Marriage Contracts

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

I finally got around to reading Alix Kates Shulman's infamous "marriage contract." The document is nearly 40 years old, but the brief contract -- which declares that household roles are to be divided right down the middle, regardless of who is the chief wage-earner -- has continuing resonance. It was initially republished in all sorts of places, from Ms. to Life, and it was highlighted most recently -- in less-than-flattering terms -- in neo-traditionalist Caitlin Flanagan's 12,000-word Atlantic Monthly "Nanny Wars" screed a couple of years ago.

Reading through the contract is eye-opening, and it's easy to understand why the piece has drawn the ire of so many over the years. There are few things less romantic, less in concert with the values of marriage, than spelling out each and every home responsibility in faux legalese. On that basis, it's easy to see why a "marriage contract" fad never got off the ground.

But the underlying philosophy behind it -- the idea that paid work is no more valuable in a marriage than unpaid work; that husbands and wives share equal responsibility for the family, regardless of who brings home the bacon; that everyone needs their own personal time -- still sounds fresh, even revolutionary.

I've read that people in "traditional" marriages with a male breadwinner and an at-home mom are often happier than those in more egalitarian relationships. But that difference has less to do with any intrinsic advantage stemming from a traditionalist arrangement and more to do with the clarity of expectations. Shulman's contract offers one way to get everything on the table for those relationships that begin without any pre-set notions about who should do what.

Of course, there are better ways to communicate expectations and roles in a marriage than to call in the lawyers. Talking through it is a good start, and keeping those lines of communication open never hurts. But -- as always -- I'm open to suggestions. How do those of you who have bravely left the stereotypical gender roles behind figure out on a week to week basis how stuff gets done?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  January 4, 2007; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Division of Labor
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Posted by: First Comment | January 4, 2007 8:29 AM

It's a process and it's always evolving. Based on work schedules, kids' needs, parents' need, the chore list is going to shift. A "contract" stifles the necessary flexibility. Communication and flexibility help us much more.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 8:41 AM

Actually, for us the division fell into place pretty easily, based on our differing schedules and talents. I'm always the last one out of bed, so I make the bed. He's always the first one home, so he gets the mail. He's good with money (it slips through my fingers like water), so he pays the bills and manages our joint finances. I have a natural awareness of the state of the household, so I make sure that we always have plentiful stocks of paper towels, toilet paper, clean socks, etc.

We're lucky that our talents complement each other so well.

Posted by: Loolybloo | January 4, 2007 8:43 AM

Geez, Did they schedule who should have the next child?

Posted by: anon | January 4, 2007 8:47 AM

I'm going to agree with you lollybloo - when we both worked we each took the tasks that most fit our natural tendencies and/or talents.

I also think that a natural consideration for the other person is helpful. Just because the trash wasn't "my job" didn't mean I didn't take it out if it was full or he was tired or working extra hours - just as he was considerate of me depending on circumstances. I think the most important rule in a marriage is just to be considerate and help the other person because you love them and when you are on the side of doing less, be aware that you don't take advantage of the other person's generosity because you love them.

Now that I'm at home - I'm in charge of pretty much everything but the bills which I hate and he enjoys. I do all the home improvment and maintenance which I enjoy and he hates (not exactly traditional). He will often modify what I've made for dinner to make it more to his own liking. So traditional and not. Works for us - but mostly I think its because we respect each other. My mother says that marriage isn't 50/50: sometimes its 80/20 sometimes its 10/90 - the hope is that it averages out to be close to 50/50 in the end.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 8:51 AM

"Shulman's contract offers one way to get everything on the table for those relationships that begin without any pre-set notions about who should do what."

Is this really possible? Can we truly enter into a relationship with out any pre-set notions about what is "women's work" and what is "mens work"? I'm a child of the 1970s, but it might as well have been the 1950s -- Mom took care of the home, Dad went to the office. No matter how "bravely" my wife and I think we have left the gender stereotypes, we have a very strong shared background and point of reference. Sure, I cook, but it's hard to not remember it as women's work, while she's at the desk paying bills, just like Dad did.

I think we all enter marriage with pre-set notions of who "should" or "used to" do what, and we try to move beyond that, if moving beyond those roles is what's right for the family. But I don't think anyone starts fresh with a clean, gender-neutral slate.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 8:54 AM

MoxieMom -- I love your 'big picture' outlook:

Marriage isn't 50/50: sometimes its 80/20 sometimes its 10/90 - the hope is that it averages out to be close to 50/50 in the end.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 8:58 AM

Actually, Arlington Dad, I don't think I entered my marriage with any notions of who should do what--I expected us both to share in running the house, raising kids, etc. I can't imagine doing anything around the house because it's "women's work," nor can I imagine not doing something because it's my husband's "job." Just because it's your experience doesn't mean it's universal.

I was also born in the 70's, and with the exception of cooking dinner, I don't think there was anything my mom did that my dad didn't/wouldn't do, and vice versa. (And he could make spaghetti or hamburgers in a pinch.) They each had things they liked or disliked doing, but they were both capable and willing to do whatever necessary to keep the house running. (Note--they both worked full time.) It wasn't the model either of them grew up with in the 50's, but it worked fine for them and it's working fine in my family.

Posted by: Arlmom | January 4, 2007 9:03 AM

"Can we truly enter into a relationship with out any pre-set notions about what is "women's work" and what is "mens work"?"

Yes. My parents had a pretty traditional division of labor, although my mom worked, but they raised me to do everything - mow the lawn, chop wood, clean the bathroom, clean the gutters, pay the bills, paint the walls, shovel snow, wash the dishes. There may have been a gender-based division for them - my mom never mowed the lawn - but I wasn't lucky enough to be able to eliminate a whole category of chores based on my gender. I did it all, and to me it was all just work.

Now, I find it very destressifying to cook and clean. (The saying "Time on your hands, yourself on your mind" has real resonance for me.) I do all the home repairs, too. My husband runs errands and does laundry and the dishes. It's all just work.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2007 9:04 AM

My husband and I, as I have mentioned before on this blog, are equal sharers in all aspects. We did not create a written marriage contract to do this, but we did have clear expectations and a clear vision that this is the parenting/household-running model we both wanted. We even spoke of equal sharing on our first date!

The philosophy of a truly egalitarian marriage was borne more by my husband in the beginning, if anyone, than by me...he lives by carefully crafted principles, and I just feel very lucky that my less-honed beliefs fit so well with his. We are truly, truly happy with our equality, and I believe that there are also data to 'prove' the opposite of what Brian mentions about the level of happiness and the equality of spouses.

The 'how-to' of equal sharing: I could write for hours on that! Lucky for all of you, I won't. I'll just share a few of the core principles we operate under:
1. BOTH spouses have to believe in this equality model. I don't think it works well when one parent is dragging the other into it.
2. You have to have full respect for your partner, and trust that he/she is equally competent as a parent, breadwinner, and household manager. Then, get out of his/her way!
3. You two have to communicate, communicate, communicate to work out schedules, division of responsibilities, etc. This may be awkward in the beginning, but it gets easier over time so that you learn to 'dance' with each other without so many words.
4. Put EVERYTHING on the table when you communicate. I remember mentioning to my husband once that he was gravitating toward doing far less laundry than me (which was a particular task we decided to divide down the middle), and he agreed. But, then he mentioned (rightfully) that I had not changed a cat litter box in about 3 years! Now, he does 'darks' and I do 'whites' and we each clean one of our two litter boxes daily. A silly example, maybe, but you get the point.
5. Equality is NOT about dividing every task down the middle, but rather about dividing the TIME invested in your household, childcare, breadwinning and recreation down the middle. Go ahead and divide things by preference, aptitude or other means to be efficient, but make the time come out as even as possible and you've got two equal partners. It is even better if both of you are capable of every task, but most likely one of you will be the primary person who does it.
6. A big benefit of equal sharing is intimacy. Not to say that traditional marriages are without this, but for us, having an equal partner who is right there with you on all fronts of running your family is a great thing!

Posted by: equal | January 4, 2007 9:07 AM

We're both lawyers, so you can imagine we negotiate everything :-) That being said, I sure would not want a written contract determining responsibilities. Things tend to ebb and flow too much in our house hold for that kind of specificity.

We have a healthy division but probably not 50/50. We approach most chores and household tasks as a team but there are a few that each of us does individually. I do the laundry (ok, that's a control thing), he does the bathrooms (that's an aim thing). He changes lightbulbs since he's a foot taller, I put stuff away in the lower cabinets for the same reason. The key for us is the team approach, and now that the children are old enough to join the team, they kind of like having a role in maintaining the house. Most recently, they've learned how to shovel snow, lots of snow.

Happy New Year!

Posted by: Stacey | January 4, 2007 9:23 AM

"Can we truly enter into a relationship with out any pre-set notions about what is "women's work" and what is "mens work"?"

I see where he's going with this. We all have preconcieved notions and biases going into situations. We're fooling ourselves into thinking we don't, whether it be how we look at political events or child rearing or a marriage. We don't all have the same mindset on what a woman should do or what a man should do, therefore we DO come into a relationship with pre-set notions.

I have the opposite "bias"- my mom ran the household. If my dad did something it was because she said "ok, go do xyz" She handled finances, long range plans, worked full time, etc.Not to say my dad was lazy or that my mom was domineering- it just fell into place that way due to their personalities.

Not surprisingly, I am also the head of the household. Though my husband is wonderful and will do anything for our family, I still call the shots most of the time. Even when I was a SAHM I did the bills, investing, housing decisions, etc. Sterotypical "man" stuff.

It just depends on personality. I enjoy researching, scheduling, budgeting. I like to cook, he likes to wash dishes and do more physical things. We compliment one another, which is why we got married.

Hopefully you end up marrying a person with whom you can live! If you need a "contract" and can't communicate about it, then maybe you shouldn't get married in the first place. There are glitches, obviously, when you live with someone for so long, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker if you know what you're in for heading down that aisle.

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | January 4, 2007 9:25 AM

Arlmom -- sounds like we are the same age, but that your family is a generation more progressive than mine, with your parents both working and sharing the household chores. My MIL just visited for a week, and she had to field calls from her husband about how to heat up a can of corn. Pretty different from the dynamic in my house.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 9:26 AM

I live with my boyfriend. When I feel like I am doing more than my share of the household work, we talk about it. In the past I have told him that doing most of the household chores makes me feel like a "bad feminist." He knows how important the big F is to me, and now our shares of labor are more egalitarian.

Posted by: Rita | January 4, 2007 9:27 AM

"he likes to wash dishes"...c'mon, seriously?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 9:29 AM

One issue with household work is that it's never done. You fill the dishwasher, then you empty it again. It's hard to point at the kitchen and say, 'it's finished'.

I think it's worthwhile to spell out who does what because the multitude of things that are done daily often get taken for granted, while the big occasional things, say taxes, are easier to claim big credit for.

It's also not a bad idea to switch chores sometimes. Cross-training prepares households for sudden changes, AND helps everybody to appreciate what everybody else does.

Posted by: RoseG | January 4, 2007 9:31 AM

Brian, this is something we continue to struggle with and work through. I think the key principle is that each partner deserves equal respect and consideration, regardless of the amount of money each brings in. My husband and I have periodically swapped who is the higher- or lower-earner, but those changes haven't affected our view of each others as equal partners.

What does change is the situation. Example: we both HATE laundry. When we had our first daughter, I was working part-time at home, so it was just logical that I did her laundry. Then we moved, I went back to work full-time in an office, and we had our son -- and I found myself still doing all the laundry. I was annoyed at first that he didn't automatically understand that the situation had changed, but then I realized that he was just operating under the pattern we had already established. So we tried an informal "throw a load in when you see it" approach, which still left me doing most of it. Finally, I just asked him whose laundry he wanted to do. He said, "no thanks, I'm perfectly happy with the way things are"; I said, "nice try -- now, which one do you want?"; he took the boy; and now I'm happy again.

But it has to be fluid. For the past few weeks, my whole family has had the flu. Since I was the least hit, I've been doing everything. My husband recently apologized for leaving me with everything, which surprised me, because it's not about everyone doing precisely 50% all the time. My family needed me to do more, so I did, end of story (though I'm REALLY looking forward to this being OVER!!). Plus it helps that my husband has been trying to do little things that he can do. Like he's actually changed the toilet paper roll the last two times in a row. :-)

Posted by: Laura | January 4, 2007 9:31 AM

Actually, a marriage shouldn't be 50/50, it should be 100/100 -- both partners giving 100 percent, and not keeping score of the minutia.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 9:31 AM

are you married?

Posted by: to Agree, but | January 4, 2007 9:38 AM

Also, Arlington Dad, you and I are (apparently) different genders. I wonder how much of our perception is colored by that and societal messages, and not just our families of origin?

Posted by: Arlmom | January 4, 2007 9:44 AM

Yep, going on 15 years. Trust me, when you stop keeping score life is so much easier.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 9:45 AM

Like Laura's situation, the division of labor is something my husband and I continue to struggle through. We both try to be forgiving of the other and realize that for the most part, we each do our best. For example, I am bar none the messiest and least efficient cook on the planet (always using three bowls where one would do), and although I do try to clean as I go, I get too involved in the creative aspect and next thing I know, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off at Williams-Sonoma. I love to cook but hate to clean up, which really isn't fair, but my husband appreciates my culinary attempts (which are almost always delicious) and good naturedly does dishes when I'm done. On the flip side, I take care of doing laundry and putting it away, organizing the activities for the kids, etc. We muddle through. When I feel like arguing about why such and such isn't done, I try to remember that it's not a scorecard and there are PLENTY of things my husband likes to do or does that I hate to do. Somehow we make it work.

I do think it was a bit easier when I was at home full time, simply because I was there to do the general cleaning and so forth and didn't mind. I got the kids to pitch in if possible. Now, with both of us working, it seems like the house is messier and it's kind of annoying, but that's life.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 4, 2007 9:46 AM

Although I do relatively very little of the daily household chores, I've come to notice throughout my 16 years of marriage that very little gets done if I'm not around.

The wife and kids need a motivator. That's how I pitch in. It takes just as much effort, if not more, to get people to do work, especially menial tasks, than it does just to do the chore yourself. A good coach equals an organized household with responsible, happy kids!

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 4, 2007 9:46 AM

Father of 4

Maybe your family is just plain lazy.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 9:58 AM

Ok, so far most people have a balanced approach and are flexible. How about those who don't? Are you out there? Are you unhappy with how much your wife/husband does? Let's hear from you!

I am doing more at present, but my husband has opened a restaurant this year. Prior to that, he did the laundry, dishes, cooked, etc. (he was home full-time).

Now, if I need help, I need to ask for it, and ask more consistently. He's better at asking ME to do things than I am at asking him!

I always wonder why I am so reluctant to ask for help and eager to give it. I think because with DH sometimes I need to ask with strong emphasis and even a few times before it sinks in. Perhaps I was brought up without a team sharing model? Perhaps it's a woman thing? It's an annoying trait about myself.

Posted by: Rebecca | January 4, 2007 10:00 AM

At the moment we have a pretty traditional division of labor, with a few exceptions (my husband is the organizer, for my birthday he reorganized the kitchen so I can actually find things, and I occasionally do some car repairs). We only argue about it when one of us gets lazy.

My role models for this topic are my parents-- they've been married for 40 years, and over the years, each has been the primary breadwinner or the one at home, and for the largest chunk of that time both worked. While there are certain tasks each of them just won't do without being asked, the core responsibilities have been passed back and forth over the years. In the end, I think it's really all about respect, flexibility and communication.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | January 4, 2007 10:02 AM

Gawd, could this discussion be any more boring?! Who cares?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 10:09 AM

How is labot divided if one parent stays at home with the kids or works fewer in office hours than the other?

I kind of feel that if one parent is bringing home money the other should take care of the house (including cooking) as well as the kids - in a much higher if not 100% level.

If both parents worked 40 hours a week out of the house, then family work should be equally divided. Not sure if a contract should be required, but mutual respect and honest between the two people.

Posted by: single mom | January 4, 2007 10:09 AM

I've been married for over 22 years now, and what tasks around the house each of us have taken as our own have changed as our lives have changed.

Since my wife works longer in the afternoon and has a longer commute home than I, I cook supper and put away the clothes she washes before she leaves in the morning. Since I'm home earlier, I also get the mail and do the grocery shopping, and some of the cleaning around the house. She, OTOH, handles the finances and the long range planning.

As others have said, trying to divide the work 50/50 is a waste of time. Is washing dishes equivalent to putting away clothes? How about cooking vs scrubbing the toilet? There's no good way to do it; just agree that one will do some of the work, the other one does some of it, and both of you does the rest together.

Posted by: John | January 4, 2007 10:13 AM

Maybe you think it is boring because no one is being judgmental or rude (yet)? I'm happy for the refreshing change where we are actually exchanging ideas and sharing tips about how things work in our families. It is all about balance too.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 10:13 AM

For those of you who have made it more or less fifty-fifty, what do you do about those darned kids and their preferences? You know, "I don't LIKE the way daddy makes the sandwiches. I only like the way MOMMY makes them . .. " etc. etc. etc.
My kids seem to be somewhat more predisposed to the way I do certain tasks -
and unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of them.

- and then there's the matter of the homework. I'm getting concerned because my husband claims not to understand any of the math after the fifth grade -- and we've several more years worth of math explaining ahead of us . . . I guess a true egalitarian would quickly stake out a place where I could also claim incompetence. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Armchair Mom | January 4, 2007 10:14 AM

"Actually, a marriage shouldn't be 50/50, it should be 100/100 -- both partners giving 100 percent, and not keeping score of the minutia."

