Episode 96: Dividing Household Duties
Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And I hope that each time you listen, you feel a little bit more free to live your life. Exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello there, friends. Welcome back to Live Free Creative podcast. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. You’re listening to Episode 96: Dividing Household Duties.
I have a special guest here today. My husband, Dave Anderson, is here.
Dave: Thank you for having me.
I’m always happy to have you. It’s been a little while. I’m glad that we’ve connected and are sitting together at the microphone.
Dave has been on a couple episodes of the show. (Episode 10: Making Space For Your Marriage, Episode 23: Growing a Family) I don’t remember exactly what they are right now, but they were excellent and he’s a fun guest to have.
So I really am excited to have this conversation. And the reason that I wanted to have it with Dave is, of course, because he is my partner, my household partner. And the reason that I am sharing this episode is that this is surprisingly a question that I get often.
I don’t talk a lot about chores or responsibilities or household duties on any of my platforms. I mean, I guess I have a little bit here and there when I talk about managing time and energy and systems and things like that.
But I get this question often: How do you and your husband divide up your household chores? Or how do you collaborate?
And I thought the best way to share about that would be to have Dave on so that he can voice his opinions and his thoughts and beliefs about this as well.
Main Topic: Dividing Household Duties
Because we have Dave here, I’m going to forego it a segment and just jump right into the episode. And I hope that it’s helpful. We haven’t talked a lot about what we’re going to talk about. I mean, we have over the years, but as far as preparing for this exact conversation.
Dave just said, I am a little nervous because I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say. And I said, that’s fine. It’ll be just be a candid conversation. So hopefully you’re all open to that.
For the sake of a little bit of organization when your listening to the show and for us as well to stay on topic, I have come up with a couple specific talking points that I want to begin with and kind of, that’ll just keep us on track. So we’ll hop from one to another and I’ll let you know what those are as we go.
We Bring Our Own Beliefs Into Our Partnership
The first point that I want to start with is the idea of the beliefs that we bring into our partnership and our marriage, the idea of dividing up responsibilities at home and what that division is supposed to look like and who is supposed to fill what role is something that isn’t just like pulled out of thin air.
A lot of the ideas that we have about it now, as adult married humans, are things that were sort of inherited or the ideas that we gained as we watched our own parents navigate this space of a household responsibilities.
Maybe as we watched media or read articles or books, we sort of assumed these ideas and beliefs about what is correct.
Just to start off, I think that it’s important to acknowledge and maybe just try this on. If this feels difficult for you, try on the idea that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do this, that how you and your family manage the responsibilities of taking care of your home is totally 100% up to you and you can choose the way to do it.
And it doesn’t matter. There isn’t like a right or wrong.
The only thing that matters is that you all feel good about it and that you are able to fulfill all of your hopes and dreams for what your household looks like and feels like through the choices that you make. So I think that it’s helpful.
What do you think, Dave, do you think that it’s helpful to throw out the idea that there’s a correct way to do this and a wrong way to do it?
Dave: Yeah, I think that that’s been one of the most helpful things in our relationship on this issue–and in many issues–is that there is no right or wrong way, except for the way that you and I want to do it. And we can be creative in every aspect of our lives to make it work for our own situation.
The idea that there isn’t a right way to do things is something that we’ve come to over the years when we got married.
I definitely came into our marriage with a pretty clear idea of what I thought, how I thought things should be handled. And I want to just like talk through that a little bit, because it’s helpful for me to reflect back. And I think it’s helpful for people to listen, whether or not you have maybe hold some of these similar beliefs.
So I grew up in a family with pretty defined roles of, and they were pretty gender specific, like the women cook and clean and the men build and take out the garbage and do sort of like car work, kind of some of the dirtier, you know, like manual labor type of things.
There was a little bit of crossover here and there. For example, my dad loves to barbecue. And so he would cook Sunday dinners when it involved big, delicious slabs of meat that he would take care of. And the women would handle like the salad and the bread and that kind of thing.
I grew up rotating…doing lots of dishes. We had like just some regular family chores. I mean, I think it was a pretty standard like 80’s, 90’s childhood. But what I brought to my marriage was the really clear idea.
And this is just so funny, cause I still feel like this is a little bit, I’m getting over it, but the really clear idea that the men should mow the lawn, take out the garbage and do all of the handiwork, like the hands-on manual labor and that women, myself included should do the laundry, do the dishes and do all the cleaning at home and cooking, I guess, for the most part.
So there’s a couple of really big problems with this initial belief. One of them is that it’s, it was pretty concrete and another is that it created these sort of unspoken expectations, both for myself and for Dave that it took a while to even like voice.
I mean, I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point when I expressed to Dave that like I expected that he would take out the garbage all the time and like, it was just so clear to me that like that was never ever something that I was going to do. It was just his job.
And I sort of assumed that he would know that and not only know it, but also understand it and also agree with it without ever having discussed it really. Do you remember feeling like as we kind of worked through some of those initial things when we were first married?
