One of the major friction points for young couples is managing the domestic duties to the satisfaction of both partners: cleaning, cooking, looking after the kids, gardening etc… Often these differences in expectations of domestic duties lead to fighting, resentment, loss of respect and disconnect.

One of my girlfriends says she can’t go out in the evening because her husband claims he can’t put their three and a half year old son to bed.

Another girlfriend, with a one year old daughter, says that her husband just doesn’t seem to see the mess in the house. He cares and is willing to help but only if asked very explicitly. He then positions it as “helping” her, opposed to doing his share of the domestic. It drives her crazy.

One of the ladies on Facebook vented the other day; “I asked my husband to baby sit our 16 month old daughter because I wanted to go out and cheer Brazil in their latest soccer game. My husband agreed, as long as I bathed and fed the baby dinner at 4 p.m. before I left. He says he can’t manage these activities.” Obviously she didn’t go…

The list can go on and on…

It seems that some men take a longer time step up to their new responsibilities as equal household owners and fathers. Some seems to be stuck in their bachelor days, unwilling to give up their carefree lifestyle.

Becoming a spouse and a parent comes with many new responsibilities. Spouses can come from different background, with different family traditions and belief systems about what’s important, appropriate and required. Often times we may not even consider these ‘differences’ important  or think about them until the daily interactions of living together make them evident. I call it an adjustment phase where the couple stops copying their family home and create a household of their own.

So how to navigate this phase successfully?

Without creating too much fighting, resentment and without the feeling that you are becoming a housemaid, in addition to holding a full-time job and being a mum?

To be honest, I struggled with this one myself for many years. In the past it really poisoned our marriage.  But on our way to learning relationship tools I learned a few distinctions that helped me. I am happy to be able to share few of them with you. I will use the male gender to describe a person who is slacking at home, but in many families, women can be equally as guilty.

I really don’t see the mess. I know it is hard to believe it when he says that, however we all have different standards. Let’s assume he is being honest with you, he thinks the place is pretty tidy. By making an attempt to see the situation from his point of view you express you respect to him instead of calling him a selfish, lazy liar.

You could say with “Honey, I know that we have different standards for keeping the place tidy, but I can’t relax until the kitchen is tidy and I really want to cuddle with you on the couch, could you please help me cleaning the kitchen?”

“Helping” your spouse

“He thinks he is helping me with the cleaning and the baby”. This one is infuriating to many women. He thinks that he is HELPING ME!?  He doesn’t get that somebody has to clean the toilet, wash the dishes and clean the baby chair and it can’t always be me. The idea of a partnership in household duties can often be unclear and we can often fall into previous generational roles without being aware.

The reality is that the toilet is not going to appreciate your husband for cleaning it, neither will the dishes or the baby chair. Men are driven by significance and respect, they love making a difference. The baby is probably going to fuss during the nappy change, so not much appreciation there either.

Your man is thinking I better invest my time in things that can make a real difference in my family’s life. Work usually falls into this category.

Helping you and getting your respect and appreciation for his effort is something he can be proud of. You call it cleaning the house, he calls it helping you. The reality is that as long as the job is done who cares what you call it. Don’t let the differences of language become a barrier to a harmonious relationship. Remember to express your appreciation for your husband’s help.  This is important to encourage continuous help, “I don’t know how could I manage without you! You are awesome!” This appreciation will in turn come back to you.

Say “Thank you”

He says, “You never appreciate my help, you always criticise the way I do things and you’re never happy. I can’t win.”

She says, “Why do I need to say thank you for taking the garbage out? I would never imagine asking you to thank me for doing the laundry!”

But wouldn’t it be nice if he did say “Thank you”? Express the same appreciation to your partner that you would like expressed to you.

Picture the following situation; you are in the shopping centre with a cart full of food and two children hanging from both sides of the cart. A stranger holds the elevator for you to make sure you don’t leave any screaming children behind. A simple act of kindness.  Would you thank the stranger? You wouldn’t hesitate.

Treat you husband with the same kindness. Every time he helps YOU there is one less thing for you to do and more time to relax. So in reality you are grateful for his help. Say “Thank you darling for taking the garbage out”. Show your gratitude with a smile and even a little kiss.

Positive reinforcement

Great men are not born, they are trained by patient, loving and supporting women who help them realise their greatness. Encourage your man’s kind and random acts of help with positive reinforcement; a smile, hug, kiss, or thank you so he starts linking pleasure and success to HELPING YOU.

Be patient and loving to yourself. Guiding the spouse takes time. Meanwhile to keep your crankiness level down make sure you do something fun and pleasurable for you every few days. A massage, yoga class, or coffee with a girl friend? Something as simple as a walk by yourself can feel good.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn new and more fulfilling ways to interact with your partner don’t hesitate to contact me.


  • A good article and it is nice to say thank-you to your partner who has done something to help and it lets him know you appreciate his efforts.

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  • I think it’s going to take many years to get men to do half the housework. I don’t know of one male that does

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  • When I worked and hubby stayed home, I also did all the housey stuff and kids stuff. Now hubby works and I’m at home, it’s still the same. I feel like a maid most days

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  • Start at a young age and with kids each time MUM/Dad do something for a child be it take them to music/etc that child spends the same amount of time on house chores or helping others it worked for my 2 and they are now 40plus and help others and my grand kids do the same .% 10 of their day is for helping others be it siblings/ grandparents/chores or parents, works well .

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  • A constant topic of arguments in our house. Our home/work/life balance is so out of whack, I do so much more round home

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  • Great! Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!

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  • I can totally relate to this. My partner & I often have the same issues.

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  • ahh yes this seems to happen in our household

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  • Good interesting read. This is a truthful article.

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  • Good read, thanks for the article

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  • I loved this article, thank you very much!

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  • I’m extremely lucky as hubby was in the army so his used to doing things for himself. Hubby is a qualified chef so he does all the cooking, he does the washing both putting it on and hanging it out as well as bring it in. To make this quicker he will and has done everything that some people would consider womens work. The one thing I loved the most was that he would get up throughout the night and feed the children so I could sleep all night. Now our children are teens we have taught them how to wash, hang out and fold (no ironing yet), load dishwasher, general cleaning of a house including cleaning the toilet. We have taught the eldest how to cook several dishes and once a fortnight he cooks family dinner.

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  • i definately think that communication will solve this whole issue!

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  • My partner is better than average, but it does still annoy me when i have to ask him to do things that he should just do himself!

    I think we need to start now with teaching our sons that cooking, cleaning and childrearing are NOT “women’s work”. I get my boys to help with the washing and cooking and also with the baby, and hope that I can raise them to know how to look after themselves and also how to be respectful partners one day, who take their fair share of the housework load!

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  • I know a Dad that literally helps with everything except the housecleaning. He does clean the highchair; load and unload the dishwasher then put the dishes away.
    Cooking, Laundry, transporting the children about, feeding (including baby bottles and solids) and bathing the little ones. He never avoids nappy changes.

    Reply

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