I’m a Survivor

I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it
I will survive, keep on survivin’

Clearly, Beyonce and her clique had me in mind when they https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wmc8bQoL-J0churned out that roaring anthem. Women everywhere frayed their dresses and frolicked on the beach while pumping their fists in the air aggressively surviving. That’s how I felt at the bottom of the weekend. Something profound happened to me. I learned that I could live without my husband. (Make no mistake, I don’t want to.) Yes, sometimes I can be homicidal towards him but most of the times we get along great and he makes me laugh. Plus (and this is where the surviving comes in), he does all the parenting duties and household chores that I prefer not to do.

As soon as my husband announced he was going out of town for an extended weekend, a multitude of emotions flowed through me.

Really? No!
Don’t go!
Can I come too?
She’s 4, she can take care of herself can’t she?
But why do you get to escape go?
Okay fine, be safe.
What?? I gotta take out the garbage, too?!?

I realized shortly after my mild tantrum that this was my husband’s first trip away from us since the pandemic took hold. I’d been away from him and Charlotte a few times since March 2020, and each of those times I was overjoyed to leave and break away with the banalities of life. So as hard as it was going to be, I knew I had to tough it out for the sake of his happiness (or at least in the name of fairness).

I’m a survivor, I’m not gon’ give up
I’m not gon’ stop, I’m gon’ work harder

That song now holds new meaning for me, except the lyrical part about not stopping and working harder because now that he’s back, why work harder when we can go back to being equals?

My sister once asked me out of curiosity how chores were divided in our household, and I was very honest with her. “We divvy up everything equally,” I said. The way I looked at her intensely in the eyes and enunciated the word ‘equally’ made her seek further clarification. She inquired about what that equality looks like in my house. So, I explained it to her in granular detail: he takes out the garbage, I replace the bag; he loads/unloads the dishwasher, I prefer to handwash dishes; he vacuums the downstairs family room with the big Dyson, I manage the main floor area with the smaller Dyson; he does seasonal yard work and snow removal while I take care of the family laundry; I cook meals then he cleans the pots and pans. Equal. Right. Down. The. Very. Middle.

You see, we never really planned it this way but somehow, we’ve managed to choreograph this well-timed dance of suburban life. So, you can imagine how flustered I was to realize that I’d be the one to pick up the slack while my literal other half was out of town. All the other times I left town without him, I frantically ran around meal prepping, making sure schedules were written down, important numbers were on hand for emergencies and reminded my husband of where I kept Charlotte’s health card- stuff like that.

This time, he didn’t leave a list for me but I imagine if he did, it might have looked something like this:

“Garbage day is Thursday. Don’t touch my yard equipment. And for the love of God, load the dishwasher properly!”

What are your thoughts on equality in the domestic realm? Also, if you have ever cohabitated with someone else, how were chores divided in your household? Was it ever discussed, and did you think it was fair?

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45 thoughts on “I’m a Survivor

  1. I do the lion share of domestic things in my household. I will freely admit that I do freelance work and my husband has a structured 50 hour a week job. I do think in most relationships one partner does most of the work, and I really think that’s because one partner usually likes things done “in a certain way” while the other could care less… very tricky navigating this

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    • Yea, part of being in a equal partnership does require (I find) one of the spouses to let go a bit and just accept that things will get done but perhaps not exactly the way they prefer.. and hey, like the popular saying goes, if you want it done a certain way then maybe that means you need to do it? My dear friend freelances and she ends up doing majority of the household duties too, which I think isn’t fair but somehow I understand why though… she just happens to be home and her job can be a bit more flexible whereas her partner’s isn’t .. is it fair? no… but until they can work out how to adjust and move around that, it’s sort of what they are living with now…

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  2. My husband and I will soon celebrate 38 years of marriage. We never really sat down and planned what we would do – but it just seemed to evolve. I cook – he cleans up. Because he does not like how I load the dishwasher he has become the one to load and unload. I do the laundry and he takes out the garbage. I have arthritis bad in my back so I dust the furniture but he vacuums. Our kids are all grown but when they were home we just kind of shared those duties by being involved in what we liked or was good at. He enjoyed sports so he was involved with those activities. I loved books and music so I took part in those activities. We never really “planned” it – we just took life as it seemed to happen.

