The other day as my husband was headed to work, he called back to me in the kitchen that I shouldn’t use the dishwasher.
“Why?” I frantically asked.
“Because it’s not cleaning the dishes and so we’re just wasting water,” he replied.
Deep down I knew he was right, but I wasn’t happy about it. While Adam does not shy away from helping out around the house, especially with suppertime dishes, I felt that not using the dishwasher would most directly affect me. And I don’t like to do dishes.
So far I’m not sure if I’m right, but one thing we’ve both come to realize is how much we depend on our dishwasher for easy and quick clean ups after meals, particularly when kids need to get ready for naps or baths or bed. Instead, there are days I can’t get to cleaning the lunch dishes until it is time for supper.
Our dishwasher dilemma has got me thinking about household work – what we take for granted and what we expect as to who will do it and how it will get done. Interestingly, a 2007 Pew Research Poll ranked “sharing household chores” third in importance of a list of nine items associated with marital success. Sixty-two percent of respondents listed it as very important to marital success, above adequate income, shared religious beliefs, shared interests and tastes, children and more. The only two to rank higher were faithfulness and happy sexual relationship.
While this data is now almost a decade old, I wouldn’t be surprised if it still holds true. In my mind, a share in household chores signifies respect, love, self-sacrifice and service. It symbolizes a sharing in a new life, an investment in “our life” and “our home.”
But I wouldn’t say that means a husband and wife need to split the chore list 50/50. In my experience, that just isn’t realistic, plus it can cause couples to “keep score,” which only leads to resentment and bitterness when one spouse ends up doing more of the work – because someone will always end up doing a little more at different times.
In our marriage we have certain chores that have naturally fallen into “his” and “mine.” He always mows the lawn, brings the trash to the curb and deals with other larger household projects. I normally cook the meals, scrub the floor and clean out the pantry and fridge. But for most of the chores, such as laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming, we take it case-by-case. Some days we pick our chores by what needs to get done, and others it’s about which chores we want to do. Whenever we’re cleaning together we take turns asking what the other wants to do, and then take the less pleasing chore. Stuff gets done and we get to love the other in return!
And then there are seasons when one person just naturally ends up doing more than the other. I remember during one of Adam’s busiest times at work, he’d be gone all day, plus have meetings in the evening, so any free time was spent playing and reconnecting with the kids and me. I had to pick up the slack during that time so that the house could keep running. In turn, just a few weeks ago I had a big deadline as well as took on some new freelance work. I was busy and stressed and found it difficult to work during the day with three little kids begging for my attention. So when Adam came home he’d take the kids, make the dinner I had planned for the night, clean up and help get them to bed just to grant me a few uninterrupted hours to work. It wasn’t the norm, but he was willing to change things up for the sake of our family.
Before we were married, I remember talking about household chores during premarital counseling. We both said then that no chore was too high above or too far below us. Thankfully that has held true. We’ve always been willing to put our own desires aside to serve one another and our family, even if that means doing someone we’ve never done before.
And that’s a good thing, because now one of us will need to learn how to fix a broken dishwasher.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Your Best Digs
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