To Agree, but: It's not about keeping score, it's about making sure one or more balls don't get dropped by one spouse thinking the other spouse was handling them, and making sure one spouse isn't being inadvertently dumped on by the other spouse. It's also about making sure each spouse agrees on what items fit into the category of minutiae. When one spouse starts feeling as though he or she is handling three full-time jobs by himself/herself, it's rarely because the other spouse intentionally turned into Slacker Spouse. Communication early and often, is key.

I like the sound of the "to each according to his abilities and talents" arrangements that are being espoused by a few posters, but how do you all handle the tasks both of you hate? In our house, we both hate loading and unloading the dishwasher, among other things. Please don't tell me anyone has a particular talent for this; it's just a task that needs to be done. Even now that we're in our 40s, each of us on some subliminal level hopes and prays that the other one will do it first.

Also, for us at least, the arrangement and division of labor we worked out in the beginning of our marriage fell apart quickly when we had kids. We had a very workable 50-50ish split on drudge tasks prior to the arrival of child 1, but by the time child 2 arrived, nothing was getting done and we had to ratchet up the communication and accountability between us in order to make sure the bills got paid on time, or at all, and that the filter on the heating unit was changed on occasion.

I'd suggest that the key to all of this is not to assume that your partner's perspective and assumptions are identical to yours, or that it and they haven't changed since you met 10 or 20 years ago.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 10:14 AM

Traditions stand the test of time because they work. That being said, people are free willed and can make thoughtful adjustments within traditional boundaries. Such adaptations usually result in the best outcomes.

Marriage contracts are for the sort of people who are only concerned with what they can get out of a marriage instead of what they can put into it. We should probably pray for such people.

Posted by: Rufus | January 4, 2007 10:16 AM

To Agree, but: I agree with you. I once heard that marriage is not 50/50 but more like 90/90. I'm not married, so how would I know if that's true? But it does seem to me that marriage is hard, it takes a lot out of you, but you get a lot in return (at least in a successful marriage). You don't just become "whole." You get a lot and you give a lot--both more than if you'd stayed single. That's just an outsider's take, though. I'll find out when I get there.

Great topic today--I've long wondered how my boyfriend and I would divide household tasks when we get married. He's the neat one, I am the slob. But on occasion I do love to scrub my apartment down, spend a whole weekend cleaning, etc. He came up with this horribly sexist idea of how to divide the chores based on who makes more money, regardless of how much free time one has, but I later found out that idea was just a defense against how lazy and sloppy he thought I was going to be. Once I agreed that I'd stop being such a slob (we can shout feminism until we're blue in the face, but I won't let the poor guy live in a pigsty when he's used to neatness; that's just not fair), he relaxed a little and is able to go with the flow. He just thought I was going to make him do all the work. Now, mutual housework is a long way off, but at least we don't have to worry about one person sitting in front of the tube while the other is re-grouting the kitchen tile.

Of course, when we have kids, that neat-and-tidy-house idea will go out the window, I'm sure.

One question, though: if a person truly likes cleaning and household work, I mean really enjoys it, is it sexist if they spend a lot of time doing it?

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 10:19 AM

Things in our house have been much more peaceful in the chore-sharing area since I decided to let go of the 50/50 split idea. It just doesn't work. Now I do what I see needs getting done (probably often overlooking things...), and my husband does the same. He's actually been doing much more around the house since I stopped keeping tabs and nagging him.

I find this is an approach that works as well at home as at the office. I've had good results with it at work, pitching in whenever with whatever task, if needed, and in turn asking colleagues to do the same. Most people see the benefit of that sort of attitude, and it works out for everybody.

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 10:19 AM

One occasional source of trouble for my husband and me is when one of us is working from home and the other is in the office. We're both guilty of expecting the one who's at home to take care of the at-home chores, despite the fact that working from home is just that: work. We're both attorneys, so we can take a break and do a load of laundry if necessary and just make up the time later in the day, but we still need to be more cognizant of the fact that just because one of us is in the house on a given day, that person isn't necessarily in a position to take care of all the chores!

Posted by: Gail | January 4, 2007 10:19 AM

For me I think the challenge is more an internal one of my priorites and perceptions. Which in truth reflects my perception of societal pressures related to "woman's work". I feel it reflects badly on me if the house is messy and so I am more motivated to clean it. My husband helps but only if I point it out. Typically I start to do chores and he feels guilty and gets in my way. So I find less time to read, play or be creative.

For my husband parenting is his number one priority and leisure is a higher priority than a clean house. He finds much more time to participate in his hobbies.

My mom reminds me constantly how I have it better than many others and certainly better than she did with the help my husband offers, but I don't think it is balanced sharing of household responsibilities. And because of that I think one of us has a more balanced personal life than the other.

And after all that, a dear friend of mind reminds me regularly that I knew what my husband's proclivity for cleaning was before I married him and so it is not a surprise.

Posted by: mamamimi | January 4, 2007 10:22 AM

Single mom,

I agree with you-- it would be nuts to expect my husband to do as much around the house as I do when he also spends 45+ hours a week working outside the home to pay for everything, and I'm home all day. But when he's having an easy week at work and things at home are hairy, he tends to help out a little more. And when things are nuts at work, I pick up the slack at home.

I don't understand the logic of a SAHM requiring that her working husband do an equal amount of housework. But I also think too many people have bought in to the idea that anything that is traditionally "women's work" confers low status. I know this makes me sound like Donna Reed or something, but a well run household is an achievement to be proud of. Maybe we'll have one someday, lol.

This discussion is making it too hard for me to ignore the laundry and breakfast dishes. Signing off for the day!

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | January 4, 2007 10:23 AM

"You know, "I don't LIKE the way daddy makes the sandwiches. I only like the way MOMMY makes them . .. " etc. etc. etc."

Tough. I don't see why this is something that should be catered to. It's not as if Dad is making sandwiches out of peanut butter and Bermuda onions.

"I'm getting concerned because my husband claims not to understand any of the math after the fifth grade --"

I don't get why parents feel obligated to be full-time tutors. When I didn't understand my math homework, I was expected to ask my math teacher, who had made a career out of explaining math to kids. Not my parents, neither of whom knew much math or was any good at it.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2007 10:23 AM

Well, Fredia will not allow me to wash her bras and I will not let her mow the grass! But she ALWAYS thanks me for washing her car. (named the booby mobile).

We pretty much divide chores along the stereotype, dad outside and mom inside and this has worked for us for 30 years.

The "marriage contract" is a lot more detailed than some of the commercial contracts that I write for my company. But if it works for couples...

My comment is that it does not allow for any individual strengths, weaknesses, abilities, desires etc. It would force one partner to do what that partner hates to do or conversely precludes the other from a task that the other may not mind or even enjoy doing. This may be equal but is it in the spirit of equality? Certainly, couples should discuss the totality of family and household chores before marriage and before children but as others have pointed out scorekeeping does not really benefit a marriage long term.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 10:24 AM

"Maybe you think it is boring because no one is being judgmental or rude (yet)? I'm happy for the refreshing change where we are actually exchanging ideas and sharing tips about how things work in our families. It is all about balance too."

Yeah, well, the 9:58 anon snark at Father of 4 was decidely rude. Worse yet, Father of 4's point is well-taken that at least one person in every household has to first recognize that tasks 1 - 5 need to be done, and then provide an impetus or leadership for accomplishing them. Otherwise, let's face it, if we have clothes for tomorrow, why does the laundry have to be done tonight?

It's still worth noting that a fair number of female posters refer to their husbands "helping" out with household tasks. "Helping out", to me at least, suggests that the task is on action item for the wife and the husband assists or not at her request, e.g., they don't both "own" the task, it's hers.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 10:25 AM

You will all die with surprise to find out that my marriage contains a pretty traditional arrangement of roles. Though my wife has slowly trained me fairly properly over time (though perhaps she should voice her own vote on that). So I do the laundry and outside work, and do all the repairs, but she still considers the kitchen mostly her own. She'd never say it, but I think she considers it her own power thing, though she clearly enjoys feeding her family.

Considering my five sisters and a very traditional Polish heritage mother I grew up virtually without interior domestic skills, something I considered very unfortunate later on, though I didn't see the handicap at the time. Similarly none of my sister's could have changed the tire on their car in a pinch.

One thing I'm trying to ensure is that both my son and daughter get crossed trained and respectable in carrying on all aspects of life. Then they at least have the option of figuring out life with their partners a what makes sense for them arrangement.

Like many posters here, I guess I just have a desire to not push my own handicaps or hangups onto the next generation.

Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday...and the Tex-Mex in SA was just as good as always!

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 10:30 AM

"and then there's the matter of the homework. I'm getting concerned because my husband claims not to understand any of the math after the fifth grade -- and we've several more years worth of math explaining ahead of us"

Shouldn't the math explaining get done at school? I've always had trouble with math, but my parents never explained stuff to me. That's what teachers were for.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 10:32 AM

Armchair Mom:
Great examples where it isn't clear how to divide things! First of all, there are NO pat answers and a thousand possibilities. Here are just a few potential ideas:
1. For tasks the kids prefer one of you do: Tell them 'you don't always get to decide who does X' and persist with equal sharing of that task. If the kids consistently throw your husband's sandwiches on the floor in disgust, he will be motivated to find a more appealing way to make them by learning the ins-and-outs of fantastic sandwich making from his smart kids. If you always step in and make them the 'right' way, he has no motivation to perfect his technique. Who knows? He might come up with an even better way to make the sandwiches than you, if he is given the space and time to do so.
2. For the incompetent math tutor problem: I bet if your husband was given $1 million to correctly do his children's math homework, he'd score 100%. Just a guess, but... Anyway, incompetence is not an excuse in an equal partnership; preference is, but not incompetence, unless you have a true physical or mental handicap. That's one of the challenges of equal sharing - no place to hide anymore! Helping with math homework may not be your husband's thing (and that's okay), and it may take more energy for him to keep up with the math than do other things with them, but find out what is really going on rather than allow him to hide behind absolute incompetence.

I don't have all the answers, but just some suggestions. Please take what you like and do what works best for you.

Posted by: equal | January 4, 2007 10:33 AM

Good question Armchair Mom re: "I like the way mommy makes sandwiches...." The official family line is that if Dad does something, HE does it and if mom does, SHE does it, and we're not switching just because a 4 year old bundle of id cites a preference. The behind the scenes line is that if the kid alleges she likes mom's sandwiches better, dad [secretly] tries to change how he makes 'em, but we don't make a big deal out of this and let the 4 year old think they run the household. The funny thing about this is - I used to do breakfast, then I had a work schedule change, and so my husband took over breakfast/morning duties. For a few days, it was "I don't like dad's eggs..." and then literally, by the second weekend when I was trying to make eggs, it was, "no mom, I like dad's eggs." So for stuff as superficial as minor food preferences (we obviously don't feed the kid anchovies if it says it doesn't like it, etc.), parents are just that - parents, and the kids need to roll wi th it.

Posted by: The original just a thought | January 4, 2007 10:33 AM

Someone wanted to hear from a person who doesn't have balance. Here's my story.

I'm a stay at home mom of 3 boys. My husband works very long hours (very well paid) and is not a hands-on kind of dad. He doesn't do any housework other than putting his clothes in the laundry and occasional grilling. I knew he was like this (very traditional guy) when I married him, and I definitely wanted to be a stay at home mom and love that part of it, but we haven't transitioned well into parenthood. After much arguing, I finally got an additional pair of hands in the form of an au pair who helps me out with the children. After she goes home later this spring, I think I will probably end up hiring a housekeeper or something instead of an au pair. I can manage the children on my own or the housework on my own, but not both. I'd rather spend the time with my boys instead of having our au pair do that while I vacuum and do household chores.

It is frustrating and sad to me that my husband is not a big part of our boys' lives, but I am fighting a hopeless battle if I try to bring it up to him. He sees himself as the breadwinner and is focused on providing a certain lifestyle for us. He does a good job at that, but I've realized that I don't think the end is justified by the means.

Posted by: Margot | January 4, 2007 10:34 AM

"Considering my five sisters and a very traditional Polish heritage mother I grew up virtually without interior domestic skills, something I considered very unfortunate later on, though I didn't see the handicap at the time."

Oh, man, this is my dad and his sister to a T. He couldn't do a load of laundry if he was to be shot for it, but wow, is my aunt's house spotlessly immaculate. Actually, people tell me all the time how clean my house always is, but I never see it that way, probably because it's not as clean as my aunt's house is (and as clean as my Grandma's house was).

Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2007 10:36 AM

Equal at 9:07 made some great points about how to discuss household chores and communicate. I've seen the serious problems that can crop up when a couple never discusses this until after marriage and then all sorts of problems occur. My best friend married a man from an older generation, an only child who had been raised by his widowed mother. Growing up, he did nothing around the house and then was the stereotypical breadwinner with a SAH wife in his first marriage. She ran the household and he went out to work.

My friend grew up with a mother who told her never to let a man know she knew how to iron. She expected to divide household chores in half -- yet she and her future husband never talked about this stuff before they married. So he expects her to do everything from cooking to cleaning to laundry while he sits on the couch on the weekends, every so often folding clothes or running the vacuum. It's taken their marriage to the breaking point because they have other stresses in their lives and she's had to take on 150% of the work at home and with their child. On top of that, he criticizes her that the house isn't clean enough.

How to resolve it? Her husband is 62 and resistant to change, so they have huge arguments. Turns out that his expectation was for a wife who would take care of him (even financially, as he had zero savings!) in his old age. He even admits it!

Lesson: TALK about how you'll live together! Observe how your potential partner runs his/her life as a single person. They won't change that much when you're married. If you think your potential partner is "all talk" and not going to be the way they describe when real life takes over, think seriously before you say "I do."

Posted by: Melanie B. | January 4, 2007 10:37 AM

I am laughing over the "I only like Mommy's sandwiches!" comment - when I was a child, my mom used mayo and my dad salad dressing, and the kids definitely had opinions about that!
Since I am not married, I can't say anything about how I personally make it work, but I have had one observation that I find interesting. In some of my relationships, a guy who had somehow been completely competent and self-sufficient living on his own became suddenly unable to do chores on a regular basis once I (or any female) was in the picture. It is not as common now for people to get married right after leaving home. Most people live as singles at some point, and presumably must figure out how to manage that situation, so I find it bizarre that so many marriages seem to still have at least one partner who doesn't seem to know how to do basic chores ...
Though the posters today seem to have things figured out - so that is encouraging!

Posted by: TakomaMom | January 4, 2007 10:39 AM

My ex-fiancee (when I was very young) once told me that because I didn't make as much money as he did, I was supposed to do more of the housework! Like waaa??????

This was regardless of the fact that we were both full-time students and worked around the same amount of hours in addition to school. But his mom was a very traditional SAHM and frankly he was pretty catered to growing up.

Inferred in my above paragraph, I do think it is the amount of time spent doing other things that matter, not the amount of money you make!

As far as dividing up chores, I ended up with most of them due to my dh's sleep problems plus for a long time he was a full-time SAHD so he did much of the child-rearing when our daughter was younger.

Posted by: librarianmom | January 4, 2007 10:39 AM

NC Lawyer, I agree with most of what you said as well. Believe me, I know that communication is the key, but I'm not going to silently wish that my husband cleans out the dishwasher. If I want the dishwasher cleaned out because I hate dishes in the sink -- I'm cleaning out the dishwasher, period.

All I'm saying is that letting the fact that I clean out the dishwasher the most (well, actually all the time in my house) build up and cause resentment is a waste of brain power and causes wrinkles (which I definitely don't want :-).

Conversely, if he wants the yard to look good, he's going to do it. He's not going to say, "hmmm, I've mowed the lawn the last 20 times, it's her turn." Nope.

Nothing is ever 50/50 and it all comes out in the wash in the end. My point is that keeping score (and I work with so many women who really do keep score) causes resentment and it NEVER resolves itself because it's impossible.

Bottom line: do what needs to be done and let it go. (And I definitely don't get dumped on -- I appreciate everything my husband does for our family -- if he doesn't change the toilet paper roll I really don't care because I like to look at the big picture, not the small meaningless (to me anyway) things).

Thanks for your comments, though.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 10:42 AM

Hey NC Lawyer,

I will come over and load up your dishwasher. In fact, I am about this run the dishwahser after I finish my coffee. (Working from home today as Fredia is out of town.)

My boss is so happy that I don't even have to go to work tomorrow! I will not be paid for tomorrow but it was my scheduled day off anyway!

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 10:44 AM

Well next time you meet someone like that then ask to be paid for all the extra work you provide and then you will be even.

Posted by: to librarianmom | January 4, 2007 10:44 AM

I think once in middle school when I realized that men and women are completely equal, all the gender roles forward from there were blown out of the water.

You do what works in your household. As much as I'd like to sit around and strum the guitar and not lift a finger toward any undesirable household maintenance tasks, it would be absolutely irresponsible, selfish, and unacceptable.

Of course my wife is lucky that she married a man who finds cooking, ironing, laundry, mopping, sweeping, etc... relaxing and somewhat enjoyable. But that's another discussion *toots horn*

Posted by: foo | January 4, 2007 10:45 AM

so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?

Posted by: s | January 4, 2007 10:47 AM

BTW there is a particular talent to loading the dishwasher properly!

Of course, we, who have dishwashers, could always go back to washing by hand! (As I did when I was a child.)

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 10:48 AM

"Considering my five sisters and a very traditional Polish heritage mother "

There is no prince so great as the only son of a Polish mother......

Posted by: DZ | January 4, 2007 10:50 AM

Well, we are both lazy. We would rather relax and talk and play than work any day. But, you have to have money to live and I'm better at that. The kids need to be shephered here and there, all the little things remembered and accomplished, and she is better at that.

