Dividing responsibilities between my husband and me came natural for the most part. We purchased our home only five months into our marriage. My husband was a landscape worker for the State of California, so it felt pretty natural for him to be the “outside” guy, and me the “inside” guy. My allergies in the spring and fall were grateful for that.
I took complete control of the inside of the house as far as decorating (which consisted of garage sales and flea markets for many years). My husband made one attempt at painting—and then I banned him from ever using a paintbrush again—at least inside the house. When I got a hankering for a paint job, my husband completely took over all cooking and housework until the completion of the paint job. (That may or may not have had something to do with the frequency with which I painted.)
Tools are not my husband’s friend, but with the help of loving neighbors and friends, he managed to make necessary household repairs. Those same helpers rescued me often from completely destroying our home when I tried to do things without the proper tools.
Handling the finances is one chore that has bounced back and forth several times over the years. In the beginning, we sat down and paid the bills together. This was good because we learned to work as a team when it came to budgeting and figuring out what our priorities were going to be as a couple. Later, I had more time than my husband who was diligently working two jobs so I could stay home with our little ones for 17 years, so I paid the bills (carefully consulting him when needed). Those were the very lean and mean years, and eventually I went back to work full-time. When I did, I told my husband two things: (1) He had to quit his second job because he had worked hard enough; and (2) he had to pay the bills because it was becoming too depressing for me. Occasionally, I’d ask him how much debt we had paid down with me working, and he’d tell me something he’d paid off and make me feel better. The best Christmas present he ever gave me was a list of bills we had paid off during the year—I was thrilled! Now that we are both retired, I’m slowly working myself back into the game.
Shopping and cooking are also tasks that have bounced back and forth. When I went back to work full-time, my husband took over in the kitchen. He either cooked or delegated the chore to a teenager, but dinner was on the table when I walked in the door. When I retired, I took back most of the cooking (which was hard for him at first, but he got used to it quickly). He still does most of the shopping, however.
Every couple works these things out differently, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The main thing is that you’re a team. You each bring different skills to the table, but that doesn’t mean that you only do the chores you’re good at. Sometimes, you just have to pick up the slack and run with it, even if you don’t know what you are doing. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have long been taught that all family members are responsible for household chores. We are taught that it is important to teach our children to work. Even the smallest child can be taught simple chores. The very first chore my children were taught was to mark an “X” over the date on the kitchen calendar every morning so their busy Mom knew what day it was and didn’t blow off a commitment—teamwork.
In the days prior to owning a dryer, I learned just how much my husband loved me by the number of the loads of diapers he hung on the line before work (and prior to daylight), stomping on our backyard snails in the process, so the diapers would be dry by the time I needed them. Dividing responsibilities—it’s all about teamwork.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.