Best of Both Worlds: Toward a 50-50 split, plus emotional labor

Today's episode of Best of Both Worlds covers the idea of moving toward a 50-50 split on the home front. A lot of housework can be outsourced, but someone still needs to manage it, and do the tasks that are not easily outsourced. Parents want to be deeply involved in their children's lives; they just also want their partners to be equally involved, since kids take a lot of work.

While Sarah and I recorded this episode a few weeks ago, based on a listener question, its release today allows me to rope in an article that's been making the rounds. Numerous readers sent me Gemma Hartley's piece for Harper's Bazaar on "emotional labor." Her opening anecdote is about asking her husband to arrange a cleaning service as a present to her. It wasn't so much about the clean floors as it was about having someone else ask for recommendations, call companies to get bids, choose one, do any paperwork, and book them to come. She didn't want this all on her plate, because she felt it would be exhausting. So she requested it as a gift. Her husband called one company, balked at the price, and then cleaned the bathrooms himself, which she felt misread the whole situation, since she suspected she'd have to ask him to clean the bathrooms again the next time. She wrote about feeling like a nag when trying to get her husband to do stuff around the house. He was willing to do whatever she asked, but she resented having to ask. Or as we put it in the podcast, "Having to ask for things is hard," particularly for women who are not socialized to ask for things. Shouldn't he feel equally motivated? If he did, wouldn't it ease her burden?

I love Gemma's writing (and have been thrilled to be cited by her in the past! See this and this ). I would say I have mixed feelings on this article, which is more about household management than what I tend to think of as emotional labor. I'd define emotional labor more as the relationship maintenance that women often do: remembering their mother-in-law's birthday, for instance, and reminding their husband to do something about it. Or being the parent who's home in the afternoon and gets dumped on when a kid had a bad day at school. By the time Dad shows up at dinner the kid has worked through it. I think there is something else to be written on that, but whether the topic is household management or emotional labor, Sarah and I hear over and over again that it's easy to fall into gender roles, and that women who feel like they married "woke" men still wind up fighting time-worn battles.

I do know in married, heterosexual couples, that women do the majority of household management. (A not unrelated point: In such couples, men also traditionally work longer hours for pay. Indeed, total hours worked — both market and non-market labor — is, over the population, shockingly similar, though obviously society does still tend to respect labor that earns wages more). Many men will "chip in" or "help out." The issue Gemma is getting at is that household management takes brain space in a way that simply folding the laundry after being directed to do so does not. Using up this brain space can detract from other things. Time spent thinking about the kids' activity schedule is time not spent coming up with your next article idea (except for Gemma and me…it is. Because we write about this stuff. But anyway).

As Gemma notes, her husband is not a bad guy. She notes that he always does the dishes. She mentions that she does the laundry. This struck me as a relatively fair split; both are tasks that need to be done constantly, so many couples might do well with splitting them. As for the opening anecdote, and her anger that her husband only called one company, it struck me that she might be a maximizer married to a satisficer. That's not an inherently gender-based thing (though women may be socialized to have higher standards around the house). When my husband and I decided we wanted a cleaning service, I also only called one service. Are they the best? The most economical? I have no clue. But they do roughly what I want done for what I felt was a reasonable price. I failed to see how anyone's life would be improved by my taking several more hours to meet with other services.

Anyway, one way to advance toward a 50-50 split is to lower your standards.

Another, which we talk about in the podcast, is to stop fretting about asking. It need not be a source of guilt or exhaustion. While women often feel they should do something if someone asks, which means they feel bad about asking, men might not feel the same way. If you believe the "men are from Mars" psychology, they will say no if they don't want to do something, so you may as well ask. No harm, no foul. Or you could simply announce a fair split, and let them react as they will. "Saturday will be my morning to sleep in and Sunday will be yours." Or "I will be staying at the office late on Tuesday to get through some important stuff. If there's a night you would like me to cover for you, please let me know."

