The Division of Labor

How to Divide up Chores with Your Spouse without Fighting

By:  Angela

Imagine someone who you just KNOW is super busy. As in, they have a million and one things to take care of. And yet, you always see them not only taking on more tasks, volunteering willingly to do things for other people, but then succeeding, THRIVING at them. That’s the kind of person Angela is. She and her husband have it together and they manage to be incredibly nice, down-to-earth people while doing it. I’m SO grateful that Angela was willing to write this because everyone needs more Angela in their lives 🙂 – Celeste


Before we got married, one of our church leaders took us aside and gave us a whole bunch of advice. One thing he mentioned that I hadn’t thought about was that we should really talk about the division of labor in a household. He mentioned that just like living with roommates, the issues of dirty socks and “who’s going to clean the toilet?” come up in a marriage. A LOT. And fixing the situation isn’t quite as easy as getting a new roommate when the lease was up. He told us that no matter how we choose to divide the labor load of household chores, we should talk about our expectations, revise as needed and communicate about how it was all going.

One thing we agree early upon was dishes. We agreed that whoever cooks dinner, the other spouse would do the dishes. After cooking an involved meal, who wants to deal with the mess of clean up?Picture

In these 13+ years, we have tried many, many, MANY methods of dividing up household chores. Before we had children, I was teaching those wacky 8th graders Algebra and Brandon was in grad school working on his Mad Scientist degree. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment so there wasn’t a ton to clean. We tried lists, we tried deep cleaning binges, we tried cleaning 5 minutes a day, etc. Nothing really stuck. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like we were living in a garbage dump, but all those household chores were really a CHORE! We didn’t get into arguments over it or anything, but it was a never-ending game of catch up with the constant entropy of our apartment.

Fast forward a few years and I had my first son. I was no longer working, because teaching hormonal teenagers and raising children at the same time would have shot my insanity levels off the charts. Now I’m a stay at home Mom with three boys and there were questions that came up about the division of household chores at home. Since I was at home more, would I take on more household tasks?

Let me just say everyone, if you think being a stay at home Mom is all lounging around and watching daytime TV, you’ve got another thing coming! I had a dear friend who told me that she would always make dinner and clean the house so her husband wouldn’t have to stress out after a long day at work.

Wait! Cleaning after the kids, stopping arguments, shuttling kids around, making meals, arranging play dates, dealing with sick kids, homework, soccer games, looking out for the spiritual, mental, physical well-being of our children, etc. isn’t a full time job? It’s a full time job. Trust me on that! In fact, being a stay at home mom is a 24-7 gig with no sick leave and overtime pay! Or any pay for that matter. Give yourself some credit Ladies!

Anyway. We decided that even though I was staying at home with my son, it was only fair that we would still split the chores around the house. We just had to find a way to make it work. We thought a bunch and I stumbled upon the idea of the Job Chart!!

Before I show it to you, let me explain a few ideas behind the Job Chart:

The main idea behind the job chart is that we have a nearly equal share in taking care of this house we call a Home. There is nothing in Brandon or my genetic code that says only one of us can wash the toilet (or change a diaper for that matter). Of course, there were things like nursing the baby that Brandon couldn’t really take over and there were things that I didn’t really know how to do like back up the computer. Other than those type of things though, we are fairly evenly split on the jobs that we tackle every month.

We really liked the idea of doing a few chores a day. We didn’t want to take up our whole evening cleaning after long days at work. The calendar set up worked for us because we could quickly see what needed to be done.

We did tie some financial incentive to doing our chores. If our boys could get allowance for doing their chores, surely we could get a few dollars a week too. But to encourage prompt execution of the jobs, we had to do them on the day they were assigned, unless we were sick or something. If we didn’t, we’d lose our allowance for the week and we still had to do them.

On odd numbered months, I would do a set of chores and Brandon would do a set. Then the even numbered months, we’d switch.

On creating the Job Chart, we both figured out the frequency that we needed to do a given chore. For example, we were both okay with cleaning the toilets every other week, but found they got a bit grimy on the outside on the off weeks. What can I say? I have boys and sometimes they don’t aim too well. We have chores that happen weekly, every other week or just once a month. As we went along, we would make changes to the chart as needed. We finally started adding stuff like writing in our journals and contacting our siblings too so we would do it more frequently.

So, here it is:

Monthly chore chart to divide up chores evenly between spouse

This is an example of an odd month chart. The even month just flips all the jobs that Brandon and I do so we can try and keep it fair. Every two months, I go in and add the days of the month and make any changes needed.

I can say that it has kept our marriage sane. It has kept our house relatively clean. I won’t say it is spotless, because it certainly isn’t that. However, it makes our marriage more peaceful, because we’re using something mundane as cleaning the house as a way to say we’re both committed to making our family run smoothly.

I’ve always wanted to do this post on my blog on Mother’s Day. The reason why is this: Brandon thinks my job as a Mother is just as stressful and demanding as his job. So, when he comes home from his long day and I’ve had a long day chasing after they boys, we’re both willing to do a little together to keep our home a comfortable place.

* Disclaimer – I know that people have different ways of dividing up the labor load in a home . I also know that there are many generational differences about how the division of labor was handled. Schedules and life circumstances are different for all. This is just what has worked for us. However, it is a call to maybe open up the conversation in your own marriages for how things are going and maybe how things can improve for the sanity of all involved.

9 thoughts on “The Division of Labor

  1. I like seeing other people’s nuts and bolts so much. I may look at it and go “that wouldn’t work for us” but as least it’s there in black and white so we could tweak it to work for us. I’m going to look closely at your chart. I need a chart!
    I love your attitude about how full-time a mom’s job is and I love the teamwork. I’m grateful every day that my husband has never acted like any job in our home was always mine alone. Except nursing the baby, of course.

  2. I am one of those persons that does all the cleaning. I think usually it is because the mess bothers me before it bothers everyone else. I like things to be clean and neat and organized and I can’t function if it is too messy.
    I also have this irrational need to have my husband really really want to come home from work. I don’t want him to prolong his hours away from us so he can avoid doing dishes.
    Although my husband is more than willing to do anything that I need help with if I ask, he just isn’t going to notice what needs to be done and then do it.
    I think it just goes back to the advice you were given at the beginning of your post, obviously different things work for different people and communication is SO important so that you are both on the same page.

    1. I’m glad that you have worked out a system that works in your home. I think it’s important to remember that one person’s system may not work for you. This is just our method that we’ve worked out that works for us.
      I know what you mean about a husband being willing to help but doesn’t necessarily notice the need. My husband told me long ago that he can’t read my mind so if I need help with something, I need to tell him! He also said that guys are pretty terrible at picking up subtle hints or mind waves I would send his way. 🙂 I used to get so frustrated with him for not doing what I thought he should be doing but never told him to do.

  3. Wow Angela- that chart is impressive! I think my favorite job is to “Clear out the Basket o’ Death”– we all have one of those! Your division of responsibility really gives the feeling that your marriage is functioning like a team. What a great husband you have. Thanks for sharing!

    1. We also have Kitchen Corner O’ Death. You know… it’s the part of the kitchen counter where all the random junk accumulates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *