From the moment we started dating, I realized when it came to keeping our home clean and organized, my wife and I were on slightly different ends of the spectrum. Let me be clear, I am a Type-A kind of person; this I would never admit to my wife, of course, but she is right to call me Type-A. I like things to be in their place and I like my house orderly. Otherwise, I cannot concentrate or keep sane or have the kind of mental clarity I need.
When our kids make a mess, they clean up after themselves (most of the time). I am someone who likes to have dinner made before the kids get home from school or the wife gets home for work. I am home all day, so why wouldn’t I make sure dinner is done? And whenever I do, my wife always, without fail, says “Thank you.” This should make me happy, and it does, but then I feel obligated to say thank you in return whenever she does a household chore.
Why should I say thank you? We share the same space and are both working towards the same goal: having a clean house or food on the table for our family. For these chores, the ones that my kids do and the ones that my wife does, I don’t say thank you to them — but maybe I should.
We do not split chores evenly in our house; we sort of pick and choose what we want to do. Let me be real, there are household chores I just don’t like to do, like the dishes or taking out the trash or killing the bugs, so I let those go to my kids and some to my wife. That’s fair, no?
Melanie Brewster, a psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Columbia University in New York City, has seen this theme play out in many queer families like mine. She states, “When gender is neutralized as a factor in relationships, people tend to divide household chores either by interest or by who’s better at a certain task.” And this is how we roll in our house.
While working with same-sex couples, Brewster notes, “Repeatedly, one of the things that makes people very unhappy in their partnerships is feeling like there’s a disproportionate burden of domestic labour. In working with queer people, it was not a concern that came up quite as much.” In our house, there isn’t resentment or frustration or any other negative feeling when it comes to our division of labor — the only thing I question from time to time is my manners when it comes to being appreciative about it.
My wife often says, “What can I do?” and she will do whatever chore I assign her. She really, truly wants me to give her a to-do list. And while she might not want to do what is on the list, she never says otherwise, she simply does it. And that, my friends, is reason enough to thank her.
It doesn’t come naturally to me to say thank you for a chore. But I will make an effort to turn my “Why didn’t you do the dishes yet?” kind of nagging into “Thank you for doing the dishes,” just as she will change her “Nik, why did you put my bra in the dryer?” to say thank you for the fact that I washed and folded the laundry. I mean, nothing is perfect — not me, not my wife, and certainly not our house. But I’m truly thankful for the way we handle our household, and maybe I should express that more often.