My husband and I have a very clear division of labor in our marriage: He calls the cable company whenever there’s a problem. I don’t. That rule was created about three years ago, after an hour long phone call with a service rep that left my with a nearly permanent eye-twitch.
Other than that, we’ve got a pretty flexible system for dividing household chores based on strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and the number of hours in the day. Since I’m a stay-home parent, much of the household work falls to me, but the man knows his way around a vacuum cleaner and is not afraid to use it. Gadgets we split: Computers fall to me, iPods to him. And the dishes are simply the responsibility of the last one up every night.
Michelle Slatalla speaks affectionately about the natural division of labor in a marriage in her New York Times column, Dear Banker, Don’t Call Me.
It’s a comfort, this divide-and-conquer approach, when everything is running smoothly. In addition to protecting each of us from what we fear most (me: things with cords, him: financial ruin), it also is a daily reminder of one of the major benefits of being married: someone always has your back.
And when things don’t go smoothly — in Slatella’s case, the bank starts harrassing her husband about their mortgage — it’s nice to be able to hand a confusing and overwhelming problem over to someone who has the know-how to handle it.
Of course, not every couple manages to divide the labor equally — which can lead to stress and resentment. And not every family has two parents to rely on on each other. Whether you depend on a partner, other family members, or yourself, what does the division of labor look like in your family?
Photo: Jaako, Flickr