Household chores: who does what in your house and what does this mean for your relationship?

How do you and your partner divide up the household tasks? The question of 'who does what" - cleaning, cooking, home maintenance, parenting - can become a source of conflict for many couples. Most of us have grown up in homes where these tasks were divided up according to gender roles - the women does the cooking, cleaning, shopping and the bulk of the parenting; the man does home maintenance and some of the parenting. Clearly this division of labour means that much more work falls to the woman - back in our parents' day though, this was based on the fact that the woman was usually home full-time. These days though, most women, even those with young children, need to work at least  part-time in order to cover household expenses; many work full-time. Somehow, though, we don't seem to have caught up with this fact when it comes to thinking about how we divvy up the chores! If you and your partner have tried unsuccessfully to resolve this issue, it's important to think through ideas you may both have about what it means to you to be a man or a woman, and how this identity might be challenged if I'm asked to do something that clashes with my sense of myself. For some women - the idea of picking up a power tool might induce anxiety if her father has taught her - that's men's work, it's not what women do. For some men - the idea of washing dishes, doing laundry or changing a child's nappy might bring up feelings of resentment if he's been raised in a household where women and girls have always performed those tasks. It's important to identify these hidden assumptions that can get in the way of negotiating a fair agreement that suits your situation, here and now, in 21st Century Australia, rather than ending up with an agreement that may feel familiar and 'right' because we grew up with it, but is better suited to life in the 1950s or 60s! Till next post, Vivienne

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