On the face of things, it’s sexist for a woman to be the one in charge of convincing her mate or co-parent to help out more. But the reality is that husbands and dads don’t do as many chores as women – at least on average. A study from 2012, for example, revealed that while men in heterosexual relationships had started assuming more housework over the years leading up to 2010, that’s when it leveled off. Today, men still do about a third of the housework to the woman’s two-thirds.
This leaves women in a tough spot, particularly if both partners work full-time and they have kids. When the choice is between finding effective ways to get more help and doing it all yourself, the obvious decision is to do all you can, even if it seems sexist. How do you get your husband to do more around the house? It’s a gimme that if he’s not already taking on a fair share of chores, he’s unlikely to start without prompting. But how can you encourage without falling into the traps of nagging or treating your mate like one of the kids? The experts offer these proven ways to get dad to help out more.
Evaluate the underlying issues
You may be angry, tired or sad because you’re assuming 90 percent of the chores. Ironically, you probably can’t lighten the load without looking at how you’ve reached this impasse, according to psychologist Joshua Coleman. “Some men may protest their feelings of being deprived or hurt in the relationship by not doing housework,” Coleman told Today’s Parent. “Similarly, a woman might be especially critical of her husband’s sloppiness because of feeling rejected, unseen or uncared for by him in other areas of their life.” It’s much like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic to try to divvy up housework if other marital issues are simmering.
Establish that he actually could do more
This doesn’t have to be a defensive conversation. But before you get into the nitty-gritty of how indispensable chores are going to get done, have a calm conversation that pinpoints just how much more time he might have to give to chores. Don’t make it a contest, just see what he’s got available and when. It’s up to you whether you want to establish this every couple of months, or if the woman will be the point person and check on her guy’s availability.
Balance the mental load
A huge part of keeping a household running is more about planning and taking it seriously than actually running the vacuum or changing the filter in the air purifier. To get your spouse to do more around the house, make sure to include “mental load” chores in the tally. You may find that he’s doing more than you think. “We wives have to be honest with ourselves: Are there areas where our husbands assume the mental load, but we are oblivious?” Scarsdale, New York working mom Deborah Skolnik shared in Working Mother. “It’s easy for me to complain if my husband doesn’t put out the garbage, but before I do, I ask myself what else he might be doing that I never even think about, like handling the house/insurance bills, yard work and replacing the brake pads on the car.” There’s also a pretty good chance that the reverse will happen if you look at the big picture in your household. It’s just as likely your husband assumes very little of the mental load and might be willing to do more.
Take turns doing the dishes
A 2018 Council on Contemporary Families study determined that women who have to do all the dishes are the unhappiest in their relationships (sex lives too, guys). So if you want to have the greatest impact on your marital and personal happiness, start by at least dividing dishwashing duty. If your guy tries to diminish the importance of sharing this task, borrow words from the study’s lead author, Dan Carlson, an assistant professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah. “Doing dishes is gross. There is old, moldy food sitting in the sink. If you have kids, there is curdled milk in sippy cups that smells disgusting,” he told the Atlantic. And there is no positive feedback to offset the experience. “What is there to say? ‘Oh, the silverware is so … sparkly’?” Carlson asked. Once you’ve both bought into the idea that shared dishes equals happier spouse, just divide and conquer. One can wash, the other can dry. If you have a dishwasher, one can load, the other can unload and put away. “You do Tuesday, I’ll do Wednesday. You do breakfast, I’ll do weekends.” It’s all good.
Use the same system for other chores
Once you’ve had a victory with the dishes, try the “divide and conquer” approach with other chores. One composts and recycles, the other takes out the garbage. One cleans bathrooms, one makes beds. You get the idea.
Pay someone else
If it’s that important and you’re just not making headway, consider paying someone to do the chores. This isn’t the same as getting dad to help out more around the house, no. It doesn’t have the same payoffs in feeling like you’re both committed or modeling cooperative, loving behavior for the kids (especially your sons.) But it does ease the burden and can make your marriage happier, so there’s that. Just make sure you commit to enough budget so that contracting out helps ease the workload. One Harvard study showed that paying for services in a way that frees both parents’ time could make a relationship happier, and that’s always good for the whole family.