
I read the post, the voyeur in me winning, and find myself silently nodding. The woman talks about feeling constantly exhausted by having to maintain her home, everyone’s schedule, care for her kids and on top of that work outside the home. Based on the comments flooding in, other women get it too.
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According to research conducted by Statistics Canada, the division of labour between men and women is evening out in recent years. Women are taking on more paid work and reducing the unpaid labour of domestic work, while men are taking on more unpaid domestic work around the home. However, the scales aren’t completely even, and women continue to complete the majority of the unpaid household labour. In 2015, women were spending an average of 3.1 hours each day on housework (household tasks that don’t include childcare), while men were spending an average of 2.5 hours per day.
The constant needs around me have begun to take their toll, the burden too heavy for me alone — even if I don't work full-time like my partner does.
My husband and I have struggled with the division of household labour for the last few years. I am the stay-at-home parent, working in the nooks and crannies of my day as a freelance writer, while maintaining a semblance of household order. I’m also the full-time caregiver to our 20-month-old, and also pick up our two school-aged kids from school and deal with the after-school meltdowns and dinner prep while my husband is still at work. The constant needs around me have begun to take their toll, the burden too heavy for me alone — even if I don't work full-time like my partner does.
I find myself scrolling through the comments on the Facebook group, forgetting about the sink full of dishes and the pile of laundry waiting to be folded. One of the comments stands out, offering a hopeful and practical solution, and I get excited by the idea that there may be an actual conclusion to this never-ending argument in my marriage.
The woman who left the comment has been married for over two decades, and says that this suggestion helped to save her marriage. She recommends that you sit down with your partner and go over a list of household tasks, all of the things that must get done by someone in the home. Then the couple works together to assign tasks to an individual, either to an adult or a child where age-appropriate.
I like the idea of the system and its team-like approach. In order to succeed we both have to work hard, individually and together. I feel empowered and confident that this could be a real solution for us. I decide to sit down with my husband that evening and talk about creating a plan together, and also include our children in the household labour.
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After discussing the solution together we decide to come up with a plan that would allow for a more seamless household division of chores. For our situation it doesn’t make sense to equally divide the labour, since I do understand that my husband works 40 hours each week and I work under 10. We decide to start by delegating two specific tasks, two things that I absolutely hate and would love to take off of my plate: packing lunches every morning, and sweeping and mopping.
I never realized how freeing it would be to relinquish control over our home.
Over the next few weeks my husband steps up to the plate, making lunches every morning, and sweeping and mopping once each week. He continues to be the devoted father that he is, taking our kids skating, swimming and for walks, but he also works hard to show that helping around the home is a priority too. I feel the burden of our home lessen. Now that my morning doesn’t feel so chaotic, I am able to enjoy a few minutes with a cup of tea.
I never realized how freeing it would be to relinquish control over our home. Creating a family system that requires each member participates in the running of the home lessened my stress, and created a more peaceful and cohesive home environment.
Who knew that Facebook was good for offering marriage-saving advice? It’s a simple idea that can be easily adapted to any partnership, and I’m thankful we gave it a try in ours.