Women still often get stuck with most of the housework. But it’s not only good for Mom when the rest of the family helps out – it’s good for them as individuals, and good for all the relationships within the family.
by Christina DiMartino
“Most people don’t realize the enormous benefits that come to a family when husbands and children share in the housework,” says Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., a San Francisco clinical psychologist who is an internationally recognized expert on parenting children, couples, families, and relationships.
“Children who share in the housework with their moms and dads do better academically, are more socially adjusted, and have better relationships with their teachers and peers.”
Dr. Coleman adds that when men share in the housework, they tend to have more intimate relationships with their wives.
“Women are turned on by seeing their partners doing housework because it says, ‘He cares about me and he doesn’t want to dump all of the housework on me,’” says Dr. Coleman. “I counseled a couple who were having sexual problems. I suggested that the husband increase the amount of housework he did by 50 percent for one month to see what happened. He reported back to me saying that their sex life had quickly and dramatically improved.”
Women whose husbands do not contribute to the household chores, says Dr. Coleman, are more vulnerable to depression and illness, and tend to fantasize more about divorce. Children who contribute to housework learn good skills, are more responsible, and tend to be overall good people.
“When everyone works together on household chores, it creates a positive vibe for the family and sets a good example for children,” he says. “This is especially true if mom and dad can find a way to work well together, and not be critical about how each other conducts their chores.”
Start by listing tasks
CompleteWellbeing.com, a site that offers advice based on the philosophy of balance between mental, physical and spiritual aspects, reports that if you’ve been doing the bulk of the chores for your family, they are used to it and change will be tough. But it’s possible.
Begin by listing every household chore that has to be done every day, from week to week and month to month. Have a family gathering and ask everyone to contribute to the list. Include every chore that you, your husband, and children can think of.
This goes beyond the obvious tasks that are part of your family’s daily routine, such as making beds, washing the dishes, and taking out the trash. Chores such as polishing shoes and organizing the bookshelf also require attention.
Recognize abilities and interests
You would not send your 3-year-old son to do the laundry, and it may be just as unreasonable to ask your husband to hem your daughter’s skirt. Although these are extreme examples, they demonstrate the importance of knowing who in your family is capable of which tasks.
People also have their most and least favorite things to do. If, for example, your teenage son hates to wash windows, but doesn’t mind mowing the lawn, assign him the chore he’ll enjoy doing. Compromise is key to getting the jobs done right without family members complaining.
Heather Long, a writer from Wylie, Texas, who is the mother of a 5-year-old daughter and often blogs on marriage.families.com, suggests these strategies for family chores:
● Teach and learn. Perhaps your husband doesn’t know how to do the laundry, but is willing to learn from you. Maybe you would like to try washing the car, but you don’t know the proper procedure. Being open to learning new tasks can be interesting, educational, and even fun.
● Consider other’s natural habits. If you’re an early riser, you can feed the pets and get breakfast started. Your spouse can sleep an extra 30 minutes, and then get the kids dressed and ready for school. Conversely, if your husband stays up later at night than you, designate tasks like taking out the trash and turning on the dishwasher as his chores.
● Be flexible. Schedules change. If you have an evening meeting, ask your husband to handle your dinner chores. In turn, do some of his chores when you arrive at home.
● Don't nag, point fingers, or place blame. There will be days when you are both tired or when things will be overlooked. Forgive each other when a chore is not done, and extend a helping hand when either of you has more time than the other.
● Express gratitude. Saying “thank you” to your daughter for folding the laundry, even though it’s her designated chore, can go a long way. Expressing your gratitude also inspires others to express their appreciation in return. Gratitude helps to equalize fairness in your household and mitigate resentment.
Christina DiMartino has been a freelance and assignment writer since 1985. She is a researcher, interviewer, writer, editor, and manuscript collaborator with a repertoire of clients from around the world.
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