Dave: Yeah. I remember, I actually remember that conversation about the garbage and it wasn’t necessarily a surprise about the idea that, you know, women shouldn’t be taking out the garbage, but I was kind of surprised, like you said, how concrete and definitive it was that it would never, ever happen.
Yeah. I think I said that, like I never will take out, like I never want to take out the garbage. That’s not, that’s not my role. It’s your job.
How does it make you feel now?
Dave: That’s funny. I was like, if you don’t ever want to take out the garbage, that’s fine. And I know that you have actually taken out the garbage.
Yeah, I got some garbage today.
Dave: But either way is fine with me. I just, it was surprising to me, the extreme nature of that idea.
Yeah. So I would love to hear, I don’t know if, I mean, this is funny that maybe we haven’t talked about this. I think we have a little bit, but what beliefs did you bring to our marriage about household jobs?
I think you brought was basically like not any, I mean, I feel like you have been so open to the idea of like, we can do this our own way and I don’t expect anything from myself, but I also don’t expect anything from you.
Can you identify if you had any thoughts coming into our marriage around household duties?
Dave: Thinking about that, even just now, when you were explaining that you had some preconceived notions coming into it that were pretty concrete…I don’t think I had any, at least not any clear thoughts of how things should work out. I know that I grew up with biases and biases. I knew that I had bias from growing up in a particular environment, but it’s not something that I recognized or explicitly requested.
Right, so you, you did come kind of like blank slate, open to whatever we were going to figure out, right? Which is really different. And so this is interesting that one of the tensions, I would say, as we worked through this, early in our marriage was that I thought that having a blank slate was also wrong.
The idea that you didn’t have an expectation meant that I shouldered all of the responsibility of even thinking about household duties when it wasn’t necessarily that you didn’t think about it, it was just that you were open to whatever needed to be done.
Whenever it wasn’t as concrete or as specific, or you didn’t have this really clear like checklists for me or for yourself, I thought that was a bad thing. I thought if you don’t have any clear expectation, then that means I have to shoulder all of the expectation.
And so in addition to feeling like you weren’t fulfilling the specific roles that I had assigned to you before we even met, by virtue of being my husband, I also had to like be the enforcer.
So for a long time, I felt like my role was to delegate from the list of jobs that I thought were necessary. And then to micromanage whether or not you did them in the timeframe and to the specificity that I expected.
Dave: Even the idea that you thought of yourself as an enforcer that certain expectations needed to be enforced. I think that kind of indicates your attitude towards the chores.
Yeah. It’s just really kind of eyeopening to look back because this is not, for the most part, this is not the way that it functions at all right now in our relationship, or for the last several years, many years even.
But when I get this question about like, how do you guys divide up household duties? Or how do you sort of, even the question sometimes of like, wait, you build things at home without waiting for your husband. Like, why are you the one doing that?
Using the power tools, for example, it reminds me that relationships are so different and that people’s beliefs and expectations and their relationships are also so different.
So the first thing I just want to encourage you, and if you’re listening to this, to do is to examine your own beliefs and expectations and maybe have a conversation with your spouse about his or her beliefs and expectations surrounding these things.
A lot of times when they’re, I mean, beliefs are something that are sometimes so down deep that we’re not even aware of them. Like we may have this really clear idea of the way we think things should be based on a belief that we have that we might not even recognize.
And the other thing that is really important is to know that beliefs are things that can change and they’re things we can choose. So I, now, rather than believing that there are specific things that Dave should do and that he should want to do, and that there are specific things that I should do and that I should want to do, I’ve really lowered the bar in a good way, because as the bar has lowered my ability to feel satisfied and content in my relationship and in my home has increased.
There’s a direct relationship to my expectation, both for myself and for Dave, and the enforcement of that expectation and that ability to feel satisfied and content like those are an inverse, direct relationship. At least they are for me.
So now I choose to believe that there isn’t one right way for things to get done at home. I also choose to believe that the timeframe in which things get done is really dependent on the season, on how I feel, on how Dave and the kids feel, and that nothing has gone wrong in the scenario in which all of the duties aren’t complete, that nothing’s gone wrong.
It’s okay when the house is messy. It’s okay when there are unfinished boxes to be checked. It’s okay when there are dishes in the sink.
And that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel better when the house is clean. I think everyone, for the most part, I think everyone feels great in a really clean, tidy, beautiful space. Like of course, that’s why we love going to a hotel when people clean up for us.
And you love walking into a beautiful room. I mean, even like going to Ikea sometimes is so fun because you’re like, look at all these beautiful, like very tidy spaces that I get to enjoy and feel those feelings in.
But I also feel better when I believe that it’s okay for the mess to exist as well, because I can feel negative in the circumstance of having sometimes a more messy situation and then feel negative on top of that because of the negativity that I feel surrounding the mess itself.