So, a division of labor has evolved and we muddle through, more or less contentedly, and our life goes on, without a percentage on the horizon.

Posted by: Dave | January 4, 2007 10:50 AM

"so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?"

The neat freak cleans the house.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 10:50 AM

"so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?"

The neat freak does what matters to them. Maybe the slob does the cooking. But I've learned that most neat freakishness is control freakishness in another guise (and that goes for my own neat freak streak). There's no inherent moral virtue to a tidy house, so if one person just can't let it go, then that person is the one who cleans up.

My sister is an OCD neat freak (seriously - she's in therapy). Her counselor has told her fiance not to enable her. If she wants the kitchen sterilized, then she's the one who spends the time sterilizing it.

If the slob wants to spend time cleaning as a personal favor to the neat freak, that's one thing, but the slob is in no way obligated to recognize the neat freak as "right" and to work to the neat freak's standard.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2007 10:51 AM

I do clean the house but I just can't tolerate picking up after him - a grown person. I think he should be able to pick up his own dirty clothes, etc. Is that really an unreasonable expectation?

Posted by: s | January 4, 2007 10:53 AM

"so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?"

The neat freak cleans the house.

But the slob should always show appreciation in some tangible form!

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 10:53 AM

DZ - the princes of Polish mothers have close allies in the only sons of Italian mothers.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 10:55 AM

To S:
No, it definitely isn't an unreasonable expectation. I thought you just meant that he doesn't clean. I'll never understand people who can't put clothes in the hamper. I really won't. It's puzzling.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 11:00 AM

Armchair - Don't let the kids pick. Tell them to be happy they have something to eat and someone to fix it for them. We have two kids and alternate putting one of them to bed each night. Sometimes they are not so into daddy putting them to bed, but they've just got to deal. You may hear some whining, but they will get over it. It is so annoying isnt' it. My son always asks when daddy will be home when I make him do work since daddy time is mostly play time.

Re: the neat freak. My husband is pretty, pretty tidy - I am not. What do we do? We compromise. I work to make the house cleaner and he accepts that it isn't ever going to be as clean as he'd like. Whenever I have to do something I don't like I remind myself that I love this person and I want him to be comfortable and happy and help him when I can. He does the same so its pretty even. Last night I was all cozy in bed and had forgotten to check on the kids (generally my job) so my husband did it so I wouldn't have to get up. If you are always considerate of the other everyone gets most of what they want and no one is taken advantage of.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 11:03 AM

pick up dirty clothes? That is what I have a spouse for!

Posted by: anon | January 4, 2007 11:03 AM

keeping score: bad. Great, there, we all agree.

now for another perspective. While no one should seethe in silence or otherwise keep score or exist with raised blood-pressure, both spouses are obligated out of love and responsibility to keep their eyes open and determine whether something really needs to get done that neither spouse wants to do or that neither spouse has the time to do. Grouting around the master bathtub before there's a leak into the living room ceiling comes to mind as an example.

If one partner walks around as though there are elves or fairies that magically identify and accomplish all tasks, from paying the bills, to mowing the lawn, to doing all the cleaning, to making sure the homework folder is opened and signed, etc. and the rising kindergartner has all her shots by the deadline, and the other partner sees that various things need to get done and proceeds to do them, this is not a workable long-term solution, unless, of course, partner #2 is fine with this allocation. Generally, however, it's not okay to act like an ostrich because your partner will take care of everything even if you do nothing. Yes, the dumped-on partner is obligated to speak up if the arrangement isn't working, but that doesn't absolve the dump-er from all responsibility for simply opening his or her eyes.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:04 AM

I have to say that from the perspective of a gay male couple, Shulman's "marriage contract" strikes me as bizarre. Now, I know for plenty of heterosexuals the knee-jerk reaction is how dare I ever suggest a same-sex couple might have a useful take on a relationship question, since we're supposed to be inferior to opposite-sex couples in every way. But the advantage our perspective brings to this issue is that any division of labor we adopt is necessarily not based on the sex of the partners. We're a useful control group.

In our respective jobs outside the home, my partner earns about three times as much as I do, and he has a far less flexible schedule than I do. In the past, when our salaries and outside responsibilities were equivalent, our home division of labor was more 50-50. But now that our outside earning capacities and workloads have diverged, why on earth would I stomp my foot and demand that he spend a half-hour picking up his own dry cleaning, when I can much more easily do it, and he can spend that half-hour billing $250 for client work, which in my job I can't do? There is no sex discimination in this division of labor, and it makes sense to me as a way to maximize our household's productivity. And at times in the past when our outside roles were reversed, so was our household division of labor. This has never seemed like rocket science to us.

The real problem here, contra Shulman's 50-50 silliness, is that women were (and remain) far less likely to be the primary breadwinners in an opposite-sex relationship, whereas either my partner and I might just as easily have been in that position and, in fact, have reversed roles several times over our 11-year relationship. It's the consistent steering of women into the inferior role that needs addressing. And one part of that problem that shouldn't be overlooked is the lingering social stigma attached to their straight male partners if they are not the primary breadwinners.

What gender equality certainly does not dictate, in my view, is the embrace of some contrived ideology that says the half-hour I spend at the dry cleaners is economically equivalent to the $250 of work my partner can bill during the same half-hour. Someone has to get the dry cleaning. Who should it be? He could forego the billing opportunity and do it, or, because my schedule is more flexible, I can do it with much less opportunity cost. So I should do it. But insisting that the trip to the cleaners, even as a compensated job, is economically equal to his half-hour of billable time is absurd. Saying they are the same is a feel-good delusion that simply draws attention away from the real problem--which is why aren't more women in straight relationships the primary breadwinners (or their male partners willing to assume the support role)?

The only two defenses of Shulman I see are these: (1) women bear the children, (2) women are inherently more "domestic," or (3) straight men are incapable of taking on the support role. I assume no one interested in gender equality wants to defend the second proposition, and the third--"boys will be boys"--is the ridiculous straight-male "helplessness" excuse that always gets trotted out when someone asks a striaght man to stop being such a pig. The first--pregnancy--has merit, but it should be addressed in other ways, through generous workplace accommodations, not that that is easily achieved. But, as I said, there certainly have been periods when my partner and I reversed roles in terms of who was the primary breadwinner, so I can imagine the same thing occuring during pregnancy, but it shouldn't have to become a permanent role reversal.

Posted by: Steve | January 4, 2007 11:10 AM

Hey, Fo4! Maybe you've slacked and didn't get your wife that new, shiny scrubbing mop she so very much wanted under the tree this year! Maybe that's your motivation right there! And, if she does a good job, then perhaps you'll grace her with some "Biblically sanctioned" couple time and bestow upon her another of your spawn. She's obviously not busy enough with 4!

Posted by: to Fo4 | January 4, 2007 11:13 AM

Steve -- nothing "inferior" about that thoughtful post. Many thanks.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 11:14 AM


41-14, what a wonderful score. and you're looking at mid-60s and partly cloudy? wow, I'm jealous.

If you'll unload, I'll reload. Oh, except if you subscribe to the theory that there's a talent to properly reloading the dishwasher, then I'd better not mess it up by doing it badly. I'll just get out of the way and you can show me how it's done 24/7/365:>)

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I'm with pATRICK when it comes to criticizers and perfectionist spouses. If a task can only be done one way -- yours --then you can jolly well handle that task all the time and I won't mess it up. Ha! Fortunately, my husband and I share this trait, so neither of us criticizes the other's task handling for fear of ending up doing any such task all the time!

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 11:15 AM

In my opinion you should never have to "pick up dirty clothes."

Step one: Walk to the hamper.
Step two: Take off clothes.
Step two: Put them in.

The clothes never touch the floor.

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 11:15 AM

Rebecca - I live with my fiance and I can say that I am absolutely NOT satisfied with the division of labor. My fiance is getting his master's degree while working full time, and I also work full time. I do not mind doing more work when he is in class, since he works 9 hours a day and then takes 3 hour classes at night. However, over the recent semester break he did absolutely nothing. I finally approached him about it. So the next night, after making himself dinner (I was out at the time) he cleaned up. So when I came home, he ceremoniously brought me into the kitchen and said, "Look what I did!" Meaning he cleaned. My reaction was not so positive, as I said something along the lines of, "What? Do you want a friggin parade for cleaning up after yourself?" And then left the room.

I feel like we're setting a pretty bad precedent for our impending marriage. He will be done with his degree in two more semesters, and then it's my turn to go back to school. I honestly do not believe that he will pick up the slack, and it gives me a lot of stress. I have tried approaching him about this, but it never helps. Any suggestions?

Also, as far as the gender issues, I absolutely think there is a preconcieved notion out there. In a recent discussion with my mother and sister, I mentioned how I do not do my fiance's laundry (though I might throw in an item or two if he needs it when I'm doing my own laundry). They were absolutely appalled that I do not do his laundry. But when I mentioned that he would never do MY laundry, they didn't have a problem with that.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 11:16 AM

Steve, you are awesome. :)

Posted by: Kudos | January 4, 2007 11:17 AM

I'm so busy putting my clothes in the hamper that I forgot how to count :-)

Posted by: Agree, but | January 4, 2007 11:18 AM

By its very nature, the union of two people, read the marriage vows, must be a union of equals,respect for that premise has been long lost in the maze of no fault and the womens rights movement to rid women of all guilt or blame in the marriage game and make it a lukerative business venture if thing do go wrong, which they do in 55% for those men stupid enought to get married and even higher for those who don't, yes I agree its time men smarted up and got a binding contract.

Posted by: mcewen | January 4, 2007 11:18 AM

Going back to what equal said about communication -- that is what I think it really boils down to. Early in our marriage, we both commuted long distances and had long days. Somehow the housework kept falling way more on my side than on his, and I kept silent about it until one day I just lost it and ranted to him about how ridiculous it was that I had to do it all, etc., etc. It was a poor way to express myself -- he honestly didn't know how much it bothered me, and from then on we've tried to be more clear about our expectations.

Now that I'm at home with our son, I do feel more obligated to do much of the housework, though there are many things he does that I don't, including home renovation and yardwork. However, if I have freelance work to do, or I don't feel well (pregnant again), my husband picks up the slack, doing laundry, etc. And if he's out of town, I do my best to keep up the yard. We just have to remember to ask for help -- while it would be a dream to have our partners "just know" when we want them to do something, that's not always so. Telling someone what you want is a good way to get the help you desire! (And letting them provide that help without micromanaging).

Posted by: writing mommy | January 4, 2007 11:18 AM

Very well-reasoned, Steve. I couldn't agree more. I often get hung up on that male/female "inferiority" thing as well, suddenly feeling bad if I do something "inferior" (say, grocery shopping) while my husband agrees to see a late-in-the-day patient (and thus brings home enough money to finance a few more runs to the grocery store). It's silly, and I just should see the pure cost-benefit side of things, but since I am female, I can't be as relaxed about it as you seem to be, considering all the societal notions of equality of gender and all.

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 11:20 AM

In sum, today's posts confirm, though, that these issues are most easily resolved in a sensible manner in marriages where one spouse/partner is either not employed outside the house or is employed at a significantly less demanding job.

These issues are a bit more nettlesome if both spouses/partners are working highly, and equally, demanding jobs outside the house and the couple either doesn't make enough to afford household help, or one spouse doesn't want to spend the money to hire household help.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:22 AM


I guess that most women don't think that the male way to do laudry is correct.

The male way of laundry: One temp, one cup of detergent, one load of what is on top of the hamper (or floor).

Maybe this is why Fredia will not let me wash her underthings.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 11:22 AM

"so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?"

The neat freak cleans the house.

And then the neat freak complains that the other is not 'doing their share'.

The real question is how to come to a compromise about what really must be done in your home. Both must agree to a minimal level of household responsibility and then determine how they will handle that, whether it be 50/50 split, personal preference, etc. Then, anything beyond that should be handled by the person who cares WITHOUT COMPLAINING to the other.

For example, cleaning up spills should be done immediately, but mopping the kitchen floor could be weekly, bi-weekly, or every 3 days. If you decide, as a couple, that weekly is reasonable, then don't harass your spouse or feel martyred if you decide that you want it done every 3 days - just do it.

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 11:24 AM

xyz - do you really mop that frequently? Wow!

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 11:26 AM


"Do you want a friggin parade for cleaning up after yourself?"

RUN BEXIE RUN! This guy will expect a medal and a brass band for everything he does that he considers to be your job.

He'll be a lousy husband and a mediocre father. No amount of counseling, prayer, or hot monkey sex will change him. Get out while you can!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:26 AM

This is side-stepping a bit, but I have to ask this the men here this question.

Do you feel as though you're not allowed to be masculine anymore? I was watching that Burger King commercial the other day, where the men proclaim that they're hungry, and need a real meal. Of course, on the surface it's funny, but seeing as how it almost exactly emulates and depicts elements from the feminist revolution, it made me wonder if something deeper is going on here.

So, I asked my husband what he thought, and without pause he simply said "To be a heterosexual male in this society anymore is really, really hard. It's like it's not acceptable anymore to just be a guy."

Anyone else feel like this? I'm female, so I can't relate at all. But I wonder if the feminist revolution has gone to the extreme that anything male or masculine is just not necessary and important anymore.


Posted by: curious | January 4, 2007 11:28 AM

Bexie, I wrote in before I saw your comments. Discuss your concerns before you get to the blow-up stage. But, also know that some people are just NOT natural housekeepers, and so their inability to help out may be that they simply don't see it they way you do -- and you need to explain what you want. And when they do clean, it probably won't be exactly the way you do it -- but that's OK.

And don't ever do his laundry because of pressure from other women! My mother-in-law has always been shocked that I don't iron, not even my own clothes, and so when she visits she irons all my husband's shirts. Goody for her!

Posted by: writing mommy | January 4, 2007 11:29 AM


Why are you named after a cleaning product?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:30 AM

curious - also off topic, but related to yours check out this link to ads for Haggar pants for "MEN" one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

Kind of relating to yesteday's discussion, I have a hard time feeling pity for white men in America today - things may have changed, but they still have it pretty good.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 11:31 AM

Actually, I was the last of eight kids, so I had two brothers to go along with the five sisters, though the brothers were essentially grown and gone from the house before I remembered much. Eight kids is what you get when a traditional Polish farm girl marries an optimistic Irishman, I suppose. :~)

The older siblings have always said that we younger ones were spoiled, which is demonstrably true comparatively in certain respects (for instance, the older kids as teenagers kicked in half their earnings to the household when they were growing up because times were hard then and it was needed. That didn't happen by the time I got a job as a teenager, though my family would hardly have been mistaken as wealthy.)

So perhaps my older brothers learned more domestic self-sufficiency growing up than I did because of necessity, though I've not seen too terribly many signs of it in their adulthood. Granted, my oldest brother is essentially a generation ahead of me (20 years older), so you have a societal attitudes shift going on during that time as well. So it's hard to fairly compare apples to apples.

Again, learning from your shortcomings and preparing your kids better is the goal. At least it's my goal...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 11:32 AM

Not my fault - a cousin nicknamed my when we were small kids, and the name stuck.

How come you did not think of football and Greek mythology when you saw the name, as previous posters? You must like cleaning! :-)

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 11:35 AM

"xyz - do you really mop that frequently? Wow!"

LOL - that was just my example. In real life, I mop when I start to stick to the floor :)

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 11:36 AM

To xyz: Great answer. I could not have said it better. Working out a team definition of an acceptably clean house is key. Anything beyond that should be done without complaint by the partner who wishes extra cleanliness. And in creating that joint definition, reach a middle ground as much as possible. Respect trumps all.

Posted by: equal | January 4, 2007 11:36 AM

I use Comet.

Posted by: anon | January 4, 2007 11:36 AM

"Again, learning from your shortcomings and preparing your kids better is the goal. At least it's my goal..."

Well said, Texas Dad of 2.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 11:37 AM

Um, no. I don't think it's hard to be a heterosexual man's man these days. And I say this as a heterosexual man's man. It probably IS hard to be an unconsciously sexist man's man, but then again, you should be called out on that.

Posted by: anon for now | January 4, 2007 11:37 AM


The Polish prince is the youngest child as well!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:37 AM

Curious -- it's only hard to be a heterosexual male in this society if your wife won't let you be. For example, laundry is a job for the "big strong man." When we were first married and lived in a (okay -- her) condo, I insisted on carrying all of that heavy laundry to the laundry room (even though she'd done this herself for the year prior to me moving in). So here we are ten years later in a house, and I still lug the laundry, sort, fold, you name it. So I get to be "macho" doing "women's work."

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 11:38 AM

whew xyz - i too mop when i stick. I like to let the kitchen devolve to that end of the night bar floor feel (takes me back to the old days). Glad to know. Do you make people take their shoes off when they come into your house or no?

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 11:38 AM

Someone brought up the question of whether men can be "men" anymore, and whether or not feminism has gone "too far". I think it's a really interesting question. One example I have is should I take my fiance's last name? On the one hand, it would make things so much easier in the future when we have kids, and I definitely want to feel like a "family unit". On the other hand his name is impossible to spell let alone pronounce, and I feel tremendous pressure to not "give up" my name. I asked him the other day if he would consider taking my last name (for aforementioned reasons) and he was absolutely appalled and would never consider taking the woman's name.

Sometimes I wish there weren't so many options out there. If people just accepted name changes and didn't attach a stigma (i.e. subordinate wifey) to it, then it would be ok.

