When three German friends knocked on our door one Sunday afternoon, they found us in the middle of house cleaning; my husband was vacuuming the floor and dusting the furnitures while I was cleaning the kitchen. Later, one of the three friends who visited told me that she was surprised to see my husband doing household chores specifically the vacuuming. She said it´s not typical for married German men.
Her remark surprised me because for me, it´s just normal for a husband to help his wife with the chores if he´s at home, available and capable. I grew up seeing my father helping my mom in doing loads of laundry, in cooking, in taking care of the little kids, and in doing the garden. My husband is very much like my dad.
This German friend then told me stories about young german couples she knew who separated because of household chores issue. The daughter of her close friend recently had a divorce after five years of marriage. Their marital problem stemmed from the issue of division of roles and responsibilities. They both have an eight-to-five job. After work, the husband comes home, goes straight to his computer, waits for dinner to be prepared, then goes back to his computer after food.
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His wife who´s equally worn out from her day job has to do the cooking, cleaning the dishes, throwing the garbage, cleaning the house, doing laundry, ironing clothes, and so on, all by herself. Her husband doesn´t help because according to him, it´s the wife´s duty to do all the household chores. If she asks him to bring the garbage out, he refuses.
This upsets the wife and prompts her to nag all the time. The husband eventually left her because according to him, he can´t take anymore nagging from his wife.
“One of the realities for a newlywed couple is to agree on the division of roles and responsibilities.” say Dr, Julian and Anette Melgosa in their book, To Couples: Enjoying a stable and lifelong relationship. “This should be carried out in a climate of consensus.”
The solution is to seek answers for the following questions:
Who, if not both of us, is going to work outside the home?
We tackled this question early before marriage. After teaching for eight years, I wanted to change career. I discussed this plan with my then fiance and he was fine with it. After marriage, my husband is the one working outside the house while I work from home.
Who will be responsible for the finances?
It´s important to identify early who will shoulder the finances. Is it the husband, is it the wife, or is it fifty-fifty?
Because I was starting a new venture after marriage and after moving to Europe, my husband would have to be responsible for all our expenses on the early part of our marriage. But now that I´m earning my own money from my blogs, my husband still shoulders all our expenses.
He wants me to save my income and to spend some of it for our vacations. So for example, this summer we´re going to Thailand for a three-week-vacation, my husband paid for both our international plane tickets and the accommodation for the beach resorts in Phuket and Koh Samui. I´m in charged for the pocket-money, for the hotel accommodation in Bangkok, and for the domestic plane tickets within Thailand.
Basically, I and my husband have separate bank accounts. This setup is convenient for us.
Who will do the shopping, cooking, and washing-up?
We usually do the shopping together in Fridays or in weekends. Sometimes, my husband picks up some grocery items on his way from work. I mostly do the cooking. There are times however when I feel lazy doing it or I have article deadlines to meet, then my husband takes over the kitchen. It isn´t a problem for him because he´s a good cook, he´s even better than me.
Who will keep the house clean and tidy? Who will wash and iron the clothes?
We also discussed these questions before marriage. My husband told me that there are three things which he couldn´t help me do – cleaning the bathroom (he hates doing it), doing the laundry and ironing clothes (being an only child he was too spoiled by his mom that she did all these for him until he got married). But he promised to help me with the rest of the household chores.
Eventually, when we got married and started living together, we developed a schedule. We do general house cleaning every Sunday and we divide the tasks. If I´m cleaning the bathroom, my husband does the cooking. If I´m cleaning the kitchen, my husband does the vacuuming.
I took charged with the laundry and ironing but my husband still lends me a hand with the heavy part such as carrying the large baskets loaded with laundry to the basement where the washing machine is located. If the laundry piled up, he also helps me hang the newly washed clothes and fold them when they´re dry. I usually do the laundry at night because I work during the day, that means my husband is around to give me some help.
Today we spent the afternoon working in the garden. We find it to be a great bonding activity.
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Who will drive the car and be in charged with its maintenance?
We currently only have one car so it´s my husband who drives. Whenever the car needs maintenance, my husband uses the money from his savings account to pay for repair and other costs of maintenance. This is only logical because my husband earns more than me and his finances were already stable long before I joined him.
Who will carry out household repairs?
Unless the husband is always away from home, he usually carries out the household repairs. My husband takes care of it.
If we have children, who will look after them?
I wanted to work from home after marriage so that I can take care of our kids full-time. If my husband is at home, he´s also going to help taking care with the kids.
This is how I and my husband divide the responsibilities in our marriage. Dr. Melgosa says that a systematic way of dividing the roles and responsibilities consists of identifying each and every one of the tasks and responsibilities necessary for each couple and negotiating until both are reasonably happy with the outcome. This proves true to us.
How about you? How do you and your spouse divide the responsibilities? I´d like to hear about your approach through a comment below.