Maybe that’s confusing. But so there’s just a little bit of maybe how my beliefs themselves are changing and have changed through the years.
I also don’t believe that Dave is required to do anything specific.
And here’s the kicker. I don’t believe that I am required to do anything specific.
I think that is an even bigger one because my previously held beliefs were that if Dave didn’t do part of the house work, that that meant I had to do all of it. And I’ve released that expectation.
So my current belief is that I don’t have to do any of it. And Dave also doesn’t have to do any of it. In fact, it’s totally okay if no one does any household work. We have to live with the consequences, which means that the house is messy and the laundry isn’t done and the dishes aren’t clean, but no one is required to do these things like inherently.
These are choices that we make and we live with the consequences of the choices and we can choose how we want to feel about all of that.
Dave: Yeah. I think that’s a really healthy way to look at it because then when you do something, you feel good about it. And when I do something, you also feel good about it, regardless of how big or small that contribution is. Everything’s a win.
Yeah. Everything can be a win. I mean, isn’t that amazing? Okay, so that’s kind of the idea that that’s talking about beliefs, inherent beliefs, examining your own beliefs and then choosing, I mean, here’s the, the magical thing about this:
You get to choose what you want to believe about your household, about the mess, about the lack of mass. I mean, all of it, you get to choose it. And that can be really powerful.
You And Your Partner’s Priorities Might Be Different
Okay, so the next thing I want to talk about is priorities and how priorities might be different. I think that we assume that our priorities are all the same, but they might not be.
And so having a conversation–and again, all of this, a lot of it comes down to like being willing to have these conversations, even if sometimes they’re hard and like working through the differences and beliefs and differences in priorities and, and being able to the key really is control.
What you can control, which is always going to be yourself, your thoughts, your actions, and your priorities and your beliefs and not the other person’s priority.
Okay. So to just to frame the idea of priorities I’m gonna throw one at Dave, um, if you were to put all of the household duties and chores on like a long list and that list would be really long, right? If you talk about all of the little things that need to be done here and there, um, can you identify what feels like the most pressing or urgent? Like what are your highest priorities when it comes to maintenance of our lifestyle at home and then maybe some of your lower priorities to put you on the spot?
Dave: That’s an interesting question. And it’s probably something I should think about more often, but you were just off the top of my head right now. I would say priorities would be, maybe, just general tidiness, like organization, placement of things where they go. Dishes done. Fold and put away laundry. And outside, mowing the lawn and trimming the edges.
Why are you…you made some faces with the mowing the lawn and trimming the edges what’s happening there.
Dave: Oh, I think you do a lot of work out in the yard to make our yard beautiful. And my only real contribution is mowing the lawn and trimming. But like, for me, that seems to be the priority.
Yeah. You know what’s funny about that. Lawnmowing is something that kind of came up just as I was thinking through some of the lists of things that we do.
And we got a new lawnmower last year that is electric. I mentioned it on my blog and on Instagram it runs on battery. My main issue with lawnmowing. I mean, I’ve never not liked it. I just actually physically couldn’t start in the mower because it took too much power to start it.
And we got this electric mower and it’s really lightweight and the batteries are super easy to pop in and I don’t mind mowing the lawn. I actually like mowing the lawn. And I really like when the lawn is mowed, like I think that it looks nice, especially this year that I’m trying really hard to like grow our lawn in the backyard.
And so I don’t really do the edges, but that’s for the same reason, I can’t start the edger.
So as far as priorities, this is, I think this is an interesting piece to talk about. And Dave and I will have to talk more about this offline, I really like mowing the lawn. It doesn’t bother me. Like I am more bothered by the lawn, not being mowed than I am by mowing it myself. Does that make sense?
So if I notice that it’s getting longer and it’s like a nice day, then I’m super like, I’m totally fine. It doesn’t bother me one bit to mow the lawn. Five years ago, I would want the lawn to be mowed.
And I would think Dave should be mowing the lawn, or why didn’t he notice that the lawn needs to be mowed or I might even ask you to mow the lawn and then be frustrated if you didn’t drop everything that you were doing in the minute that I asked to go ahead and do it right, you know?
Which is maybe something just briefly to talk about timeline. I like mowing the lawn. There are other chores that I don’t like quite as much. And, so I would rather not do them and deal with them not being done. You know?
So an example of this, I kind of laugh when I tell this story and I’ve told several people over the last several years, there was a time when I just physically, emotionally and mentally had hit my wall when it came to household duties and taking care of the kids because of course I, um, you know, Dave goes to work full time.
And so naturally the majority of the childcare has fallen to me because I’m home, even though I do work as well. And I was just feeling like I couldn’t do anything else. Just keeping the kids alive and fed and sort of entertained was too much for me.
And I remember expressing this and just saying, I just can’t do it all. I can’t do it.