I defintely think there are two sides to the man's man argument. There are the men who do their share and don't balk at doing "women's work" - these are in my opinion true men. But then there are the men who use the man's man excuse to be lazy, "don't nag me woman, I'm watching football!"

I don't really have a solution to these problems, but I have a few ideas. 1) Take the stigma out of the phrase "women's work". Housework is important! This is his house, his things too, why can't he care for them? 2) Respect men who do things other than mow the lawn and repair stuff. I personally cringe everytime my fiance gets out the hammer and I would much rather be outside mowing than inside scrubbing the toilet...

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 11:42 AM

One other thing about "keeping track" -- earlier in our marriage I would do this, and complain that I was doing more. Husband would inevitably bring up some things he was doing that I wasn't giving him credit for, and deflate my argument. Eventually I learned that when I started feeling put-upon or self-righteous and got ready to complain, I should try and think about what his comeback would be. I can usually figure it out, and then I realize that we are each still doing "our share", and I don't pick the fight with him. Of course, this works because he does do a lot around the house.

Posted by: Arlmom | January 4, 2007 11:45 AM


Do NOT marry this man!!!
He shows all he classic signs of being a statistic in divorce court.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 11:45 AM

moxiemom, as long as you're not aiming for one of those establishments with the peanut shells on the floor, I share your standards.

it helps to buy a house without a lot of natural light and lower the wattage of your lightbulbs so you can't see the dust and dirt, as well.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 11:45 AM

so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?

ha, the neat freak does clean the house and then there is usually a fight about it. I have learned over the years to be better about being neater, but I can in no way compare to the neat freak I live with! I think being a neat freak is a trait you are born with.

Posted by: scarry | January 4, 2007 11:46 AM

I make people take off their shoes when they come into our house. That has signficantly cut down on our time spent cleaning. Not to mention the fact the we've never had another unfortunate event involving a dog end-product.

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 11:47 AM

'So when I came home, he ceremoniously brought me into the kitchen and said, "Look what I did!" Meaning he cleaned. My reaction was not so positive, as I said something along the lines of, "What? Do you want a friggin parade for cleaning up after yourself?" And then left the room.'

OK, you asked for suggestions. While I completely agree with your sentiment and understand that you were emotional about this issue, I don't believe your response was correct. Your man obviously thinks that this is a big deal, and to him, maybe it is. I tend to think that you can catch more flys with honey than vinegar.

My husband let me know clearly that remarks like that made him feel that he couldn't win. I wasn't happy when he didn't do something, and gave him a hard time when he did and tried to show me how proud he was. It is better to shower some praise, then the man will feel good about what he did and will be more likely to do it again. If you were to do something that you normally wouldn't and then wanted to show him, I'm sure you wouldn't want to hear a response along the lines of "So what, people do it all the time." This goes to respect for each other.

So, you could praise and thank him for a good job. Then you could lead into a discussion of how beneficial it would be for both of you if he continued to take on additional tasks. Point out things like giving you more free time to spend with him on things you like to do together.

Posted by: to Bexie | January 4, 2007 11:47 AM

Concerning Steve's comments "I have to say that from the perspective of a gay male couple..." I will comment on the lesbian couple that used to live next door to us.

One was obviously the husband and the other was the wife. They had more rigid stereotypical sex roles than Fredia and me. One of the most humorous sights was when they would work in the yard. The man would wear her white tee-shirt and sweat band. Sweat would be rolling off her face as she moved bags of mulch and mowed the grass. The wife (literally) reclined under the shade tree on a chaise lounge, sipping ice tea as she watched her man worked. The man would regularly complain to me about what a ditz her wife was! I could empathize as Fredia can be a ditz sometimes.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 11:49 AM

Back to the man's man argument, if I may. What to you all think of the stereotypes we see on television - i.e. the bumbling husband, usually overweight and incredibly incompetant, married to a beautiful wife who can "bring home the bacon and cook it too". As a female, I can say that it puts a lot of pressure on me, but how do the men feel?

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 11:49 AM

I do not make (or ask) people to take off shoes when they come into my home. I have always felt that they are my guests and should be comfortable and that it would be rude to ask them to remove shoes. I don't know why, I guess I just picked up that idea while growing up.

However, my children and their friends take off their shoes as soon as they come in without me asking.

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 11:51 AM

to poster at 11:47 - I do admit that my reaction wasn't the best (to the friggin parade comment). Later we talked about it and he said he was merely trying to point out that he heard what I asked of him and was acting on it. I told him that I was offended by my lack of praise when I keep the house in order.

I do think it comes down to what a previous poster said. If I "praise" him for cleaning up after himself, or thank him when he helps "me" out, I am basically admitting that it is actually my work, and he's just temporary relief.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 11:53 AM

Interesting responses thus far, particularly "it's only hard to be a heterosexual male in this society if your wife won't let you be."

You could have very well hit the nail on the head with that one. In regards to my own husband, I think a lot if it might stem from his past relationships, and their attitudes towards him and men in general.

He's still surprised at some of the things that don't bother me--after nearly 3 years together, too! Typical annoyances don't really bother me (i.e. the toilet seat position, dirty socks on the floor by the bed, belching, etc.)

I'd say the things that bug me the most are dirty dishes that are left somewhere in the house (usually his office) to get stuck with food. Or when he leaves lights on to run all day when we're not home. But I rationalize those grievances because they add up moneywise--extra water and soap to clean those nasty dishes, and electricity that's being wasted when no one is home. But honestly, that's really about it.

Posted by: curious | January 4, 2007 11:54 AM

Bexie -- HATE the TV stereotypes. The "What About Jim" thing perpetuates stereotypes, and the comedy isn't even funny. Of course, as a father, I have the same type of issues with the old The Bernstein Bear books (but I read them because the kids love them).

I'd rather have my gender portrayed as "bringing home the bacon and cooking it" over being portrayed as a bumbling idiot father any day. Pressure is better than mockery!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 11:55 AM

Back to the man's man argument, if I may. What to you all think of the stereotypes we see on television - i.e.....

I get tired of it because it isn't very flattering to men. I also get tired of the old drama over having sex that some of the shows model. So everyone loves Raymond, but his wife never wants to have sex with him? Please, is every husband an idiot and the wife is smart, pretty and slim? I don't think it is reality.

Posted by: scarry | January 4, 2007 11:57 AM

NC Lawyer - no peanuts - getting floors the color of food is also immensely helpful. Does anyone have the neighbor who is perfect wife/housekeeper with the perfect kids and golden lab?

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 12:02 PM

Thanks, NC.

Ajax, if it helps whenever I here that name I do envision Achilles and Hector. The cleaning material is a distant second.

Hmmm, since I'm generally already considered a dinosaur on these boards I won't get deeply into the Man's Man discussion. But I say the following at my own risk (see standard disclaimer from before.)

But I will say that no true man worthy of respect allows emasculation. And I go with my earlier statement from another time that no woman will deep down truly respect a man who lets himself be emasculated. Circumstances and changing societal situations can occasionally conspire to put you in situations where you look or feel foolish, but that doesn't shake a real man. You must be grounded in yourself. Since your manhood is an internal hardwiring, nothing as ridiculous or shallow as advertising/societal/peer pressures should ever change that. So no, being a real man is no harder now than it was, assuming you agree on what being a real man meant in the first place.

**soapbox off**

Feel free to sigh now, and feel sad for my unenlightened state... :~)

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 12:05 PM

Texas dad of 2 - so maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I think the definition of "emasculation" is important. What do you need to feel masculine? Do you need to be chopping wood and have a pretty wifey at home? Or does it boil down to being respected and happy in your marriage? There is one thing to respect your spouse, and another to disrespect them because of defined gender roles. What do you think?

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 12:10 PM

The male way of laundry: One temp, one cup of detergent, one load of what is on top of the hamper (or floor).

That's EXACTLY how I do the laundry. My husband is lucky that I also fold his, but I draw the line at putting it away. He's 40+, he can put his own clothes away. The one time he complained about my NOT putting it away, I offered to forego playing "Laundry Fairy" and he stopped complaining.


Got a single straight brother with the same viewpoint? I want to meet him in a few years...

Posted by: Irene | January 4, 2007 12:11 PM

Steve, thanks for giving your side - I'm coming from the other side of that debate (lesbian couple). We have fairly traditional gender roles in some respects (I'm 'the girl', partner is 'the boy') and certain tasks fall along those lines (I cook and shop, she's responsible for car maintenance and bills), but others are not (I am far handier with tools, she's responsible for lots more laundry and neatness). DD is responsible for trash, feeding the animals, folding laundry and toting clothes to the dryer (washer and dryer in separate rooms) and cleaning the bathrooms. DD and partner share the lawn stuff - I get called in for heavy hauling and other group activities (leaves - yuk!).

My problem with balance is that my partner had broken ribs in July. Ribs being what they are, it's January and healing is still only at 85 or 90%. I took over a LOT of the chores that my partner was doing while she was hurt - trash when DD isn't at home, laundry, cleaning, etc. I need to figure out how to give all that back to her now! Six months is a long time to do everything - especially since I'm the one with the full time, fairly rigid schedule and she's the one with the part time, incredibly flexible schedule. Any sugestions?

Posted by: RebeccainAR | January 4, 2007 12:12 PM

The male way of laundry: One temp, one cup of detergent, one load of what is on top of the hamper (or floor).

That's EXACTLY how I do the laundry. My husband is lucky that I also fold his, but I draw the line at putting it away. He's 40+, he can put his own clothes away. The one time he complained about my NOT putting it away, I offered to forego playing "Laundry Fairy" and he stopped complaining.


Got a single straight brother with the same viewpoint? I want to meet him in a few years...

Posted by: Irene | January 4, 2007 12:12 PM

Sorry for the double-posting. I didn't notice the time-lag.

Posted by: Irene | January 4, 2007 12:14 PM

Ah, the Polish prince, coddled by his mother and 5 sisters, knows how to be a Man's Man. Amazing...

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 12:14 PM

"Since your manhood is an internal hardwiring, nothing as ridiculous or shallow as advertising/societal/peer pressures should ever change that."

I think this is true, in theory, but in practice, can be a whole other ballgame. And a lot of this pressure can creep up subconsciously and subliminally.

Like with that BK commercial. On the surface, it's funny. But something about it made me really think about how men are being perceived in today's society. True, that if you don't buy into it, it shouldn't affect you. But the idea is already floating out there, which might be just as dangerous--if not moreso.

Posted by: curious | January 4, 2007 12:14 PM

Division of household labor has been one of the bones of contention in our marriage (2.5 years so far). I know I'm pretty lucky compared to a lot of women, but I still wish that my husband did more around the house. He and I both work similar (full-time) schedules, have similar commutes, and are part-time students. My work hours are more flexible than his, so I usually do stuff like meet repair-people, although he's been known to do it, too, if I can't. We don't think of there being a primary breadwinner; both of our incomes are important to the household, and they are both deposited to a joint checking account, so it doesn't really matter which of us earns the money.

We cook and shop together most of the time. My problem is that I do the vast majority of all cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and "household management" (e.g., budgeting and bills). I think this stems from the fact that I lived alone for several years before we were married, but he never did. When we first moved in together, about a year before we actually married, I just sort of naturally kept doing all the things that I'd always done. I should've insisted right away on a reasonable division of labor, but I have to admit that I'm with the earlier poster who let the resentment build and then blew up. I've gotten better about asking when I want him to do something, although I still wish he would just realize stuff needed to get done and do it without being asked sometimes. I don't like having the manager role all the time, especially when I have to ask repeatedly.

I try hard to ask him to "do" rather than to "help" - I don't want to own every household task. I definitely thank him for the things he does - again with an emphasis on his ownership of that particular task on that particular day. ("Hey, thanks for taking out the trash/cleaning the bathroom/etc. I really appreciate it!") I've found that he's gotten somewhat more appreciative of the things I do as I get more vocal about thanking him for what he does, which helps.

I will admit to chuckling to myself sometimes as he's doing various chores. I get regular updates while he's working. ("I just finished vacuuming the living room! Now I'm going to start on the kitchen!") I just do the job and keep on going. :-)

Sorry this is sort of rambling - it's something I've thought about quite a bit, so it's been really interesting to read about how other people handle this. I'm mulling over the idea of devising mutually acceptable minimum standards and both agreeing to stick to them.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 12:17 PM

I dislike the comedies on TV that show men as being sex-crazed, idiotic, overweight, bumbling incompetents, which means basically all of them. Their wives are usually portrayed as being the sensible ones, not to mention very attractive (how did these idiotic men end up with these hot women anyway?). But, as someone else said, white men are the last group that can be made fun of without fear of reprisal.

RE: the man's man discussion. It depends on just how you define being a "man's man", doesn't it? Does that mean being able to leer at other women, scratch yourself in public and generally act like an *ss? If so, then no, men can't do that anymore (or at least can't do it without getting into trouble).

If it means being comfortable with your own person, realizing the differences between men and women (and appreciating them!) and that you can do certain things better than your wife (and she can do certain things better than you without it bruising your ego), then yes, you can still be a man's man.

The things like throwing dirty clothes on the floor, leaving used dishes everywhere, being rude and crude and socially unacceptable in public, aren't being a 'man's man'. That's being a jerk.

Posted by: John | January 4, 2007 12:19 PM

Future mom

Why not make a list of all the chores and post it? Maybe even put names by each chore if necessary?

Posted by: anon | January 4, 2007 12:20 PM

To anon at 12:20:

We've tried that. In a fit of pique once before we were married, I made a list of chores that needed to be done, including instructions for how to do them. (That was another issue - his mom did nearly everything, so he really genuinely didn't even know how to do a lot of things initially.) That wasn't a good way to handle things, obviously, and it really didn't help.

More recently, we've tried writing down a list of things that needed to get done each week (since they vary) and each picking which ones we want or are willing to do. That really helped with consciousness of the equality of the division, but putting together the list took almost as much time as some of the chores on it. We're still working out the solution that works best for us.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 12:25 PM

I have been busy today but I found in our marriage the division of labor fell on natural inclinations. Also it is never a 50/50 split for long. Like others have said, sometimes it is 60/40, other times 70/30 and maybe in rare times 90/10. But in the end, we work as a team and things go well. To takomamom: I don't think it is always that the guys sort of forgot how to do chores once they got a women. I think part of the reason is that men don't do chores the way women want them done. Yes, DH can do laundry, cook, and get the kid out the door. Can he do it in the time frame and way I find acceptable? Heck No.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 12:25 PM

One of the biggest reasons men marry is to avoid living in squalor. You can't blame them for shirking housework - there's no big payoff from their point of view.

If you are planning to have children, be advised. These guys don't get better, they get worse and worse and worse.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 12:32 PM

For some reason, my favorite daughter (11) has taken over the tasks of doing everybody's laundry. She also will clean her brother's room as well as the rest of the house spontaneously without being asked. She loves to bake cookies and all kinds of domestic work that we characterize as "inferior".

Am I raising an angel? This is a girl that makes it very, very difficult to say "No" to.

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 4, 2007 12:33 PM

fo4:I wouldn't let her clean her brother's room on a regular basis. That is his job and responsibility (unless you are talking about baby boy and not annoying son). But her kind heartness should not be used against her by her siblings. It sends a bad message to others about taking advantage and send the message to favorite daughter that she is a door mat.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 12:45 PM

regarding - One temp, one cup of detergent, one load of what is on top of the hamper (or floor)

Actually, the temperature makes no difference. The water from your tap is not hot enough to kill germs. So, washing all of your clothes in cold makes the most sense - less expensive (you don't have to pay to heat cold water) and better for the environment (energy doesn't need to be used to heat cold water).

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 12:47 PM

One of the biggest reasons men marry is to avoid living in squalor. You can't blame them for shirking housework - there's no big payoff from their point of view.

If you are planning to have children, be advised. These guys don't get better, they get worse and worse and worse.

What a shrew you are! What sterotyping! I am sure that if you ever happen to get married, it will not last long or you will emasulate your male

Posted by: anon | January 4, 2007 12:48 PM

Bexie, I had heard that unless it is at around boiling point, there is no germ killing advantage to hot water. Same reason washing hands in cold water has the same effect as washing in warm water. But I thought higher temperatures of water, does break grease down faster. So doesn't it still make sense to wash in hot water if you have grease on your clothes?

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 12:49 PM


Is this the daughter who is having trouble in school? She may be taking on tasks in which she can succeed to counteract the negative feelings of doing poorly elsewhere.

No cleaning of brother's room ever!!

Yet another reason your whole family should be in counselling big time......

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 12:51 PM

"I do think it comes down to what a previous poster said. If I "praise" him for cleaning up after himself, or thank him when he helps "me" out, I am basically admitting that it is actually my work, and he's just temporary relief."

I disagree. Trust me, the more praise he gets (and keep your eye-rolling to yourself), the more he will want to help. When I visit my boyfriend, I used to spread my crap everywhere, his whole bedroom and usually the dining/living area were a mess, and his usually neat apartment was a shambles. Eventually I started cleaning up after myself and he was so grateful that I felt ashamed of the way I'd acted before and resolved to do even more to help him out. We've been together almost a year; I am no longer a "guest" in his place when I visit. I'm an adult and can and should clean up after myself, but I won't lie: his appreciation motivated me a lot.

By the way, you can be a man's man and still clean up after yourself. It's not "women's work." My boyfriend, the neat and clean guy with the perfect apartment, is every bit 100% real man.

Okay, I'm talking about my boyfriend WAY too much. I'd still like to hear what people think about my original question: is it sexist if a woman actually LIKES to clean and do household chores? Because sometimes I enjoy it; it doesn't always seem like a chore.

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 12:51 PM

"is it sexist if a woman actually LIKES to clean and do household chores?"

