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Being the default parent and improving our distribution of chores

(18 Posts)
DougalTheCheshireCat Thu 11-Dec-14 11:37:16

I wasn't sure whether to post this here or in relationship. It is an parenting issue (as in it didn't come up before we had kids) but it is, fundamentally about between me and DH and how we negotiate what must be done.

I'm after practical suggestions on finding a better balance please.

Both on being the default parent (especially in the mornings) and sharing out the chores. At the moment, the ones that fall to me are relentless (food buying, menu planning, cooking, clothes washing) while those DH does are discretionary / can wait (car, project to rennovate the house, DIY). He is busy with work and tired before Christmas so he has parked his chores. We need to eat, and clean clothes to wear no matter how tired I am. I have had enough.

We lucky to be able to afford great help: great child care (nanny, nursery) and a cleaning lady. I will look at whether there is more we can outsource. But I don't want any more childcare, (chores are different) and in any case, the people who help us need managing, and guess who does that? I need a better distribution of responsibilities between me and DH.

So I'm asking for your practicle suggestions, please, of how to make changes and better to redistribute chores to balance our lives, and...

Practicle suggestions of how to row back on being the default parent (DD is 18 months, still breast feeding, so much of the early stuff has fallen to me. But she is older now, I work 4 days a week need a better balance).

What essential / relentless (ie must happen daily or weekly) chores does your DH do?

What bits of default, must happen every day / week / you just know how and, crucially, carry the responsibility for, parenting does your DH do?

Especially, any ideas on how to get to the point where DH is lead parenting without me having to leave the house (which works v well!)?

cailindana Thu 11-Dec-14 13:02:28

I was originally a SAHM when DS was born. Being a SAHM with one easy baby is doable and so we fell into very bad habits, which began to get wearing. The default parent thing was definitely a problem. Once I started working I had to take action.

I reduced the onus on me to be the default parent by pointing individual things out to DH, such as, "you need to hold the baby during lunch this time as I normally do it and I'd like to eat in peace," then handing over the baby and ignoring any difficulty he had in feeding him.

Doing that got it to a tolerable level when we had one. But once we had two, it got absolutely ridiculous. I did talk to DH multiple times, pointed out what needed doing, assigned him particular jobs (which he would dawdle about or not do, or do badly). In the end the crunch point came when I wanted him to step up so I could work more and he just refused. The only way I changed things was to threaten to leave. DH bucked his ideas up pretty quick smart then.

So, now DH does all the getting up early in the morning with the two (seeing as I did all night wakings with DD when she was waking) and so they're usually dressed and mostly fed by the time I get up, we share cooking, washing, appointments etc. He has cut down his hours so he can do childcare while I work. He takes the kids to his parents every 6 weeks or so for an overnight so I can have some rest. He does most of the bathing, the cutting of toenails. I am mostly in charge of clothes, ie sorting what's too small and buying new stuff and hair cutting. He has totally stepped up on the housework front and basically said he'll take care of most of it in recognition of the fact that I took care of most of it for the preceding twelve years. He plans an activity with the children every Saturday and I can join in or not, whatever I want. We each get a lie in one day of the weekend.

We co-parent and it's great. He has said, a number of times, that he is very very grateful that I gave him a kick up the arse because now he feels closer to the children and more capable and comfortable as a a parent. Our relationship is better, although there is a lot of resentment to repair and it will take time, but I feel very loved and happy for the first time in a long time.

squizita Thu 11-Dec-14 17:12:32

I would second clear one off instructions. They soon become habits. My DH MADE me do this to avoid him accidentally doing too little! Dd is only 3 months and i bf, but ot has mafe life easier. E.g. "This afternoon I need to wash my hair. Please mind dd and change her nappy and/or give her bottle, thanks!" Or "dd is feeding now. There's a pizza and garlic bread in the fridge. Please cook them and cut them into slices thanks"... and avoid being controlling or hovering.
Be quite organised with it - certain days/things have become DHs main things (washing up, night time bath/change...) simply through habit.
But sometimes the habit of being "mum" is hard to break - apart from breast milk dh can (and does) split it 50/50.

toomanywheeliebins Thu 11-Dec-14 19:01:02

DH v hands on Dad but when 'wife work' fell to me. This got worse when I was on mat leave with DC2. I then got a v high paid, stressful job and he had to do more. We rotate food shopping, split chores and I don't buy any gifts for his family or write any cards (was fed up that I was still doing this despite my own family).I still most of the washing although he does try. I reckon I still do 60% but is improving.

