Monday, January 20, 2014

Feminism and Housechores

I am among the 20% of Americans who identify as a feminist.*  I'm married to a feminist too.  He may not identify himself as one but his thoughts and actions (valuing women equally to men) betray him as such.** So as two feminists, here is the division of our household chores:

  • I do most of the cooking, pretty much all of the dishes, clean the house, mow the lawn in the summer.
  • Kevin does all of the fix-it chores, hangs things, winter-proofs our house, takes care of the apartments.

So we pretty much have the traditional gender-roles division of  house work. Wwwwhhhhhaatttt? 

Actually, I'm okay with this.  We don't have to do everything 50-50, we just both have to give 100%.  What each of our 100% looks like can be different.  Kevin is naturally more handy so gravitated towards the maintenance chores when we bought our house.  I am not handy so stuck with the cleaning/cooking chores. Efficiency-wise, it makes a lot more sense for me to clean the bathrooms and vacuum the floors on a Saturday morning while Kevin goes over to one of the apartments to figure out why the dishwasher isn't working.  Both of us are providing value to our household and doing work that we would otherwise have to pay for.  It's not my job, as a woman, to clean the house.  We are equally responsible, as a family, for cleaning our house.  Most of the time, I clean the house because that frees Kevin up to do a maintenance project that is also both of our responsibility.  But if I was in charge of that project, my solution would be to hire someone to fix it.  So it makes sense that Kevin takes those projects on.

Sometimes our 100% means giving 110% to pick up the other person's slack.  If one of us is sick or working long hours, the other will give a bit more.  Those acts of love mean more than any flowers or chocolates or jewelry Kevin could give me.***

Here are some of the household cleaning tips I am trying to employ (sometimes more successfully than others):

1. Pick up the house everyday.  For me, a cluttered house is a lot more annoying than a dirty house.  I don't mind the dust on the tv or the pet hair in the corner as much as I mind having mail all over the place and glasses everywhere.  So I've been trying to devote 20 minutes every day when I get home from work to putting everything back in its place.
2. Clean one floor on Saturday and one floor on Sunday or as needed.
3. Pick things up as I go.  I'm trying to be more conscious of picking things up when I happen to be somewhere for an unrelated reason.  So if I go into the living room in the morning to open the shutters (so the dogs have their "tv" on while we're at work) I try to pick up a few glasses or put a few things away while I'm there.  Takes an extra second and adds up.
4. Clean as I notice something.  I'm not very good at this but I am trying to start to clean something the moment I notice it is dirty.  So if I notice a mantel is dusty, to stop and wipe it down right then and there.  It only takes a few minutes and makes me a lot less crazy than my general m.o., which is to wait until I'm cleaning everything to get to it.  But once I've noticed something is dirty, I will continue to notice it and it will bother me.  If I just stop and do it then and there, I save myself some annoyance down the line.

How do you divide the household chores in your house?  And any tips for keeping your house clean?  I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient so I can spend less of my free time cleaning.

*How is it that low?  Don't women want to (a) have control over their lives and (a) be valued as an equal member of society?  That is all that feminism is - valuing women equal to men as a whole.
**So only 8% of people identify themselves as anti-feminist, so Kevin falls in with the 72% that believe in equality of the sexes but don't use the label "feminist."  The word "feminism" has a branding problem that really needs to be addressed.
***I'm not really a flowers kind of person (seems like a waste of money) and Kevin has only brought me some once - when I was really mad at him early on in our relationship and about to break up with him.  I guess I do like flowers -- since it made me pause and here we are five years later :)


  1. I love this post! Our chores are divided in much the same way, except my unfortunate husband ends up picking up my slack with the cleaning sometimes because we have differing views on what constitutes "clean." (So yeah, can't give you any advice in that area.)
    I've struggled with my roles in the family because I always thought I'd wind up a "strong, independent career woman," and then I found myself at home in pajamas cooking and cleaning and raising our child. But I've realized that HAVING the choice is more important than whether you decide to do things that are historically feminine or masculine.

    1. Haha, it is hard when your definition of clean varies from your spouse. We do have a "you can't delegate and then complain" rule, which means I never have to hear it if dinner sucks/the place is a mess. I probably would not have a good reaction if he complained :)

      I've struggled too, and sometimes I wonder if my explanation above is just rationalizing. But I also believe in efficiency, since work sucks and I want to get to the point where we are doing something fun as fast as possible.