Multiple times a day, I see mom’s on Facebook groups asking about why they can’t get their husband to help around the house. Sometimes it makes me roll my eyes, because yet again, some man if fulfilling the sad stereotype of the “lazy dad,” but I also feel bad. I feel bad because that mom asking for advice probably feels like she’s drowning, yet her spouse seems to not notice or care. My heart breaks for the moms in the middle of this struggle.
My own husband and I have struggled with this. Shortly after having our own son, I started feeling resentment towards my husband (you can read more about that here). I felt like I was doing it all, while he got to run away to work every day. One evening I found myself sobbing over a sink full of bottles and realized something had to give. Later that night, I strategically told my husband that I needed him to do more, because I just couldn’t. Through some trial and error, we figured out how to get stuff done together around the house. Nowadays, I can definitely say that we both carry the weight of the day to day house chores together!
Why Is it important for my spouse to help around the house?
In a study done by Pew Research Center done in 2007, 62% of married couple stated that sharing household chores was very important for a successful marriage. Interesting enough, the same study was conducted in 1990 as well, and only 47% of couples reported sharing household chores was important. The family makeup has changed quite a lot over the years. More moms are working mothers, more dads are willing to take on more domestic roles around the house, and culturally married couples are longing for more equity.
Though it’s great to see that more married couples are striving to have more equity when it comes to household chores, many moms still feel they’re carrying the load. Still to this day, studies show that moms tend to do twice as much housework as dads.
Another study done by Stanford University stated in 2017 that women were 69% more likely to ask for a divorce due to the frustration from men failing to do household work and childcare-related tasks. These studies alone show that marriages have the potential to die upon a hill of laundry.
To this day, the greatest marriage advice I have ever heard is “do not let laundry be the hill your marriage dies on.” Creating equality with household chores IS possible! It will take collaboration on both you and your spouses part, but for many couples more equality in household chores is what’s necessary for peace in the home.
So let’s buckle up and get your spouse to help around the house!
1- Approach the subject during a relaxed time of the day
It doesn’t take an expert psychologist to tell that bringing up a big topic in the middle of an argument isn’t a good idea! Some times of the day are simply not good times to bring up big points of conversation, such as meal times, arguments, in the car with kids, etc. Find a time of the day when things are calm and when you’re both relaxed.
When you wait until a time of the day when you’re both relaxed, you’re more likely to both be receptive to new ideas. When you spring up something like chores in the middle of a chaotic point of the day, it can come off as an attack. Maybe watch a TV show together in the evening, and then bring it up, or have a romantic night in and then bring it up. Even if you have to ask him to be prepared for the conversation a day or two in advance, make sure it’s a time of the day when you’re both relaxed and ready to collaborate.
2- write down all the household chores, and create the game plan together
Don’t just write down what YOU do specifically, but every task there is to do in the house. Then write down who is already doing each task most of the time (by most of time, I mean 80% of the time without being asked).
Sometimes your spouse simply doesn’t know how much you actually do around the house! When you write down the tasks you’re doing compared to what they’re doing, it could be very eye opening for them.
From there, you can collaborate on what exactly you’d like taken off your plate. The next two tips can help with that!
3- play off each other’s strengths
Simply put, there are just some things you’re going to be better at doing than your spouse! For example, I almost always cook the meals in our house simply because I’m the better cook. That’s ok, because there are some things my husband is better at than me, so I let him have those chores.
When creating the list of chores together, figure out which ones you’re each good at doing, enjoy doing, or simply hate doing the least. Allow each other to take the chores that you’re the strongest at doing. If you both feel like you’re competent at your household tasks, then it won’t feel as burdensome to do.
4- make it feel like it was his choice
The key word to this entire process is “collaborate”. You do NOT want to make your husband feel like he’s a piece of garbage who doesn’t know how to wash a spoon, you want him to feel like a contributing member of the household. Instead of saying “You’re going to do the dishes and the laundry from here on out,” maybe word it like “you’re very efficient at getting the dishes clean quickly, would you like to be in charge of that task?”
You may be thinking “wow, that really sounds like I’m brown nosing my own husband.” And you’re kind of correct! Think of it like trying to get your toddler to do a task. You’re probably not going to bark orders at your kid like a drill sergeant, because we all know toddlers would prefer to be the one barking the orders. You’re probably going to make it seem like it was their idea to do whatever it is you want them to do, because that creates buy in. When our husband’s are buying into the idea that they’re taking over a task because they’re such a master of folding underwear or cleaning stinky kids, then it’s not really a chore anymore, its mastering a task.
5- When he does help, don’t be overly critical
Honestly, this is something I am still terrible at. Imagine if your boss at work gave you a HUGE task, but the minute you finished they spent 10 minutes saying how much better it would have been done if they did it themselves. You’d never want to do that task again! Your spouse is inevitably going to have those same feelings when you’re overly critical of how they help around the house. To put it simply, if they’re in charge, they do it their way.