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    • That’s exactly how it is in our household… we never really officially divided the tasks but through years of cohabitating then marriage, we learned what each can’t stand to do and what we each are not great at and it’s sort of naturally evolved from there! Love when that happens!

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  3. I have thought about this topic before because it is pretty interesting how things have evolved in our marriage without much discussion. If I look at it objectively, my wife does more than me. I tend to take care of the outside chores, and she handles more of the inside stuff, but that’s more of an informal guideline. If I want to make points, I’ll surprise her by doing something she typically takes on. The main thing in any marriage is never to take the other for granted.

    I’m better at math than my wife, so I did the taxes for many years. We hire someone now because our financial stuff is way more complicated. She’s less of a procrastinator than me, so she pays the bills. Occasionally, when one of us is not in the mood to do some task, we’ll ask the other to do it. Whoever cooks gets the night off from dishes.

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    • The little surprises do make such a difference! The things that I now consider a “romantic gesture” to an outsider would seem so mundane and hilarious even lol but they really are a nod to how much he loves me and appreciates how doing something like that could brighten up my day 😛

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  4. When I married my late husband in 2005, I was in my forties, and he was in his sixties. Neither of us had been married or had children before. He did the cooking, and I helped with clean-up.

    Then, in 2006, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. After that, he could never walk, let alone cook. I cared for him at home until he passed in 2012. After being a caregiver, I’m now a survivor.

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    • You guys were a great team, Abbie! I’m sorry to hear about his ailments and then passing, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a situation where all the responsibility fell on you (to care for your property but then also your partner) and then to eventually losing that partner… You definitely are the REAL definition of a true survivor, Abbie!

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  5. I’ve never been married, nor cohabitated with anyone except my mother. When my father walked out on her, after 30 years of marriage, I was still living at home and enjoying the freedom of taking a major trip every year, without a care in the world about the household routine in my absence … but I was much younger then. Dad did the yardwork and snow removal; Mom did the household chores, including laundry. I worked at my job. But, after he left, I got a rude awakening when suddenly I was forced into yardwork/snow-shoveling chores and, as my mom got older and had mobility issues, I took on more and more household chores. We argued a lot about housework … she is looking down right now saying “I told you so!” Mom was a stickler for keeping a perfect, dust-free, not-a-single-item-out-of-place home. I didn’t subscribe to that theory. I pleaded my case on doing a Spring AND a Fall cleaning … and won. One big cleaning was enough. I learned to pick my battles. I also did not see the need to wash dishes and glasses that were never used … that was a bone of contention. My mother said “when I’m gone, I can only imagine how this house will look.” Sadly she is right. When I’m retired, I’ll give it more TLC, but for now, on my own, I glance at the dust bunnies and put blinders on. I spent an entire day pruning, weeding and taming the new growth in the front and back yards. Today, it looked just as bad again – grrrr.

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    • Yes, when I see my husband grinding away in the yard I do feel a great sense of appreciation that I don’t have to that work because he’s willing to take that on without even me asking.. a lot of it is also about respect and I think we do that by recognizing where we each contribute and then doing our own part.. I think that’s important in any relationship! I was the same when I lived alone, I didn’t mind too much the little messes here and there as long as I kept my place relatively presentable! Then my husband came along and thought I was a hoarder LOL (I’m not actually anywhere near one but he grew up with one as a mom so he’s triggered by a pile of papers)… Whatever makes you happy I say, you do you!

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      • I promise myself I will declutter like crazy when I’m retired and have more time. I look around this house sometimes Jen and say to myself “how did two other people and a bird live here and then it was always neat and tidy?”

