One of the biggest changes that came with parenthood was the uneven division of roles and expectations in my marriage. Everyone will tell you marriage is about give and take, and it is. What they don’t tell you is that sometimes you have to give more than the other person, and sometimes you take more than they do. It’s never a perfect balance. Like most of life, it doesn’t always go the way you imagined it would.
Before we had kids, our marriage was fairly balanced. We took turns cooking, vacuuming, and doing dishes. We also did our own laundry — because I never folded my husband’s pants right. These days, standards have changed. Our laundry has significantly grown since the birth of our third child, and most days, my husband is just happy he even has clean pants. We went from being newlyweds with one pile to wash a week to having fifty tons of laundry every three days.
When I chose to stay home with our kids, the majority of the housework fell on my shoulders, and the majority of the finances on my husband’s. And since I was no longer a player on Team Financial, it was up to him to make enough money to keep us afloat. On the flip side, keeping our entire house presentable was no easy feat — and by presentable, I mean not on fire. With three hurricanes storming around our house most days, it would be easier to clean a Los Angeles landfill.
I mourned the loss of the house chore equality we had in early in marriage because, holy crap, we have a ton of dishes. I’d sell my last cup of hot coffee to get that turn-taking deal back. Time and kids bring exhaustion and wear, and we fall into the routines and roles that we have to — and most likely don’t want to. I felt like I had assumed the role of doing everything except making the money. I was tired of cleaning up spills and pee stains on the carpet and couch. When my husband wouldn’t help clean up after dinner, or at least load the dishwasher, I would get agitated.
For four years, I complained about how I had to do everything in our house with little to no help.
Then one afternoon I realized that I was being ridiculous. I wasn’t getting anywhere by getting upset over the uneven division of household chores — aside from traveling down the fast lane of resentment and negativity. I realized my husband was doing his fair share, and there is simply no way it’s possible to divide housework 50/50 at this point in our lives. He helps when he can, when I ask, or when he sees I need it. And I should add that he has no expectations of what I should do around the house, except making sure the kids are alive.
The reality is that no one’s role is balanced. Life is like a freeway at rush hour: Everything is moving 70 miles per hour, and every “job” that has to be done is important for the flow of traffic. That is why I stopped complaining and just started doing what needed to be done. I take out the trash without a grumble because I know if I wait for my husband to do it, there’s a good chance he’ll forget. And if I were to stop and wait for someone else to do it, there’s a strong chance the housework wouldn’t get done for awhile. Dishes would stack up until we were out of utensils and plates, laundry would pile until everyone was roaming around wearing a single sock and with underwear on inside-out.
For me and my family, things seem to run a lot smoother when I just handle things as they pop up — even if it means doing something that isn’t my job. Do I like taking out the trash? No. Do I like doing most of the housework? No. But the reality is, I can finish the dishes in 30 minutes instead of using that time to argue about who has more to do and why no one ever does the dishes but me. It means saving valuable time on arguing and instead using it to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio or read an extra bedtime story to my kids. It means not ending the day in a bad mood. The faster I load the dishes, the sooner I can tackle the laundry pile that will, no doubt, sit until I fold it or until everyone has gone through it looking for clean clothes. And, well, it’ll also give me a little more time to figure out how to fold my husband’s pants.