Advice of a House Husband

Several years ago my wife had a job that took her away from home each day, sometimes until rather late in the evening. My office was at the house, so when the kids got home from school, they tossed their books on the kitchen table and said “Hi, Dad” instead of “Hi, Mom.”

I used to joke with people that I was the “house husband” in our home. More recently, though, I've come to the conclusion that in today's world all married men ought to think of themselves as house husbands.

Many married women today hold down a job. If the traditional concept of the husband as the sole bread-winner is rapidly disappearing, then it is time the traditional concept of the woman as the exclusive caretaker of the home disappear with it.

And we'll all be better for it. Dad, mom, and the kids.

My wife and I both still work, but now my job also takes me away from home. Whatever the house is like when we leave in the morning is the way we find it when we get home in the evening.

Since we both spend all day earning income, it's only fair that we should work together in the evenings and on weekends to keep up the home responsibilities.

The question of who will do what gets to be a real sore spot in some homes. I've provided some ideas to help you handle these matters equitably and peaceably.

Divide Responsibilities

List the various household chores that need to be taken care of, and agree on a fair division of responsibility. It's important to put everything on the list. Traditionally, the wife deans the house and the husband keeps up the yard. Both of these needs should be included in any list of responsibilities, along with who will pay the bills and keep up with the bank account, maintain the cars, take the children to school, do the grocery shopping, etc.

In our home my wife always does the washing. Sometimes I'll fold the clothes if I find them piled on the bed and I know she's busy doing other things, but usually she folds them and puts them away. She also bakes the bread and prepares all the meals. Since I refuse to touch a sewing machine, she does all the mending.

And because she hates to do the finances, I pay the bills and keep up with most of the banking. (She maintains her own checking account.) I also do all the yard work. I water and mow the lawn, trim hedges, and keep weeds out of the flower beds. In the 13 years of our marriage, I could probably count on one hand the times she has mowed the lawn, and I don't mind that arrangement. I enjoy keeping up the yard, just as she enjoys cooking.

On the other hand, some things we do together. We nearly always clean up the kitchen together at the end of each meal. Most of the time we also work together on the weekly housecleaning. However, since I work four days a week and she works five, I often do the housework on Friday.

Ask for Help; Don't Demand

If there's a conflict in your home over who will be responsible for which duties, the chances are good that at least one of you is demanding help. Actually, demanding is a euphemism for nagging and it's impossible to nag and be happy. But what do you do when you've agreed to a certain division of responsibility and your partner doesn't keep his or her end of the bargain?

It's important, I believe, not to do your spouse's half of the work just to “keep the peace.” The one who is trying to avoid conflict will almost certainly feel resentment and begin demanding help, thus ruining “the peace.”

One solution is to offer to renegotiate. Point out the problem to your spouse and say, “Maybe we need to discuss the division of responsibilities again.”

Don't fall into the trap of renegotiating to the extent that you find yourself doing all the work. You might assume one or two additional responsibilities to show your goodwill, but it would be better to trade task for task.

Sooner rather than later you should say, “It's getting to the point that I feel I'm doing quite a bit more than my share, and I'm afraid my resentment will damage our marriage. I love you, and I don't want that to happen.”

If your spouse consistently neglects his or her responsibility, a good alternative is to do nothing. Let the problem get so bad that he or she has to notice.

Suppose, for instance, that the husband is supposed to set the trash out on the street each week, but often doesn't. Instead of demanding, the wife should let the trash stack up. She could set the trash from the kitchen and other parts of the house outside or in the garage - wherever the family collects it - and let it stay there until the husband puts it out for the trash collectors. Very few husbands will allow their garage or work area to become a compost pile.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the wife agrees to do the washing and ironing, but his shirts and underwear are seldom clean when he needs them. An alternative to nagging is going to a laundromat. He could drop off his clothes not hers - in the morning and pick them up after work. If his wife inquires, the husband should smile and say he knows how hard it is for her to get everything done. He is happy to let her do the clothes, but anytime she can't, he would be happy to help by taking them to the laundromat again. The chances are good the husband will never again wait for his clothes.

A laundry bill may not be ideal, but it sure beats nagging or demanding!

Be Flexible

Emergencies are bound to arise when one or the other doesn't have time to do his or her housework. There are two ways we handle those at our house.

In some cases we hire someone to do the work. If I'm going to be out of town for a week, I usually ask a neighborhood boy to mow the lawn. And if my wife doesn't have time to cook a meal, we may eat out or have a pizza delivered. Another way to handle an emergency is for the spouse to take up the slack. While I prefer not to cook, I will prepare a meal if I know my wife will get home late from work or has a church appointment during the evening.

Once in a while we’ll negotiate such special arrangements, but usually we just sense each other's need and take up the slack. And I prefer it that way. I appreciate the fact that my wife almost never asks me to do her duties. But whenever I take up the slack without being asked, she nearly always thanks me.

Our way isn't the only right way. Couples should make arrangements that work for them. But I believe that if Jesus had a home on earth today, He would follow the three principles I mentioned. He would seek a fair division of responsibilities, He would ask rather than demand, and He would be flexible.


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