Chad and I are twenty-eight-year-olds who’ve been married for four years, but we’ve been together way longer. We met when we were twelve; we sat across from each other at the table in art class. We’ve been together basically ever since. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of laughs, tears, and times we wanted to give up. We’re still together though, and still happy. We’ve learned that our society’s ideal that monogamy isn’t possible and marriages aren’t forever just isn’t true. Marriage is hard, it’s frustrating, but it can last. In this new segment, I’ll share some real-life tips about what we’ve learned along the way.
Am I right in saying the days of the 1950’s housewife smiling as she scrubs the toilet and cooks dinner are gone?
Because I know for me, those days were never here.
Some women enjoy cleaning (I’m sorry if you’re one of them…but I just don’t understand. At all :)). To each her own, I suppose.
But for me… I’d rather listen to Elmo sing opera for nineteen hours or eat my own cooking (more on that later) than clean anything.
Perhaps this could be attributed to my schedule. I work full-time and am working on my Master’s Degree and write books. I know many of us modern women are struggling with hectic schedules even harder than mine. Some of us have demanding jobs working more than forty hours a week. Some of us work multiple jobs. Some of us work part-time and balance family life or caretaking. Some of us are stay-at-home moms who, thus, work 24/7 on more tasks than I can imagine. We are all called to a different schedule filled with struggles and impossible balancing acts.
Thus, for me, like many, cleaning takes the bottom rung on the priority chart.
Not that I don’t appreciate a clean house. I, like many, enjoy the fresh scent of a spic and span house. I like when everything is in its place and my home looks presentable.
But the reality?
Don’t come to my house on Thursdays.
Sunday is cleaning day. Sunday, everything looks somewhat presentable.
As the days trudge on and the stress of the week plods through my life, though, suddenly cleanliness is forgotten. Books are tossed on the couch instead of the shelf. A faint rotten milk smell permeates the kitchen…either from the piling dishes or the trash can that I’ve been stomping down so I don’t have to take it out. Bob, our sixteen-pound black cat, decides to rip out his hair and leave a trail through the house. Clothes clutter the bedroom floor, and the counter is undetectable under the heaps of mail and other random objects.
By the weekend, the need to clean is undeniable.
And so is the likelihood of a fight with the husband.
I would say our worst, verging on divorce fights have been about chores. By the weekend, there are usually screaming fights over who left cereal in the sink, who should run the vacuum, and why he is pretending he can’t see the soap scum in the shower.
Let’s rewind to the early days of marriage. As in the first week.
Still floating on the feelings from the cake and Jello shots, our first week of splitting chores was angelic. He did dishes just because. I scrubbed the floor with the 1950’s housewife smile even though it wasn’t even dirty. Everything was in its place…mostly because we barely had anything to put into a place. We were full of “don’t worry, honey, I’ll get it,” or “thanks so much, dear, for doing that load of laundry.”
Marriage was bliss.
Now let’s look at recent days and exchanges.
There’ve been swear word exchanges because he is apparently blind to the mud on the kitchen floor…or doesn’t know where to find the mop. He has been angry on a daily basis over my bad habit of leaving cereal in my bowl in the sink. We’ve fought over how to split up the chores, over who does more work around the house, and over how chores should be done. I’ve felt enraged because it seems like all of the indoor work falls on my shoulders because “clearly women love cleaning” and “women are better programmed for cleaning” (cue sarcastic/sadistic laughs). He’s been angry because he feels like I don’t appreciate what he tries to do.
There have been screams, there have been cleaning strikes, there have been threats to leave. There have been feminist-style rants and accusations of sexism. There have been unkind words and white glove inspections and invisible lines drawn in the house.
Some weeks, the messiest thing in the house isn’t the kitchen sink or the shower; it’s our marriage because of our chore fights.
Finding Chore Compromise
Over the years, we’ve tried many things to fix the problem.
1. Chore charts
We actually pulled a kindergarten style chore chart out. We each got stamps for the chores we completed. At the end of the month, the person with the most got extra spending money.
The verdict: Fail
We both ended up cheating. As in, “I wiped the counter with a Clorox Wipe? Stamp for cleaning kitchen.” Then we fought over the chore chart. If memory serves me, there was a violent shredding of the chart by me over some unfair stamps. Epic fail.
2. The “Sexist” Solution
We went back to our 1950’s style solution for a while. Chad would do all of the outside work, and I would do all of the inside work.
The Verdict: Angry, angry fights
After about a week of this, I became enraged. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I love doing all of the indoor chores. Plus, I realized that while he only had to cut grass once a week, I was struggling to keep up with chores every single day. Cue jealousy, rage, and accusations of sexism…even though the whole thing was my idea. Oops.
Okay, this is what we have now. Chad does grass and snow removal. He also does dishes because I hate doing dishes. I do laundry, which weighs out with dishes because Chad hates doing laundry. Then, I do the vacuuming, dusting, floor scrubbing, animal care, and clean one of the bathrooms. Chad cleans the upstairs bathroom and will vacuum one time during the week. We’ve tried to split it as equally as we can.
The Verdict: Less screaming fights, but still the occasional tiff
I mean, Chad seems to think the upstairs bathroom needs cleaned like once a month and that is good (wrong, as I must remind him every week). He also vacuums like a NASCAR driver, which is annoying. Sometimes I still feel like I’m doing more work in the house, especially because I typically plan our meals. His standards for clean are a bit different than mine. And he still gets pissed when I leave cereal in the sink. Or coffee in my cup. Or when I fold his socks inside out. Yeah, we still have our differences.
But we’re getting better. When he knows I’ve had a terrible week, he’ll step up his game and pitch in more. When he works overtime, I’ll do the dishes just because. We’ve spent less time fighting and more time compromising. We’ve also let go of the notion that it is possible to maintain a Home and Garden type house while working like we do and having five cats and Henry. It’s just not real.
What we’ve learned: there will always be chore fights, especially in the modern era. There still seems to be this stigma that women adore housekeeping, which is definitely not the case for all of us. I think it’s just about communicating, trying to find a system you can both live with, and realizing it will never be perfect.
Oh, and never having company over on Thursdays.
So if you need something on a Thursday, please call first. At least an hour ahead. And plan on Chad and I being angry at each other because we have to clean in a hurry :)