But here’s an important distinction: Dave didn’t expect me to do it all, but he also had a busy job. I mean, a really busy job where he would go to work at six in the morning and come home at seven or eight at night, have dinner and sometimes go back to the office.
So we both were like stretched to our limit and he didn’t expect anything of me. I expected a lot of myself. So the pressure to do the laundry, to keep up with the dishes, to decorate the house, to have everyone dressed in their little outfits. Like all of that was pressure. I was putting on myself, not pressure that he was putting on me.
And at some point I don’t remember exactly when, but there was a point where I just decided I can’t do all of it anymore. And so I’m not going to, and I allowed myself to release the pressure and the expectation of doing it all. And I just stopped doing a lot of the household duties.
I stopped doing the laundry completely. I stopped doing the dishes. I just would go to bed because I was tired. And I, and for about a week, the laundry piled up and then Dave must’ve come home one night and either he didn’t have clothes or he noticed that the laundry was overflowing.
And so he did the laundry and the next day the laundry was done and, you know, put away. And I, now, if I go back a little bit to this, like a week or two, before that, I might’ve even said, Hey, hun, will you do the laundry?
And he would, he would have said, yes, I’ll get to it. Like, you know, either I have to go back to the office right now, or I’m not going to do it right this second, there’s a game I want to watch. Or I’m kind of relaxing, which are all totally valid things like his life.
And his timeline is totally valid, just as valid as mine. And I would have done it because it was a higher priority to me to have it done then to be mentally healthy and to be satisfied and content in my relationship.
I chose discontentedness and overwhelm and doing the chore instead of what was equally available to me, which was contentness, stress relief or relaxation, and leaving it undone and allowing the timeline, like Dave’s timeline, to be what it was.
Now, I’m not saying that this would be the case for everyone’s situation, that if you just stopped doing all of the household duties, maybe your partner will start picking all of them up. I don’t know if that would happen in your, in your lifestyle, but that’s essentially what happened in ours.
But it wasn’t that Dave, all of the sudden realized that he wanted to help. He had wanted to help and was willing to help all along. I just didn’t create any space for that. Like I said, I would delegate and then I would micromanage. What did you want to say?
Dave: Well, I was just, as I’m thinking back to that, um, that time in our life, I think that I misunderstood your delegation and micromanaging as you wanting to take on that role and wanting to do all of these things and being in control of how these things were done.
And so I just thought it looks like she wants to handle that. And I’ll just sit back and wait for, you know, my marching orders and just handle it. Because that seemed like the way you wanted it to be, because that’s the way it was. But just cause because things are the way they are doesn’t mean that that’s the way that you want them to be.
And so this kind of a conversation right now about what your priorities are and what your timelines are, I think would have helped us a lot back then. And at least me understanding where you’re coming from and why you were handling the chores, the way that you were.
Yeah, ultimately, for a long time I thought all of these things are our responsibility, but then I made them fully my responsibility. And I would say, would you like, I need your help. Would you help me with these things? Which basically meant, I’m assuming full responsibility for everything.
And I’m going to give you little pieces of it here and there, and then be kind of frustrated if you don’t do it the exact way that I think that you should, which then just reinforces for you the idea that like, well, I’m not going to try to do anything on my own because I’ll probably do it wrong.
Or she has some specific timeline that she is, you know, adhering to. And so I don’t want to mess anything up cause she’s got it covered, rather than like jumping in. And I think that’s a piece of like I had to get to the breaking point of like, I’m just not going to do anything for awhile because I emotionally…I think it was probably when Plum was a baby…I had a really hard year in there where I just ran out of an everything.
I ran out of energy. I ran out of all of my stamina and all of my ability just sort of dropped because of that season of life, moving, starting your new job, having a third baby. Um, I quit my job. There’s just so much going on. And I, I just stopped doing a lot of the things that I had held myself to this, this level of like expectation.
And I realized how like relieving, it felt to not expect so much of myself and in turn to not expect so much of you and how the, the interesting paradox is that in dropping the expectation for you, that’s when you decided to kind of take over things that you all of a sudden felt like you had some autonomy, right?
And so then you could step into fulfilling some of these, um, roles that had previously been clearly defined as my realm, because I had unintentionally created this system where I was in charge of all of it all the time. And there wasn’t really space for you to be in charge of anything unless I gave you permission and then told you exactly how to do it.
Dave: Yeah. And I think it sounds a little bit one sided, the conversation that I’m just sitting here waiting for, like you’re handling everything, I’m just sitting back and kind of just waiting for you to do things.
Now the reality of it is that I probably kind of took advantage of that situation. Like, Oh, she feels like she can handle all of it, so I don’t need to worry about it, whereas I could have been more thoughtful and been more perceptive saying, “Oh, she’s doing a lot of this work. I probably need to be more proactive and help out.”
But because of, you know, whatever the situation was, I, I felt, you know, just as you did overwhelmed by a lot of things and thought, well, this is something that I don’t need to really worry about. So because she has it handled, I’ll just, you know, fill in where I need to. Yeah.
