Husband and Wife Both Work, But She Does More Around the House

by TTMK on March 4, 2013 · 18 comments

In days gone by, there was an almost standard way of doing things.  Or so I understand, anyway.  The man would be the “provider” who would leave the home to work hard to make all the money to support his family.  The woman would take the lead at home with the kids and housework.  He would not do much housework, but would do “man’s” work fixing things and lawn care.  She would be not be responsible for making money, thought she might do shopping for the family.

I didn’t grow up like that.  Both my parents worked.  Well, actually my Dad always worked, and my mom had a more flexible work schedule when I was young.  She didn’t work at all for a few years when I was younger, from what I was told.  However, once I got older, she went back into the workforce and worked full-time.

The thing is, my Dad was always very fair.  He stepped up and did work around the house.  He cleaned, and sometimes he cooked for us.  Not as well as my Mom 🙂  But, he developed into a decent cook and now – as a senior citizen – he takes the lead.  What I’m getting at is that work was shared in a way that seems fair to me, and this has shaped my views on things as an adult.

This is in contrast to a couple I know today.  They’re in my generation, so theoretically they should have a more “modern” view than folks in my parents’ generation.  Again, keep in mind that my parents kept a great balance in terms of workload.  But with these friends I have, the woman seems to do more.

They both work full-time, and both do quite well.  They’re really fortunate that way, and have given themselves a nice life and financial security through their efforts and good fortune.  I think he makes a bit more than her, but they both are senior-level people where they work.

However, he admits that she does 95% of the work at home.  Or, at least this is what he claims.  Maybe he does more around the house that he wants to admit, and perhaps he’s trying to act cool.  I do know that he is the kind of guy who is a probably a great Dad.  However, it seems like she does more around the house based on what he says.

Does she complain? According to him, no.  Apparently, she just gets things done.  Maybe she just takes on this burden because she thinks that this should be her work to do, and maybe this is what she saw her own mother do at home years ago.  Or, perhaps she just thinks she can get things done quicker and better than him, so she doesn’t even bother to get him to do things.

Let’s say he’s exaggerating a bit, and he really does 30% instead of the 5% he says.  Still, that means she is doing quite a bit more.  To me, it seems unfair to her.  Frankly, I wonder if he really gets how easy his life is and how lucky he truly is.

Like I said though, it doesn’t seem to bother her at all according to him.  Importantly, it does seem like they have a great marriage and are very happy.

I’m curious what you think of this.

Do you think this is typical in 2-income households, where the wife does more around the house despite both spouses working? Or, have you seen couples where it might even be the opposite and the guy does more?

Should work truly be 50% in cases like this?

Can you see how people could be so genuinely very happy in a situation like this, as seems to be the case?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle March 4, 2013 at 7:34 am

When I worked and went to school, he did most of the housework. Now that I only work, I do about 75% of it as he works a lot more. We try and keep it fair.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Michelle – that sounds like you’re trying to do what works for you guys. Good for you.

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Daisy @ Add Vodka March 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

I would never stand for this. J does about the same amount as me now, and if he doesn’t, or complains about it, we sit down for a talk. It’s not 1950, and I am a woman, not a slave. When I would be in school, J would do about 75% of the cleaning. I was out of the house for 12 hours a day, so I couldn’t really do it.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Daisy – agreed, this isn’t the 1950’s and fair is fair if one expects it.

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Goldeneer March 4, 2013 at 9:16 am

Great topic. I would not stand up for this either. If both partners work full time, regardless of if there is a discrepancy in their income, then they should both contribute fairly to household chores.

My husband and I do equal work around the house as we both work full time. I tend to do more cooking and he tends to do more cleaning as it happens to be our strengths and interests. If he did less work on a consistent basis, I would not stand up for it and I’m sure he would feel the same if the roles were reversed.

For couples where one partner does most of the housework, I have seen resentment even though that partner claims to love doing all the work. Women who find themselves in this situation are most likely enabling this complacent behaviour in their male partners. In this situation, I place the onus on the women to do less work and push their partners to own up to their half.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Goldeneer – that’s a good point about resentment even though one person does it all and claims not to have a problem with it. Or, just doesn’t complain. I see what you mean about enabling, though I also put the onus on the guy to be fair.

