SAHD and WOHM Dynamics Q - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
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I just started back to work ... DH is staying at home to care for DS...

Why is it that I seem to be not only shouldering the burden of working outside of the home, but also that of working at home? What I mean is this: I work full-time. But, before I leave for work I unload the dishwasher from the night before and toss the laundry in the washer. When I come home from work at lunchtime, I make lunch and clean the kitchen. When I come home for the evening, I make dinner, cleaning the living areas, do the dishes, clean the kitchen again and entertain DS (which is the part I love of course).
I'm up several times a night to nurse DS ...

Is it wrong of me to expect DH to shoulder the burden of housework while I shoulder the burden of working for money? Seriously, am I expecting too much to expect him to make dinner or clean the kitchen and living areas?

How do others work this out?

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#2 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 04:45 PM
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Major caveat right up front -- this is all just my opinion and what works for my DH and I. You will probably have to find out what works for you two through trial and error and many, many conversations.

I think that both members of a couple are responsible for both parenting and for maintaining the household. So, both jobs should be split equatably. I also think that a SAHP (of either gender) should be childcare first, household second during the "workday". After all, if you were paying a nanny to stay with your child, you would expect most of the nanny's time to be focused on the kids, not the house, right? A paid childcare provider probably wouldn't make dinner for you or mop the floor, though they might be responsible for child laundry and cooking.

It also may be that if this is a new role for him, he may find it all he can do to keep up with a baby. There were certainly days when mine were really little that ALL I could do was to sit and hold the baby. Everything else was secondary and little else got done.

So, I would suggest sitting down and talking about what he is doing and what he CAN do. Maybe it is asking to much of him to do anything other than babycare, especially right now. On the other hand, if he's spending time during the day playing computer games, then you should probably discuss what you need him to be doing during that time (at least some of it).

For us (DH works FT, I work PT), we share cooking dinner. DH is more likely to do it during the week because DD (2) just wants a long mommy-cuddle at the end of the day and daddy doesn't cut it. So I sit and cuddle while he cooks. But I do dishes while he does baths, we alternate who does the other household chores and who does bedtime with DS (I always do DD bedtime because she still nurses). We pay a every-other-week-cleaning service to do the heavy stuff. I wash and fold clothes, he is responsible for putting them away. I grocery shop (because I'm fussier) and he makes lunches every day. We split outside chores on the weekends. And so forth -- we have a pretty good system going actually.
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#3 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 04:49 PM
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Try and see what happens if you just don't do those things. Eventually, he'll pick up the slack. The less of an "issue" you can make it, the better because then it becomes a power struggle and one or the other of you has to lose face. I'd just gradually reduce doing those things without making a big deal of it and see what happens.

Good luck. (From a WOHM whose dh has been the SAHD for 3 plus years now.)

Edited to add since you asked how others have worked it out:

My dh and I cook dinner on alternating evenings. He cooks and I clean up after and load the dishwasher. The next night, vice versa.

Laundry - we each do our own. If the children's laundry basket is full, whoever is doing their laundry at the time does the children's too.

Housecleaning - dh does this. It's his 'job' along with childcare during the day. There's never been any dispute about that. I am responsible to clean my own bathroom, and I do some stuff on weekends if it needs doing.
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#4 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 05:25 PM
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I bet if you stopped doing all those things, they would end up getting done anyway. If I do housework (more than my "share") because I feel like I should, I feel super resentful. But if I leave it, it gets done anyway. I've had to let go of my house duty stuff and just accept that the way dh does it is different, on a different time scale, and often to a different degree of perfection The only things you really need to do are feed and clothe yourself. If the house turns into a pigsty, then you could deal with that when it arises (you've got a good 2 weeks!)
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#5 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 06:19 PM
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When dh was a SAHD for a short time, I would do the minimum I needed to each evening. Which was have clean clothes for myself for work the next day, and clean and steralized bottles to pump into. A lot didn't get done and dh or I would catch up on the weekend. I figured if I ever get to SAH later on, I don't want him breathing down my neck about cleaning the house so I tried not to do so to him.
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#6 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 06:55 PM
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I do some things DH just won't ever do (like clean the bathroom) and sometimes nag him when I'm doing a weekend cleaning job when things haven't been done in a while to help. But right now he's in the middle of a remodeling project in our house, so he pretty much ignores everything else that's not immediate (like dishes) and I'm resigned to that. He does cook a lot though (not every night, but most-- when he doesn't I just do something quick for myself when I get home, because he will always have fed himself and DS) and does dishes, laundry, etc. on a regular basis and vacuuming on a pretty regular basis (though not as regular as I would prefer, but you know, can't have it all). Mostly we both let things go a bit and clean together more thoroughly when we expect guests, for example, or either he or I will feel energetic and do it ourselves because we want to. I would say also-- just let the things that don't have to be done all the time go, negotiate about cooking (it's probably reasonable for him to cook for himself and kids and have leftovers for you waiting), and don't do his dirty dishes. If he wants to eat off them the next day, he'll wash them.
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#7 of 15 Old 10-18-2005, 07:15 PM
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I urge you to check out the SAHD Thread in this forum. We discussed this a few months ago.