Yeah. We just kind of reinforced our own ideas about, about who was doing what, why, even though it wasn’t a system that necessarily worked well for anyone, because there was a lot of stress and overwhelm and some resentment, maybe you’ve probably felt micromanaged because I was very clearly micromanaging.
And the nice thing is that in dropping that, and this maybe goes back to the beliefs, like in dropping some of that, I had to recognize it and drop it. Dave had to, um, I mean, I don’t know, I guess you had to kind of have some realizations of just stepping in. I mean, I don’t know. Do you remember all when all of a sudden, I mean, I feel thinking, I feel like it, it was kind of all of a sudden, I just decided I’m not going to do the dishes or laundry anymore. The, do you remember that? And consciously thinking like, Oh, well I guess I need clothes to wear, so maybe I’ll do the laundry.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, I do kind of remember that transition and I think that, you know, the more we have this conversation, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there probably was some sort of a system that we set in place at the beginning.
You know, when I was in law school and maybe felt really overwhelmed by that. And you were able to pick up some of the slack on your own and that kind of set that kind of set the system for us. And although our life changed and our energy demands changed, that particular system did not.
And we just allowed it to maintain the way it was when we should really should have been more dynamic about it and looked at it more closely and adapted it as our life changed.
Evaluate, Experiment, Re-evaluate, Experiment
Yeah, no, it’s so true. And that’s actually another point that I want to make. I’m kind of moving into another talking point. This idea of evaluating and experimenting and then re-evaluating and experimenting rather than, like you said, sort of setting up a system and deciding this is the way that it’s going to be, and then sort of running with it, but never changing it.
Our lives change so quickly as we all have seen from the last couple of months. Even like, if you listeners, if you’re listening and you’re thinking about how in the last few months your, you have been doing all of the same things that you previously did, even though your spouse was working from home for the first time, maybe in a long time.
I’m curious how many people, when all of a sudden the husband was home, most of the time, if they shifted to like reevaluate it and said, maybe things are a little different, whether that was, that has been picking up more, or maybe picking up less, or the wife doing more, or the wife doing less.
I mean, if there was some change because the season changed or if everyone just sort of runs on default, I think that there’s such power in evaluating. I mean, there is power in setting up systems that work, and then that becomes like an undercurrent that you don’t have to think about all the time.
But there’s also power in understanding that you can be flexible and adaptable as the seasons of your life change. I know that at our house over the few months, I feel like first of all, that every system that I had in general just went out the window, like all at once.
And I’m like slowly trying to, I mean, lifestyle isn’t normal, it’s far from normal for us. I just found out that our kids are not going to go back to school full time in the fall that they will be on some sort of adaptable schedule, whether it’s a half day or whether it’s every other day, I’m still wrapping my mind around how our life is just not going to look the way that we expected it to, or like, you know, it’s not going to ever go back to just like what it was, which is, you know, life never goes backward.
We always are moving forward. We’re always changing, you know? Um, but at our house, it’s basically just been like just like a crazy, everything has been upheaved and upended. And we haven’t really put together a new system.
But the thing that has been really nice is that because we both have this sort of open adaptable belief system surrounding expectations for each other, we like, I don’t know that I have…I felt some frustration around the mess. Yeah, for sure I have. But it hasn’t been directed at thinking that anyone should be doing anything differently–except for maybe my kids putting away their toys at the end of the day.
But I don’t feel like I wear, I think if I think I’m in another circumstance, I might feel like I wasn’t doing enough or you weren’t doing enough right now. I just feel like the kids aren’t doing enough.
The nice thing is, um, just being able to evaluate. And I think the decision that we’ve made over and over is that our kids are home and they should play. And yes, we’re trying to teach them to clean up.
And actually my boys have, we’ve given, um, just like sort of naturally over the last few months, I’ve turned over the dishes to the boys between the oldest and the middle. They just go back and forth loading and unloading. And I just sort of introduced it as part of our routine.
And so you and I don’t do a whole lot of dishes these days because the boys are usually doing them. I mean, we pick up the slack here and there. And I’m teaching my oldest how to do his laundry. And so the kids are folding, you know, like as the kids get older, they sort of become implemented in the idea.
But I don’t think either of us have the expectation that they’re going to do anything on their own yet. It’s almost like more work for us, but it’s part of what we want to teach them to do, which is nice.
Dave: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think again, in the conversation between you and me about systems and chores and how things should be handled around the house is also, you know, the same conversation we should have with our children as they grow up and they evolve and they have more responsibilities either within house or outside the house, they have more time to help us more ability to help us. It’s just that conversation needs to be continuing.
…And Back To Priorities For A Second
So let me go back to my priorities. I don’t think that I talked about those. Um, I think we all have these sort of trigger points, right? Like where there’s like a threshold where everything’s fine until it’s not, and then I’ll like a switch flips and like, nothing’s fine if you hit that level of cleanliness or disarray or whatever.