The other is to realize you might be closer to 50-50 than you think. And one way to do that is to realize that there is always a danger in the sorts of personal essays that run in Harper's Bazaar. We don't get the other side. The other person can't defend themselves. This is one reason I rarely complain about my husband in what I write, even though I feel like there may occasionally be legitimate things to complain about! Because I'm sure if he were given to writing personal essays, he could find legitimate things to complain about too.

In fact, I've taken the liberty of writing the essay he could write if he wanted to complain about my skimping on household management/emotional labor. If he wants to submit to Harper's Bazaar, it's ready to go!

"First, let's talk about the dry cleaning. I do not wear 100 percent of the dry-clean-only clothes in this house, but I am definitely the only person visiting the cleaners. Laura acts like she doesn't even know where the dry cleaner is. She actually threw a fit when she needed an outfit for a speech and it was still at the cleaners, as though she were not an adult capable of driving herself over to the cleaners and paying to pick up her clothes, as people do at a commercial business. It isn't a private club that only I am capable of accessing.

"I read Gemma's article in which she mentions her husband leaving the gift wrap in the center of the room for two days. Only two days? Items appear in places in our house and then sit there for months. Years. Right now there is a broken office chair sitting in the master bedroom. Laura said something about getting a new chair for her office, and then she put the old one up there where I trip on it on the way to the bathroom every morning. I think she thinks she'll try to re-cover it like she's the Pioneer Woman. She will not actually succeed in this project. But will it be moved? I'm guessing it will still be there at Christmas. Also, her sink will still be broken then. Instead of buying a new pair of faucets and calling a plumber to install them, she just started using my sink. And leaving stuff by my sink. I finally asked, very nicely, what the cardboard box sitting next to the sink was. It turned out it was the contact lenses she had ordered a month ago, and never opened and put away. When I asked, she opened it. But it's still on the counter. I'm guessing it will be there at Christmas too.

"Speaking of Christmas, lots of kid movies come out around then. And you know who will take the children to all of them? Me. Laura refuses to set foot in a movie theater. I don't mind taking the kids to see Wonder Woman, but The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature? Captain Underpants?

"Another place Laura has never set foot: a liquor store in the state of Pennsylvania. It's like she thinks the Blue Moon fairies simply appear with beer and wine, including a variety of bottles at different price points, so we can bring appropriate bottles to parties as gifts. I would also add that she has never cleaned the pool filter, changed a lightbulb in our house, put air in a kid's bike tire, or charged the batteries in those car-toys the kids drive around the backyard. She expects me to handle all things electronic, like figuring out how to download the kids' games or tape TV shows the kids want to watch. It's not even safe to assume basic competence. The other day she came hunting for me while I was in the bathroom because the home computer had one of those standard warning messages about a download that Windows puts up all the time. She didn't dare touch the computer until I figured it out. She will say things such as 'we should have mums in our yard' or 'we should tape Caillou' but we both know she means that I should do it.

"I do almost all the bill-paying around here. I make sure our assets are in a properly balanced portfolio. She'll make a big deal about the fact that she puts money in the kids' school lunch accounts, but she doesn't even think about plenty of other kid stuff, like that our water doesn't have fluoride in it here. So the kids need updated prescriptions for 'tooth vitamins,' which I get from the dentist (when I bring the children to the dentist, I might add), and I make sure the prescriptions get to the pharmacy, and I'm almost always the one picking them up. I am also the one distributing the vitamins to the kids in the morning. I am 100 percent sure that on the mornings I am not home, no one gets a tooth vitamin. Does she not care about their teeth???"

And so on it could go. In any given couple, it might be worth trying to write such a personal essay in the voice of your partner some time. It might be enlightening.

