Who's Job Is It? Sharing Chores, Sharing Skills

     A standard reflection exercise in marriage preparation programs helps engaged couples discuss what household jobs each expects to do. Most people have been raised to expect that certain jobs are done primarily by one sex or the other. The Pre-Cana discussion can help a couple clarify their expectations about household roles as they start their marriages. It also will remind couples that the job assignments aren’t written in stone. Many couples shift their roles and responsibilities several times throughout the years of their marriage.  When they become parents they may be slow to spread the tasks out to children as they grow and develop their own skills and preferred ways of doing things. Is it time for some job reclassification in your marriage and family life?
    The issue may be more serious than you think. One of the main causes of domestic problems is domestic – as in, housework. Who picks up the used newspapers? Who takes out the trash? Who will empty the dishwasher? Who walks the dog? Sound familiar?  One way to improve family life and reduce conflict is finding better ways to share the mundane tasks of their life together. 
    It can be hard to let go of our “specialties” and allow our spouse or kids to give a task their best shot. I know that sometimes I cling to more than my share of the housework out of a need to meet the expectations – real or imagined – of my mother and friends, none of whom are going to actually see the results. He’s really more thorough at vacuuming than I am, and his mom taught him to make perfect hospital corners on the sheets. I would really benefit from adopting some of his automotive skills, too. 
    Sharing chores is also good training for the future. When our kids were at home, I reluctantly turned over house painting to my son. Eventually, he surpassed me in technique.  Now that he’s married he paints his own walls, not mine. I miss having my daughter around to organize my spice cabinet and keep track of my pantry—now she is managing her own kitchen. By giving up some favorite tasks, I found I was training capable adults—a good trade-off.
    Creating a partnership of life and love in a family sometimes comes down to changing how we wash the dishes or make the bed or store the groceries.  We can let go of our idea of perfection in order to accept the help of our spouse and children. Sharing tasks will mean more time at the end of the day for us to appreciate each other.