Friends and family often chuckle when they see me in the kitchen preparing supper and Glenda out mowing the lawn. They have some preconceptions as to what constitutes traditional roles for men and women. We don’t have any such ideas. When we were both employed full-time, it required cooperation to make sure the housework was done, and not by one person alone. Now that I’m mostly retired, some of that balance has changed, but the principles still apply.
We joke about the “IKEA test” being the best measure of a successful relationship. If a couple can work together to assemble IKEA furniture, without resorting to verbal or physical violence, the relationship is strong and lasting. We pass the test with flying colours.
Here are the steps we take to ensure balance and harmony in home management:
- We play to our strengths. We pass on traditional roles. I was kicked out of shop class in high school for wrecking everything I touched. However, I have been cooking since I was five or six. Glenda manages the home maintenance and I oversee the meal preparation.
- We do what we can. Just because Glenda looks after home maintenance, it doesn’t mean I leave all the work to her. So long as she measures and marks, I can cut, hammer, lift and move. I know what I’m doing with the recipe ingredients, but she helps prep the veggies, etc.
- We accept “less than perfect.” We each have different standards for tasks. I would wear wrinkled clothes, Glenda does not. She looks after the ironing, combining it with watching television. We never let our household chores rule our schedules. I know people who get so worked up about the condition of their house when guests visit that they are unable to enjoy the company.
- We alternate jobs. One week I clean bathrooms while Glenda vacuums; the following week, we swap.
- We share tasks we dislike. Both of us hate grocery shopping, so we go together. That way, one person is not stuck with doing something alone they dislike, week after week.
- We have a “nag” limit. This is more for me. I know that I often need reminders to get a job done. Glenda has permission to remind me without me getting annoyed. She is very gentle about it.
- We don’t complain. Rather than whining about the empty cereal box returned to the cupboard, we ask to have it put in the recycling bin. There are never any accusations about one person doing more than another.
This is the system which works for us. It’s not going to work for everyone. For example, we have no children at home, so that doesn’t factor into our system. You need to find the best way to build cooperation in your home.