I don't see how it could be.

Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2007 12:55 PM

Mona - I think it only qualifies as "sexism" if one gender expects the other gender to enjoy a particular task. If you like doing something, that's cool! But you can't always just only do the things you enjoy doing.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 12:55 PM

Father of 4,
Maybe your daughter is going to be the next Martha or Rachael Ray or something. I don't think she should have to clean up after her siblings, but if she likes it, more power to her. If she likes to bake I would encourage that and maybe send her to a cooking class. Every talent doesn't have to be measured in grades. Maybe she will go on to be a world class chef or something. I don't think your family needs counseling. Who is normal anyway!

Posted by: scarry | January 4, 2007 12:57 PM

Bexie...that's true, I've found. One of the downsides of all that great-smelling, clean laundry is that you can't just cuddle in it when it's warm out of the dryer; you have to fold it and find a place to put it. Bummer.

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 12:57 PM

I'm not so sure that Father of 4's daughter should be barred from clean her brother's room. Pretty much without dispute, everyone on the board today has said the most workable approach to divvying up household tasks is for each to do according to what needs to be done, what one enjoys, and what one has an ability to do. If Father of 4's daughter wants to clean her brother's room along with other tasks she sees need to be done, isn't that fine as long as her brother is pitching in to handle some other meaningful cleaning tasks (voluntarily or not). I mean, what if the brother does all the laundry or cleans the kids' bathroom every week. Isn't the best way to produce adults who don't keep score to encourage kids who don't keep score, i.e. This is what our family needs to get done this week in order to function. Suzy, since you like to clean the bedrooms, Annoying Son will load and unload the dishwasher when he gets home from school each day." I agree with you wholeheartedly that the message to the boy should not be, be lazy and your sister will take care of all the drudge chores, including ones that otherwise would be on your plate.

To hark back to a blog from some time ago, however, if we are talking about Annoying Son whom I suspect would benefit from any number of behavior mod if not medication therapies for his (I admit I'm playing doctor) probably undiagnosed ADHD, then please don't let him grow up to be the really, nice thoughtless spouse that has become used to others cleaning up after, and for, him. That makes his sister, and his parents, enablers.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 12:58 PM

foamgnome - as for the grease, I have no idea. Are you talking about food grease, that can be pretreated, working grease (as in from fixing the car), or just bodily grease (i.e. an oily spot on a tie - also can be pretreated)? Maybe heloise would know better!

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 1:05 PM


Not sure further explanation will prove overly clarifying. But I don't mean masculine in any chopping wood he-man, never admit you're wrong, don't stop to ask for directions when you are lost kind of way.

I have hinted before that I believe men are best and truest to their masculinity when they take on the roles of chivalry and proud protectors and providers. Being willing to take on hard roles and not expected to be thanked for it. Standing up and doing what you have to do. It's not all of it, and maybe not even the best examples, but that covers at least a little of my definition. (And before anyone goes off, women obviously share many of those traits, along with the standard disclaimer.) In your relationship with your partner for me it means to means to love, honor, and cherish--just like the vows say.

(I'm sorry for those regular readers that have heard all this substantially before, but our new poster Bexie asked, and I didn't want to just ignore it. Besides maybe if I keep repeating it in slightly varied ways, some day I may write it the way I intend for it to sound. Not there yet, obviously... ;-)

By the time I've finished lunch and posted this, of course, the board will have already answered it five hundred ways, moved on, and it will likely be hopelessly outdated...


Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 1:07 PM

I'm part of another lesbian couple, and I can also affirm that having no gender roles to fall back on definitely helps when you're trying to divvy up household responsibilities. We don't really do very traditional roles: I make most of the money, but I also do most of the cooking because I like to. (Theoretically, whomever doesn't cook cleans up the kitchen. Works about 70% of the time.) My wife makes less money but has a more demanding job, so I have more time. (I still work 50+ hours a week, but less than she does.) Since both of us like things clean, that can mean that I do most of the cleaning. She does more of the dirty jobs and maintenance. I change light bulbs because I am taller.

We don't have it down perfectly yet--in fact, we recently had a fight about how I felt like my priorities were always in second place and everything was my job. OTOH, after we had this fight, I've noticed that my wife is paying more attention to keeping things clean and not leaving it all for me to do. I appreciate this and have told her so. As someone else said, we love each other and want to make our joint lives easier, not more stressful.

The only advice that I can give is the advice I give myself: manage stress levels through whatever means are necessary (getting enough exercise is key for me), and remember what my true priorities are. I could have a perfectly clean house all by myself. That's not really my ideal.

Posted by: Historian | January 4, 2007 1:09 PM

I think I was talking about food grease. I don't know much about automotive grease. LOL.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 1:10 PM

Polish prince

What are the "hard roles" you've taken on that a woman couldn't do as well or better?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 1:11 PM

Bexie, instead of praise, try thanks. He doesn't need to be rewarded verbally like a 3-year-old, but simply thanking each other for what each of you does will encourage you both to do more for each other. I used to be really bad about "friggin' parade" comments myself, and my husband told me almost exactly what the other poster mentioned: that he felt like he couldn't win no matter what he did. Since then, we both thank each other for everything we do, and things are a lot more balanced, and we actually both tend to do a lot more around the house. Sounds corny, but we don't need to keep score because it feels good to help each other out and contribute to a clean, smooth-running household.

Surprised this hasn't come up yet: discuss what no one wants to do, and hire someone else to do it! We have a cleaning lady (an interesting issue in itself in the discussion of "gendered work") come every 2 weeks. Not only do we then have made beds, clean bathrooms and unsticky, dog-hair-free floors, but my neat freak can take a break. There is nothing like walking into your cleaned house at the end of the day--and it's today, actually, so I get that treat when I get home. And we get to spend a lot more time with our kids. Some may object that this sends the wrong message to the kids, telling them that one shouldn't have to clean up after oneself. I don't mind showing my kids that it's okay to get some help if message I want it to send is that it's okay to get help if you can't do it all yourself. And they still have to pick up their toys before the cleaning lady comes anyway. :)

Posted by: niner | January 4, 2007 1:11 PM

Oh, and about Fo4's daughter, I don't think that it's a good idea to let her clean her brother's room--for his sake, not for hers. He needs to learn how to clean a room and keep a space in working order (and develop the habit of doing so). Who's going to do it when he's grown up?

Posted by: Historian | January 4, 2007 1:16 PM

Whoops, that penultimate sentence should have read, "I don't mind showing my kids that it's okay to get some help if you can't do it all yourself."

Posted by: niner | January 4, 2007 1:18 PM

This topic has been such a huge one in our marriage. My husband is a kind, generous person. He works really hard at work.

But he sucks at chores. By sucks I mean when laundry was his responsibility he bought new underwear rather than wash them and when taxes were his responsibility they weren't filed in three years. And we had jointly decided on areas of responsibility.

Even when we were both working full time I ended up doing the lion's share. Once I dropped to part time to stay home with our son I ended up with almost all of them. He does pitch in when I get desperate .

I'm not happy about it, but I chose to "lose" so that we could not fight about it. It does cut into the time I have for other things. In an ideal world after 12 years he would have changed, but nope.

Posted by: Shandra | January 4, 2007 1:19 PM

My husband does a great job vacuuming and washing dishes and he's generally neat and tidy. He's also very thorough -- to the point where he's so SLOW that it drives me crazy to be around him when he's doing these chores! But I saw how clean he got things and quickly stifled my impulse to hurry him up and realized that it was his nature to be slow and thorough and I was lucky to have someone so completely willing to do housework that I only had to ask and he'd jump right in. (He does plenty of chores without my asking, too.)

Sometimes you have to step back and see the larger picture and sometimes it's just a person's nature. Some men are not at all interested in housework of any sort and will avoid it at all costs. Some women are the same way and I think that when two people who hate housekeeping and find it degrading and tedious get together, it's likely to be disaster and anger. At that point, they should just hire someone to help, if possible.

Posted by: Lora in NW | January 4, 2007 1:26 PM

As a follow up to my cleaning lady post, keep in mind that other tasks can be "hired out" as well--laundry and yard work come to mind. Sure, it's not free, but it's likely cheaper than therapy--remember Lizzie's sister--and affords you more couple and/or family time. You may find it worth every penny if it helps bring you some balance.

Posted by: niner | January 4, 2007 1:27 PM

I make it a habit not to answer anon posters. It encourages trolls.

If the person who has taken a liking to calling me a Prince want to acknowledge themselves with a name, then I'd be happy to attempt an answer. Not that this is truly what you appear to seek.

I do note however that you set up a straw man and a premise that I never offered. I said women share the few traits I mentioned above, just as men can be nurturing and care-giving.

Instead I chose to answer more on what I think is positive about masculinity, rather than trying to define emasculating as Bexie asked. What each person would define as emasculating is too much in the eye of each beholder.

I had the strangest feeling I shouldn't have answered Bexie's original posting...too much (intention?) misreading always follows potentially loaded questions.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 1:28 PM


After 12 years of bailing out your lazy husband, why would he change? And your son has been a witness to this nonsense his whole life!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 1:28 PM

"so what do people do when one person is a neat freak and the other person just doesn't care about the state of the house?

ha, the neat freak does clean the house and then there is usually a fight about it. I have learned over the years to be better about being neater, but I can in no way compare to the neat freak I live with! I think being a neat freak is a trait you are born with."

Scarry, I'm in the same boat. I just don't notice or mind untidy mess as much as my husband and I never will. That said, I try very hard to pay more attention, to so some tidying when I have a down moment, and to make sure to thank him for the tidying he does.

On the other hand, I'm more tuned into actual dirt and grime than he is, so I'm usually the one who cleans the bathroom and who REALLY cleans the kitchen - meaning getting the grime that accumulates under the dish rack and so on, not just getting the dishes in the dishwasher and wiping down the counters. So I think it does basically even out, though sometimes he doesn't seem to think so.

Posted by: Megan | January 4, 2007 1:28 PM

but, Shandra, why should he change? You're willing to do it, there aren't any fights about it, and it's all getting done. I'm not giving you a hard time at all, but I'm not seeing any impetus for him to change.

If the spouse doesn't have some explicit indication that there's a problem, I am not sure it's even fair to complain to strangers about the behavior. I don't intend this to come across as snarky as it sounds even to me, but haven't been able to find a way to word it that doesn't carry some "tone". Please understand.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 1:29 PM

Texas dad of 2 - which posting of mine were you unsure of answering? I'm not trying to ask loaded questions (as you said, I'm new here!).

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 1:33 PM

Texas Dad of 2, I've benefited from reading every post you've made today. Please ignore the lurking jerks. They contribute nothing substantive to what has been a mostly productive exchange. What say we assign the anonymous "Prince" poster to the holier-than-thou cave?

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 1:36 PM

I'm pretty new here, too, but I lurk without posting pretty often, and I think I know what Texas Dad of 2 is getting at. I think his description of a good man could be applied to any good *person*. Both men and women can be good protectors and providers to a family (they may choose to divide the labor involved in those roles however they wish - income, cleaning, and childcare, among other things, all fit those roles). I also tend to think that "chivalry" is currently more about respecting one another and doing for one another because you can and you care about each other than about gender roles and the big strong man taking care of the little lady. Texas Dad, do I have it about right?

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 1:44 PM

RE: the cleaning lady - you could always just have the cleaning lady clean your room and the common areas and leave the children's rooms and bathroom to them. You have a cleaning lady because you work and you have earned it. Part of their "job" is cleaning their space. I'm a SAHM and my 4 and 6 yr.olds clean their own rooms and bathroom (w/supervision - I scrub the toiled but they use wipes on the rest) and put away their own laundry. I don't work for them. As they get older I will expect more of them. It is part of being part of a family - we all contribute. It takes a little effort to teach and supervise them, but I think it teaches them valuable life skills and will pay off in the long run. Just a suggestion.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 1:45 PM

NC lawyer,

Are we about to run out of caves?

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 1:46 PM


I'm no blaming you for asking the question, it's just that the nature of the topic was bound to be controversial, and as I asid I'm already considered to be a dinosaur by some of the readers of this board, so maybe it was inevitable. But just as FYI, the quesiton you asked was:

"Texas dad of 2 - so maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I think the definition of "emasculation" is important. What do you need to feel masculine? Do you need to be chopping wood and have a pretty wifey at home? Or does it boil down to being respected and happy in your marriage? There is one thing to respect your spouse, and another to disrespect them because of defined gender roles. What do you think?"

And to NC Lawyer, thanks again. You are very kind. Are you sure you're a lawyer? :~) Sorry about Wake Forest, BTW, if football interests you...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 1:52 PM

Apparantly, we may have to renovate and add-on to the holier-than-thou cave, but the rest of the village appears to have plenty of cave units available for civil dwellers of all persuasions, enough even for one or two graduates of elite schools.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 1:52 PM


SAHM makes her 4 year old "clean" a bathroom? 4 year olds can't wipe themselves properly!!

What does SAHM do all day?

Posted by: EJ | January 4, 2007 1:52 PM

You mean we have to fold it AND put it away? I thought laundry was done by the laundry fairy just like the toilets are cleaned by the toilet fairies and dishes by the dish fairy. This is worse than finding out there is no Santa Claus - thanks alot people!

Posted by: SS MD | January 4, 2007 1:54 PM

Texas dad of 2 - I guess my point for asking that question was how am I supposed to know if I'm emasculating a man if I'm not sure what emasculation entails? It seems like you have some general viewpoints, but is there a "definition" to emasculation, or is it on a man-by-man basis?

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 1:55 PM

FutureMom, you posted while I was've captured things pretty well, especially for our day and age.

I'll just leave it there...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 1:56 PM


I'll skip sitting on the toilet that was cleaned by your 4 year old!

Posted by: Liz | January 4, 2007 1:56 PM

EJ - I don't think SAHM actually has her 4 year old wearing rubber gloves and scrubbing on her hands and knees. Just having the tot in there dabbing at the same spot for 15 minutes conveys the message that the kid is also required to help out.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 1:57 PM

EJ - if you've ever been responsible for a family and a house you would know that one bathroom is not a big slice of the work I have to do. If you read closely I supervise their cleaning, I don't just hand the two of them a bottle of bleach and let them go. I think it is important that they know that they are responsible for their things and members of the family. I also make them put their own dishes in the dishwasher. As you can imagine, this allows me to eat bonbons all day whilst their tiny hands do all the work.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 1:58 PM

Texas Dad of 2, I believe I'm about to blow the short-lived nice reputation, but thanks for the compliment! (and I'm a transactional attorney - no courtrooms for me -- I like when everyone gets along.)

wow, EJ. Moxiemom is raising her kids to contribute to the family and clean up after themselves. What does she do all day -- what, between 8:15 when the kids leave for school until 3:30 when they get home? Like 6.5 hours is an endless of time for her to ponder her toenails and scrub the washboards with a toothbrush. Perhaps she's at the gym. Perhaps she's ironing her husband's shirts. Perhaps she's volunteering at a homeless shelter. The fact that she and her husband have determined that their family works best when she is not employed outside the house does not mean that her primary responsibility is to wait on her children hand and foot. Really.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 1:59 PM

Hey Texas dad of 2,

You can be my prince any day. Although I am sure that many of the anon posters don't think I have much taste because I also like father of 4.


My husband goes beyond neat freak and into his own realm of clean. I grew up with coal dirt and dust. You could never really get it out of clothes or curtains, so I am just not that neurotic about everything always being perfect.

Posted by: scarry | January 4, 2007 2:01 PM

Bexie, the polite response when someone does something you ask them to do is "thank you." If you'd like them to continue doing things in the future, verbaly slapping someone in the face is not the way to do it.

maybe if you say thank you more often, he'll feel like his contributes are valued and keep it up. Who wants to do more for someone who doesn't appreciate it?

Posted by: Single and denied | January 4, 2007 2:02 PM

I should have previewed before I submitted...

It should be:

Maybe if you say thank you more often, he'll feel like his contributions are valued and keep it up.

Posted by: Single and denied | January 4, 2007 2:03 PM

assuming you want a serious answer, the reason not to say, "thank you", is because I thank someone when they do something nice for ME. Cleaning the house we both share isn't something you're doing for me. I don't thank my husband when he puts gas in his own car. Why thank him when he does a load of his own laundry?

I'm not suggesting that saying thanks isn't the best response in a particular relationship or particular situation, but thanking a spouse for handling a household task or two tends to send the message that the household tasks are all yours and he or she did you a personal favor. It's not that difficult to understand.

Posted by: to Single and denied | January 4, 2007 2:05 PM


Oops,I just remembered that you are a charter member of the holier-than-thou club!

I don't care how closely you supervise, I'm not sitting on a toilet cleaned by a 4 year old kid!!

Posted by: EJ | January 4, 2007 2:05 PM

been off for a bit... but it would be assumed he would be able to put his clothes in the hamper especially when it is usually right beside him... I have recognized that if I want something done my way, I need to do it and I'm okay with that. It is just the daily pick up after yourself stuff that drives me around the bend! I have found ways to "influence" him to do these things but they seem underhanded and not healthy in the long term... maybe he should read some of the postings on here today from those who seem to get it :)

Posted by: s | January 4, 2007 2:06 PM

Scarry, truly, you are like a caricature. I mean that in a very nice way. I bet your life would make an interesting story.

Posted by: PostIt | January 4, 2007 2:06 PM

To Bexie: How about just saying "looks good". It is a fact and acknowledges his "accomplishment" at the same time.

