Let’s get real, here: how many of you regularly fight with their partner about house chores or children’s care? After our first child was born, my husband and I struggled to find a balance. He threw himself body and soul into parenting, but didn’t replicate the same enthusiasm for house chores, which grew exponentially with the arrival of the extra family member. This caused plenty of arguing which piled up on the emotional and physical stress of parenting a new child with zero support network (oh, the joys of expat life).
Our dynamics was always the same. Despite considerably lowering my standards, I would run up and down ticking lines off my to-do list and feel he was far from doing the same. Our style with chores are different. He’s a serial procrastinator and I easily grow tired of witnessing something untidy. One “we should do this” would end in days or weeks of me impatiently waiting, until I concluded “I guess I’ll do it myself!”. I felt trapped in an unequal relationship (which there among my top 5 fears) and he only heard me nagging and devaluating his real contribution. Our perception grew distant, as did we.
I know we are not alone, definitely not in Finland. Finland has one of the highest divorce rates of the world and a considerable divorce per capita figure as well. According to the book Cultural Sociology of Divorce, a division of housework perceived as unequal is one of the main causes of divorce in the Nordic country. In many (all?) Western countries, childcare and housework are not women’s domain anymore, and the gender equality pride is on the rise.
I am here to share the simple system which brought peace back into our couple life. Our first small yet big change was how we handled our daughter’s disrupting sleep habits. My husband went to work during the week and we agreed that he needed to sleep as much as possible. However, we made the mistake of “suffering together” for a long time, until we started taking turns to sleep in on weekends. Headphones, ear plugs, sleeping in another room (or house if necessary): at least we both got one night of decent sleep a week. As little as it may sound, this adjustment meant a lot for our sanity.
Our little revolution concerned housework. One day I sat him down, we listed together the regular chores – cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, and son on – and we split responsibilities. We pinned the chores we hated onto the other and made a division we agreed to be fair.
The first week I felt it was all wrong. I saw his chores piling and piling, way over my decency levels. I patiently waited and gave him time to adjust to the new routine, and he did.
We have a say in Italian language, “Clear pacts, long friendship“. It means that if a mutual agreement is stated clearly, it benefits a relationship. This is exactly what happened to us. I knew I didn’t have to worry about his chores and I stopped nagging. I felt our load was fairly distributed and we started working like true partners.
After few years our life situation had changed and so had the chores. With a new family member some had stayed the same (cooking, shopping) while some had become heavier (washing). I felt the load had grown bigger, but he didn’t agree. I had also grown bored and stressed by my chores. So I asked him to switch and we found a new balance again. Our routines are likely to vary again – maybe our employment or commuting situation – but we now have grown used to stating clearly what we are willing to give and I am confident we can find a new satisfying balance.
Did you find an agreement to split housework? If not, would you give this system a chance? Comment down below :).