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SavvyFinancialLatina March 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I am all into 50/50.

Both of us work, and I actually make at least two times more than he does. He sometimes tries to get away with its the womanly duty to clean the house, cook, etc. My response? Well, then I should just stay at home and not work, which isn’t going to happen.

I have been fighting for equality in our marriage since we got married. Slowly but surely he is understanding that I’m not going to do all the housework. I actually let the home get to a point where it’s awful. I won’t do it.

I, also, take care of our finances. Track every penny, invest, pay bills, file taxes, etc.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm

SFL – sounds like you’re on the right track by expecting 50/50 as both work

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Well Heeled Blog March 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I believe in a fair and equitable division of labor. That means, for example, if neither of us wants to clean the kitchen, then we better (1) refrain from making big messes, or (2) make enough money to outsource that cleaning. I would not be OK with doing most of the work inside the house when we both work hard outside, and fortunately my husband agrees.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Well Heeled – sounds reasonable and fair. In cases where both are working and can afford outsourcing, that can be a good alternative. Time is valuable, and if both people are really busy, sometimes money can be spent.

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Emily @ evolvingPF March 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I say if there really is no resentment from this wife, they don’t need to rock the boat! It’s hard enough to determine between two people what’s a fair/acceptable division of labor, let alone try to appease every outsider observing them.

Doing all the housework while working full-time wouldn’t fly for either one of us in our marriage so we’ve come to another balance, but I think it really depends on the personalities and aptitudes involved.

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TTMK March 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Emily – good points on appeasing outside observers, and also I like where you’re going with the personalities and aptitudes involved. Sometimes, we can naturally be better at something than our spouse, and have higher standards. Thus, doing it ourself can mean doing it better.

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AverageJoe March 6, 2013 at 6:13 am

Cheryl and I have figured out what we’re both best at over time. I generally handle the cooking, while she’s better at deep cleaning tasks. Laundry has always been a sore spot: nobody likes to do that, even though I enjoy ironing (no clue why).

I think I come down with Emily on this. While to me it seems totally unfair and kind of 1950’s, it works for them. Especially if he’s a great dad and can spend that time he’s not cleaning on helping his kids, I think it’s fair. Now, if he’s sitting with a beer watching football while she’s cleaning…I need to find a similar woman….sorry….I mean “that’s despicable.”

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TTMK March 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm

AverageJoe – Ha! I don’t think I’ve experienced that scenario too often in my own life 🙂

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Steven J Fromm March 23, 2013 at 9:45 am

My wife worked early in our careers and she did most of the work. Now she does not work but still does a lot of the work around the house. I try to clean up the kitchen after every dinner and help out when I can and especially on weekends. But my wife still does most of the stuff involving our house. She is really good about it but sometimes I need to do more than I do. But we have been doing this for 34 years and it works and she does not hate me, at least not yet.

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patanahi May 31, 2015 at 12:19 am

My husband wants me to earn money ….I work full time as an IT professional in an competitive and demanding world… and do all household work alone.

He blames me if I ask him to HELP me in cooking for him. And says he is helping me when he is ironing his own clothes. 🙂

He gets aggressive and blames me if I just ask him to take out his plate to sink after dinner,,,

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Jana July 16, 2015 at 9:17 am

We both work 40hours a week but i do all the house chores. I’m the wife i agree but i cook, wash., iron all our clothes, and we have two kids who i have to help with homework. I been doing this for ten years and when i talk bout it he gets all defensive and gives me the silent treatment even for over a week

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Mary February 4, 2016 at 10:13 am

I do all housework, but my husband starts my car every morning, feeds the dog twice a day, makes the coffee, mows the yard every few days for a few hours in summer, cleans the gutters, picks up branches and limbs that falls into the yard, when it snows he shovels for several hours, he will clean my car of snow, he brings the groceries in, when my house was being broken into while we were in the living room he is the one who had to go to the door and slam it shut.

You know? He does the man stuff! I wouldn’t trade chores for man stuff ever.

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