Posted by: SS MD | January 4, 2007 2:07 PM

Thanks Bexie and NC Lawyer - I love how on this board the SAHM is either a slave and martyr to her family or some sort of leisure wife. Can't win can I? I keep thinking this is a place to share ideas and experiences (which it seemed to be mostly today) but EJ has reminded me that if I have anything to feel good or positive to contribute I'd better keep it to myself or risk a snark attack. BTW Bexie, glad to see you back.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 2:10 PM

I agree with moxiemom and NC lawyer: there is nothing wrong with expecting a kid to help out. Often, kids see it as something fun, and even if they don't, they still learn that they're expected to contribute to the household. I'm all for letting kids be kids, but the job of raising a kid means giving them the tools to be successful, productive adults, and that includes within the home as well as in the outside world.

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 2:10 PM

"But he sucks at chores. By sucks I mean when laundry was his responsibility he bought new underwear rather than wash them and when taxes were his responsibility they weren't filed in three years. And we had jointly decided on areas of responsibility."

Your husband is also breaking the law by not filing taxes - hope you have worked this out with Uncle Sam.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 2:11 PM

I don't make the kids clean their own room. It's their room, they can keep it how they see fit, but they do have to work things out since all 4 kids share a room with their brother/sister.

How the kids negotiate over division of labor is one of the things I love about having a family of multiple children. It's a hoot to see how many cookies the annoying son can get from his sisters from killing the spider in the bathroom. If they get along, that's fine with me. Why should I interfere and spoil the serenity?

Of course, my son has chores of his own, like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, and the new one this year : getting on the roof to put up and take down the Christmas lights. He likes getting on the roof!

And the 4 year old likes putting/sorting the silverware. He comes running when I announce, "Who wants to do the fun job with the dishes?" With proper motivation, even a 4 year old gopher can make a contribution when cleaning the house.

The friggin' parade comment is barred from my toolchest of motivation. What a terrible thing to say to someone who just put effort into doing something they thought would improve your well-being.

Right now, our house is looking a little trashy, a post-Christmas consequence, but everybody in our house knows that on Saturday we are all going to have a good time cleaning up. I'll begin by the ceromoneous kicking the tree out of the house.

And everybody will be happy because the house will once again be clean. Work makes people happy, especially when gratitude is shown for their effort.

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 4, 2007 2:11 PM

Thanks I think. You know, I love the smell of coal. I think that should be my new tag line on emails. :)

Posted by: scarry | January 4, 2007 2:11 PM

"the reason not to say, "thank you", is because I thank someone when they do something nice for ME. Cleaning the house we both share isn't something you're doing for me."

I think this is all messed up. I get thanked for making dinner. When my wife cleans up, I thank her. When we take care of the animals, we thank each other. (And if one of us gasses the other's car, that's also worthy of notice.) Chores _are_ something done for you/them, as what you do is done for them/you.

You might find our home nauseatingly nice, but it suits us and it's more pleasant to be around than a roommate situation where you don't get thanked because X is your job.

I also believe in management "attaboys" and "attagirls". I like them, and I give them. Even though by doing work I am doing nothing to be thanked for--just my job.

Posted by: Historian | January 4, 2007 2:14 PM

SS MD - I think that is the closest thing I've heard to an even balanced response regarding this topic.

single and denied - so... are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me? Are both of those seemingly opposite posts both actually from you?

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 2:14 PM

"The real problem here, contra Shulman's 50-50 silliness, is that women were (and remain) far less likely to be the primary breadwinners in an opposite-sex relationship, whereas either my partner and I might just as easily have been in that position and, in fact, have reversed roles several times over our 11-year relationship."

Counterpoint, my husband and I (a woman) have in fact reversed roles several times in the course of our 6 year relationship in terms of who-makes-more. The majority of the years, I've made more than him. Right now, we're exactly equal, but he's expecting a promotion in the next couple months which will have him outearning me.

However, this disparity in income (either way) does not necessarily equate to a difference in free time to do household chores. The difference in free time, IMO, is what should drive any differences in division of labor, rather than any differences in salary.

Posted by: To Steve | January 4, 2007 2:18 PM

To the poster with the 4-year-old, from the woman whose husband's mom did all the housework when he was growing up:

PLEASE keep having your son clean the bathroom with you, even if you feel compelled to sneak into the bathroom late at night and reclean it. You're doing both him and his future roommates, significant others, and wife a favor. Every kid should know how to keep house and do at least basic maintenance on a car, and all the other general jobs that need to get done in a household.

Maybe a 4-year-old can't get a bathroom really clean, but an 8-year-old who started learning at 4 can. I was scrubbing bathrooms solo by then, and I did a darn good job, if I do say so myself. I took pride in being able to do a "grown-up" job well, and my mom couldn't do it anymore because of her health.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:23 PM

i find the definition of what makes a man a man interesting. my husband is only son in family of girls & he got the basic speach from his mom & dad about what his responsibilities are as the boy of the family. the consequence - he hates and still resents assumptions about what he is expected to do because he's a man. i grew up the only girl in a family of boys. got the reverse speach. luckily for both of us we are able to communicate what we want & expect. we don't have too much trouble with the division of chores.

i don't have any trouble thanking my husband when he does something but that is because my husband makes darn sure that he thanks me in return. the question then becomes bexie are you thanked for what you do or is it expected that you do them?

Posted by: quark | January 4, 2007 2:25 PM

Thanks future mom. I consider teaching these things to a boy a gift to my future daughter in law! My mother in law rasied a son who is an awesome contributor and for all of our disagreements, she has a heck of a son. Its the least I can do for humanity. haha

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 2:26 PM

For the light sleeper: I am a light sleeper too - an alarm clock with "white noise" has saved me on many a night. I have a choice of the ocean (great to wake up to by the way), a river, etc).

Posted by: SS MD | January 4, 2007 2:28 PM

quark - the problem lies in that I am not thanked for them. If he would say, "thank you for cleaning up since I was busy" that would convey the message that I did some of his share of the work. But by not thanking me, and expecting a thanks if he does something, then these tasks get defined as my job. Thanks for bringing that up, I think it helps clairify my point.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 2:29 PM

Ignore last comment - meant for someone else.

Posted by: SS MD | January 4, 2007 2:29 PM

You're welcome, Moxiemom! You are absolutely doing him a favor, in addition to your future daughter-in-law. My brother and I both learned to keep house when we were pretty young. We are now both the primary housekeepers in our own homes.

The housekeeping issues with my husband are not that big a deal - in most respects, he's a thoughtful, helpful guy who is really good to me (and I to him, I think). I just wish sometimes that he had a better sense for when things need to get cleaned. I don't think he even notices dirt, grime, and clutter!

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:32 PM

Futuremom - my husband is a straightener and I'm the cleaner. We compliment each other nicely. He can't really clean well and I can't straighten well. Seems like everyone here figures something out for themselves and consideration is the common thread.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 2:35 PM

I have actually found, small sample mind you, that families with a SAHP the kids do more chores then the kids from WOHPs. Maybe that is because WOHPs find it easier to do it themselves or contract out the work to a cleaning lady. But I think it is a valuable thing to teach children to contribute to the household. And I am sure at age 4, not too much cleaning is actually being done. Moxiemom is probably spending a lot of time supervising and recleaning. But by age 8-10, she will probably have some good cleaners on her hands. But it does make you wonder, if the kids are doing so many of the chores, after age 8-10, what do the parent's do? I doubt you are volunteering 30 hours a week. Most homes can be cleaned in about 8-10 hours a week with a regular daily pick up.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 2:36 PM


I think that after today's posts, I fear that discretion is likely to be the better part of valor now on my personal views on something like emasculation. It'd likely take a full psych or sociology 101 to go into this in any depth or do it justice. And my answers are more than likely to lead to nothing but further angst.

BUT I will offer one further simple thought exercise, in the spirit or trying to communicate something of value. At least one poster here hinted at the classical nagging, hen-pecking analogy to suggest emasculation of a male partner.

I'd suggest instead of trying to think of it as taking a part of yourself that you are particularly proud of, that you think of as a strength or noble quality--and then having someone thoughtlessly denigrate that and turning it into weakness, and/or suggesting thereby that you are weak. In this thought pattern emasculation only happens if you let it happen. People can be jerks and belittle, but it only emasculates you if you let it get into your view of self--if you let it affect you. If you are grounded in your view of yourself, comfortable in your own skin regardless of what others or society thinks, and willing to withstand the slings and arrows, then you cannot be emasculated.

If there is any concern that needs to be brought to bear on emasculation these days, though, it might be in today's classrooms. There has been discussion made in various forums that today's school environment considers boys to be unruly or broken versions of girls in the learning environment. Emasculation of a boy before he gets a chance to become a man is where the real potential problems exist today. There is a difference between teaching respect for rules and trying to take boyhood out of a boy, or to suggest that masculinity is a negative. This is a problem that may affect future generations because of our latest progressive (far too often male bashing) education model and curricula. That seems far more important and pressing to me than the mindless advertising drivel that passes for cleverness today.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 2:37 PM

As a matter of principle,I don't get this "thanking" business at all. I mean, Bexie's fiance, as I understand it, cleaned up the mess HE made by making and eating HIS dinner. What is there to be thankful about? It would be like thanking him for dressing himself in the morning.

On the other hand, thanking makes sense under the circus-animal-training theory: it's much easier to get an animal to do X if it associates X with treat Y.

I waver between these considerations. On the one hand, the end justifies the means; on the other, it makes me pretty mad to tacitly endorse the idea that it is an option (and a favor) for a man to do basic housework.

Posted by: aging mom | January 4, 2007 2:37 PM

To Bexie:

I'm not sure how to phrase this without getting jumped on, but here goes . . . *crosses fingers*

One thing that has worked for me is to praise effusively for the things I thought he should be doing anyway. He liked making me happy, and he incorporated that task into his routine. As he got used to doing it, I could tone down the praise on that and apply it to something else. I think he's also a lot more aware of the things I do and a lot more likely to say thank you now that I routinely thank him for things that he does.

I think it was in this blog a few weeks ago, although I could be mistaken - there was a woman who had written a book about animal trainers and applied their techniques to her marriage. The key idea there, at least for me, was that she only controlled her own actions. Nagging, scolding, and harping don't work, and are more likely to cause the opposite of what you want, but praise (thanks) does work. Changing your own reactions to someone else's behavior can sometimes change their behavior.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:40 PM

aging mom - well put.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 2:42 PM

futuremom - I did read about that, I think it was on . Pretty funny! But does that go (way) back to the TV stereotype? That men are aimless puppies that need to be trained?

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 2:44 PM

To Future Mom: I think you may be referring to this article (sorry for the long post):

What Shamu taught me about a happy marriage; At a school for exotic animal trainers, I learned how to handle my husband
1316 words
9 July 2006
Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright 2006 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved.

AS I WASH DISHES AT THE KITCHEN SINK, my husband paces behind me, irritated. "Have you seen my keys?" he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favorite human's upset.
In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband with bromides like, "Don't worry, they'll turn up." But that only made him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us.
Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don't turn around. I don't say a word. I'm using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.
I love my husband. He's well-read, adventurous and does a hysterical rendition of a northern Vermont accent that still cracks me up after 12 years of marriage.
But he also tends to be forgetful, and is often tardy and mercurial. He hovers around me in the kitchen asking if I read this or that piece in The New Yorker when I'm trying to concentrate on the simmering pans. He leaves wadded tissues in his wake.
A little closer to perfect
These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce, but in sum they began to dull my love for Scott. I wanted -- needed -- to nudge him a little closer to perfect, to make him into a mate who might annoy me a little less, who wouldn't keep me waiting at restaurants, a mate who would be easier to love.So, like many wives before me, I set about improving him. By nagging, of course, which only made his behavior worse: He'd drive faster instead of slower; shave less frequently, not more; and leave his reeking bike garb on the floor.
I resigned myself to stretches of slow-boil resentment and occasional sarcasm.
Then something magical happened. For a book I was writing about a school for exotic animal trainers, I started commuting from Maine to California, where I watched students do the seemingly impossible: teaching hyenas to pirouette on command and baboons to skateboard.
I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Soon it hit me: The same techniques might work on the American husband.
Positive reinforcement
The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't.
Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper. If he threw in two, I'd kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my appreciation, the piles became smaller.
I was using what trainers call "approximations," rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can't expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session. You first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.
I also began to analyze my husband the way a trainer considers an exotic animal. Enlightened trainers learn all they can about a species, from anatomy to social structure, to understand how it thinks, what it likes and dislikes.
For example, an elephant is a herd animal, so it responds to hierarchy. The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn't so much. He has the balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not.
Once I started thinking this way, I couldn't stop. At the school in California, I'd be scribbling notes on how to walk an emu or have a wolf accept you as a pack member, but I'd be thinking, "I can't wait to try this on Scott."
Incompatible behavior
On a field trip with the students, I listened to a professional trainer describe how he had taught African crested cranes to stop landing on his head and shoulders. He trained the leggy birds to land on mats on the ground. This, he explained, is what is called an "incompatible behavior," a simple concept.At home, I came up with incompatible behaviors for Scott to keep him from crowding me while I cooked. To lure him away from the stove, I piled up parsley for him to chop or cheese for him to grate at the kitchen island.
I followed the students to SeaWorld San Diego, where a dolphin trainer introduced me to least reinforcing syndrome (L.R.S.). When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.
In my notes I wrote, "Try on Scott!"
It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the house searching for his keys. I said nothing and kept at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm, but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if I should throw him a mackerel.
Now he's at it again; I hear him banging a closet door shut, rustling through papers on a chest in the front hall and thumping upstairs. At the sink, I hold steady. Then, sure enough, all goes quiet. He walks into the kitchen, keys in hand, and says calmly, "Found them."
I call out, "Great, see you later."
Training the trainer
After two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were a symbol of how he didn't care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively.
Professionals talk of animals that understand training so well they eventually use it back on the trainer. My animal did the same.
Last fall, firmly in middle age, I learned that I needed braces. They were humiliating and excruciating. For weeks my gums, teeth, jaw and sinuses throbbed. I complained loudly.
One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade about how uncomfortable I was, Scott just looked at me blankly. He didn't say a word or acknowledge my rant, not even with a nod.
I quickly ran out of steam and started to walk away. Then I realized what was happening, and I turned and asked, "Are you giving me an L.R.S.?" Silence. "You are, aren't you?"
He finally smiled, but his L.R.S. has already done the trick. He'd begun to train me, the American wife.
Amy Sutherland is the author of "Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers" (Viking, June 2006). She lives in Boston and in Portland, Maine.

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 2:46 PM

"But it does make you wonder, if the kids are doing so many of the chores, after age 8-10, what do the parent's do? I doubt you are volunteering 30 hours a week. Most homes can be cleaned in about 8-10 hours a week with a regular daily pick up."

Makes you wonder what? whether moxiemom's a lazy mom trying to raise two employees to take over tasks that are rightly assigned to her since she doesn't work outside the home? First, it takes significantly more than 8 - 10 hours to do everything involved in running our household. Different households certainly take different amounts of time to clean, but one size does not fit all. Second, running a household involves a great deal more than "cleaning". Maybe she has pets. Maybe they have a large yard or a home-based business. Maybe as the kids get older, each parent will work with them to teach them more advanced life skills, including advanced skills, like how to properly detail a car, or how to build a fence, or how to properly reverse a truck or SUV hauling a boat for purposes of putting a boat in the water at a nearby lake (my husband's favorite story of a Southern dad who did his son no favors is the dad of the 17 year-old buddy who could hit a hole in one on occasion, but couldn't put a boat in the water - go figure).

By the time her kids are 8 and 10, if Moxiemom's raised them to be independent and responsible, she ought to be able to focus some time on her own interests and hobbies, or, gasp, consider rejoining the workforce if she's so inclined.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 2:51 PM

To Bexie:

When I first read about it, I thought it was like that, too, but then I changed my mind. I'll try to articulate why . . .

I came to the realization that I can only directly control the behavior of one person: me. Any efforts to directly control his behavior are probably going to end in resentment or worse. On the other hand, changing my behavior (my reactions) is something that I can do. Thanking him, even for the little things - and sometimes even for cleaning up his own mess - makes him happy and more likely to do something in the future, and makes me feel less resentful about our life together in general. All of that is positive, as far as I'm concerned.

I also don't think it denigrates men. I would have no problem with the same tactic being used on me. (I think sometimes it is - after all, my husband isn't dumb!) I know I respond better to praise and thanks than to nagging or yelling. I guess it's just basic politeness, in a lot of ways.

For me, it comes down to changing what I can change and ignoring what I can't.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:52 PM

Hi, I am changing my name from anon to the original anon as many people have complained about anon comments.

So here is my comment today. If your boyfriend/husband whatever does not uphold his end of the housework, if he does not meet your expectations, GET RID of him. What use is he to you if all he does is aggravate? You will only have to clean up after yourself and not thank anyone.

Posted by: the original anon | January 4, 2007 2:52 PM

To Ajax:

Yes, that's the one!

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:53 PM

Right, that's the article I was thinking about. It very well may work. The problem is that you are still reinforcing a stereotype by resorting to those tricks. Perhaps I would draw the line where kids are in the household and can get all the wrong ideas about why what Dad is doing is so exceptionally, unexpectedly great. The only problem with that is that if DH has been praised for replacing the toilet paper roll every time, he may well react poorly to a change in that habit.

