By May Patterson, Crosswalk.com
Even if you promised me you loved doing household chores, I wouldn’t believe you. (Sorry)
No one—of sound mind—truly loves scrubbing toilets, or extracting grit from the fridge shelf, or mopping smelly goop off the floor.
But the worst part about household chores is that they never end: the hamster must be fed every day, lint must be removed from the dryer and the cable guy must be met at an unspecified time between 1:00 and 5:00. Ugh.
All chores must be done, but should chores be done by all?
While studies show that men are doing more around the house than in previous generations, there is often an imbalance. And wives usually take up the slack, but is this fair? Is it biblical?
While some interpret Titus 2:5 literally, thinking only women should be “busy at home,” (a.k.a. doing all the chores).
I think that’s a stretch. Here’s why: when Paul wrote this, most women were already keepers at home, having few (if any) other options. That was the culture they were in.
Paul is simply encouraging women to work at what they do, instead of being lazy. In Colossians, he wrote this similar passage to all: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Col. 3:23).
Being "busy at home" is just one way that woman can be outward focused and glorify God--not the only way.
Keeping a home and family running smoothly does take a lot of time and effort. So it’s no wonder then, that the division of labor often causes friction in marriages. Little things, like who will clean the baked-on spaghetti sauce from the microwave or who Swiffered last, can add up to big trouble.
Here’s the truth: each time household responsibilities are divided up, it presents an opportunity for conflict, resentment and anger. So if wives (or husbands) do all the chores, it can cause resentment and anger to build, and eventually the marriage will suffer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Household chores can be divided and conquered peacefully. Or at least that’s been my experience. Here’s what I’ve learned.
7 ways to divide household chores peacefully with your spouse:
1. Change Your Thinking
When we were first married, “who does what” was a marital issue. But when we had 3 children in 2 years, it became a major marital issue.
Thankfully, we’ve worked it out (well, mostly). Recently, as my husband and I prepared for a large family dinner, he unloaded the dishwasher while I marinated the meat. And that’s when it hit me—this is a bonafide miracle.
I didn’t have to say, “I’m not unloading the dishwasher, it’s your turn” and he didn’t say “can’t you help me out with the steaks, just once?”
Here’s what changed: our thinking. Now we consider chores as something we do for US, not for ourselves. My husband no longer feels like he’s doing me a favor when he does the dishes. I stopped allowing myself to think, “He owes me for that.”
In order to change, we had to curb our sarcasm, negative thoughts and words regarding chores. This took a lot of prayer and talking it over. We decided to make “teamwork in everything” our goal. It wasn’t easy, but our intentional mind shift made a huge difference.
2. Get Organized
I’m a much more organized housekeeper now, after 32 years of practice, than when we first married. I’ve learned never to go upstairs emptyhanded. I’ve learned to fold clothes when they’re hot, straight out of the dryer, so you won’t have to iron them.
I’ve learned that if you don’t hang up your shirt right now, it will stay on the floor for weeks. And if dishes pile up too high, trust me—you may never recover.
Housework isn’t as hard now, because I know what hangs it up and what makes it easier. I’ve learned how to purge and to stay somewhat organized. I do this because it helps our home (and marriage) run more smoothly.
Here’s the truth: an organized house prevents chore wars. But learning how to stay organized took time. If you’re young, give yourself—and your spouse—some grace; there’s a lot of tips and tricks to learn, but it does take practice.
3. Get an App (Seriously)
When my daughter first married, she ended up doing more of the housework, even though she and her husband both worked full-time. Please understand that my son-in-law isn’t mean or lazy; he sincerely thought he was doing his fair share.
He’s not alone. According to a report in the New York Times, the majority of men think they’re doing more around the house than they actually are (sorry guys).
My daughter and her husband found this helpful solution: the Ourhome app. It tracks who does what and awards points for certain jobs. (The more unsavory the job, the more points you get).