This is so weird, but one of my biggest priorities is that the floors of my house are clean and it’s like such a weird thing, but I really like the floors to be cleaned. And so I do a lot of sweeping and vacuuming. Like every couple days I’m cleaning the floor because that matters a lot to me. I don’t know that anyone else even notices that as much.
Like you said, I care about the out the outside. And so I do a lot of…I do some lawnmowing. I do lots of gardening, not even like the, I mean, I’m growing this gorgeous garden that I keep telling you all about, and that’s really fun, but it’s always been a priority to me to have the front planters looking nice.
I do some weeding, I do the mulching and that kind of stuff, but because my priorities match the things that I feel like are within my own sort of scope and skill set as well. And I think that this is an important thing.
If you find a mismatch, like if one of my highest priorities was something that I expected Dave to do, that would be a mismatch. If I felt like I really care a lot about the gutters being cleaned, but for some reason I can’t clean the gutters…like that’s something Dave has to do, but I make it this high priority but expect him to do it. That is just asking for frustration.
Where if you can align your priorities or try to like acknowledge that it’s easier if your priorities are things that you feel really good about doing on your own, that they’re within your center of control and that you can have ownership over the things that matter a lot to you.
And it’s okay if no one else does, because you can just say, this matters to me. And that’s the reason I’m doing it. Not everyone should be so grateful that I’m doing this thing because it should matter to everyone like you, if you’re doing the things that you care about, because they matter to you that that can be enough like that. And this is something that I try to do with just all household chores in general.
I like to acknowledge at all times that there is no expectation. Like I have the choice of not doing whatever the thing is. And like I mentioned earlier, I totally do this. Sometimes. I just say, I’m not going to do the dishes because I don’t want to.
But here’s the thing. I think a lot of people operate under the assumption that there are things that have to be done. You think that it’s not optional, you think it has to be done. And so if someone else isn’t doing it, that you have to do it.
But that’s not true. Everything is optional when it comes to household work, every single thing is optional. And again, you can choose to do it, but recognize that it’s a choice that you’re choosing to do it because it benefits you.
And let me go back to my belief at the beginning, how interesting that, like I had all of these beliefs going into marriage about the way things were supposed to be done and who did them and Dave really didn’t. And so if I don’t do the dishes, he doesn’t sit around and think that I am lazy or that I should care more or that I must not care about the family because I didn’t do the dishes.
Like you literally have zero expectation that I’m going to do the dishes.
Dave: Right. Yeah. And I don’t really expect that anyone’s going to do that necessarily.
But I fully, for a long time, expected that someone needed to do them. And then I would be kind of stressed out if it had to be me. Does that make sense? So I think just acknowledging that everything is optional and like you can come to an agreement and just have these discussions about beliefs and priorities and kind of set in place systems, as long as you experiment with them and then reevaluate.
Your Can Hire Help
And don’t expect that they’re going to be the same throughout all the seasons of life. Sometimes someone might need to pick up more slack. Sometimes the other person might need to pick up more slack.
And it’s always also optional to either not do it or to hire someone else…involve a third party.
So some examples of this regarding cooking are that there have been times when we have used like a cooking service. We did HelloFresh for about a year and a half when we first moved to Richmond because I didn’t have the bandwidth to come up with meals and be grocery shopping all the time and figuring out we were remodeling our house, we had just moved, we were trying to get settled in.
And so we sort of delegated out the meal planning and the cooking. I mean, I still had to cook, but the nice thing about HelloFresh is that Dave cooked too, because it was all just like, it was all done for you basically. You just had to follow the directions. So that’s an example of like the third party for meals.
Of course, a housekeeper or a cleaning service is an example of a third party for cleaning the house. And then there’s laundry services. Whether you send things, I mean, there was a long time didn’t we did that for a while too, didn’t we?
Dave: Yeah, there were three or four months where we have this laundry service or we would just leave our dirty laundry on the porch in front of our house and someone would come and pick it up and do the laundry and drop it off.
Yeah, and it was like folded. It was like smelled so good. It was all folded and pressed in these little like bags on the front porch, like two days later. And then we just put it away. So there are options for no one doing the household duties who lives there like you can, you know, you can just hire out all of this work.
Does it cost money? Yeah, of course. But again, this is just another choice. You can choose to adjust your budget, to compensate for hiring a cleaner once in a while, or to send your laundry out or like to build in some of those systems.
That means you go without something else probably. But again, it’s just a choice. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. And it, uh, that even just that thought and that idea that you don’t have to do it like that you have all of the options can be really freeing.
The System Is Creating An Open Line Of Conversation
I hope this candid free form conversation is helpful in just like jogging your own thoughts and your own ideas around how this happens for you. You know, to be totally honest, it’s not like we haven’t been honest this whole time, but when people ask me this question, I think sometimes what they want is for me to tell them a specific system that works really well for our family, that they could implement for their own family.
