men housework

Hi Will,

Love all your great no-nonsense advice.

My husband and I are currently fighting over household chores.

Jon works a full time job while I’m at home with our 4-year-old son. Here’s the issue – when Jon comes home he expects the house to be clean and for me to cook dinner.

I know my husband works very long hours but I’m tired too. Do you think it’s unreasonable for me to expect him to share the housework and cooking too?

Yours truly,

Susan, San Diego

Hey Susan,

Of course, you’re being unreasonable! This man works a hard forty-hour week, and all you have to do is all of the cooking, all of the cleaning, wash, dry, fold, and put away the laundry, run the house, run the errands, and be a teacher, a doctor, a playmate, a guardian, and a maybe few (hundred) other things to one four-year-old boy. How hard could that possibly be? Heck, your husband watched his mother do it with (add any number of) children, and she made it look easy and never complained.

Before you light the torches and break out the pitch forks… yes, I do know better. My younger children are two years apart. I “helped”, but I still don’t know how my wife did as much as she did. Try as you may to stop the world at wine-thirty, in reality, there are no breaks, no vacations… no time when a mom’s mind turns completely away from being a mom. So…

HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO: Explain to your husband that you understand that he works hard for eight hours a day, but that you work just as hard at home for eighteen hours a day, including all weekends and holidays. Explain to him the chores that you need him to help with and how helping will benefit him, you, your son, and your family as a whole. This will without a doubt solve your problem… if your husband is one of the 10% of men (my own estimation) who are capable of higher order thinking in this particular area. Try it.

…Didn’t work, huh? Hey, it was worth a shot. Well, for the other 90% of men (and I’m in this group) try these:


1. Motivate him… The old carrot on a stick. Tell him that giving junior a bath is a good way to spend time with his son, and that cooking dinner or at least helping you cook makes you feel closer to him. You may even offer him “favors” in exchange for help: dishes earns a back rub, vacuuming earns a foot rub, etc (especially etc!) Higher thinking or not, a man will do tricks for a treat. Have fun with it.

2. “Warn” him…. If he won’t follow the carrot, beat him with the stick. Tell him that if you have to do all of the cooking, he’ll be eating more microwave meals, and that you have enough time to do your son’s laundry, but he’ll either have to wash his own clothes or wear Friday’s undies right on through until Monday. Explain to him that, because you are frazzled after your day, that it’s much harder to change gears and become the naughty cheerleader at night.

3. Help him… Sometimes, men don’t do chores because they don’t know how and are afraid of looking foolish. He may not cook because last time he tried, his mother, or ex-girlfriend, or the fire marshal told him that he shouldn’t. He may not understand why washing machines are segregated, forcing whites and colors into separate loads (seriously… some men really don’t know this stuff). If you teach him, you’ll know that he knows how, and he’ll no longer have that excuse. Plus, time alone together in a laundry room can lead to all kinds of fun new things!

4. Show him…If all else fails, find a reason to excuse yourself for the weekend and leave the house. Give your husband a taste of what it’s really like to handle the house, the chores, and your son, all by himself. WARNING: leave your husband a list of contact numbers and stay close to a phone, and WHEN he calls, if you hear threat level orange in his voice, go home. While a four year old may be just a handful to a mom, that same child can lead an unpracticed father right into one of those white coats that make you hug yourself.

As men, most of us are far more involved in house-hold duties than are fathers were but are still far less involved than our mothers were. I have great faith though! It will be a long and treacherous road, filled with burnt bacon, shrunken sweaters, and broken vacuum cleaners (“…it picked up pennies just fine in the commercials…”), but I truly believe that, with the right motivation, a little help from real moms, and a whole lot of patience, in time, some of us dads may even climb to the prestigious status of Good Enough Mother!

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.