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Boy jobs vs. girl jobs

By Heather Oman

My husband’s work schedule has ramped up, and he’s not been home very much. The upshot of this is that I am now fully aware of everything he did around the house. I also realize that I resent having to do boy jobs.

If you would have told me when I got married that there were specific jobs that I expected my husband to do, I would have laughed at you. This is the new age! Third wave of feminism and all that. We are equal! We will share the load!

Yeah, um, sure.

That worked for a little while, when we were both working/in school. But the truth is, since I’ve stopped working full time to stay at home with the kids, the division of house work has evolved to include some very specific expectations that I didn’t even know I had until I was expected to handle the load myself.

For example, the trash. Every time I see the trash, I resent I have to take it out. It’s HIS job. I have no idea WHY it’s his job, it just is.

Also, the dog poop in the yard. Totally his job. I mumble and groan that I have to do it these days, because really? Yuck.

Walking the dog was his job, too, and the fact that he’s been gone so much means that our already plump pooch is bordering on downright huge. But I’m just not up for dealing with a toddler and a dog at the same time, so, our dog sits in the sun and fattens up while I ignore her.

We split the yard work pretty well, and I used to find great joy in mowing the lawn. Now, I’ve repented of that, and have handed that job over to him as well. When he’s unable to do that, it’s going to be downright depressing to take that on as well.

We have never sat down to divide the household chores. In fact, we rarely talk about it at all, other than to push each other to do the dishes (neither one of us likes to do that). That, and he flat out refuses to clean out the fridge, saying that it’s too scary of a job. Both times when I’ve been pregnant and too sick to lift my head off the pillow, let alone keep ahead of whatever is growing in the fridge, DH compensated by throwing away any container that had anything suspicious looking in it. Because opening the container and washing it was just too much.

He’s also washed a toilet exactly once in our 11 years of marriage. But that’s okay. I don’t mind toilets. Bleach is my friend. It makes me feel righteous.

How are household duties divided in your house? Did you make specific decisions about how to manage them, or have your roles gradually evolved? Are there jobs that you subconciously think your husband should automatically do, and vice-versa?

The good thing is that we both like to polish our dining room table. So at least there is one thing that is always done around here.

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

28 thoughts on “Boy jobs vs. girl jobs”

  1. I totally hear you! I consider myself a feminist and we have a fairly egalitarian marriage, but there are definitely jobs that are his and jobs that are mine. Garbage is definitely one of them, and yard work — mowing is "man's work" (says the feminist). Also, anything having to do with electronics — all his. Washing the cars — that's his too. He'll clean a toilet now and then and washes the kitchen floor for me, especially if I have other work I need to do for my job, but those are more my jobs. We've never sat down and divided up the work, but things have evolved into fairly traditional roles — I do most of the dishes, bathrooms, laundry and housework and he does the other stuff. I am not complaining in the least — he's a very hands on kind of dad and very helpful around the house.

  2. Ha! Great post, Heather.

    Hubby and I decided early on that there would be no boy jobs or girl jobs (well, except for emptying mouse traps (should that need ever surface), which is clearly a boy job). We knew that good principles of management dictated that someone be *in charge* of certain things though, so I was designated Manager of Things Inside and he became Manager of Things Outside. But we were equally involved (more or less) in the various tasks. I mowed the front lawn; he mowed the back (until our children got big enough to take over the mowing); I took care of the flower beds; he pruned the fruit trees, etc. As far as housework goes, I always vacuum, he always cleans the bathroom (when he's home, this is). I sweep, he mops. I dust, he cleans out the fridge. Works out great!

    We've also raised our children to believe that there's no such thing as girl jobs and boy jobs (well, except for the mouse thing). I've warned my boys that I fully intend to tell their future wives that they are dish and toilet bowl trained and certified.

  3. The division of chores around my house just evolved. We never talked about it, we never made lists of his and hers. I do the dishes he takes out the trash. Its just the way it is. Lately my husband has been working a lot too. With two jobs keeping him busy constantly I feel bad asking him to do his chores on the rare occasions he has to be home. But I still resent having to take out the trash….