I personally see keeping the house in order a key component of "child care". If the house is a wreck my kids are wild! We, with the exception of dh :LOL , strive when things are orderly. When the house is orderly when I get home we all have a much more pleasant evening. He 'got' this after only a few weeks at home.

We worked out a compromise that he would clean the house to his standard of clean before I got home each day. If I wanted it more, then I did it. Most days it was fine. Because keeping the house orderly and clean became part of his routine, he came to appreciate the benefits. Also, because the rule was an orderly house when I got home and the exception to the rule was a disaster (due to having a high needs kid day), I was totally cool with the messy house when it did happen.

All that said, my dh went back to work recently. I commented just yesterday that one of the things I like about him working (I've had VERY mixed emotions) is that the house is never a mess when I get home :LOL Its a big big deal to me.
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#8 of 15 Old 10-19-2005, 12:23 PM
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This can be such an issue! I found that the approach of not doing it and waiting for DH to pick up the slack did not work for us- it actually caused more arguments. Instead, we try to be explicit as possible about what we expect the other to do and what needs to get done. This tends to work pretty well. It has to be re-negotiated periodically, though, because things change as kids grow and circumstances change. We have our general division of labor now- he basically makes sure that he and the kids clean up after themselves more or less throughout the day and Wednesdays are “cleaning” day where the they dust, vacuume and clean the bathrooms. I doubt he even spends an hour on it- I know he cleans most of the bathroom while the kids are in the tub. When we need to do deeper cleaning we will set aside time one weekend and make it a big project. His primary focus, though is taking care of the kids, which includes keeping track of DD’s learning (we unschool). We share the cooking - I do some prep the night before and he does the rest on weekdays and I usually cook a big batch of something on the weekend. Same type of arrangement with laundry. I tend to do a lot of the mental chores- appointment setting, bill paying, etc. and he tends to do yard work- although we share that stuff some of the time.

DH is great about pitching in and does a great job, which I try and tell him on a frequent basis- but for me the biggest thing is that I sometimes feel like I have to orchestrate everything. He will follow through on whatever arrangement we make, but it is a rare occasion that he would just take responsibility for it or tell me. It takes a lot of mental energy to run a household and when I feel a bit resentful it is usually from feeling like I have too much responsibility on my shoulders.
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#9 of 15 Old 10-19-2005, 09:52 PM
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It definitely changes!

I would say right now, with a 1-month old, that I would have very low expectations of household stuff. Pretty much the whole first year, it is very demanding to stay home with a baby.

When baby is a little older, then he should be able to pick-up the slack. Now, maybe you can find a way to divide housework, without it all having to fall on you or him?

Good Luck!
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#10 of 15 Old 10-20-2005, 06:41 PM
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Since this is a new situation for you and your husband I would give him some time to adjust to taking care of a new baby. It's a huge adjustment and very tiring to take care of a newborn. Don't stress about the housework yet. It may be worth it to hire a housekeeper for a couple of months.
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#11 of 15 Old 10-21-2005, 02:58 PM
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My best suggestion is to talk about it sooner rather than later or resentment will build. That was the case in my situation with the ex. I stayed home in the summer and he was home for 4 months in the winter. We were unable to talk about it and I was afraid to talk about it for fear of the backlash, big part of the reason we are no longer together. Oh and I'm sure the "special visitor" he had kept him pretty busy.

Communication is what is most important IMHO. A couple should keep in mind that working together will make things easier on everyone all the way around. It certainly isn't right that one person have to carry all the weight of responsibility on his/her back.
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#12 of 15 Old 10-21-2005, 04:09 PM
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I'll echo what PPs have said - you have to find what works for you. And hopefully you can get ideas from others to help figure it out with less pain, so I'll share what works for us. "Not doing the housework and waiting to see what happens" doesn't work for us. DH has a tolerance level for dirt and mess beyond my wildest dreams (and I'm nowhere close to tidy!) and doesn't think you need to do laundry until you take off your last pair of dirty underwear. So, we live by lists. Every morning I leave him a list of what has to be done today and what needs to be done soon. I get that you can't always do what you plan when you have a baby who needs you, but ours still naps every day, so I know he gets at least an hour, and the list is never an hours worth of work.

