Since I’ve been unemployed, several times Chuck has wondered aloud, “when did you find time to do all this when you were working?” He’s referring to all the doctors’ appointments, and school conferences, and meals, and shopping, and cleaning that seems like a lot of running around – to me too. Add in the job search, and I feel like I’m busier than I was when I was working full time.
Well, the short answer to Chuck’s question is that a lot of things didn’t get done when I was employed.
His question got me thinking about it – what got done, what didn’t, what gets done now, and I realized that I’m responsible for more than ever. Why? Why do I as a partner take on all these responsibilities? Why don’t I relegate or delegate to Chuck or the kids if possible?
Here is my list of the top 10 areas which I am the primary partner responsible, and my take on why:
1. Preparing Meals.
I’ve written about how family dinners are important to me (here), and so it’s no surprise that I do 99% of the cooking of dinner, about 50% of lunch, and 25% of breakfast. I enjoy the creative part of cooking, but this is by far the most time consuming and stressful task. When I was working, I would rush home from work and start right into making dinner – it was like having a second job. I also do most of the clean up that comes with the task.
Why? One main reason is that Chuck refuses to cook. Early in our marriage he said that he doesn’t like cooking, and if he were responsible for meals, then we’d eat out. He has stuck with that except for a few minor breakfast exceptions. I realized that if I didn’t want to live on fast food and take out, that I would have to cook. I have tried to get the kids interested in cooking and/or taking over a dinner a week, but they are less than enthused.
I do all the grocery, home, clothing, and other shopping for the family. I grocery shop at least once a week, and I home (paper goods, soaps, bedding, towels, etc.) shop about once a month. Clothing shopping is as necessary – when the kids were younger, it was a lot more often. Other shopping includes Christmas and other gift giving and back to school shopping. Grocery shopping is the most time consuming. First you have to buy all the stuff, then load all the stuff in your car, then bring all the stuff in your house, and then put it all away in your kitchen. It can take up to 3 hours to get it done, and that’s when I don’t take a nap after bringing the bags in the house.
Why? Well, I have tried to delegate grocery shopping to Chuck. He said that he would take it on, but it was work for me to turn it over to him. Because I do the cooking, I know in my head what I have to buy. I also know to buy staples because, well, because they are staples. I would have to write it all down for Chuck, and inevitably he would forget something, I would forget something, he’d buy the wrong thing, he wouldn’t be able to find a thing. He would buy a bunch of stuff we didn’t need. It was just confusing and not working. Maybe I should have tried longer, but with me in the grocery store once a week due to missing items, etc., I figured it wasn’t worth it.
Now, the other shopping isn’t as frequent, and it isn’t as stressful, and I occasionally give Chuck a list to help out. He doesn’t like to shop, so clothing shopping is not an option, but I can get him to do a Target run a couple times a year.
3. Doctors’ Appointments.
I take the kids to 99% of their doctor’s appointments. I also schedule 100% of them. (Disclaimer: the 21 year old has taken this on since becoming an “adult”.) This includes yearly physicals, sick visits, mental health appointments, specialists, and dentists appointments.
Why? Ok, so one of the reasons that I wound up taking the kids to the doctor is because my work schedule was a little more flexible. But, there were times when I could not get the time off, and Chuck had to take the kids. Here is how the conversation goes after the visit:
ME: “So, what did the doctor say?”
CHUCK: “Um, let see, I don’t remember – Tess, what did the doctor say? . . . Because Mom want’s to know. . . . Oh, yeah, he said that she needs to test more. And you have to call to make a follow up appointment.”
I am not exaggerating – I think a taxi driver would have more information about the appointment than Chuck would retain. I often wondered if he did this on purpose so I wouldn’t ask him to take the kids. If so, it worked.
4. School Conferences
I am the primary parent when it comes to attending the teacher conferences, IEP meetings (Individual Education Plans – for special ed), school events, open houses, orientation – you name it, I am the one going. Also, homework and school projects – also primary for that.
Why? Similar to the doctors’ appointments, if Chuck goes, I don’t get the information I need. If I ask Chuck to help the kids with their homework, the kids usually end up crying.