  4. For us it isn't a matter of boy/girl jobs but what we don't mind doing or what we are good at. My husband HATES to cook, so I do it. My husband has night time dish duty because I made the dinner. He handles most things outside, maybe because he thinks it is his duty as a man but I know I am totaly capable of doing it. But in reality, he is better at it than me. I think part of it is being a gentleman though because I know that he would never in a million years let me shovel snow or mow the lawn. I tell him I mowed the lawn all the time growing uo but it doesn't seem to matter.

    I homeschool the kids and do all the chores during the day with them and hopefully my husband comes home to a clean house. (Sometimes that happens) I also handle most the bills and appointment type things.

    Other than that, if he is home then he basically does anything around the house I ask him to: laundry, clean bathrooms, vacuum, etc. We have had an unspoken rule ever since we had kids that any diapers when he is home are "his diapers." Oh and he always gets up with the kids at night.

    I know I am spoiled!

  5. Love this post, Heather. One thing that helps is having children who are old enough to take out the trash, do the dishes, and walk the dog. In a few years, you can relegate these chores to them!

    I began my marriage with the idea that we would try to share jobs evenly. But when I became a stay-at-home mom, it made sense that I would do most of the inside chores. My husband helps with dishes, making school lunches, etc, in the evenings. But I have yet to see him do any laundry—I think he asked me a couple of weeks ago how to run the dryer. I do expect him to do all of the "handyman" type jobs. Problem is, he's not much of a handyman, but he tries. He's gotten much better over the years, and we even own some power tools now.

    And emptying mouse traps—that's definitely his job, although I think he just throws the whole thing away, including the mouse trap.=)

  6. Our job division has evolved over the years and keeps changing. For most of our marriage (up until last year) we were either both in school, working part-time, or some combination of that. So we just did various chores or childcare as they have come up. Generally Saturday morning is our big cleaning time and we'll just divvy it up depending on what we feel like–sometimes he'll take bathrooms and I'll take kitchen or vice versa. Generally I do all the cooking, menu planning, and food shopping. That's because I love food and cooking; my husband can cook, but he doesn't care about food that much and would just make alternate between pancakes and spaghetti all week. We just barely bought a home a few months ago and I don't really know how we'll divide up yard work. I always had to mow the lawn growing up, so I'll probably let him do it because he didn't have a lawn and so is excited now to learn how to do home maintenance stuff.

    My biggest frustration is not that there are certain chores that he should do, but that our standards are different. I had a c-section six weeks ago and couldn't do a lot of chores. Normally I would sweep the kitchen floor every day, but he'd let it get gross for a week before doing it. Same thing with the bathrooms–they got cleaned, just not as often as I would like. I usually take out the trash because I notice it before my husband does. Now that he works full-time and I don't work or go to school, I don't mind doing more of the housework.

    And I'm already training my kids to do more of the work because in my house growing up the kids did most of the housework–I think it's a good system

  7. DH and I had a similar conversation a few nights ago. He's active duty military and away often with little to no notice whatsoever (and, save for deployments, never with a pre-determined time frame) which means that everything – save for bringing home the paycheck – falls on my shoulders.

    I've noticed over the past year that since I do it all when he's away, it's become an unspoken expectation that I do it all when he's home. Not good for either party's self-worth and certainly not good for my current stress level. Before we married (I was a single mom with a home of my own), he swept, mopped, dusted, cleaned windows and even cooked on occasion.

    Ah, the good old days…

    We're in the middle of negotiating a secondary routine to be adopted when he's home. So far he's only agreed to bathe the littlest ones in the evenings. We're working on meal prep, help with household chores and yard duties. He'll be home sometime soon so we'll see how this works out.

    I never thought being so capable would backfire on me like this.

  8. My hubby is currently gone for a month on a temporary assignment. When he's home, he'll take garbage out without me telling him and he's in charge of auto maintenance that requires tools. I am the one that usually cleans the cars, not because I like to but because I'm usually first to get fed up with the mess. He will only do laundry if I've had a bad week and he is out of clothes. I can ask him for help on things if I need it and he will do it so I don't get too concerned over the little messes he leaves around.

