Who does the keeping of your house? If you are a woman, most likely you do. Of course, if you live alone, whether male or female, you’re it, bummer! Women who share their living space with a man tend to take on most, if not all of the responsibility for caring for the house.

I’ve coached hundreds of women, and I can think of only one whose husband takes on the lion’s share of the tasks of cleaning, laundry, and shopping for and preparing food. Many women accept the responsibility for it all, and maybe even take on the yard and car maintenance, even though their work day is as long and arduous as the male’s in the household. For many women, the “job” is the care and nurture of children, which has greater responsibility and stress than many CEOs experience day-to-day. For some societal reason, the mom who stays at home is expected to keep the house—all of it! And the working mom—oh my goodness, she never gets to sleep unless her husband/partner pitches in!

How did we women end up responsible for the upkeep of the house? Probably even the cave woman got fed up with bat guano in the sleeping area long before her caveman husband even noticed it. Yup. That’s how we got ourselves into this mess. The person who cares the most does the job. That’s the default. When company is coming, I’m the one who notices the scum in the bathroom sink, so I’m the one who does the quick swipe of all the bathroom fixtures, which makes me happy and doesn’t freak out our guests.

That’s how it goes. The guy gets the car details and yard duty and the gal gets everything else. Is it fair? Maybe, maybe not. It means that meals must be planned and prepped every day. That’s a constant, sometimes burdensome, responsibility. That can be a big obligation, especially in families where eating habits are quite diverse. On the flip side, though, in snowy areas, it’s the guy who gets to wrestle with shovels and blowers and puts himself in harm’s way, heart attack-wise.

Whatever the division of labor, it is what it is. The question is this: how long has it been since the members of your household had a friendly discussion about who does what and how they feel about it? Here are some things to consider:

• What needs to be done? Make a list, including the occasional or once-a-season tasks.

• Who is responsible for each task? (You may find that no one is responsible, which is why those old cans of paint never get recycled to the toxic dump!)

• How does the task mistress or master feel about the task? Rate each one on a scale of 1 to 4.

o How much do you enjoy the task?
o How much satisfaction do you get from the completed task?
o How much acknowledgement do you get for doing the task?
o How much acknowledgement do you want?

• Can you make an adjustment for the tasks that got ratings of 1 or 2? If you don’t do the task, who could or would? If no one is interested or available, can you hire someone to do it? Is there money for it? Are there personal assistants/housekeepers
/gardeners etc. available in your area? How could you save or make money elsewhere to enable you to have the work done?

• Finally, review the tasks that other members of your household are doing. Are you interested in helping out or taking on any of those tasks? Does the other person want to give it up or receive help?

This is a place where stereotypes complicate matters. For example, I actually like working in the yard. Where I grew up in the Midwest, yard work is the man’s job. The women get to plant flowers and water them, but heavy lifting is the man’s job. This isn’t the work my husband naturally gravitates to, so things get rather jungle-like in our back yard. I keep thinking, “It’s his job,” while he isn’t thinking about it at all. I actually put off doing it because my internal guidance system insists it’s the man’s job. Then when I eventually take it on, I feel irritated because I keep thinking, “It’s his job!” even though I like doing it and I love the result. At the very least, I want acknowledgement and at best, I’d love company. But, do I say anything? Have I said anything in the nearly 30 years we’ve lived here? No and no. Actually, Jim will probably be surprised when he reads this article. But there you have it; my articles often come directly from something I need to address in my own life!

Let’s go for it. Have an honest, no-blame discussion of the division of labor in your house and see whether attitudes, if not burdens, can be lifted. I’ll do the same.

©2007, Jacqueline Hale

Author's Bio: 

Jacquie Hale guides women to live a healthy, wealthy, and balanced life. Her expertise in health issues comes from her experience as a medical technologist and natural health consultant. She has a BS in biochemistry and a graduate degree in Natural Health and is always investigating alternative health topics. She has helped many women and men discover and create a life of heart and meaning. As a Life Coach, Jacquie interacts with people weekly, by phone and helps them discover their own wonderful selves. She also facilitates life-changing workshops and teleseminars, provides email coaching programs, and has written several books about health and personal growth.

She has helped many women discover and create a life of heart and meaning. As a Life Coach, Jacquie interacts with people weekly, by phone and helps them discover their own wonderful selves. She also facilitates life-changing workshops and teleseminars, provides email coaching programs, and has written several books about health and personal growth.

Jacquie gives back to the community and the world as a volunteer. She has been a hospice worker, the Executive Director of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, a youth group leader, and will soon travel to Africa to co-lead a Leadership program for girls in Kenya and Tanzania. She is a wife and the mother of grown daughters. She has been an employee, a free-lance consultant, and has created her own business. She is old enough to collect Social Security and young enough to have big dreams!

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