I am not saying that household managerial work is evenly split in many two-parent families, but it's probably not 99-1. And as for emotional labor, I'd ask women to consider that there is emotional labor in growing up being socialized to feel like you need to provide for your family financially whatever your partner winds up doing. There is emotional labor in reporting daily to a career you don't love, but that you do because people have been telling you since birth that people will judge you on your income. There is emotional labor in knowing that any requests for flexibility or a reduced workload for family reasons will be perceived far more negatively than they will for your female colleagues. Not all men face this labor, but many still do. In a 50-50 world, we need to see and respect all kinds of work.

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34 Responses to Best of Both Worlds: Toward a 50-50 split, plus emotional labor


  1. Ana says:

    First of all, your last paragraph sums up how the patriarchy can also hurt men & boys.
    Second, I feel like these kind of articles make the rounds every year or so, and when I find myself getting caught up in it, I mentally do what you did, and remind myself of the many many things I have no idea how to do or how they get done around here. Yes, I do the kids activity schedules and doctors appointments, but I have no idea when/how the dog gets her shots and apparently there is something happening with our water heater that is being dealt with next week. Some of the “equality” comes from me simply refusing to deal with certain things. Because I AM the one doing the kid-medical stuff, I play completely dumb about the dog stuff so he has to pick it up. Also, I have gotten over any issues (if I had them to begin with) about asking for things to be done.
    3rd (minor point)—your satisfier/maximizer thing doesn’t really fit because he didn’t actually hire the cleaning service. He gave up without calling another one to see if the rates were more reasonable. That would’ve annoyed me, too, especially when she specifically asked him to do it!

    • Caitlin says:

      Yes! I agree with a lot of what you said here. A huge thing that jumped out at me was that Gemma’s husband did not “satisfice” because he failed to complete the task that she asked for and then dumped the burden of decision back onto her.

      • Stephanie S. says:

        Agreed! Would have been different if he made the arrangements (and potentially even thought about how to offset it in their family budget) and called it done. Instead, I agree with the author that he totally missed the point.

  2. Holly says:

    Ughhh I’m sorry but did you really just respond with a “BUT THE MEN” argument??

    I agree with the distinction between “emotional labor” and “mental load,” and in my experience, women especially do vastly more of the emotional labor. I think one of the interesting points made in the article is the idea that we are supposed to laud or congratulate men for taking on any aspect of the mental load/emotional labor (a trap you fall into in this post!), as opposed to operating from a baseline assumption of 50/50 emotional labor/mental load.

    I also find the argument of “well women should just ask more” or ask in this specific way or not feel guilty about asking (etc. etc.) pretty tired. So now fixing the thing that is already assumed to be the responsibility of the women is the woman’s job too? I understand you are just providing proactive solutions BUT it does undermine the main issue here, which is that we are not socializing/teaching men that THIS IS NOT WOMEN’S LABOR.

    Basically, what I’m saying is that this “hot take” was not so hot and also a bad take.

    • Meghan says:

      Yes, thank you. Also, there’s the whole issue of gender assumptions for specific duties, which Laura did a pretty good job of avoiding, but many of these kinds of “how women can fix the problem by reframing” responses don’t. The solution to this problem isn’t women learning to live with the world we have, it’s EVERYONE working to challenge it — and that means especially those with more capital using that capital on behalf of those with less. I’d argue women ARE perceived negatively for asking for flexibility for childcare — in fact, they’re pre-judged — and there’s research showing men are seen as more responsible and considered better assets when they become parents. That looks to me like the burden of breaking the stranglehold the patriarchy has on the workforce, as described in the last paragraph of the piece, falls squarely on men’s shoulders. Just recognizing that it’s hard for men too and carrying on is not the way to change anything.

      • Stephanie S. says:

        I appreciate what Laura was trying to do with the last paragraph, but also thinks it falls a little short. Maybe not in her household, but in many (most?) of the households dealing with this problem.

        I agree that shouldering the financial well-being of a family is a significant task. And if the man’s job requires longer hours, etc. etc. in order to make that possible, I do think that should be “factored in.”