Posted by: aging mom | January 4, 2007 2:55 PM

For what it's worth, my husband and I have actually discussed, at least a little, the praise and thanks thing. We agree that our household works better that way, and we try to keep our interactions positive and express appreciation regularly. It's a lot more fun than living in a nagging, tense household. If I have to ask when I want him to vacuum the living room, I can live with that.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 2:56 PM

NC Lawyer: perhaps sterotyping lawyers caught up with me. Too many of ambulance chasing variety have been truly soulless in my experience, or people who enjoy devisiveness or confrontation for it's own sake. My own previous Mayor was a bit like that, even for being a nice guy personally. Glad you found a niche that hasn't required you to become that way. On the side, I've always seen lawyers tend to know the best lawyer jokes, perhaps in self defense. Got any to share? :~)

Scarry, thanks as usual. Even we Princes of the world still enjoy ladies who can appreciate us...or at least understand about those convinced that our knuckles drag the ground.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | January 4, 2007 2:57 PM

By the time her kids are 8 and 10, if Moxiemom's raised them to be independent and responsible, she ought to be able to focus some time on her own interests and hobbies, or, gasp, consider rejoining the workforce if she's so inclined.

I am not saying she doesn't have the right to pursue her own interests. And if you think about it, WOHPs do all that and go to work. We clean our homes, cook food, shop, volunteer, advance our children's life skills, and still have time to go to work. Of course we know what it means to manage a home because we do all that and have careers too. If she is busy pursuing her own interests, then are you a SAHP or are you a house wife/husband? I am not criticizing here. I am just pointing out that then your main task would not be parenting at that point. Your main task is pursuing your own interests. I don't know how messy your homes are but most cleaning ladies can clean a house in one day.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 2:58 PM

to the original anon, assuming your comment was TIC, historian already has provided the best response:

"I could have a perfectly clean house all by myself. That's not really my ideal."

even TIC, it's insulting to talk about grown folks in terms of "getting rid" of them and "using" them. Even in an essentially anonymous forum, a little respect goes a long way.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 2:58 PM

It is highly advisable to discuss one's expectations prior to marriage so there is less confusion as to who will do what.

However, should one spouse breach the terms of the "contract," courts are extremely unlikely to get involved, and indeed should not get involved in marital relations. It is not their province. Indeed, courts in the past have refused to enforce contracts relating to the roles of spouses during marriage.

Rather, it is more advisable for future spouses to discuss important topics like household responsibilities, child-rearing, careers, etc. prior to marriage. Contracts are useful, and marriage itself it a contract. However, spelling out who will mop the floors is not going to help, but rather cause more conflict.

Posted by: oklaw | January 4, 2007 2:59 PM

All this thanking & complimenting men. At first, I thought we were talking about sex!

Posted by: Elaine | January 4, 2007 3:00 PM

MoxieMom - Good for you! We have to start somewhere, don't we?!

I'm wondering about the assertion Brian made - that studies show that marriages with traditional gender roles are typically happier. I'm not saying that I don't believe it, I'm just saying I'm not sure that's in line with what I've seen. How exactly is the happiness of these marriages defined and rated in these studies?

Posted by: becky | January 4, 2007 3:03 PM

Pls define TIC.

I amend my post from "get rid" to "go your own way" What I preceive the tone of many of today's post is that he just cannot, will not even help out and I am very angry at him for it. So why would you want so much stress in your life? I have not read too many postive commments about what the man brings to the relationship.

Posted by: the original anon | January 4, 2007 3:06 PM

Parents generally expect our children to work hard in school and get good grades. The children are praised for this, even though this is what they SHOULD be doing.

Why is it different to praise a spouse for doing something the SHOULD be doing?

Because they are adults and we tend to think that they should already know this. But apparently many do not really know what it is to do their share. After all, most of the men either don't see the chores as being necessary or really believe in the traditional roles of women doing the housework. I find it hard to believe that men believe they should be doing it and just refuse. So, in this sense, they are children who are learning what they SHOULD be doing. A little praise never hurts. Praise and thanks aren't necessarily the same thing. You can praise someone for a job well done without thanking them for it.

There also seems to be a sense of tit-for-tat equality. "He doesn't praise or thank me, why should I praise or thank him?" If you stopped doing the chores because you weren't being thanked, I think that you would find more thank-you's coming your way. In other words, there isn't any incentive for him to thank-you. But, the fact that thanking him might lead to him taking more responsibility is a big incentive to praise him.

Treat each other with love, respect, and kindness and you will find love, respect, and kindness in return than if you keep score. Try to think of responsibilities in terms of ours, not his and mine.

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 3:07 PM

Texas dad of 2 - I just wanted to say that I appreciate your comments. You may feel that you are a "dinosaur" and that your "knuckles are dragging on the ground" but we don't all come here to agree with each other. Even if I don't end up doing what you say, getting outside opinions helps me to evaluate how I feel. Also, as far as that "dinosaur" thing, I think far too many of us young'ins are unwilling to get advice from people who are older than they are.

Posted by: Bexie | January 4, 2007 3:08 PM

To Bexie

There is a concept in behaviorism called shaping. One can shape anothers behavior by gradually reinforcing approximations of the desired behavior. So you could start by praising the kitchen clean up (and noting that you'd like to see more of it). After a short while, you don't praise him for cleaning up a mess he made, but ask him to clean up after a dinner you made and the two of you ate together. Or at least ask his help with cleanup, or clearing the dishwasher, or whatever. That gets the same praise that his first kitchen cleanup gets, for a while. Then you don't praise that, but ask him to do a little more, and praise that. And so on. My mother worked on my father this way, and by the time I was old enough to notice, he was a full participant in the work of the house. When I went to college I was astounded by friends whose fathers did not know how to cook, clean, or do laundry.

Posted by: single mother by choice | January 4, 2007 3:09 PM

and BTW, I feel that is highly disrespectful to "train" a man as one would a kanagroo.

Posted by: the original anon | January 4, 2007 3:09 PM

I don't think of it as a "trick," more of a communication technique, I guess. It's just letting him know that what he does makes a difference to me. If I always clean up after his dinner, and I've asked him to, and he does it, then yes, I think that's worthy of thanks. Regardless of whether I want ownership of that task, I've taken it at that point. Part of giving it back is making sure he knows that he's doing what I wanted when he does it.

To us, it is part of having a polite and civil household. I can remember, as a kid, being expected to thank my mom for dinner even though it was "her job" to make it. It really makes you think about what others do for you and how it affects you. The praise is not so excessive as to warp the children (who, as you've probably figured out from my posting name, do not yet exist), and I usually only have to make a big deal the first time or two. After that, if I notice, I might say thanks, but it moves off the radar screen pretty quickly. :-)

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 3:11 PM

To originalanon: I don't know about the others but DH brings a lot of love, sensitivity, emotional support, and romance to our marriage. He is also very loyal. So he can't really clean all that well. He does the best he can when he needs to help out and I pick up the slack the rest of the times. He also does what he does well without help for me. I never help with yard work unless he specifically needs me to do something. I don't believe in training a man either but we do use the word train in regards to children all the time. I don't think of my kid as a dog but I do train her to do certain things.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 3:12 PM

TIC = tongue in cheek.

original anon, I'd suggest you're reading selectively. There are many postings here, including several from men, that indicate the majority of households have worked out a division of labor that meets their needs and relieves stress. Many posters have offered constructive solutions, beginning primarily with an honest assessment of each partner's viewpoint and good communication. In addition, several posters have been female slobs married to neat-nik husbands. This group may not fit the stereotype you appear to be determined to see.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 3:13 PM

I am not sure about the kids and school analogy. I think we praise kids when they do well in school--i.e. we praise them on their successes--but not simply because they actually went to school in the morning (which is more like a "duty.") I agree that guys all too often don't really get that it's also their duty to make sure they have clean underwear and cockroach-free kitchens because of a different generation's ubpringing, etc. etc. The problem is that in indulging the ingrained stereotypes (by letting them sit on their *** or by effusively praising them for doing their basic bit) we raise another generation of children who think housework is for women and men may help if and when they feel like it (in return for wide-eyed gratefulness).
I don't, in case you are wondering, have a solution to this conundrum, except perhaps to praise moxiemom to the stars for getting an early start on the next generation (I assume at least one of the kids is male?)

Posted by: aging mom | January 4, 2007 3:15 PM

To xyz: Yes, that's exactly what I mean!

To the original anon:

I'm not trying to "train" him - rather, I'm trying to focus on my own behaviors and reactions. It works better than focusing on his. People are animals, in the end, and some of the same techniques work, like it or not.

Also, I certainly wouldn't limit this to men. In my case, I happen to be talking about my husband, but I've read a few posts by female posters today who've described similar techniques their significant others have used on them. It's just a nicer way to live than nagging or being nagged.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 3:18 PM

aging mom, This is a purely anecdotal comment, but the sons of single moms or divorced moms I've known have had a much more egalitarian, let's all pitch in, sort of attitude toward whatever needs to get done. I apologize for the background to those who already know, but my husband is the youngest of eight and his dad died when he was very young. He and his brothers are very traditional, but they're not lazy and not a one thinks housework is for women. Do they see the dust bunnies? That's a story for another day, but in my experience there's a lot less sexism from sons raised in single-parent households, while good old fashioned blindness may remain a problem regardless of generation or gender.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 3:22 PM

"So, in this sense, they are children..."
My mom used to take away my toys and tv privileges when I didn't clean my room. If you can't learn to put things away, then you don't deserve using any of it, she used to say. I guess since I clean the house, and he does zippy, he doesn't get to use any of our appliances, store any of his stuff, etc.. until he learns how to maintain it. Till then... It's all mine!!!

Posted by: no need to nag | January 4, 2007 3:23 PM

I'm still trying to come up with a better, less inflammatory way to say what I'm talking about. :-) Here's my latest thought:

As an employee, I think I do better work if my manager asks nicely for something to be done and then thanks me when it is done. Even though it's my job, and I'll do it either way, I'm happier about coming to work every day if I'm treated civilly, and I'm more likely to go above and beyond.

I take part of the blame for the fact that I do more than 50% of the household work: I took control early on, and I also nagged and criticized too often. I can't really blame my husband for doing less, but now I'm trying to change that for both of us. He's willing, but thanks and praise do help . I'm not patting him on the head and telling him he's a good boy or giving him husband treats (edible or otherwise). I'm just thanking him for taking part in running the household to show him that I do appreciate it, whether what he did was "his job" or not.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 3:26 PM

to: FutureMom

So long as he thanks you when you clean up after yourself/ fold your own shirts etc., that seems fine!

Posted by: aging mom | January 4, 2007 3:26 PM

to xyz "treat people with kindness & they'll return it". maybe. i agree in not keeping score but when somebody, and it doesn't matter whether we're talking husband or wife, feels taken for granted then you have a problem.

Posted by: quark | January 4, 2007 3:27 PM

Aging mom,

Sounds like you're keeping score again.

FWIW, my husband does thank me for a lot of the things I do.

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 3:28 PM

My DH and I have been married for less than two years and I'm not entirely sure how we've divided things. Shortly after getting married, my husband and I decided that he would go to school full-time to finish his Bachelors degree. It seemed like the right thing for him to do, especially since working full-time and going to school part-time wasn't really working for him. It's now a little over a year later and I have had to make a lot of adjustments to my way of thinking.

I thought that whoever was at home (be it the man or woman) would be the one responsible for taking care of the home--cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. My DH, however, didn't share that view and this was a discovery made only after being in the situation. After months of being angry and feeling as though he was "living the life" I realized that something had to give.

Since I work full-time, teach part-time and I am actively involved in our community, coming home to clean and do things that really could have been done by my husband during the day, was really burning me up. However, it seemed like if I didn't do it, it didn't get done. So, while I feel like it's money that could be better spent elsewhere, we have hired a cleaning lady to come in every other week. That seems to have solved the cleaning issue and he has definitely stepped up to taking care of meals, grocery shopping and laundry. I know that this probably won't work forever, but it seems to be working now.

It's easy to have an idea of what a home should be like, but it's something (in many instances) that is completely different in reality.

Posted by: citysuburban | January 4, 2007 3:29 PM

To xyz:

Good for you for getting thanked! (I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically.)

There's a fine line between keeping score and coddling. I think we are all trying to define it today, and I am not at all claiming to be better at it than anyone.

To NC Lawyer:
That's interesting about one-parent homes. Perhaps people have to adapt to not having gender stereotypes modeled for them?

Posted by: aging mom | January 4, 2007 3:32 PM

The suggestion to Bexie to say "Looks good " to her husband after he "asks" for praise or shows off his work is a great one.

In all seriousness, it reminds me of the discipline strategy for children where you acknowledge the results rather than tell them "What a good boy!". So you would say "Wow! The counters are so clean!" rather than "Thank you so much for cleaning!"

I've found this strategy works on adults and children alike! (grin) It allows them to feel pride in their accomplishment rather than relying on your judgement of them as "good". I have used this on DH when he spontaneously cleans and asks me if I noticed. I'll say, "Yes, such-and-such looks so clean! I love it." or something similar.

Posted by: Rebecca | January 4, 2007 3:36 PM

To aging mom:

Mostly, he has always done the picking up after himself without being asked (or at least only being asked once) - he's not a total drain on the household. It's just that he sometimes seems to think there are laundry fairies (I actually like doing laundry, but that's another story), bathroom-cleaning fairies, etc. - it's the household tasks that are a problem. As I said before, I took ownership of everything early on, before I realized my mistake, and I ended up feeling like all I did was being taken for granted. I think it helped, as I started asking him to take on some of the household tasks, that I noticed that he was doing them and thanked him.

I'm not sure what I'd do if I had a husband who was really a sloth. My husband is pretty good (not perfect, but then, neither am I) about putting his clothes in the hamper, putting his dishes in the dishwasher, etc.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 3:38 PM

to foamgnome - not even gonna begin explaining and justifing how I raise my kids or spend my time to you. Just thought I'd add my two cents about getting things done and raising responsible kids. You can let me dangle here on the virtual crucifix while I go make a ziti for dinner.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 4, 2007 3:39 PM

If this is what goes on in modern marriages, count me out!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 3:40 PM

My thoughts on this subject are colored by my 20-year marriage and experience. Things have not always been the way they are today, and are not always ideal. I can remember more than one meal where I cooked and served enough food for myself and two children while completely ignoring my husband, leaving him to fend for himself. I also remember having "fights" over who should be doing what. While we still have our occasional moments (doesn't everyone?), basically we have learned to treat each other with respect and "don't sweat the small stuff".

Posted by: xyz | January 4, 2007 3:41 PM

OK, here is my amended post, caps indicate the words that I have changed.

What I preceive the tone of SOME of today's post is that he just cannot, will not even help out and I am very angry at him for it. So why would you want so much stress in your life? IN SOME OF THESE POSTS, I have not read too many postive commments about what the man brings to the relationship.

Posted by: the original anon | January 4, 2007 3:42 PM

"If she is busy pursuing her own interests, then are you a SAHP or are you a house wife/husband? I am not criticizing here. I am just pointing out that then your main task would not be parenting at that point. Your main task is pursuing your own interests. I don't know how messy your homes are but most cleaning ladies can clean a house in one day."

Yes, but does a cleaning lady pay the bills, track financial investments, care for elderly or sick relatives, raise a garden, take classes toward a higher degree, and search for a new house?

Those are the things I did when I was not working a job outside the home. Why does it bother you so much, Foamgnome, that someone might also have a few minutes of leisure time in his or her life? My husband knew this was the life I wanted when we got married. It works for us. I'm sorry if you think I should be "working" and that what I do for my family isn't enough somehow to justify my choice to retire from the workforce -- for now, at least. And yes, sometimes I get a manicure and go to a matinee!

Posted by: Kerrie | January 4, 2007 3:43 PM

As FutureMom pointed out, thanks and praise is not solely a tool by women to be used on men for "training". My wife and I (both women) use it on each other. We're not perfect about our divisions and supporting each other, but we're pretty good and we try hard. The thanks make for a more pleasant household.

I don't see anything wrong with having the kids do a chunk of the housecleaning, either. Someone needs to, kids mean that the house is likely larger and more chaotic than it would be for only 2 people, and the kids need to learn that they have responsibilities. If this means that the SAHP has enough time to go back to school, volunteer, or anything else, then that's great.

We had a rotating roster of assigned daily and weekly chores, but my mom collected volunteers for the chores that didn't need to be done all the time by picking up whatever we left lying out in the main part of the house and putting it in The Box. To get an item out of The Box, you had to draw a chore from a bowl and accomplish it. It was good incentive to not leave things lying around, and it meant that those oddball chores that aren't easily assigned got done.

Posted by: Historian | January 4, 2007 3:44 PM

Foamgnome is jealous!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 3:44 PM

This topic hits home for me as my husband of seven months and I are in the middle of BOTH trying to improve our contributions to the home. Neither of us are particularly excellent housekeepers- we both like to cook but hate to do dishes, for example. He's self-employed- more flexible schedule and makes somewhat more money; I have a standard job- regular schedule, somewhat less money but with health benefits and predictable paychecks. So financially, the contributions are really about equal. (And Steve, your comments on this topic were excellent.)

So we're both trying to work harder at each contributing something to the upkeep of the house each day. Neither of us gets to go to bed before the dinner dishes are done. He's trying to be better about doing a couple of loads of laundry each day. I'm trying to commit to one significant act of clutter-reduction or other type of cleaning each evening when I come home from work before I settle in to relax for the evening.

We *both* praise each other's work. This is a shared goal for us, and while we're each trying to pitch in our fair share, it's still nice to be overtly appreciated for our effort. We should be doing it without praise, but that doesn't mean the praise doesn't make it a more pleasant experience for each of us.