Using the app for a few months enabled them to divide the labor more equally. Now they no longer need it, but the app helped them decide who does what in a fun and fair way. And he readily admits he had no idea how much it took to keep house.
4. Talk it Out. Respectfully.
One day, after the twins had accidently killed our goldfish and marked up my dining room table with a Sharpie and I’d burned dinner, my husband breezed in. He’d had a great day at work and dared to ask, “what’s for supper?” I let him have it. Graciously, he took the kids out for pizza and then to the park, to give me space.
Later that night, after I had calmed down, he said, “Tell me how you feel, but don’t attack me. I’m not against you.” Ouch, he was right. No matter what’s happened, punishing someone for your bad day isn’t fair. So when it comes to overwhelm and stress, talk about how you feel, but don’t punish your spouse.
As you share your thoughts, be careful not to attack or chastise. Stay as calm as you can. Be respectful. Talk about what it takes to run your home and decide how you can help each other.
5. Support Eachother
Once, I asked my husband which chore he hated most. Immediately he said, “Cleaning bathrooms. What about you?” I replied, “Yardwork.” Since then, we don’t even discuss it: I take care of the bathrooms and he takes care of the yard.
We support each other by keeping each other’s preferences in mind.
Another way to support your spouse is to be willing to pinch-hit. When he or she seems overwhelmed with chores and responsibilities, ask these questions:
“What one thing would help you the most today?”
“How much alone time do you need?”
“How can I make things easier for you?”
Simple acts of support are like rocket fuel—they can make your relationship soar. Here’s why: supporting your spouse conveys love and respect. It shows that you really care. The more you apply this verse to your marriage, the better: “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” (Matt. 7:12 MSG)
6. Work Together in Short Bursts
Nothing makes me angrier than slaving away in a messy kitchen while my husband and children sit at the table, idly playing on their laptops. The nerve. And if I’m not careful, resentment can build up until it suddenly erupts, much like a deadly volcano. Maybe you can relate.
Here’s an idea: why not prevent angry outbursts and building resentment by getting everyone involved? Turn on a timer, divide into teams and challenge everyone to see how much they can do in 10 minutes.
In order to do that, you’ll have to work together. Competition can make it fun. And then maybe after the 10 minutes passes, you can sit down and enjoy the evening together. It’s certainly worth a try. And remember, end the cleaning time as promised, even if it’s not white-glove clean. Working together simply works better when you make it fun.
7. Commit to Addressing Underlying Issues
Your spouse needs to feel loved, valued and respected. He or she wants to be appreciated and treated fairly. So do you. But if your needs aren’t being met right now, you may not care about meeting your spouse’s needs. Ignored, unmet needs will sabotage your marriage.
Something must change. Let change begin with you.
First, seek the Lord’s help, for “apart from him, you can do nothing,” (John 15:5). Then, commit to making your spouse feel loved, appreciated and respected—even if it’s not reciprocated. If you truly work at this, it will eventually change both you and your spouse.
Try doing these things for 30 days:
- Thank your spouse for something different each day.
- Praise your spouse in front of other people at least once a week.
- Do not nag. Stop negative words by blocking negative thoughts.
- Apologize for something you failed to do at least 3 times, during the 30 days.
- Pray with your spouse. God can work miracles in any marriage. Go to Him together.
Household chores need to be done, but they do not have to cause a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead, use chores as opportunities to draw together as a team. Find what works best for your family and commit yourself to it. If you do, your marriage will be happier and your floors might even stay cleaner, too.
May Patterson has been writing and teaching Bible study classes for years. Recently she released her first book, “Seeking a Familiar Face.” Now, she has just released its companion Bible study workbook. May trained in small group dynamics for over ten years with Bible Study Fellowship, serving as a leader for four years. She has written for various magazines including Focus on the Family, Upper Room Magazine and iBelieve, and is a sought-after public speaker. May is married to her dear friend, Mike, and they have three grown children. She loves to tell stories, laugh, and talk about the adventure of seeking God. Read more from May by visiting: http://www.maypatterson.com.
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