        BUT, I think in many households (mine included), the woman makes more money but also shoulders the majority of BOTH the emotional and household labor.

  3. Cloud says:

    The problem of overlooking what the other person is doing is the main reason we try to have our rebalancing discussions over beers: to keep it more lighthearted and less accusatory. However, sometimes we don’t notice the imbalance growing until one of us snaps (usually me), and then we have a much less pleasant discussion. All in all, it is MUCH better if we just talk through our chores for the weekend and the upcoming week over beers on Friday night after the kids are in bed. That keeps imbalances from festering. It doesn’t take long, and then we move on to more fun topics or watching something on TV! Also, I’m a big proponent of not trying for equal, and instead aiming for fair. In our house, that means balancing the suckiness more than the work. We each have to do some things we hate doing, and if one of us is doing more sucky things than the other, that’s when things are likely to blow up. I wrote a piece about that earlier this year. I could never find a home for it, so last week, I just posted it to my real-name blog: http://beyondmanaging.com/2017/09/balance-the-pain/

    • @Cloud – thanks for sharing the link! I think the idea of “fair” vs. “equal” is a good one. The goal is both parties feeling happy about life. It’s when I don’t feel I have space for the things I want or feel I need to do, that’s when I get grumpy.

  4. Ruth says:

    This was a great post. I especially like the “essay that your husband COULD have written”. It made me laugh and it reminded me that my husband does a lot around the house that I take for granted, maybe because it is not important to me but that I would notice if it didn’t get done. I was just talking to my husband this weekend about the yard work (of which he does 100%) when he mentioned he had to cut the grass. It’s October, I said, you probably only have to cut it once more before winter. He laughed and said it would need cutting at least 3-4 more times. Then my son asked about raking leaves. I said we never seem to have to rake leaves because they get blown out of our fence-less yard every year. My husband looked me dead in the eyes and said he rakes the leaves every year. I never noticed! He does pitch in with some laundry and dishes, but I do everything that has to do with the kids including shopping for their clothes, taking them to doctor appointments, all school-related matters and paperwork, and all the driving around to their activities. I work full time outside of the house too. Sometimes I feel like I shoulder more of the burden but I know he is doing a lot of things that I just don’t even think about: the garbage, the furnace, the cars, the bills, repairs, and of course the yard work. That’s the point of having a partner, isn’t it? You share the workload and it makes your life better and easier than if you were alone. Thanks for the reminder that none of us are perfect and we should appreciate the many things our partners do!

  5. Omdg says:

    I’m glad hiring a cleaning service was so easy for you. For us, we hired one service, and then it was impossible to schedule since neither of us are ever home. We used them three times and then they just disappeared. Our second cleaning service did a crap job. And finally we found our third cleaning service who has been with us for five years. My husband finally agreed to manage all of this since it requires not only that the house be picked up, but cash acquired each time they come. It’s not always easy to set these services up when you’re already overextended.

  6. Lily says:

    I loved this! The opposite POV cracked me up 🙂 While I’m sympathetic to comments above, i don’t think it’s incompatible to believe that a) men should do a greater share without needing to be asked and b) many men do more than we might realise. And while we should certainly be fighting for a society wide shift in expectations about gender roles, I believe that part of that shift is winning the battle household by household, and the way to win it is to ask and argue and point out the problems to our partners, rather than just expect them to just ‘get it’, as well as to be making these points on a broader political scale.
    I agree with the ‘equal suckiness’ rather than ‘equal time’ approach. My husband does most of the cooking and shoppping, while I do most of the laundry and cleaning. I hate cooking and find it stressful, and it doesn’t bother him at all, while he sees mopping as an utter burden and I find some satisfaction in a nice clean floor and little light exercise (as a break from my desk-bound job – not that I wouldn’t outsource if i could!). Some things might even escape the balance sheet altogether – my husband loves gardening and almost needs it for his mental health, so all the yard work – even the mowing – goes in the ‘hobby’ category, rather than the ‘chore’ list. If only he could develop the same love of cleaning toilets!