5. Cleaning common areas
The common areas of our home (kitchen, living room, dining room, family room, office,baths) don’t get cleaned very often, but when they do, it’s me that does it. Our family room is a tv/play/exercise room, and the kids regularly trash it. I have spent days – sometimes weeks picking up toys and organizing that room, and I am the only one who has ever done that. Chuck will tidy up the kitchen once in a while, but never has he gone through from one end to the other cleaning and picking it up, wiping down counters and floors. Never.
Why? I thought about this one a lot. Why indeed. I really could not come up with a better answer than, if I don’t do it, no one will. Maybe that sounds dramatic, like you’re saying, “sure Lynne, so your house just gets condemned for hoarding?” And I say, yes, that is what I am saying. Eventually our cleaner would quit because she wouldn’t be able to get to the floor that she’s supposed to be vacuuming, and then it would quickly lead to being condemned.
6. Cleaning Bedrooms
This is probably genetic. I had a horrible, messy room as a kid. My bedroom is still cluttered and messy, but better than when I was a kid. My kids rooms are horrible. I ask them to pick them up, and my son has gotten a little better as he’s gotten older, but the two girls rooms are completely trashed most of the time. So, I tolerate it for so long (ignore would be another way to put it), until I can’t ignore it any longer, and then I clean it. I ask for help from them, but it can be worse with them. Chuck has never cleaned any of the kids room. Ever.
Why? See above “Cleaning Common Areas”
7. Deep cleaning – closets, refrigerator, cabinets, car, etc.
Starting to see a theme here? Me too. It’s pretty funny when I think about the fact that I don’t like to clean. I’m the only one who does. One time Chuck was looking for something in the refrigerator, and he was all huffy. “This refrigerator needs to be cleaned!” I was like, go for it! All of a sudden he couldn’t do it all by his little bitty self. How will he know what to keep and what to throw away? I said, how do you think I know? Guess who didn’t clean the refrigerator?
Why? I don’t even want to talk about this anymore.
Ok, how did I become the one that has to call the repair person? Or get quotes from the house painter or roofer? I also somehow became the person who buys the annual flowers and (tries to) keep up the yard. I have even had to take on the pool maintenance since when we got our new pool, Chuck said he didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
Why? I don’t know. I try to get Chuck to do this stuff. He kept telling me that the house needed to be painted, and I said, “great, hire a painter” Two years later, he finally called some painters to get estimates. Somehow I got pulled back in – meeting with the painters, looking at the estimates. Ugh.
9. Trips and Vacations
This is getting monotonous. I plan all the trips and vacations. Most of the dinners and other fun stuff we do as a family. Why? We wouldn’t go anywhere or do anything unless I did.
I like to have our friends and family over to enjoy food, wine, play games or swim in the pool. We have several annual parties, and I often invite friends over for dinner or drinks. I do all the planning and cooking for these events. Even at cook outs, I have to grill the food. I do the cleaning in advance to make our home presentable for guests.
Why? I know that if I didn’t entertain, that we wouldn’t have people over. I think that Chuck enjoys our parties, but if he had to take it on or do a lot, he’d just choose to not do it. I really enjoy our parties, so this is one where I will do it in order to continue to enjoy it.
It wouldn’t be fair of me to go on and on about all the things that I do without mentioning the things that I don’t do:
- Trash – Chuck takes out the trash 99.9% of the time, and he puts the trash out for pick up, takes care of the barrels, etc.
- Lawn – Chuck cuts the grass. I’ve suggested that he gets his kids to do this, but he says that he prefers to do it.
- Snow – Chuck does all the snow removal. I know – this is huge, but this is also Chuck’s choice because he prefers to do it his way.
So, that’s it. Not all of it, but the top 10. There are other honorable mentions, like: paying the bills, doing the taxes, swapping out the winter and summer clothes, donating stuff . . . jeez, I better stop here. What do you think? Are the chores more balanced in your household? Did you discuss the division of work that you would have in your home before you got married? Have you stuck with it?