Let’s face it, mothers tend to bear the brunt of the housework in any home. When working mums feel resentful that they are doing the bulk of the chores, as well as cooking compared to their spouses, this is bound to become a source of stress between husband and wife. But it does not need to be so.
Dr Hana Ra Adams, psychologist at The Change Group Counselling and Eugenia Koh, a working mother of two, suggest nifty ways to get the mister to help more on the homefront.
1) Discuss the allocation of chores rationally
Pick the right time to have that conversation. Dr Adams says, “Starting a conversation like this when you know the kids are going to be home any minute is not helpful.” Try this: Tell him you need his help with something and ask when’s a good time to talk.
During the discussion, don’t let your tone of voice or choice of words show your frustration. Dr Adams advises, “Use I-statements to really tell him how you are feeling and what you need exactly.” As I-statements emphasise the speaker’s thoughts and expressions and not the listener, this lets you be assertive without assigning blame, which prevents him from getting defensive.
Dr Adams notes that just as women like to talk, men like solving problems. So, explain to him how the chores are a problem and that you need his help to resolve the issue. Then, be specific about what you’d like him to do. Dr Adam stresses, “The more specific you can be, the easier it is for him to help.”
I-statements lets you be assertive without assigning blame, which prevents him from getting defensive.
2) Start small
Help him craft a list of simple tasks he will be able to manage ― add items like doing the dishes, folding the clothes or watering the plants. Stick with simple tasks that are easy to correct lest he gets them wrong. Dr Adams points out, “The most important thing is that you want him to realise that he is your partner, that he can help you. If you go into the talk with a pre-determined list, there’s the chance you might not get the cooperation you are looking for.”
Mother of two Eugenia Koh reckons that one of the best ways to resolve the disagreement over chores is to compromise. Try this: Split the number of tasks between the both of you. If you are doing most of them, perhaps he can do the one you don’t want to. Otherwise, scribble down all the household tasks on different pieces of papers, then scrunch up each piece. Take turns to pick each task until none is left. For tasks with no takers, alternate them between the both of you.
4) Split up the work
Certain chores can be broken down into its parts. For instance, making dinner involves shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning. Strike a deal ― you’ll cook and clean, while he can do the shopping and prep work. Remember to swap the roles, so that it’s fair to both parties.
5) Give him chores he’d be keen to do
Appeal to your hubby’s interests! If he’s crazy about the family car, he should commit to keeping it clean or at least tidy it when the need arises. But keep in mind one important point: He is in charge. Dr Adams warns, “You cannot remind him that he was supposed to do a task.” The more you remind him to complete the task, the more he might resist. She adds, “Remember, we are trying to be partners, not adversaries.”
Don’t keep fussing about how he goes about the chores or it just might be the last time he bothers to help.
6) When he says, “I forgot.”
There are bound to be occasions when he only half completes a task, like clearing the dishes without taking out the trash. Before you get to the bottom of the reason for that lapse, ask yourself: What does it mean to you that he didn’t do the task he was supposed to? And how does his oversight make you feel? Then verbalise these feelings to him using I-statements. Dr Adams offers an example, “When the garbage doesn’t get taken out, I feel like you don’t value my opinion.”
Of course, he maybe also just be plain forgetful and didn’t mean to be disrespectful. Perhaps then you might want to suggest ways to help him remember — maybe an alarm on his phone, or to circle it out on the calendar?
7) Manage your expectations
Don’t keep fussing about how he goes about the chores or it just might be the last time he bothers to help. Dr Adams explains that if there is an area you find unsatisfactory, then you will need to do it yourself. She stresses, “One important component is realising what battles are worth fighting and what is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.”
Dr Hana Ra Adams is a psychologist at The Change Group Counselling and Eugenia Koh is a working mother of two.
Don’t miss these stories…