Chunderella Fri 12-Dec-14 08:42:58

Not quite what you were asking, but it sounds like his chores could be more easily outsourced than yours. I would've thought getting someone in to do big DIY projects was an obvious option, if you can afford it, thus freeing him up to do some washing up. As it takes less time to mop a floor than it does to knock down a wall or whatever, the tired and busy excuses are less easy to use. In your case, you could outsource cooking and ironing I guess? But not sure whether finances would allow. And you would need to make it clear there has to be a redistribution, otherwise you just end up doing the same amount and the household pays for his increased leisure time.

squizita Fri 12-Dec-14 09:15:58

We did what Chunderella suggests with big gardening projects and DIY. She's right about using the time though: at first DH was playing computer games so we had to work on re-sharing Saturday afternoon!

specialmagiclady Fri 12-Dec-14 09:24:52

I Think rotating being in charge of food/washing is a great idea! My dh was off work for a couple of weeks recently. Week 1 he was my assistant - I still did all the thinking about what we were going to eat etc. Week 2 as I was heading out to work he said "give me a list and I'll go to the supermarket". I said. "The list is : everything we've run out of and everything we'd like to eat this week." His face! But bless him, he did all the food shopping and all the menu thinking for the week. One night I cooked the risotto, but I hadn't had to plan it so that was amazing! We've agreed that when he 's off again he'll just take over an entire section and be responsible for it. It made him feel much better.

My brother and SIL have a babysitter on Monday nights. They go to the gym and supermarket and plan the meals for the week. They write them on the board and whoever is home first starts on dinner. That could work, too.

ilovetosleep Fri 12-Dec-14 18:53:00

We have fallen into more of a 50/50 arrangement now that DS2 is here.
I am SAHM, DZh at work 8.30-6.30

I do all night wakings (there are usually 5+) DH gets up with both boys at 630 , does breakfast and gets them dressed, takes DS1 to preschool on his 3 days. I get up at 8.30.

I keep on top of tidying superficially throughout the day and do food shopping and 75% of cooking (ensuring there is always left overs and extra portions in freezer for DS1 and purées for DS2. DH cooks dinner 3 times a week and does all washing up/controls the dishwasher.

DH does bins and recycling

I do all clothes sorting/putting away/replacing etc

We share washing 50/50 - he is a bit obsessed with laundry

We have a cleaner 2 hrs a week and gave up on DIY a long time ago, we tend to employ people for most things now bar painting. BUT I deal with most of these people.

At weekends he often takes DS1 out to see family or to the park, but usually needs cajoling and he never takes both boys so I'm very rarely alone.

It sounds like DH does a lot, and he does, but I still feel as though the big responsibilities lie with me - the food, the bf, the night shift, the organising. Having said that, when he goes away I freak out and can barely cope without him!

aliciaj Fri 12-Dec-14 19:02:40

We do equal night feeds either 1 night on, 1 night off or we half the night if really tired.

Dh does all cooking, but I will stick something in oven if he can't be bothered.

We share tidying up. He hates hanging up clean clothes so I do that.

We both have time to do what we want, and will both look after the children if the others wants to go out anywhere for evening/overnight with friends.

blushingmare Fri 12-Dec-14 19:49:11

Hmmmm, well, DH works long hours and has a long commute so is out of the house 6:30am-9/10pm on weekdays. I'm currently on maternity leave and was previously working 2 days a week (having dropped from full time after coming back after having DC1).

Basically he doesn't really do anything household/parenting wise. No, I tell a lie, he cuts the grass! He will do DD's (the 2yo) bath and bedtime at the weekends, leaving me to just do DS (the baby), which is a relative holiday! We don't have a cleaner or anything so all the household stuff falls to me. I also do all the running of the household, like paying bills, arranging deliveries etc, basically running our lives.