So Bexie, if you're really concerned about setting the wrong expectation for your fiancee, consider re-framing the expectation you want him to meet. If a clean kitchen is more important to you than it is to him, then praise him not for "helping" with "your work," but praise him for doing something to promote your happiness and comfort. "A clean kitchen is really important to me. Thank you for making my comfort a priority." You can't make him care about the cleanliness of the kitchen for its own sake, but as your life partner, he IS (or should be) concerned about the effect the state of the house has on your comfort and happiness. Help him think of housework as something that is done to help you be comfortable in your own home, not just as a chore that has to get done just for the sake of having a clean house- some people just don't care about the state of the house, but a lot of them will make the effort if they think of it as a tangible act of love for their partner.

Posted by: Tiffany | January 4, 2007 3:45 PM

"A clean kitchen is really important to me. Thank you for making my comfort a priority."

Who really talks like that, in a marriage or elsewhere??

Posted by: Ajax | January 4, 2007 3:47 PM

Tiffany -- the first year of marriage can be tough while you figure out your dynamic. Sounds like you and your husband are off to a great start -- best of luck to you! (First year is also very fun and exciting, but I'll be you know that!)

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 4, 2007 3:50 PM

"but a lot of them will make the effort if they think of it as a tangible act of love for their partner."

Maybe in the beginning (like sex), but for a lifetime? How do you account for all of the couch potatoes and weekend layabouts who know the above but refuse to act on it?

Posted by: EJ | January 4, 2007 3:51 PM

Thank you to xyz, Historian, and Tiffany for articulating very well what I have been trying to say all afternoon. :-)

Posted by: FutureMom | January 4, 2007 3:53 PM

"I don't know how messy your homes are but most cleaning ladies can clean a house in one day."

This is just absurd. Sure, a cleaning lady can clean a house in one day. But on each of the subsequent six days, all the routine cleaning and household supervision continues, along with throwing out the voluminous art projects when the kids aren't home to see us dispose of them, getting the cars inspected, taking the dogs to the vet, and volunteering at school. and what's even more absurd is that most of those of us who are employed outside the home don't get it all done along with our jobs. that's why we're tired and there's so much tension between WOH spouses about who's job it is to clean up after dinner this evening.

unfortunately, these kind of thoughtless comments drive a wedge between SAH parents and WOH parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 3:54 PM

I don't think foamgnome is being critical of anyone who has time to pursue leisure activities. In fact, she said that she wasn't being critical.

She was simply saying that identifying oneself as a "Stay at Home Parent" isn't really true when the children are in school 7 hours a day. I would say that "homemaker" still applies, but if you spend the same time with your children as a parent who works outside the home, how are you really a SAHP?

Also - I don't feel there's anything wrong with the pursuit of leisure and enjoyable activities. But I'm not sure about the idea of children going to school all day, going to soccer practice, then coming home and doing homework and cleaning the toilets while their parent spends their day getting their nails done and doing lunch.

Posted by: momof4 | January 4, 2007 3:57 PM

Hey NC Lawyer,

I have done the towels and the dishwasher is running. But, what are dust bunnies?

Interesting note about single parent children. As I have 7 brothers and no sisters, we always :) helped mom clean up and cook. I do know how clean, do laudry the male way, cook as well as fix the car.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 3:59 PM

OK, people are taking this wrong. I am not jealous and I am not asking moxiemom to justify how she raises her kids. And I am not trying to drive a wedge between SAHPs and WOHPs. So I will apologize now if people got offended. I actually thought moxiemom is going to get two kids who will probably be good cleaners. So I will shut up and just say I am sorry now. BTW, I do have a clean house.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 3:59 PM

Texas Dad of 2

Hmmm. ALL of the engineers in my family are weird, geeky, stingy, anal jerks, but I don't stereotype engineers in general based on my limited experience.

Posted by: DJ | January 4, 2007 4:01 PM

All Jewish marriages have a "Ketuba" or marriage contract that both parties sign. Never mind who does what, go find a ketuba and have it translated into English. It isn't about chores, it is about roles and respect and the acknowledgement of talents that each person brings to the marriage.

Posted by: Rachel | January 4, 2007 4:01 PM

Thanks Momof4: That is what I am saying. I never said anyone should go out and work Kerrie. I don't know where you got that.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 4:03 PM

foamgnome - it's interesting how the wedge that you're supposedly driving between SAHPs and WOHPs is causing me (a SAHM) to agree with you. ;o)

Posted by: momof4 | January 4, 2007 4:08 PM

Texas Dad of 2, Psst. Let's get started with this one.

An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing.

A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled in and ready.

"All set back here, Captain," came the reply, "except one lawyer who is still going around passing out business cards."

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 4:11 PM

momof4: Yes, I take for granted that people understand the personalities that are regular on this board. I also think people read more into what is being said than what people actually wrote. I certainly never asked moxiemom to justify how she raised her kids. I don't know where she got that? I also was talking about parents in general of 9-10 year old kids who have their kids do a lot of the chores. Not her in particular. But a lot gets lost in online communication.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 4, 2007 4:13 PM

An engineer dies and reports to hell. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After a while, they've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.

One day God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, "So, how's it going down there in hell?"

Satan replies, "Hey things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next."

God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake -- he should never have gotten down there; send him up here."

Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I'm keeping him."

God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue."

Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right. And just where are you going to get a lawyer?"

Posted by: to DJ | January 4, 2007 4:14 PM

I try to be thankful every day for what I have- a partner that does as much (if not more) than me around the house. It's just evolved that way- and it is an expectation we have of each other to pick up what needs to be picked up and to cook when cooking needs to be done.

I think that doing a lot of the household work seems to be a novelty in some new marriages that I've observed...and women really like serving (in a respective, loving way) their spouses by cooking, cleaning etc. But I think that in time, the novelty wears off and by then, the pattern is set. I think we've avoided this for the most part. It does take conscious effort to stay on top of things to do with our baby- I can tell that already- but one person not being responsible for her well-being in entirety really helps us both be fully participating, engaged parents. And similarly, both of us being involved in the day-to-day cleaning, organizing, laundry, etc around the house has somehow really meant I feel that we are "all in it" together.

There's so much more that I want to say, because I think this issue is the crux of so much about equal partnerships...but I have to work.

Thanks, Rebeldad!

Posted by: VaMom2 | January 4, 2007 4:17 PM

foamgnome: I think that implicit in your statements was "what do you do all day" which might make some people feel defensive. I think chores are good for kids and that kids today would be better if the family revolved around them less i.e., became more family focused as opposed to child focused.

Posted by: PA Lady | January 4, 2007 4:17 PM


Ha! I do laundry the male way as well -- it's all in cold water so nothing's going to bleed anyway, and what do I care if the white tube socks are the whitest possible white? As you can tell, I highly recommend guys from large families as spouses. Whatever flaws they might possess are more than made up for by the fact that they understand from an early age that the world doesn't revolve around them. Oh, that and the cooking skills, or maybe I just got lucky.

Texas Dad of 2, do you cook?

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 4:23 PM

My mother left when I was 16 and I was in charge of two younger siblings (bro and sis) and dad. I did the best I could as far as cooking and cleaning but going to high school kind of interfered with an immaculate home. We all learned to kind of take care of ourselves. It is funny the way we have turned out - brother and sister are super neat/clean freaks. I am clean but cluttery.

Posted by: KLB Silver Spring | January 4, 2007 4:30 PM

Hey commenters :-)

As to why would he change - well he wouldn't now of course.

For the first 6 years of our marriage we fought, 'his' areas of our house got disgusting, the city sent a letter about us mowing our lawn, we had endless conversations, we did chore lists, and a bunch of other things. He didn't change. It's easy enough to say that if I did X he would change, but that's not how it worked I refuse to take responsibility for his inability to change - he's an adult. I just decided I'd rather live in a clean place than continue for the rest of our marriage (or get divorced).

I don't touch his office and it hasn't been vaccuumed or dusted since we moved into the house. That's just him.

He does wash dishes now and then and he's an excellent parent who spends time with his son (which we don't see as a chore).

And yes it is not great modelling for our son (all 16 months of him!) so I'm not sure how that will play out. I agree; it's a concern. But I have to say I'd rather my son grow up without a father doing all the chores than constant bitter arguing - or in two single-parent households.

And no, it shouldn't be one or the other but - it is, for us and him. It wasn't a bottom line issue for me.

He's a great human being, just a lousy housekeeper.

Posted by: Shandra | January 4, 2007 4:35 PM

Oooh, I have a lawyer joke! My mom asked if she could start with them already since I just got my first acceptance letter. Please excuse its corniness:

Q: Why don't sharks eat lawyers?
A: Professional courtesy.

(side note: before I heard the punchline I thought it would be "too bitter" or something like that. ::groan::)

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 4:39 PM

Who actually cares if someone calls themselves a "stay at home parent" or a "homemaker"? Geez!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 4:39 PM

But I use hot water for all my laudry. The son empties the dishwasher, I am the loadmaster! I still remember what a treat it was when the household got its first dishwasher in about 1963 or so. Mom was soooooo happy and we boys did not mind it either! But dad said that pots and pans were not allowed in it.

Gotta go look for those dustbunnies now. Somehow I don't think that I will see them.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 4:44 PM

to anon at 4:39, I suspect no one cares about the title. Many likely care if WOH moms suggest that SAH moms are twiddling their thumbs and violating child labor laws, uttering lines like, Fiddledeedee, what shall I do with the scads of free time I have today since my children do all the housework?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 4:45 PM

To Fred: Hot water will shrink your wife's jeans - don't do it!

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 4:46 PM


This one's got the additional element of sexism, just for fun. Ha!

"A man died and was taken to his place of eternal torment by the devil. As he passed sulfurous pits and shrieking sinners, he saw a man he recognized as a lawyer snuggling up to a beautiful woman.

"That's unfair !" he cried. "I have to roast for all eternity, and that lawyer gets to spend it with a beautiful woman."

"Shut up!" barked the devil, jabbing him with his pitchfork. "Who are you to question that woman's punishment?"

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 4:49 PM

good to see everyone playing mostly nice today...

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 4:58 PM

Fredia does not allow me to wash her bras or other clothes, so no problem.

My shark joke.

An engineer, an architect and an lawyer were on a lifeboat from a sinking ship. There is an island nearby but the current and the winds are pushing the boat away.

The engineer stands up in the boat and says that every problem has an engineering solution. He computes distances, wind speed ,current speed and other factors on his sliderule. He then sits down and says it is hopeless.

The architect then stands up and says he might have a solution. He looks at the distance between the island and the boat, the amount of sunlight left, the construction of the boat and then sits down. "It is hopeless," he says.

The lawyer stands up, looks upon the waters, over to the island and says, "Sharks, attention!" The lawyer then walks on the back of the sharks all the way to the island.

The architect looks at the engineer and says, "Damnest case of professional courtesy that I have ever seen!"

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 4:58 PM


I hear from my friends that Dustbunnies are quite adept at hiding from men who are otherwise great dads and fine cooks.

(the washing all the laundry in hot water, though, is a mystery to me since all it does is run up the power bill. sigh.)

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 5:00 PM

I do confess that when I had poison ivy I washed my sheets and towels in hot water.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:02 PM

KLB SS, when you have poison ivy, you get to do anything your little heart desires to feel better.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2007 5:06 PM

hot water does get grease and other stains out better than cold water!

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:07 PM

To 05:06: Does that include drinking as many mimosas as I can to make the itching stop?

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:08 PM

Back again.

Luckily, there really aren't any household chores that BOTH of us hate, so the division really did happen organically. I doubt my fiance loves taking the trash out, but I HATE it, so he just goes ahead and takes care of it.

As far as neatnik/slob couples go - I used to be half of one of those, and the end result was that I did the cleaning. He or she who cares about cleanliness does the cleaning, basically. No, it may not be fair, but it was the only way to not pull my hair out.

Luckily, my fiance is as much of a neatnik as I am, so we haven't really had any conflicts of the cleanliness kind.

Thank God.

Posted by: Loolybloo | January 4, 2007 5:09 PM

Fred - if you are talking about food grease wear an apron dude! There are some that are manly - trust me.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:10 PM

Okay, okay, Fred. You're right. But since I'm the one that opens and pays the electrical bill in our delightful 1987 all-electric house, I find almost no justification for hot water . . well, except for those long showers I enjoy, and my daughter's bath, and, well, pretty much any instance other than for laundry. 'bout all I can say for myself is that I generally know when I've got blinders on.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 5:10 PM

I have NO problem putting dishes in the dishwasher, washing the pots and pans or doing the laundry - even as far as folding. The problem comes in when the dishwasher needs to be unloaded or the laundry needs to be put away - the "easy" parts. What's with that?

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:12 PM

KLB SS, you don't need to have poison ivy to have a good excuse for drinking as many mimosas as you can make, but if you need some assistance with the guilt, I for one will join you in making those pitchers disappear. Guilt is a terrible thing to waste.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 5:15 PM

Not only cooking grease, but car grease, hurricane mud, lube oil, WD 40, pipe dope, sawdust with sweat and other nasty stuff! I am putting off some painting that I need to do today! But it is only 4 in the afternoon.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:15 PM

To NC lawyer: Would love the company but we are miles apart as I am here in SS. If you ever are up here do note it here and you have an invite. They are a staple in this house.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:16 PM

Fred: I am afraid to ask what pipe pipe dope is.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:17 PM

putting away dishes and clothes? Hey, I have a kid for that!

only joking :)

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:18 PM

Fred: Did that as a kid - maybe why I don't want to do it now? Hey, why put it away when you are just going to use it again? That was my father's mantra.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:24 PM

Fred: Did that as a kid - maybe why I don't want to do it now? Hey, why put it away when you are just going to use it again? That was my father's mantra.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:25 PM

Pipe dope (pipe cleaner, etc) is used when copper, plastic or steel pipe is connected. You know all those pipes that bring clean water into the house and take the dirty water away.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:25 PM

Fred: You mean the ones that water leaks around when it rains really hard and you have to pay $1600 to get fixed? Those pipes? Yes, I know them very well.

Posted by: KKLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:29 PM

Pipe dope, (& pipe cleaner, other stuff and pipe cement are used to connect plastic, copper and steel pipe. You know, the pipe that bring the clean water into the house and the other pipe that takes the dirty water out.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:29 PM

on the subject of why put it away when you're just going to use it again, my husband's latest approach to not dealing with his laundry is to get dressed in the laundry room so he has an excuse for not carrying his clean clothes upstairs and putting them away. Efficiency or laziness -- you be the judge!

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 5:42 PM

I vote for efficient!

Fredia does do my laundry and puts it up in many places. I play find the clothes every morning at 5:30 in the dark!

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 5:49 PM

Efficiency - thank you! Altho it does make the bedroom and hallway look cluttery.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 5:50 PM

I'm confused. If Fredia does your laundry, and if you're not permitted to wash her clothes, is your entire laundry contribution limited to . . . sheets, towels and the kids clothes? hmmm. :>)

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 6:05 PM

No, son does his own clothes. I do the sheets and towels and my work clothes. Spouse does my wear to office clothes.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 6:12 PM

Fred: Do you fold fitted sheets? If so, will you leave your wife for me?

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 6:13 PM

KLB SS, if I recall correctly, Fredia has been quite clear about the consequences for Fred should he opt to depart their marriage. He may still be capable of folding fitted sheets after his dismemberment, but will he care?

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 6:25 PM

NC Lawyer,

Your spouse would be impressed by the efficiency of sheet washing. The sheet come off the bed, to the washer to the dryer and back on the bed. No folding necessary!

And you are correct about the two thing that I would leave behind if I left Fredia. Life would not be too pleasant.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 6:49 PM

P.S. I do fold towels but not all the time.

Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 6:50 PM

dang...I missed a good conversation day...dang dang dang

a day without a mimosa is a day without sunshine

Posted by: dotted | January 4, 2007 6:59 PM

Dotted, it wasn't the same without you.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 4, 2007 7:07 PM

Fred, do you fold towels in thirds or in half?
I get the off the bed, into the wash and back on the bed routine for sure. But sometimes you just have some that need to be folded.

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 8:02 PM

the towel folding technique is TOP SECRET.


Posted by: Fred | January 4, 2007 8:18 PM

Fred: This may mean war!

Posted by: KLB SS | January 4, 2007 8:21 PM

Towel folding, lawyer jokes, and no trolls complaining about rich people. Today's blog was a great one.

Posted by: Mona | January 4, 2007 10:38 PM

In case anyone is interested (I can't believe only one person mentioned it!), here's a sample ketubah text (reform):

On the ___ day of the week, the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, corresponding to the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, ___, son of ___, and ___, daughter of ___, join each other in ___, before family and friends to make a mutual covenant as husband and wife, partners in marriage. The groom, ___, promises ___, the bride: "You are my wife according to the tradition of Moses and Israel. I shall cherish you and honor you as is customary among the sons of Israel who have cherished and honored their wives in faithfulness and in integrity." The bride, ___, promises ___, the groom: "You are my husband according to the tradition of Moses and Israel. I shall cherish you and honor you as is customary among the daughters of Israel who have cherished and honored their husbands in faithfulness and in integrity." "We, as beloveds and friends, promise each other to strive throughout our lives together to achieve an openness which will enable us to share our thoughts, our feelings, and our experiences. We promise to try always to bring out in ourselves and in each other qualities of forgiveness, compassion, and integrity. We, as beloveds and friends, will cherish each other's uniqueness; comfort and challenge each other through life's sorrow and joy; share our intuition and insight with one another; and above all do everything within our power to permit each of us to become the persons we are yet to be. All this we take upon ourselves to uphold to the best of our abilities." All is valid and binding.

Posted by: pastryqueen | January 4, 2007 10:43 PM

pastry queen--
that's fascinating. Thanks!

Posted by: aging mom | January 5, 2007 9:36 AM

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