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Let Your Husband Do the Dishes
Mom with a View

Let Your Husband Do the Dishes

Why would anyone assume the specific work of a home and a marriage should all fall on only one spouse?


Hot off the presses! John Gottman is at it again. His relationships institute conducted a study that found that men who help with the housework have happier marriages. I wonder how much money and how many hours it took for them to discover that.

"Splitting the chores eases resentment that can build up when only one partner does it all."

Duh. What's important about this study is not what it reveals -- even though we are all subject to the martyrdom syndrome, we recognize that there is frequently a frustrated, nagging (possibly screaming) fallout! -- but that it needs to be said at all.

Whatever the work is of a home and a marriage -- housework, child-raising, the care of elderly parents, earning an income -- why would anyone assume it should all fall on only one spouse? How could we possibly hope to build something together if only one person is doing the building? Couples may agree to many different types and styles of chore-sharing, but the essence is in the sharing.

There are no fixed percentages that guarantee domestic bliss, but to be married and feel alone is an extremely painful state.

It's also important not to be rigid about the chore divisions. Maybe your husband is in charge of baths (lucky you!), but there are times when he's just too tired or he's tied up and you can pick up the slack.

When we work together as a team, we can conquer most problems.

Obvious? Yes. But I've seen many an argument over whose job that was supposed to be! Maybe you always make dinner. But it's been a long, hard day. Your husband can boil some pasta, scramble some eggs, do something more elaborate and gourmet, or telephone for take-out! We need to be flexible.

When we work together as a team, we can conquer most problems. But when we create strict behavior guidelines and take note of every violation, we become competitors, not allies. And we both suffer.

I find that it's more efficient and the "team" functions better when people help out in areas where they are competent. Although my husband will sweep if asked, he doesn't really enjoy it when I point out all the spots he missed. And since I have to do it over again anyway(!), I haven't really gained by his participation in that chore. On the other hand, he always clears the Shabbos table and has a particular affinity for finding just the right size container for each of the leftovers. (It's that spatial thing!) So we should lead with our strengths -- in chores, in parenting, in earning money.

And with our priorities. Our shared priorities. Perhaps a messier house in favor of time with the kids or each other. Perhaps a lower income in favor of a more meaningful or pleasurable job. Or a shorter commute. Or more time at home.

Whatever it is, the key is unity, teamwork. The authors of this study didn't break any new ground, but they still provided a public service. Because marriage is about what we can accomplish together, not separately.

The Torah teaches us that when marriage partners operate in tandem, in the spirit of love and shared goals, with unity and sanctity, the Almighty's presence descends to rest between them.*

Even if there are still a few dust balls around...

(Exodus 25:8, Reishis Chochmah commentary).

November 5, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, March 18, 2012 8:18 PM

helping at home

well i agree 100% that a husband should help at home with what ever he can but also agree that when a husband is helping out after a long day of work she should compliment him and dont take it forgrantid i acn say from my exprinces that i do way more then any other man hlps and i get NADA!!!!!

(7) Claire, August 27, 2009 7:07 PM

Looking for a Partner

What about couples who do not have children? I am married to someone who has 2 children from his first marriage. My husband is still paying child support and alimony. I accept this as this is how it was when I first met him. We both have careers and I am the “bread winner” who pays for most of the bills unless he is able to work overtime. My husband however still expects me to come home from work, do all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, all the dishes, all the laundry, and all the housework. His job is, he feels, to do repairs and home improvements when it is needed (which is not often) and outside work (we have a very small property (40x100) which is mostly rock. Is there any wonder why woman build up resentment? I wish I would have known this before.

(6) Z.K., November 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Missing the Point - Sharing Responsibilities

I believe that Mrs. Braverman is including all "chores" to be shared in her list - household chores (cooking, cleaning, homework with the kids, mowing the lawn) as well as making a living. You have to take ALL family responsibilities into account and share them. For some, it works for the husband to make a living and the wife to work in the home. For some, the wife helps out with the income and the husband helps out in the home. For others yet, the wife is better equipped to be the bread winner while the husband makes a great "Mr. Mom".

This said, I would like to add that the work in the home is not all about the work itself (as often the work out of the home is). It's about being an active part of your family from the inside. It’s about cleaning up from dinner with your spouse so that he/she doesn’t feel like a servant. (That takes 5 minutes but goes a long way!) It’s about picking up milk on your way home from work so your spouse knows you care enough not to expect him/her to pack up three kids and go to the store when you are already out. It’s about looking at all that has to be done for your family & your home and finding the best way to accomplish these goals as a team – not about winning the argument over who works harder so should be excused from the next “chore” that arises.

If a couple works together and finds the most suitable way to share responsibilities in order to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished, resentment would not be part of the picture.

(5) Adam, November 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Too one sided

I feel these articles are too one sided. Men are not perfect but either are the women yet all we hear about are men's faults. Furthermore, it is sad that Emma does not realize the stresses some men have in jobs and sometimes they have to deal with difficult bosses difficult clients frivilous lawsuits and other issues include losing their job but put up with it to help support a family. They also have nothing to hide behind when there are problems in a work environment unlike women who in some jobs get away with stuiff because the boss is afraid of a discrimination lawsuit by telling a women she did something wrong in the job even if it is legit.

(4) Rachel, November 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Do you have a twin brother ,Robert? better be anonymous !!!..AND...Cut the grass EVERY DAY..Trim the bushes EVERY DAY..Do ex/internal house repairs EVERY , change your clothes ,find your house clean and fresh ,etc etc...ONE TIME IN A MONTH !!!

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