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Who's Supposed To Do What?

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

“My dad always took out the trash!” “Mom was the cook, Dad never worked in the kitchen.” How many times have we compared our spouse to our parents? It didn’t turn out very well, did it? We assumed a lot when we married, which also didn’t have the best results. Jeff and I never discussed who would be responsible for what throughout our engagement. We were dreamy-eyed, imagining a home that would never collapse under dirty dishes, laundry, and trash!

We were sadly mistaken. Even sadder, neither of us were clean freaks or very organized in our early 20’s. We both worked and were immersed in church, family, and friends. The result...dirty dishes consuming the countertops, trash falling over the top of the can, and clothes piled high waiting to be taken to the laundromat.

I remember once, shortly after we were married, my mother and a friend drove an hour to take me out to eat. I wouldn’t even let my own mother in our apartment. I know it crushed her, but I didn’t want her eyes to witness our bad housekeeping! Another time, Jeff invited his brother to our apartment, which I probably didn’t clean 10 clean dishes that day! Obviously that incident traumatized me. It’s been 40 years and I still cringe at the thought!

Why am I admitting this? Because many of you know me, and you know how important it is for me to have a clean house. I now actually love doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen. I just want you to know there is no judgment here. Most of us have struggled in marriage figuring out who is going to do what.

What breaks my heart though, is hearing of spouses that do nothing. I’m not just talking about the men. I’ve heard husbands share how they go to work, then come home and do everything with the house, food, and kids. Whoever is shouldering an unequal amount of the load; it’s unfair.

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…”

Colossians 3:12-13a (ESV)

I could add other scriptures making my case, but I think Colossians 3 covers it. First, if you are God’s child, Paul is speaking to you. Next, if you study the qualities he instructs the reader to “put on”, you’ll begin to grasp the expected willingness to cooperate and to tackle responsibilities together. Paul counts on everyone...especially spouses to participate.

Of course, Paul probably wasn’t thinking of household responsibilities when he wrote this, but I believe he wanted God’s children to understand this was to be their stature daily, everywhere., with everyone.

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How do we “put on” sharing responsibilities in marriage?

Make a list! I am the queen of lists. Write down all the tasks necessary to keep the house straight and decently clean. Some items will be daily, while others are weekly. If you and your spouse make this list together, you’ll work as a team better when implementing it.

Who’s at home more? I’m at home much more than Jeff, so I tackle much more of the list. However, if I had children here all day, there would be limited items I could accomplish. Children are a full-time job! So whoever walks in from a day at work will need to be willing to tackle items later that evening. (Always give each other a little downtime after working outside the home, or raising children in the home, to regroup and regain energy.)

Divide and conquer! As soon as our kids were old enough, we made Thursday evenings cleaning night. Jeff and I both worked, and were in bi-vocational ministry, so our time was precious. I made a list of 16-20 items, allowing the kids to pick their items first. Of course, I was always left with the bathrooms, but that was ok! I was happy for the house to be presentable and clean in a matter of two hours! We did this for years. Order pizza or pick up burgers and make it as fun as possible.

A list saves arguments. Ladies, please grasp this next piece of advice! For the most part, men do not intentionally ignore responsibilities in the home. They honestly just don’t notice. They prefer to be asked to take care of particular items. However, they do not like to be nagged. Hence, the list. Jeff prefers to see a list of items needed to be accomplished around the house, then for me to constantly verbally remind him. Remember, the basic need of a man is respect and honor. So, it works better to leave a small list, without bringing it up to him. (Jeff also wants to be the one checking off that list! Don’t touch it!) Give him a chance to tackle the items in his own time and manner. Practice patience here.

We’ve come a long way from those early days of marriage. Our house is much straighter now, thank goodness! But it has taken a lot of working together and “putting on” the attributes that Paul advised.

Remember, when you get frustrated with the socks in the floor, or the dishes in the sink, we are blessed to have our spouse. Many singles and widows/widowers would love to see socks laying on their floor. Make the lists, form a plan, but stay calm and thankful as you implement it. You’ll live a lot longer!

Seeking the Word,

Marriage by the Word

“Strengthen me according to Your Word.”

Psalm 119:28b

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