    • Ruth says:

      I like the “equal suckiness” factor. In our household, the jobs are split up relatively traditionally, but we’re OK with that. We both do grocery shopping. He does most of the yard work. I do the garden/flowers. He does most of the automotive work, except I finally talked him into paying to have the oil changed in the cars (our time is worth something, and buying the oil and filters costs about the same as the service). I do the taxes and investing. He vacuums and walks the dog. I cook (sometimes) and load the dishwasher. He brings home carryout and takes out the trash. When the kids were little, he got them ready in the morning and off to school (we work different shifts). I did the after school stuff and got them into bed. All in all, it works. Stuff gets done, and we’re OK with the split.

  7. Caitlin says:

    I think some of the points you made are valid and provide some food for thought, and the essay from your husband’s perspective is funny as well as a great exercise. I also have mixed feelings about pieces that complain about husbands. However–I’m not sure I agree with your distinction of household management as separate from emotional labor. Or maybe they both fit under the umbrella of intellectual life management.

    I’m also not sure the argument “There is emotional labor in knowing that any requests for flexibility or a reduced workload for family reasons will be perceived far more negatively than they will for your female colleagues,” holds up, considering that you’ve also written that men don’t usually ask for these work situations, they just do less work or cut back hours quietly or leave when they want to and don’t say they are heading to a kid’s soccer game or doctor’s appointment. This doesn’t make the situation okay or mean that we shouldn’t work toward more egalitarian workplaces as well as stop socializing men and women to expect men to support their families financially while penalizing them for supporting their family in other ways.

    I also think you’re missing part of the point of her story of her husband only calling one cleaning service–he is clearly not a satisficer because he did not hire that cleaning service. If he thought the price was too high he should have contacted another service. You only called one place and felt their price was reasonable, which makes sense to me. He did not complete the task and returned the burden to Gemma to decide which course of action to take, thus compounding the emotional labor. This to me is what I see often, in my own and others’ relationships: women go through the emotional labor of deciding that something needs to be done and ask clearly and often enumerate what is needed, men attempt whatever is asked, decide it is too difficult and/or they don’t care enough to follow it through, and give up. Women then have to decide to take it up again or deal with the fallout of not handling it, which is often worse for women than for men. For example, if a man does not send his mother a birthday card it’s often his wife who is vilified for not reminding him or buying the card. Gemma’s husband suffered no ill effects from not hiring a cleaning service besides an hour or so spent cleaning a bathroom (and an article written about him in a national publication, but that is not the case for most men.) In some cases women decide it’s not worth it and give something up but that’s not always feasible or the consequences might not be worth it.

    The other aspect is the asking–while I agree women should be able to just ask for help, there is also the labor of determining what needs to be done. And if a man says no you write “no harm, no foul,” except for feeling resentment that your partner will not help you.

    I also agree very strongly with the point that Ana makes above–her husband is not a satisficer because he did not complete the task as Gemma asked him to. He gave up.

    Very interested to listen to the podcast episode!

    • Stephanie S. says:

      Love this!

      I’m also not sure the argument “There is emotional labor in knowing that any requests for flexibility or a reduced workload for family reasons will be perceived far more negatively than they will for your female colleagues,” holds up, considering that you’ve also written that men don’t usually ask for these work situations, they just do less work or cut back hours quietly or leave when they want to and don’t say they are heading to a kid’s soccer game or doctor’s appointment. This doesn’t make the situation okay or mean that we shouldn’t work toward more egalitarian workplaces as well as stop socializing men and women to expect men to support their families financially while penalizing them for supporting their family in other ways.

