I took clothes out of the dryer this morning for the first time in weeks, maybe months. As a general rule, I don’t do laundry.
While I don’t send my kids to school in dirty clothes, and while I do love the smell and feel of freshly washed towels… I don’t do laundry.
I haven’t yet brought myself to hire out the task (though there are some great companies out there offering this very service), but I don’t do laundry.
In our family, I don’t do laundry. My husband does.
Domestic Duties and Mental Load
A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about the division of household labor, and how it always seemed like the women were carrying the most of the load, whether by design or by accident. In both our cases, my friend and I have husbands who support us and our careers, and who love us and want to help out around the house. In spite of all this, we women were feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of housework and information we were managing.
In hindsight, my conversation with my friend should not have surprised me. I’m guessing most women have felt this weight I’m describing. I’m not trying to generalize, but I think it is still customary for daycares or schools to call mom first (likely because Mom filled out the form and put her info first); moms are also more likely to manage the calendar, scheduling appointments, extracurriculars, social events, and vacations; moms also generally manage clothing and household purchases as well as decorating and cleaning. And all of that is, well, A LOT.
The Decision: Divide and Conquer
As our family has grown and our mess in all areas has multiplied, I began feeling overwhelmed. Too much to do for too many people and too little time. So, my husband and I sat down to discuss what was making me feel so anxious. And as usual, getting the vague “everything”, whittled down into a coherent list, we realized that in our household we have a few categories of chores: laundry, meal prep/cooking, dishes, yard maintenance, and general tidying (the regular cleaning gets outsourced). Taking that list of daily/weekly to-do’s and putting them into categories helped us divide and conquer. We didn’t make a chart, per se, but we have divided up the chores in a way that works for us.
If there is a chore someone actually enjoys (for me, meal prep/cooking, for him, yard work), the assignment is easy. The other chores are either divided by who hates them the least, or who is best/has the most capacity. In our case, dishes and laundry are those never-ending chores, so we split them up – I usually do dishes, though he helps when I need it. He generally does laundry. And by generally, I mean almost always.
The Reality: Losing Responsibility – and Control
I should mention that this divvying up of chores hasn’t been without some challenge. The biggest struggle for me has been releasing control. My husband doesn’t do laundry exactly the way I would. Sometimes it takes longer to get it all done. Sometimes the loads are slightly larger than I’d prefer, or delicate items get washed with regular laundry or dried in the dryer instead of hung up. (To date, nothing has been ruined, but I accept that risk, too!) I decided that if I wanted the freedom of not having to be responsible for the laundry, then I had to let go of small frustrations and let my husband do the laundry his way. It is his project to manage. And he gets it done. Just not the way I would do it. And that is absolutely okay because the point is that the clothes are clean, not that they are clean my way.
The Conclusion: Why it Works for Me
If you were to ask my husband if we split domestic duties fairly, I’m not sure what he’d say. I think it would depend on the week or day that you asked him. And I’d agree. On any given day or week I might do more than my “fair share” around the house, but in general, I’m comfortable with our responsibility routine. And mostly I’m thankful that I don’t do laundry.
What about you? Is there a chore you don’t do?