In the end, we split a lot of stuff, but I view that DH definately has primary responsibility for cooking and cleaning during the week (and that doesn't mean everything gets to wait til the weekend!) I may do a few things before I leave for work or in the evening if DD is in a good mood and wants to help, but I really view that as my time with her, so I don't ever put the housework before her (except that I do use housework as a stress outlet, so sometimes after a really bad day I do it just because I need an outlet). And then, as I go to bed, I tell DH anything that I view as a "must" get done that night (he stays up after DD and I go to bed).

The key learning for me was that I have to tell DH what I want him to do (only with this stuff - the parenting is completely natural to him and he, in fact, often tells me what to do ). I refused to do this for a long time because he is a super intelligent man with able eyesight, and I was determined that he should be able to see what needed to be done and do it. And then one day, I thought "what the h*ll am I fighting this fight for? Tell him what you want and see what happens" And so here we are. I've also learned that there are some things he just is not good at (e.g., making a grocery list and doing meal planning). So I make the list, he goes to the store, and then I leave him a list of meals for the week and he picks what to make each night.

Good luck! Our first few months were rough with regard to this, and we still occasionally have it out (in a very healthy way, of course!), but we learn a little more each day and it does get better!
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#13 of 15 Old 10-21-2005, 07:46 PM
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When I went back to work full time, we sat down and made a list of all the chores that need to be done every day, and another of the things that need to be done somewhere between once a week and once a month. Then we split it up. DH cooks during the week (I have a teenage son who cooks one night a week unless he's got a school thing that interferes), and I cook on weekends. I usually make at least one meal on the weekend that will freeze and can be used later in the week; if possible, I try to get three meals out of it--one right away, one later that week, and one in the freezer for later.

This really worked for us. Also, I agree that caring for a very small baby is a big adjustment, and you probably both need to be more relaxed about housework for a while.
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#14 of 15 Old 10-22-2005, 09:31 PM
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Here's how we break it down--maybe it will be helpful to you; I think we both feel like it's pretty equitable. I work full-time and DH is SAHD full-time. He works occasionally outside the home, fill-in hours, and is working on building a photography business, slowly, but he's primarily SAHD.

I do all the cooking, and I try to make things and leave them in the fridge that he can eat and especially that he can feed to DS (who's 2) during the day. I get DS ready in the morning before work (we have one car so they both drive me to work). I'm parent #1 when I get home and I get DS to bed. DH is compulsively clean and does all the housework. No kidding, it's spotless in here all the time. He does the laundry and I fold it. I take care of bills and stuff. It works out pretty well.

We've talked about this; DH thinks it's part of his job to do housework while he's home and/or at night after I've gone to bed. I think part of the reason it works so well is because of DH's insatiable need for cleanliness. I'm no slob myself, but his need for a clean and tidy home is pretty extreme. I'm waiting to see how this all plays out when baby #2 arrives in April. I wonder if the house will be so clean!

We do have to talk about it now and then, just checking in with each other to make sure we are OK. Each of us occasionally feels like we do everything. The way it's unbalanced for us is that I get very little non-work, non-mommy time, but DH does get time in the evening and at night, and he sleeps in on the weekend while I'm up with DS. Sometimes I feel bad about it, but I always remind myself that I wouldn't change it anyway because I want all my non-work time to be with DS. So, it works out.

Be sure to communicate!! Good luck. Marian
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#15 of 15 Old 10-22-2005, 09:47 PM
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We went through some adjustments after Q was born, but we ended up deciding that parenting during the day is a full time job, working outside the home is a full time job, and everything else should be split 50-50. It doesn't fall out to 50-50 every day, but as long as we both feel like we're averaging an equitable amount of housework and the place isn't a complete sty, it's good. When one of us starts to feel resentful, we try to bring it up right away so it doesn't fester and become an actual problem.

And I have a friend who leaves a line of stickies down the front door every morning for her husband of exactly what he's supposed to accomplish during the day, one item per post-it. To each her own.

I think it partly depends on the age of the child, too. When Q was new, I pretty much just nursed all day. If I managed to feed myself too, that was a flippin' miracle. When she started sitting and playing independently, I went through a few months of getting a lot done during the day. Now that she's mobile, teething, and fairly clingy, I'm suddenly getting a lot less done again. Oh well. It comes and goes.
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