You’re on Dishes Tonight

Travel back in time sixty years to the household of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Cleaver. Ward went to work and brought home the bacon.  June stayed home and cooked, cleaned and raised the children, all while wearing heels and pearls.

Fast forward to present day and the roles of the household are a lot more blurred. The majority of millennial couples are dual income earners (at least until children come along and even then, many couples have both individuals work outside the home). And at the end of the day deciding who is cooking, who is cleaning up, and who is feeding the dog is often based on who is less tired, not gender.

On the one hand gender equality with household chores has a lot of benefits. There are so many guys I know who are amazing cooks and do the majority of the cooking in their homes. These guys are simply better at putting meals together than their ladies and that is certainly fine with them. Laundry, dishes, making the bed, managing bills have all become shared tasks between the sexes.

Great news right? Not entirely.

Howie and I are finding that so much ambiguity has resulted in an almost permanent state of untidiness. We have absolutely NO defined roles set in stone and four months into the marriage it’s starting to take it’s toll.

Coincidentally, last Sunday happened to be our final marriage prep course and the topic HAPPENED to be roles and responsibilities in managing a home. (Yes, you read that correctly, we didn’t quite complete our marriage prep before the wedding..oops) But our hectic pre-wedding schedule ended up as a blessing in disguise because post-wedding, more than ever, we could benefit from a frank discussion about roles.

One of the exercises involved individually writing down what we expect to personally be responsible for, what we expect our partner to be responsible for, and we what expect both of us to dually take responsibility for. Here is the result of this exercise:


My roles will be:

  • cooking
  • grocery shopping
  • cleaning bathrooms
  • arranging social life
  • shopping
  • gardening
  • decorating
Howie’s roles will be:
  • taking out the garbage
  • yardwork
  • car maintenance
  • paying bills
Our shared roles will be:
  • taking care of Monica
  • dishes
  • sweeping
  • laundry
  • tidying up
  • planning trips
  • long term financial planning

Cheryl’s roles will be:

  • telling future daughters about girl issues
  • gardening
  • friend stuff

My roles will be:

  • telling future sons about guy stuff
  • mowing the lawn

Our shared roles will be:

  • house stuff
  • planning trips
  • paying bills

My initial reaction was that Howie seemed really concerned about future discussions about puberty with our sons and daughters. Interestingly enough this isn’t the first time I’ve sensed his concern about this kind of thing. I think he has some deep down fear that I’m going to force him to tell his daughters about bras and maxi pads.

Future puberty discussions aside, for the most part we appeared to be on the same page. There were two areas of difference we decided to address:

Issue 1) Cooking. Call me old fashioned but I actually really enjoy cooking and planning meals. Although I really appreciated his efforts to do grocery shopping together, I found that his impatience to do all forms of shopping as quick as possible made me feel rushed and we tended to buy a lot more impulse items. So issue #1 solved. I will take the lead on meals, Howie will clean up after.

Issue 2) Paying bills. I SUCK at opening mail. I hate opening mail, opening bills and logging into accounts and transferring money. HATE it. My problem is that when I expect to see bad numbers I like to ignore them until they go away. Problem is, they don’t go away. And poor Howie has been dealing with my procrastination and trying to manage all of our financial obligations without much help from your truly. So we decided that I will at least work with Howie and be there while he does this thing so I don’t end up in my own little world where banks and bills don’t exist.

So long story short, in today’s blurred lines of gender responsibilities I think it’s best for couples to decide who’s doing what based on individual strengths and abilities.

How do you establish household roles in a relationship?


9 thoughts on “You’re on Dishes Tonight

  1. I really never thought about roles until now – there’s a bit of overlap on all of the roles it seems. When it strikes one of us to clean the dishes, one of us does and neither of us ever seem to think that we’re doing more than the other. Lucky for me, the hubs enjoys going to the grocery store with me and cooking and he’s happy being on bathroom duty! We sort of take turns paying bills and folding laundry, etc… but I know what you mean about the seemingly constant state of untidiness that goes along with not having set roles, or set schedules for those roles. One of us usually has to motivate the other but this somehow works for us. We never really discussed who does what. I think we both just sort of accepted that we’d both handle whatever life throws at us. 🙂

    • Lol! Wow I can definitely see how that would be a marriage-saver. But.. I don’t know, is it pathetic if two grown adults like Howie and I can’t keep a small, 2 bedroom condo clean and hire a housecleaner?!

  2. lol, oh Cheryl!! When I need a good laugh, I know to come to your blog!

    I think you should definitely make Howie educate your future daughters on bras and maxi pads. It would be very entertaining to watch… 🙂 Maybe secretly video tape it and post it to your blog after so we can watch??!! Am I mean??

  3. Are you sure you are my daughter? I would much rather pay the bills and balance the cheque register (nobody in their 20’s knows what that is anymore) than grocery shop and cook supper. I’m glad you and Howie have sorted it out! And I like your cute photo of Lucy and Ricky – Lucy was a much more interesting character than June Cleaver!

  4. I feel like this is the part of ‘real life’ that is so irritating! Why can’t all these things be magically done for us? Why didn’t I know how great I had it when I lived at home as a kid and had all these things done for me?! Geoff and I seem to manage, but I think we’ve kind of grown into our roles over time. After living together we just sort of found what worked and have stuck to that. Geoff loves to cook, I truly don’t and have never been confident in the kitchen. I don’t mind laundry, Geoff hates it… but he isn’t opposed to cleaning the bathroom. I find sometimes though we do have to rehash who does what or just remember to say ‘Thanks’. It does make things feel easier and less taking when you have someone appreciate what you do!

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