I don't know how I feel about it really. I mean, yes there are times when I feel resentful and irritated and wish he did more, but then he works hard and long hours and earns decent money to keep us all in a good standard of living, so most of the time I just view that as his job and this as my "job". I know that's pretty anti-feminist and non-21st century, but to an extent practically speaking that's how it works. I mean, he's just not around much to contribute and it's hard to just pick it all up and run with it only at the weekends.

That said, I know he'd be just the same if I were working full time and I'd still end up doing everything I do now! He could do more at the weekends definitely and I've made a bit of a rod for my own back probably by not pushing it.

blushingmare Fri 12-Dec-14 19:51:16

Sorry just re-read your OP and realised you were looking for suggestions to improve your situation, which I haven't given at all there have I?! Sorry - just jumped on your post, ranted and walked off without contributing anything useful blush

themagicamulet Fri 12-Dec-14 20:26:59

Don't have an answer but watching with interest ( 2 dc, both work full time in professional jobs, both have long commutes, but all dc, car and household stuff falls to me inc diy/maintenance.) Part of what makes it so exhausting is the brain space it takes up - he's amenable to doing stuff but only if I give very clear instructions. Would never occur to him to check whether we had enough milk, book a dental appointment or check the dcs school uniforms were clean, although he will buy milk if I ask him to. The one time I asked him to take the kids to the dentist he said ' Shall I give you some dates?' expecting me to liaise between him and the dentist, PA style. He was very shocked when I gave him the number and said he had to book the actual appointment. He cleans the dc's school shoes once a week, because I asked him to and made it 'his' job, but he'll do that within very limited parameters, e.g. without noticing for weeks that they've sprung holes in the soles and actually need replacing....

Sorry, that was a moan rather than a help. But you're not alone...

MiaowTheCat Sat 13-Dec-14 19:02:38

DH cooks... well whacks something in the oven or orders takeaway and generates a mess... that's about it.

DougalTheCheshireCat Sat 13-Dec-14 20:58:25

Ladies! Thanks for all the lovely replies.

Of course I fired off a ranty post when I got to work on Thursday very pissed off and have not had a chance to check back since.

At lunchtime that day I did email DH (we often have v constructive discussions on email, more time to think about what we need to say and digest what the other has said), detailing things he could do that would redistribute a bit.

We've agreed he'll take the washing and managing the cleaning lady as his things, for starters, and that we more clearly share the weekend mornings (one each) and that he steps up more weekday mornings. For me it is about carrying too much responsibility - I want to hand over whole areas of responsibility and cross them off the list of things I manage, permanently.

AnythingNotEverything Sat 13-Dec-14 21:09:50

I absolutely agree it's about handing things over.

DH does meal planning, shopping and most of the cooking and kitchen cleaning. He also does bins. I'm not even sure what day our bins out.

I completely ignore his tasks. I don't go to food shops unless asked to pick something up (rarely) and I don't touch the dishwasher. It really helps me to partition those jobs off away from my responsibilities.

DougalTheCheshireCat Sat 13-Dec-14 21:14:04

CallinDana - openly considering leaving is a drastic step, I hope we can turn this around without it coming to that. It sounds like it's worked out well for you, which is great. wine

We had a rough patch when dd was 4 months and I was seriously ill and in hospital for nearly a week. It was great for DH in lots of ways, he had to do DD I the nights, it taught me something about getting out of the way. But I was v hurt by some things (he couldn't understand how much I was missing dd and felt I was being ill the wrong way but wanting to spend as much time with her as I could during the days, not lying in a hospital bed on my own resting - though the paint felt at out separation was no rest) and around that time, in darker moments, I did seriously consider leaving. I figured I had to at least get well, we worked it through and things got much better. E.g. He took a day off once a week for the first three months I was back at work, and looked after dd himself of course this made the weekends better as he'd figured out how to do it himself.

squitza. Good for you, all I'd say is three months is early days. DH was pretty good at the start too. Things evolve. Keep an eye on it, but more power to you, I hope you keep a good balance for you.