  9. My husband is pretty much gone Monday-Friday, except on a rare week when he's home. So I pretty much do everything, including picking up the dog poop and taking the trash out.

    However, he makes a better bed than me, cleans a better toilet, and is better at folding laundry. And when he's home he has no problem pitching in if I ask him to help.

    I pay the neighbor to mow the lawn. Currently I am removing paint from the door frame around our door so I can paint it. If I don't do it, it's not going to get done.

  10. My favorite division of labor story in our marriage is that after we'd been married a couple of months I called my husband at work to ask him how to turn on the vacuum.

    I make dinner most nights. If I'm not up to it, he will make waffles or pancakes or something else. I try to get tidying done during the day. If I don't make it, and he's not gone that night, he helps with that. He does outside lawn care stuff and handyman things. I do garden planting and maintenance, after he built the raised beds and did the irrigation system. Once in a blue moon I iron all his white shirts and then feel very virtuous. I go around proclaiming that I ironed today, and he is duly appreciative. Usually he irons, though. We usually work together on dishes, although if I've had a long day he does them.

    Our division of labor just kind of evolved. We have more exclusively boy jobs (lawn mowing, handyman stuff) than we do exclusively girl jobs. I feel a little guilty about this, like I need to step up to the plate more. But I am baffled by all things handy. Every time he fixes something I'm in awe.

  11. My hubby and I just got married in December. Before that I was a single mom in law school and if I didn't do something or specifically tell one of my kids how and when to do something, it would not get done.

    Since we have been married, things have been great. He loves to do the outside stuff, and has taught my 13 year old son how to mow and shovel snow. We all raked leaves this fall. I used to do all of the cooking, because I love to cook, but now that I am 9 weeks pregnant, I have a hate-hate relationship with food and can't cook anything for the moment. Hopefully this will pass (it did the other 3 times) but my husband has been great, cooking and making the kids help him do the dishes and clean the house. I am still trying to stay on top of the laundry, but even before I got pregnant we turned over the "putting away" of the kids clothes to them. All I do is wash and dry and return full laundry baskets to them.

    When I was a kid we had to do all kinds of chores too, it is the only way they will learn how to take care of themselves as adults!

  12. I never make my husband make the bed because he hates it. And I rarely have to empty the dishwasher because I hate that job. Why would you make the person you love do something they hate?

  13. No boy/girl jobs here, more of a "who hates it less" mentality, or who can convienently do it with their schedule. And its funny because it means that two of the things you mentioned–the trash and the dog walking/poop picking up both fall on me. The dog was my idea, so I get that, but not sure how I got the trash job, except I'm the one that gets up in the a.m. to run, so I'm already outside on trash day, I guess.

    But I do really miss the help with things in general when DH gets busy with work (like right now) and ironically, it makes me do even less, so things are just chaotic and slightly messy. Some sort of weird adaptation to keep me from totally resenting all the hours he's gone. But then we're both a little frustrated with the mess.

  14. I don't know that we have "boy jobs" and "girl jobs" just stuff that each of us does because it needs to get done. We have never said, that's yours to do… or vice versa. For example, I have tried to do the laundry, because I see that it needs to be done, but my wife refuses to let me do it, it is her baby. Probably because she is so particular about the clothes. I will clean from time to time,do the finances and budgeting, will shop when I have time, wash dishes, do a lot of the cooking,and most of the heavy yard work along with many other fix-it items around the house. My wife does the laundry (as mentioned before), loves to clean (or at least does it because she loves an immaculate house),cooks because I am not around, shops, works in the yard on the flowers and weeding, and decorates. We both take out the garbage or have the kids do it along with other jobs. Like I said, we have never talked much about it, we just both dig in and do what needs to get done.

