Sharing the Load
Last night, after a long discussion and a negotiation inspired by Al's experience living in a frat house, Al and I made a list of all the household chores that need to get done on a daily or weekly basis, and we divided them up between us.
Both of us had read an article in the New York Times Magazine about equal parenting while visiting our friends Tony & Maria in Massachusetts last week, and we've been mulling over the implications of that lifestyle ever since. Before we even returned home we resolved to divide up laundry responsibilities such that I washed my clothes and the Beaner's, and Al washed his and the sheets and towels, but it took a filthy Beaner/Guest bath sink to bring us to the point of list-making and general division of labor. I cleaned that sink last night with the exasperation of a martyr, and then I initiated discussions with the idea that I was getting stuck with all the icky household chores.
What's probably closer to the truth is that the house isn't as clean as it should be because each of us is waiting for the other to clean it. Each of us has our pet peeve areas, and each of secretly hoped the other would be as disgusted as we were, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for his or her hand in the mess, and just clean the damn thing up. Of course, our pet peeve areas are a bit different, so all the waiting was in vain, and just made us miserable and the house dirty.
I must say, there were some interesting moments as we made the long list of chores and then took turns picking items off the list for which we'd be responsible. There were questions raised about whether Swiffering the living room should also include the stairs up to the bedroom and the stairs down to the kitchen; whether dusting should cover all the electronics in the house or be divided up on a room-by-room basis; whether it might make sense to divide the house into living room and below and master bedroom and above. There were bouts of hysterical laughter and evil suggestions that standards of cleanliness should be determined by the person NOT doing a particular chore. There was a brief flap over whether chore completion should be measured every week on a specific day or whether each chore should have its own weekly calendar. But at a little past 11pm, we finally had an agreement.
There are still a few open issues, and we've resolved to evaluate how well things are working—does the division of labor seem fair, for example, and are all the tasks getting done to both of our satisfaction—after 6-8 weeks. Al suspects that at that point we might decide we need help, and he may be right; for my part, I suspect that I'll be more willing to just do my chores because I know they're mine rather than waiting for Al to do them.
If tonight's frenzy of cleaning is any indication, this might really work: We seemed to be in competition with each other to see who could check off the most items from his or her list.