    • Ana says:

      Yes, I absolutely agree with your comment about the last paragraph not quite holding up. Especially as the primary breadwinner in my family. I don’t know about the “being brought up” that way, but it certainly isn’t the case at this moment, and it feels pretty damn unfair to have to shoulder the stress of bringing home the majority of our income AND arranging >50% the other stuff. also YES!!!! to woman having to take on the consequences of forgetting the MIL birthday or what have you. Yes yes yes.

  8. M Tiro says:

    I’m disappointed to see someone at your level using the ignorant expression “woke.” You’re so far above and beyond that. Please reconsider.

    • Meghan says:

      I’m sorry, but can you explain why you think this expression is ignorant?

  9. smh78 says:

    Love your husband’s essay. 🙂

  10. Christine says:

    I was so glad to see you address this article, especially since I had just finished reading Drop the Ball before seeing the Harper’s piece. The biggest difference in how I read this vs your take is that 1) Husband did a crap job on mother’s day by essentially leaving her to watch the kids while he provided her present (as you mentioned in last week’s podcast, outsourcing isn’t helpful if it doesn’t take things off your plate), and 2) his incredulity at the cost is offensive to me, as it’s sort of saying “this is a simple and easy task that isn’t worth money. I know you’re just whining about doing it and it’s not actually that bad.” For goodness’ sake, she was even willing to use up her mother’s day gift on this task, not taking it from the normal operating budget of their home! I think a lot of women meet this type of response and it’s part of what makes the conversation so emotionally loaded. I make less and work fewer hours than my husband, so I don’t expect a 50-50 split, but when I’m not getting help I at least like some acknowledgement that what I’m doing has value (or a high “suckiness” rating, depending on the task). No one likes to feel like their concerns are being dismissed, which I think was at the root of this woman’s frustration.

    • Christine says:

      Oops – I notice this posted without my complete comment. I agree that she might be minimizing the work he does do, and it the piece did feel melodramatic…. kind of like Tiffany Dufu’s “before” response to her husband in Drop the Ball. But I think the aspect that makes Gemma’s story strike a nerve is that she didn’t want to have to ask, but in the case of the cleaning service she did ask and didn’t receive. I think more a case of insensitivity/burnout than doing nothing/doing it all.

  11. Lily says:

    After listening to the podcast and actually reading the article I wanted to add two things:
    1) I think the author is conflating two terms coined and researched by sociologist Arlie Hochschild – emotional labor is the work that people in service jobs have to do hide their feelings (disgust, annoyance, frustration) from clients (this is different to ’emotion work’ which is the work we all do to control or display our emotions appropriately – which yes, is gendered, but also part of basic emotional intelligence and making a marriage work!) Hochschild also wrote about the ‘second shift’ which I think is more the topic of the article – the work that women do to manage a household on top of having to work for money, and the strain that this places on them. Both of these are important but I found the authors argument a little confusing as she’s talking about both at once.
    2) There are lots of websites that discuss these types of issues as ‘click bait’ – using the ‘mommy wars’ or feminist issues as a tool to drive conflict between women and drive up views and comments. The reason I follow both you and Sarah, and listen to your podcast, is that I feel like you address these topics in a genuine way, to share tips and advice that might not apply to everyone but that you have found helpful. I don’t always agree with you but I always feel like your work comes from a place of support and curiosity about what works (and the same for most of your commenters). So thank you!

    • @Lily – thank you (and thanks for the correct definition of “emotional labor” – the conflation of these issues is confusing). I certainly try to approach things from a what-works perspective. It would be great to change the culture, but in the meantime, people need to live their lives too.

  12. I was reminded of the movie “The Break-Up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan where she says something that has stuck with me for (I checked!) 11 years…

    I want you to want to do the dishes.

    Brilliant line and it sums it all up, for me 🙂

    • @Marcia- brilliant line…but does ANYONE want to do the dishes??

      I like the characterization in an earlier comment of balancing the suckiness. So it’s not about wanting someone to want to do the dishes, it’s about wanting them to feel enough affection for you that they want to be sure both of you are happy with your lives. And being happy requires only a certain quantity of suckiness.

