When was the last time you and your spouse sat down to define your household responsibilities? I mean down to the details: Who is taking out the trash? Who is paying the credit card? Who is checking the mail? Who is handling household fixes?
Furthermore, when was the last time you thought about your strengths and weaknesses with regard to household management? For example, I am really good at initiating projects and getting the ball rolling. My husband is really good at seeing the high level impact and making logical decisions. I have high energy and quick start with things, he has a calmer and more reflective energy. We need to play to those strengths, and line up our household responsibilities accordingly.
So, where to start?
List out the things you are really good at, as it relates to the home. What skills do you have? Are you good at fixing things? Cooking? Playing on the floor with the kids? Cleaning? Budgeting? Managing bigger projects? Are you super detail oriented or focused more on the big picture? Do you thrive with paper or digitally?
We need to understand how we best operate as people and then flow with that. Why would we try to change it? Work against it?
I sat down to define our household responsibilities, and I’m going to share it below because it radically changed our relationship:
- Set alarm for 6:45am on weekdays – I was not waking up at a consistent time and this was causing my husband stress. Set your alarm and get up, Jill. OK!
- Make kids’ lunches the night before – This. Has. been. A. Game. Changer. This is me owning my element in the kitchen. I’m very good at packing lunches. My husband does NOT like doing this. It causes him stress. Why would I make him do that?
- Manage all food inventory, cooking, and grocery shopping – I used to resent this, and would try to give my husband things to cook or inspire him to cook. Listen. He doesn’t like it. Let it go, Jill. You love being in the kitchen so play to your strengths!
- Handle kids’ activities – I naturally come up with activities, ideas, things we need to work on. That is my strength. So, when I say it’s time to book swim lessons, I own that and do it. My husband doesn’t need to be involved with that, unless he tells me he wants to be involved.
- AM & Noon dropoff/pickup – It’s my role to drop off/pickup kids during my husband’s work hours.
- Manage all of our finances – booking budget transactions, presenting ideas to my husband and getting his feedback, overseeing our investments and scheduling our financial review each year.
- Prep trash and recycle to go to the alley – I tee this up, my husband physically takes it to the alley every Friday.
- Manage ALL household projects – This means that either 1) I do it, 2) I tee it up for my husband to do it or 3) I hire it out.
- Clean our home and maintain appliances – don’t worry, I love doing this. Yes, you read that correctly. It brings me joy!
My husband’s household responsibilities:
- Morning shift with kids until we leave for daycare – He can wake up early with them and still be human.
- Put Grace to bed – she has clung to him for this over the years (though she may be coming to my side! :-))
- 4pm school pickup – this allows me to get transitioned to the evening and prep dinners.
- Switch laundry in office and bring into house when done – he works in the laundry room so it is a no-brainer.
- Take out kitchen trash & recycle every night
- Make my coffee in the AM – getting coffee in bed before I’m in mom mode is a huge win.
I think everyone needs to go through this exercise. Go through the 4 pillars and think about all of these different responsibilities and define your household responsibilities.
Think of clutter as your home’s inventory. It’s all the stuff in your home that needs to be maintained, and routinely assessed to see if it should stay or go.
- Picking up toys at night
- Putting away laundry
- Routine decluttering and donating
- Purchasing household supplies & putting them away
- Maintaining organized spaces
- Unloading the dishwasher
Cash has to do with your finances and files.
- Managing the budget
- Managing investments
- Really think about your role here. Are you the person checking in on the accounts, making sure everything is as it should be, asking questions about things, making changes if necessary? Or, are you the one being presented to? Being informed/debriefed? One person is moving the ball, the other person is receiving information and responding.
- Paying bills
- Scanning and saving digital files
- Filing away paper files
- Getting the mail/packages and processing them
- Getting taxes done each year
The calendars pillar encompasses our time and to dos.
- Managing the household calendar
- Running your family meetings
- Managing household projects
- Who is in charge of admin/errands/phone calls? I call this household administration.
- Scheduling appointments
- Grocery shopping, returns, getting gas, washing the car – these are all errands. I do them in my errand block every week.
- Booking travel.
- Family events
- Kids’ activities
- School pick-up and drop-off?
- Who is in charge of cooking/making food/meal prep?
Cleaning has to do with routine cleaning and appliances maintenance.
- Cleaning the house
- Maintaining appliances
- Maintaining other systems: changing the air filters, washing the curtains, rotating the mattress (Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of stuff to clean).
- Taking out the trash
- Cleaning the vehicles
- Taking the car in for service
- Sweeping the patios and watering the plants
You need to figure out what your strengths are, and how that dynamic is going to play out. You need to figure out a system so that stuff doesn’t keep rearing its ugly head. If you go through these lists, and figure out how to define your household responsibilities, it will make things run a lot smoother in your home.
To my husband reading this, please know how much I love you. You are an incredible man. I am so grateful to have you in my life. I am so grateful that you are the father of our two incredible daughters. I am grateful for your humility, your love, your intelligence, your tenacity, and your anticipatory nature. You stand by me in more ways than I could ask. Thank you for doing everything, and then some.
Edit: As editor of this blog, these “small” changes we have made have been very helpful as we navigate the daily life of a full-time job, a small business, and two young kids. Thanks for always pushing us to be better, love you!