J is a full-time student now, which means he has a flexible schedule and a bit more time around the house than I do. It means that when I come home from work, he’s just come in from working out in the yard, swept the whole house, finished up the dishes, and is usually cooking dinner (I cook on Fri, Sat, Sun, and Thurs is usually a leftover day. He cooks Mon, Tues, Weds).
I clean the bathroom once a week, help with yardwork when I get the chance (generally maintaining my flower beds, sweeping, collecting yard waste), and we generally share dishes and meal cleanup.
We each do our own laundry. Once a week, I also wash the sheets. We take turns taking out trash as it piles up around the house. It’s fun to see who gets to it first.
Strangely enough, the only part of this we had the conversation about was laundry. I said I’d prefer to keep it separate, since I still had a weird laundry aversion from my first relationship, where I did… well, every fucking thing. Including his laundry (this would be the relationship that woke me up to feminism. If that was what a het relationship was, I wanted no part in it).
We didn’t split costs down the middle, though. We sat down and based our portion of expenses on what each of us brought in. I bring in 2/3 the money, I pay 2/3 the bills. J. still isn’t thrilled about this, but I reminded him that if our positions were reversed, he’d have done the same. In time, what we’re each bringing in will change considerably, and we can budget accordingly.
I really like this. Every bit of it. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m in a truly equal partnership. I don’t feel like I’m the one always picking up after somebody. I don’t feel like I’ve got four jobs. I feel like I’m with somebody who’s got my back. I feel totally supported.
It’s odd to me that in many relationships (het or not, but particularly het), the more-messy partner doesn’t get how much of a burden that daily chores put on the person who ends up doing them. If you actually share? My god, it’s amazing. It really is. All of a sudden you have energy to do things, you’re a lot more interested in sex. You’re a lot less stressed. And – this is the big one – you don’t you resent your partner.
And that’s the big part of it that people don’t get, I think. If you’re a woman and you’re doing more than 50% of the housework, chances are you’re going to resent your husband. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But the irritation wears you down over time. For me, that kind of irritation is just unbearable. I can’t stand it. Some people can let it grind away, and then they fight over it periodically, but for me… yeah.
The sheer inequality in the amount of work we did in my first relationship drove me over the edge. I was working 6 days a week, going to school, writing, doing the laundry, doing the dishes, cooking, cleaning… I was exhausted. All the time. And I thought that’s just how it was, and I was the problem because I just didn’t “get it.” I just needed to buckle down and accept it.
But doing that… it was sacrificing some core piece of myself. Housework is a symbol. Your participation – or not – signals how truly egalitarian you believe your relationship to be (I really think this).
And I’m sure I’ll get all sorts of people who say, “Oh no, it’s not like that!” but it is (I also, of course, know many instances where partners pick up the slack because their spouse isn’t physically capable of doing the work – because of illness or constant travel. That’s obviously not what I’m talking about here. If J. or I get sick, our responsibilites will adjust accordingly).
There’s just so much bound up in the “woman doing all the housework” thing. It feels so much like institutionalized slavery. This strange, nebulous expectation that so many of us hold ourselves to. I never wanted a husband. I wanted a partner. I wanted somebody who would stand next to me. Not run out in front of me screaming at me to catch up or stand behind me with a whip urging me on. I wanted a buddy. A friend. A companion.
I got that.
And yes, partnership is about a lot more than housework. But how much of your own weight you’re willing to pull for your team says a lot about how you regard your teammate.
I like my team.