And the truth is that we don’t have one set system right now. We collaborate on, I mean, every day, every week, it’s a little bit different if I have a little more energy and I have a little more motivation, then I jump in and do a little more. When Dave, when I don’t have that energy and Dave does, he jumps in and does it, we are helping the kids learning.
As hey learn to do the dishes and take out the laundry and the recycling and, you know, help with the chickens. And like, there’s lots of other tasks there’s feeding the dog. There’s taking the dogs for walks, there’s mowing the lawn. There’s weeding the gardens. There’s vacuuming there.
There’s so many things: who’s going to shop for birthday gifts. Who’s going to handle homework and who’s going to teach Plum to ride a bike. And I mean, there’s all of these things and there’s no one right system that’s going to work for everyone.
The system is creating an open line of communication with your partner, coming to an understanding that you are always in control of your own beliefs and your own thoughts and actions and never in control of the, of your partner’s beliefs, thoughts, and actions, and get it coming to a place where you get to choose how you want to feel and what you want to do.
Do What You’re Comfortable With
A one last thing. This is like kind of random, but I wanted to mention that, um, this is just another kind of funny. Maybe it’s like out of place here at the end of the show, but I just wanted to say something that’s so funny that I love doing DIY projects.
I love using power tools. I love building things. I mean, I grew up, my dad owns a construction company. I grew up very comfortable in that environment. And like, with all of these, I learned how to clean this, like take the U-drain out of the sink and drain the sink.
All of these things that I just like learned how to do, feel really comfortable doing, and Dave doesn’t really like that stuff. He doesn’t really, I mean, it’s not that he doesn’t, he can’t do it, but he just doesn’t really love it, right?
Dave: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know that I don’t love it, but I think better it’s that I don’t really feel that comfortable doing it. Especially not if it’s something meaningful, like it’s going to be attached to our house or it’s permanent. Yeah, I just don’t feel super comfortable doing it.
Yeah, it’s just so interesting to think that I, for a while, like maybe the first few years of our marriage, I wanted Dave to do the DIY projects because that’s what I thought that a husband was supposed to do, because that’s what my dad did.
Well, I mean, here, my dad is a general contractor. Of course he did. Like, he is like the ultimate DIYer because that’s what his whole company is. That’s what his whole education and background was. And so I just thought that Dave should, you know, change the air filters and build the shelf for the wall.
The funniest part about that to me is that I wanted to do it and I like doing it and I’m good at it, but I still thought that he should do it. I mean, this is just goes back to hopping back to the beginning for circling back around to the idea of beliefs.
And I have been able to obviously get over that because now I love doing it. I just built our whole shed in the backyard. And, Dave had had surgery. So he was in bed like upstairs in bed, recovering from surgery.
And I was out in the backyard by myself, like pasting two by fours up and framing a shed and putting shingles on the roof. And I loved it. And it was like, it felt like therapy for me and like the super fun project, and it felt like an opportunity to do something that I love and that I care about without any expectation that it wasn’t just my project.
It’s okay for it to be my project, for me to be the one who does those things. Even though in a lot of traditional roles or traditional relationships that you might see out there, that’s not the, the woman’s role.
And I see a lot of people ask me questions about how do you feel comfortable using power tools? Well, I just learned how to do it. I just started doing it, you know, and knowing that that’s okay, like it’s okay for your husband to do all of the laundry and the dishes and the, and the gardening, if he wants, and for you to do all of the shelf and the shed building. And the lawnmowing.
It’s there again, I’m just maybe beating the dead horse, but there’s no right or wrong way. The only right and wrong are what works for you and what makes you feel happy and content and connected in your relationship. And I’m sorry that we can’t give you like a beautiful system that is just like a checklist of things that you can assign to each other.
But I think the most helpful part of this conversation is if you can walk away from it feeling like you have some idea of maybe where to start with having those conversations. And, uh, even if it’s just with yourself, even if it’s just recognizing your own belief that is causing you some resentment or frustration, because you think that the way that your partner is doing it is wrong.
When there isn’t a wrong way, the way that your partner is doing it is perfect. And that doesn’t mean that it can’t change that you might not want to have a conversation about it. But you can control so much about this dynamic through choosing to sort of drop your expectation for yourself and for them and come to it from a place of honesty and openness about what really matters and what really would work.
Dave: Yeah. This is kind of…I don’t know if you talked about this on the podcast before, but it reminds me of that discussion that you’ve had about the contributions of each partner equally, not necessarily having to equal up to a hundred percent. It’s not like you’re giving 50% and I’m giving 50%. And when I only give 30%, you have to give 70%. It’s more that we both just do the best that we can, and we’re just satisfied with each other’s efforts.
Totally. Yeah. I’d love that.