If there really is a major issue that needs to be addressed, make it more of a collaboration and less like an attack. For example, if you just can’t stand how he folds the laundry, why don’t you show him how you’d like it done, then practice it together. Or you can come up with a totally different way to do it that you’d both be happy with. Once again, the key is collaboration, not attacking.
6- Say “thank you”
Gratitude is a powerful tool. I’m from the south, so saying “please” and “thank you” have been so deeply engrained in my psyche that even when someone is rude and messes everything up, I still find myself saying thanks. Not everyone is like that, and that’s totally fine! But when it comes to creating buy in from your spouse, letting them know how grateful you are for their help around the house can go such a long way.
It may seem silly to say “thank you” for something that just needs to be done. You might find yourself thinking, “why should I thank him for something that should just be expected of him?”
I absolutely feel that sentiment, but let me rebuttal with this thought. When someone says “thank you” at your job, doesn’t it make you feel better about what you did? You were expected to do your job, but it still feels good to be thanked for it. When your kids say “thank you” after you make them dinner, it sure feels nice even though you’re expected to feed them, right?
So when your spouse finally does do the one (or many) things you asked them to do, even if it’s just an expectation, thank them for it. Everyone benefits when they feel appreciated.
7- Take Turns
Anybody can get burnt out on anything if they’re expected to do it every day without fail! If your spouse is either reluctant to take on a task 100%, or they’re taking on a task and are becoming stressed out by it, turn taking can be helpful.
For example, if you’re always doing bath time for the kids but your husband isn’t on board with taking it over entirely, make it a rotation. My husband and I did this for a long time and it was very beneficial for us! Writing down the rotation on a calendar or even a piece of paper on the fridge can help keep you both on track.
8- Find some chores you can do together
Sometimes if a task just seems like too much for one person to do, doing it together can help make it feel more equitable. For example, if the pile of laundry is about to touch the ceiling, expecting just one person to do it may feel unfair to that person. Wait until the kids go to bed, turn the TV on, and fold laundry together! Are the dishes flowing out of the sink? Turn on some music and wash them together. Doing some of the chores together can help them seem less overwhelming, and also can be used for quality time together too.
9- recognize when he truly can’t help at the time, and have grace in those moments
I’m sure there has been many times when you just couldn’t do something. Maybe you’ve been exhausted from a long day, or something bad happened that day, or you’re under the weather. Your husband is going to have days like that too, and he’s allowed to. When he genuinely can’t accomplish a chore, be understanding. If you jump down his throat in those moments, it’s going to create a whole lot of unnecessary tension, and he may be less willing to help around the house when he’s feeling fine.
I’ll say it again, the goal of this is collaboration! Sometimes collaboration means being understanding if someone is unable to do something at the moment.
10- don’t be afraid of accountability
Yes, we need to have grace for our partners when they’re unable to accomplish a chore, but we can’t throw accountability out of the window either. If your spouse agrees to help around the house, but they keep dropping the ball every time, hold them accountable.
You may be feeling a bit afraid to rock the boat in those moments, but don’t. If you approach it from a collaboration approach and not an attacking approach, then your accountability is coming from love and not from frustration.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say your husband agreed to start doing the laundry, but for the past two weeks he hasn’t touched the laundry. Here’s one way you can hold him accountable with collaboration in mind:
“A few weeks ago you agreed to start helping out with the laundry. I noticed that you’ve been struggling with keeping up. I understand that doing our family’s laundry can be a daunting task. What can we do to help make it more manageable for you?”
When you word it something like that, you’re not pointing the finger or accusing, you’re pointing out what’s not happening, and opening up the door to collaborate on a solution.
11- Recognize when you may need more help than a blog post can give you
I’m not an expert by any means at the intricacies of marriage. I’ve been married for 9 years, and I’m lucky to have a husband whose been willing to help around the house. I fully understand that some of you may not be in that same situation. You may have done every single one of these steps a million times over, yet you still find yourself picking up his slack. You and your husband may have had argument after argument about household tasks, and he just won’t budge.
Marriage counseling can be beneficial in understanding why this may be an issue, and can give you and your spouse the tools needed to collaborate in a healthy way. I once heard someone say “do not let laundry be the hill your marriage dies on,” and it’s still one of the best pieces of marriage advice I have ever heard. If household chores are a hill that your marriage is about to die on, seek help!
Collaborate, not hate
It is so easy to build up resentment for your husband when they don’t help around the house. So many times, moms feel so invisible when they’re doing all the day to day tasks, especially when their spouses are getting more free time than they are.
When we’re feeling resentful towards our spouse, it can make us feel more ready to attack than work together for an equitable solution. This is why I keep pushing the biggest point of this post: it is best to collaborate, not attack. If you need more help in not resenting your husband (especially after having kids), I highly recommend checking out my blog post, “How To Not Resent Your Husband After Having Kids.”