  15. The trash is his job because it was my dad's job. So is locking up the house at night. Of course, we never talked about this, I just expected it. A conversation was forced the night that the front door and windows to our apartment were left open. It was around the time just after Richard Ramirez was apprehended. He was known for entering homes through open doors and windows before he did his dirty work on unsuspecting female victims. I was incensed that my hub would put us in danger. I was also torqued that he would required me to haul the trash to the cans in the dark alley behind our apartment building. He was clueless as to why these things upset me. Come to find out, his mom was superwoman. His dad worked swing shift, so everything fell to his mom. She was born on a farm and worked along side her dad and brothers, so this all came naturally to her. My hub assumed I'd be this kind of hearty farm-bred woman myself. I was a city-born princess. His mom and dad also came from towns in Utah where doors were always left open, even when you weren't home. They scoffed at me when I was a nut about locking everything up. We'd been robbed twice when I was a teenager. You just lock your house up right? We had trouble figuring this all out, but we eventually did. My hub is a great partner and essentially we just talked about it. Certain things are his (trash to curb) and certain things are mine (laundry), but if one or the other of us is in a bind, we cross over with no problem. Sometimes he helps with dinner and dishes, sometimes I take care of the trash. We've found a rhythm. My best advice is to talk about it and ask for what you need. For stay-at-home moms, the house is our work place. He's at work all day, and so are you. Your shift ends up being much longer than 8 hours, so don't be afraid to ask for some help. The only difference between his job and yours is your flexible schedule. Well, that and the paycheck. 😀

  16. Wow. Our delineation is the same as what you described. And it just happened. We never sat down and divvied it out.

    Great post.

  17. I guess I do give my husband all the jobs I pretty much don't want to do…garbage, garage, outside, etc. He would love to do the laundry but I don't let him touch it. Our home is basically my domain.

  18. We never meant to, but we just sort of fell into a division of labor based on our strength and preferences. It's actually really nice to not have to worry about certain things, because I know that they're "his" jobs, not mine.

  19. Melissa, I was in LA when Richard Ramirez was apprehended. I must be younger than you are, as I was just a child at the time, but I'm pretty sure I'm still scarred from the whole thing. I lock my windows and doors at night, too, and Dh even jokes about keeping me safe from "The man". What can I say, a child's memory is long…

  20. My dh has always said that, "Work doesn't care who does it"

    (and things do tend to break down along old gender roles at times… but we are both willing do do whatever when the need arises. )

  21. This describes almost exactly our division of labor (even down to my dislike for garbage duty and mowing). We recently talked about how we got to these roles when my daughter asked during dinner one night, why "daddy doesn't clean the toilets", because apparently toilets are a dirty job and therefore a man's sphere of responsibility. We laughed, but it really made me think about how the things we do affect what our children see as gender lines. I also actually like being in charge of sanitizing the toilets, and so I told my daughter that either of us can do any job we choose around the house.

    Of course, it helped to be able to point out that Daddy also does most of the dishes lately and makes the beds on laundry day and does more for the baby when he's home than I do.

  22. Heather, this is why I try NEVER to have the news on when my kids are in the house. Some would think that's a little controlling, but I'm hoping to keep some of the more hideous things from them until they can process. I was a senior in high school I think, but it still was very disturbing. I am STILL the one, after 22 years of marriage, who makes sure everything is locked down at night. 🙂

  23. Silly rabbit, chores are for kids! When they're old enough.

    We don't really have his/hers jobs around here. We both do whatever whenever. Except for killing and disposing of spiders. He does all that. And usually without my knowledge, if I'm lucky.

  24. Our jobs have sort of evolved along traditional lines, but there's a lot of room for flexibility. He cooks sometimes; I take out the trash sometimes. But the basic responsibility still resides with one or the other of us.

    There was never a discussion. It just sort of happened based on what we did best and minded least. Not all of our jobs are the typical ones assigned by gender, by the way. For instance, I manage our money, and he does our gardening. He cleans out the refrigerator and linen closet, and I fix electronic things.

    Whatever. After 40 years, it works for us!


  25. The trash. It's the one job I just don't do (unless he's out of town or otherwise indisposed). It's not that I can't or even that I hate it, but instead that I just decided he would have one job that was always his. There are plenty of jobs that are always mine. 🙂

    I think everything evolved here by who was the most aware that something needed to be done. His tolerance level of a dirty house is much higher than mine, so I usually get to clean it since I'm the one who thinks it's dirty. Of course, the up-side to that is that I rarely get nagged or made to feel guilty. I take that anyday over someone with high expectations. 🙂


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