Chundarella - we are already outsourcing like no tomorrow. Our nanny cooks our evening meal the three days she is here. But I still do the menu planning, food ordering (online, God knows how people did this before the Internet) and cooking the rest of the time. We have a cleaning lady twice a week. She does all the cleaning, ironing and changes our beds. So some of the washing too. But I do the rest of the washing, and manage her. So I've been asleep and the got out of bed at 11pm to put on the shirts wash so she can hang it up the next day when the cleaning lady comes. DH and I have just agreed he will take this as his responsibility. I think this will work as running out of shirts will role around faster for him than me(so direct motivation) and I'm not that bothered about washing (whereas I do care about cooking and the food we eat. Plus he's just no home early enough to get involved in cooking for us during the week. I guess, if things don't get better, I push on for a full on housekeeper to take all the shopping, menu planning, cooking and washing and cleaning. Not sure if we could afford it but might be better than divorce!

DougalTheCheshireCat Sat 13-Dec-14 21:39:47

SpecialMagicLady - the Monday night babysitter is a good idea. I've had at the back of my mind doing that so I can regularly get to a yoga class or similar. Currently DDs bedtime fluctuates (I aim for 7.30pm but sometime it runs later) and as I'm still breast feeding, although she will go to bed with DH, it doesn't make for a great night (yet). At the moment we are prioritising improving the nighttime sleeping, night weaning, reducing/ eliminations night wake ups etc. after that, my next goal will be a good bedtime routine without me. Then I'll get DH to do it on Sunday evenings, say, regularly. We will get there and then this could be an option. Although, I also enjoy the time with DD. Although DH does it if I have work commitments, she and I both feel it the next day if we've not seen each other. Certainly part of DH's suggested solution is more childcare, although I don't think either of us really want less time with DD. DH has lots of colleagues with even more full on jobs, and full time 7am-7pm childcare. It's just not the kind of parent I want to be, I love our closeness and responsiveness. We've coslept a lot and it's made being at work 4 days a week manageable. Sometimes DH and I are both rushing to go and sleep next to her if she wakes. We love it. But also, our lives need to be sustainable for me too.

IlovetoSleep - I hear you. DH travels for work quite a bit, so our lives are set up so it runs without him. But of course that makes it too easy for him to drop back. Sometimes when he is away it seems easier, not always but sometimes.

Alicia - DH is great if there is something I'm doing out of the house, especially work related, or something for me like a spa day. I partly manage it by arranging that stuff regularly, so he just has to get on with things. It's a double bonus for me as when I'm back, he's always more proactive for a while, and it builds his and DDs relationship.what I need it more breathing space in my day to day life. Organising to be out or away is in itself a stress.

Blushing - we had a similar split when I was on maternity leave. My question is, when do you get time off? I remember last Christmas DH being v tired,a dn spending a few days sleeping late and falling asleep on the sofa. Once he'd recovered he mucked I but for those few days, I was exhausted too and grinding away on my own, sometimes literally around him asleep on the sofa. It felt very unfair.

Magic - YY it is very much about headspace for me. I have also had the 'just let me know' lines like I'm the family PA. I push back firmly on this...

wine All around ladies.

I guess my question is, if you are both full on jobs working, but feel you have a good balance domestically, how do you split it if your DH doesn't do the shopping and cooking? ((My brother and DSil do this, I just can't see if working for us). Also would love to hear more about the impact of no2. We very much want another, on good days I think it would help (less space for him to take a back seat) on bad days I think it would be worse, at least at the start.

I'd love DH to take DD out for longer stretches at the weekend. He does do it but needs pushed, and mostly only for an hour or so. I might suggest a regular, day long visit to his brothers. I'd get free time at home, alone. I'd love that.

Am off to bed now. Thanks for your support and suggestions.

DougalTheCheshireCat Sat 13-Dec-14 21:46:48

Ps chundarella - we will outsource the renovations too, it's planning that DH is running. Architects, planning, finding a builder etc. the thing about outsourcing is, it requires management. So it does save time but it doesn't lift the responsibility.

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