So I don’t think I have shared this before. I’m going to, you have to visualize this though, because I saw it drawn on a whiteboard when I was in college and I like it blew my mind. It was a relationships class.
And so imagine drawing a line that represents a hundred percent. Let’s say the line is three feet long and what people might think…this is the professor saying, when we think about relationships, we think about 50/50.
So draw a red line to the half point and a blue line to the half point. So there’s 50%. So that means if someone gives 30% because they just had surgery or because they’re having a bad week or because they are extra stressed at work, they’re 50% then goes down to 30%.
If the other person is only giving 50%, that means there’s a gap in the relationship and not everything that needs to be done is happening. But that’s a wrong way to think about it.
Think about the red line, going all the way to a hundred and the blue line underneath it, going all the way to a hundred. So there’s an overlap. So both parties are giving as much as they can.
That means if one person for whatever reason is only…like the best that they can give is only 30%, the other person, because they’re still giving a hundred percent, has compensated for that.
And when it just is able to shift and change with the dynamics of what each person as an individual is experiencing, then you know, I’m going to venture to say that right now, during the pandemic, during this economic downturn, during the violence and protests that we’ve seen over the Black Lives Matter movement. And all of the different political reforms that are being addressed.
There is a chance that both you and your partner are operating well below your a hundred percent, that both of you are feeling, um, like your energy, your emotional capacity, your coping mechanisms, um, all of your, that creative dynamic that normally exists within your relationship and your home.
Maybe both of you are feeling really shorted right now because of all the things that are happening. And that might mean if we’re talking about this sort of align, that both of you are at 30%, and there’s this huge gap in the middle, that gap might mean that dishes stay in the sink for a week. That gap might mean that the lawn doesn’t get mowed for, for a couple of weeks, that gap might mean that we’re eating Taco Bell again.
Dave’s laughing because we literally ate Taco Bell for dinner last night.
But here’s the thing, all of those, all of the falling short of what your expectation is, doesn’t have to mean anything. If you allow it to just be, and you don’t create a story around why it’s wrong, then it doesn’t add to the stress and the distress and the frustration that you already are dealing with because of things outside of your control.
So at the time, you know, if you’re both giving it a hundred percent and still things are falling through the cracks, your idea of what your household is supposed to look like at all times is not being met. Give yourself some grace and acknowledge that it’s okay for things to not look the way that you think they should all the time or for you to, um, not get through all of the things that you need to get through.
I think Plum has worn a swimsuit to bed for the last like three nights, because we hadn’t caught up on the laundry between Dave and I both. And just other circumstances, we had a little plumbing issue underneath our washer. And so things just out in the baskets and I would tell them to put on our laundry or to put on her pajamas. And she was like, I don’t have any clean pajamas. And so she’d like put on a swimsuit, cause that’s what she had in her drawer. And I was like, okay, I guess that’s fine.
This is what I’m talking about. Like lower the bar and then lower it again and then lower it again to where you like, you are doing a great job. That’s how you should feel and take that bar that you have set for your spouse and lower it and lower it again and lower it again into the point where you feel like your partner is doing an incredible job. They’re doing such a good job. They’re doing exactly what they should be doing.
That’s the starting place for building this relationship of connection. And for you to have some understanding about dividing up your household duties, if you can get to the place, your starting place, where whatever you’re doing, that means that you’re doing it perfectly, the way that you’re doing it.
Now that’s the place to start from. And then you can build and change and experiment from there. Do you have any final thoughts on as we sign off today?
Dave: I really liked the way you kind of put that together at the end. There really is. I really have seen a big change in our relationship as we’ve dealt with these things. In the scheme of things, how the house is taken care of seems like a little bit trivial, but it can have a big impact on obviously your environment.
And I think that this has been a really big part of, you know, a lot of the good feelings that we’ve had between us has been a result of, you know, working out these things after maybe not seeing eye to eye on this from the beginning.
Yeah. It’s been a place where I feel like we appreciate each other a lot more rather than, um, you know, the opposite of like creating unrealistic expectations and then being frustrated or resentful because of them.
So living in that gratitude is always going to be, is always going to be a positive solution.
And so hopefully that was helpful. I’m glad that you all are here listening to the show. I’m so grateful for you to take your lunch break and come record with me today, honey. It’s fun to see you at noon.
Dave: Thank you for having me.
Well, that’s it for today, friends.
I would love if you have any questions or any further comment for you to leave them in the comments of the show notes, you can go to LiveFreeCreative.co/podcast. Find Episode 96.
Dave has been editing my show notes and he’s doing an excellent job with that. So you can say thank you to Dave for having the transcripts all prepared every single week. And I know there aren’t really any links for this episode.
But you can head there, find out everything you need to know. If you want to listen to this with your partner, that might be a good idea. It might be a great place to start a conversation and to start creating a system works for you, that you can adapt with and change with overtime.
Thank you again so much for being here. I hope you have a wonderful week. I’ll talk to you next time. Bye. Bye.