      • M says:

        Maybe it’s more about wanting to see them get done (wanting enough that you will even do it yourself… without being asked…). That’s how I interpret this.

  13. Ruth says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. Your writing your husband’s article was a HOOT! I loved it!

    I don’t see how Gemma’s husband qualifies as a “satificer.” He called one place, didn’t like the price quoted, then quit, dumping the job of finding a service back onto her. A satificer would have called places until he found a place with a price he could stomach.

  14. LD says:

    I walked away from this article really wanting more specific ideas about how to break away from the gender norms and stereotypes around household management. I have a great husband, I make more $ (by a LOT) and I still do most of the “management” and emotional/relationship work. While he has picked up more in the past year as I’ve started an advanced degree, he really wants and expects recognition for it. How do we break this pattern and demonstrate a “new way” for our kids? We outsource some things, but that management part is killing me… the constant keeping track and taking action. I would love to hear if others have had success breaking out of these gender/hetero norms!

  15. BethC says:

    Are you my spirit animal/clone/twin? Because I felt like the husband’s essay could have been written by mine, down to some of your specific examples. Last night’s discussion was about me parting from my nightly novel reading to vacuum the coach.. My husband does almost all vacuuming in between cleaning ladyvisits. He concluded that perhaps I might notice the dog hair accumulating during my nightly dog snuggling and book reading. Too many books, too little time.

    • @BethC – I think much of household stuff comes down to who notices (and cares) more. While women are definitely brought up to notice and care more, that won’t be a universal split.

  16. I live alone and I don’t have kids so I’m sure there will be people who think I have no right to respond to this. But as a single woman, I’m making the income and the dental appointments and the investment decisions; I’m raking the lawn and getting the car in for its oil change and doing the dishes; I’m buying everyone’s gifts and planning vacations and noticing when the water heater isn’t working plus getting it fixed. To me, anyone who has someone to do even part of this stuff has a pretty good deal. As far as the Harper’s Bazaar woman whose husband didn’t get her what she wanted for her birthday goes, this isn’t about emotional labour, it’s about not getting what you wanted for your birthday. That woman doesn’t have an emotional labour issue; she has an expectations issue. I think life is a lot more harmonious if we all stop expecting other people to do what we would have done if they were us.

    • ARC says:

      “I think life is a lot more harmonious if we all stop expecting other people to do what we would have done if they were us.” — this is SO true!

      I got a weird vibe from that Harper’s article as well – I guess part of it was about airing interpersonal discontent so publicly – my husband would be pretty horrified by that. But maybe hers was cool with the whole thing.

      Part of me was wondering why she didn’t *specify* what her desired outcome was – was it just a one-time cleaning, or did she want a more permanent solution? Why didn’t she just TELL her husband that he had to make arrangements for the kids while he was spending the day cleaning so that she could have her own time?

      • @ARC – I agree that expecting other people to read your mind is asking for trouble. With kids/housework there is a gendered component that then gets into larger historical narratives, which can make this topic more fraught, but still — communication is generally a good thing. Specify the desired outcome.

  17. ARC says:

    Laura – re: kids with different sleep needs sharing a room – here’s what we do sometimes. My 5yo oddly needs less sleep than my 8yo. However, there are also nights where the 5yo really needed to go to bed earlier because she was a tired mess after school. On those nights, we put the kid who needs more sleep to bed about 30-60 min before the other one. (Both of mine sleep like rocks once they’re out.) The later-bedtime one then feels like they’re “special” and they’re willing to take a change to the routine, like reading in a different room, so they can tiptoe into the room and just climb into bed quickly at their appointed bedtime.

    Perhaps it works for us because it could be either one going to bed earlier, but my kids are starting to understand the correlation between getting enough sleep and how they feel when they have to be up at 6:30am for school.

    Just a thought.

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