Poll: Domestic Duties

It occurred to me recently that my husband and I tend to swap roles around the house somewhat. We’ve never had any hard and fast rules or lines around what we do and don’t do, but it still surprises me when he will take on a very stereotypical female chore without a word of explanation. Take deep cleaning the stove top or tile grout for example; not exactly something I’m making time in my schedule to do, ya know? But lately, after doing the nightly dishes, he launches into another major cleaning project. Or he’s perfecting the stove popped corn for movie night, or wiping down the kitchen windows and blinds. But will he fix the shower door, or re-caulk the bathtub? No, it looks like that’s gonna fall to me this time around.

Of course, it goes both ways. More years than not I’ve been the one that mowed the lawn, and I’m the one that bought herself a power drill. But I’m also still the one that enjoys and excels at the majority of the cooking, and I’m a recovering neat freak and germaphobe that for the longest time couldn’t let anyone else wipe down anything without supervision. So it’s fascinating to me to see how fluid we have become in our roles and in the duties we perform, mostly without any discussion of the alterations. We’re definitely not a family that sticks to any prescribed gender roles, and we’re more and more egalitarian as we move along as a couple. In fact, not only do we swap and share domestic chores, but it seems to be the case that the role reversal extends to other aspects of our relationship as well. As in, I tend to be much more “go with the flow” when he is anxious about something, or I find myself less emotionally needy when he is in a funky mood. (It even extends to the bedroom in terms of interest level). Maybe it’s something else (a fluctuating equilibrium of testosterone and estrogen shared between us?); but I have to wonder if this phenomenon is experienced by anyone else.

Tell me, does this reflect your experience around the house? Why or why not? Tell me what your division of labor looks like (I’m sure I missed a lot of options in the poll), and if it is rigid or not.


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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12 Responses

  1. Amber says:

    I would say many of the options are viable, depending on where we are at in our busy lives. Right now, we switch things up. Not because we enjoy doing different things, but because school necessitates that we are flexible in our duties, whatever that is. Even though I am an awful cook, I will do the cooking if needs be. When I can’t stomach doing the dishes, my husband chips in. Our household doesn’t have clearly defined roles, we help where and when we can.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Great question, Corktree!

    We had about 6 years before kids when we were both in work or school. We were really good about keeping the housework/bill paying/yardwork equal. When we transitioned to me being at home with the kids, we both marveled at how lovely it was to have someone home all the time, and I did everything for a bit so we could have more free time together when Nate was home.

    Now, we’re careful; we don’t want our kids to see that model. As the neater of the two and the one who’s home more, it’s easy for both of us to slip into me doing the bulk of the work. (Perhaps also because that is the model we both grew up with?) In the past year, Nate has done more of the finances, I’ve done more home repair, and I think we’re both more mindful about what needs to be done in the house and doing it.

    • Corktree says:

      I think mindfulness about the division is key so that it doesn’t just get stuck in a pattern that one or neither is okay with. We didn’t have as much time before kids, and lived in an apartment for much of the transition time, so it was just easier for my OCD self to clean everything, but I’m really grateful for not being expected to do it all anymore.

    • Ziff says:

      I worry about modeling badly for my kids too, Emily. My wife is a SAHM and does the majority of the housework, but I don’t want my kids (particularly my two oldest, both boys) to get ideas about how that’s The Way Things Ought To Be.

  3. alex w. says:

    Whoever isn’t too tired does the dishes, and sometimes that means it takes until we’re out of utensils, but oh well. We try to alternate turns because we both hate doing dishes.
    My husband and I have a deal where I will gladly clean the floor, toilet, sink and mirrors in the bathroom if he promises to always clean the shower. I hate cleaning showers more than almost anything else.
    I do most of the laundry because I’m more uptight about it, but he does it on occasion, and sometimes we do it together.
    Everything else just gets done by whomever does it.

    We’ll see how it changes when we have kids in a few years.

    • Corktree says:

      I hate cleaning showers too! In fact, we’re thinking we might just replace the shower door instead of fix it so that we also don’t have to worry about the layers of soap scum anymore. (Awful, I know, but we’re trying to sell and it just never seems to get clean enough with what we do anyway.)

  4. My husband does all of the laundry and always has. (I hate laundry.) (Not as though he enjoys it, but he’s willing to do it.) We take turns with the cooking (and he is a better cook). The kids do the dishes. I clean the bathrooms. He handles the garbage. He mows the lawn and I mop the floors. The kids help a lot too.

  5. EM says:

    When I was a SAHM I did everything; when I worked full I did everything – only because I’m the only one that could do it right – was I nuts! Now that I’m retired, husband does most of the work while I do whatever I want. Okay I still do the laundry and ironing because it’s my favourite thing to do.

  6. Diane says:

    Can we please have a poll not necessarily dealing with families

  7. Annie B. says:

    I don’t know where I fit on the poll. I do the cleaning and cooking mostly…hubby steps in sometimes. I also do general fixing, organizing the garage, yardwork and weeding. I’m totally happy to let my husband take care of car maintenance. And he also pays the bills and manages household bookkeeping. I get freaked out about calling places about bill discrepancies and whatnot…social anxiety. He also does his own laundry while I do mine and the kids’. It took us a long time to get to this system.

  8. Alisa says:

    I don’t exactly fit the poll either. My husband does most (almost all) of the cooking (even makes me lunch before I go to work. I do most of the dishes and sweeping up after our toddler eats. He creates the shopping list (he’s the one cooking, after all), but I do at least half of the grocery shopping. I pay most of the bills, and he does most of the yard work and maintenance. I hired the house cleaners to come twice a month for deep cleaning so that when I’m home from work I can focus more on my family. Between the two of us, I think my husband does more than half of the domestic/yard/house work, but he is the one who is home while I work full time. It can be hard for me to transition to home stuff when I come home from work, but I try my best to pull my weight.

    He does most of the direct child care, but I also direct our son’s extensive medical care and therapy (including researching his condition) and find most of the babysitters, set our child’s schedule, etc. We both attend all of our son’s appointments. We try to be as equal as is practical.

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