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  6. When people talk of the English miners’ strike of the 1980s my abiding memory is that my husband was one of the many Metropolitan Police officers controversially sent up north to mining towns. My main concern was being left by myself for a week with two young children and no family nearby! I told friends I would cope as long as Nothing went Wrong…. Luckily the week went smoothly.

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    • ah! I mean you really survived! Kudos to you! Single-parenting is not fun and I don’t even have a clue how it’s done so the fact that you survived a week, which must have been exhausting and nerve-wracking at the same time, applause!!!

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  7. LOL. I used to do the same thing when I went away when my girls were small. Long lists of who needed to be where and when. Not sure I needed to, but it made me feel better. My husband and I never really discussed who would do what, we just sort of fell into a routine. 28 years later, it works. Most of the time.

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    • Is it a mom thing?? I feel like it is- this leaving detailed lists lol.. Is it because we don’t trust our spouse to do what we would do? But even so, does it really need to be done the way we would have done? Likely not… some of that I think is also on us as moms (me for sure) of perpetuating this idea that dads just don’t do it as well as moms so therefore they get a pass… I take on some of that responsibility too so I try to correct it as often as possible lol much to my husband’s chagrin haha

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  8. Well done on divvying up the household jobs. It is great to start out doing this and work as a team. I knew many couples who were equal in every way except managing the children’s (when they come along), medical needs. I couldn’t work out why.

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    • Yes! I think most importantly, we see it as a team effort! And good point, a lot of times household chores can be equally divided but not so when it comes to childrearing! My daughter is very attached to my husband, they have a deep bond. I never got in the way of it because I also knew that would automatically allow him to naturally “inherit” some of the tasks of parenting so it could at least even out some of the playing field lol haha so we do what we can in that department too (parenting), we definitely lean in to our strengths there too!

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  9. You’ve reached a good balance with your household chores. Very nice. You asked, “Was it ever discussed, and did you think it was fair?” We’ve never discussed this outright but just fell into a pattern that makes sense and requires both to contribute to marital bliss. Funny, I never thought about this before

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  10. I never thought if we were equal in chores, but we both pull our weight around. That said, we do have certain tasks that just kind of became each of ours. For example, hubby does the garbage, compost, and recycling. I always set the dishwasher and put dishes away. He always vacuums. I always do the laundry (I get OCD when I watch him fold…LOL). He always shovels the snow. I do the summer yard work. It works.

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    • haha I feel like I get that same OCD feeling when I watch my husband do my chores too.. but luckily he’s not a huge fan of my chores and I am not a huge fan of his so it works out perfectly well like that! I think as long as you lean in on the the individual strengths and do for your spouse what you know they absolutely can’t stand doing but it’s tolerable to you!.. That’s TRUE freaking LOVE! LOL

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  11. We didn’t discuss it, it just happened, and yes, it seems fair. When I think, “Man, the yard is a mess. That’s his job to take care of,” I look at the house and think, “Man, the house is a mess. This is my job to take care of.” So, we are equal in our suckiness. 😉 But we maintain well too, just not to perfection. It’s a comfortable 80%ness. 🙂 I’m going out of town this coming week. I hope he’ll survive with all the kids. Then in a few weeks, he’s going out of town but taking the most helpful kid with him. Not sure I’ll survive!

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  12. Jen, I absolutely love this. You got away and Hubby coped. Tables are turned and now it’s not so easy. The best part about growing up in the Donna Reed / Leave it to Beaver mom world is that I don’t worry or freak out. Drinking water from the garden hose is okay. 🙂 It’s one of my greatest strengths at school with young parents and new teachers. On the flip side, moms didn’t take off for weekends (how stupid was that) but dads did. Hmm… So it’s no wonder that dads weren’t always the best at details. Hey, peanut butter for dinner was great! Honestly, are our chores evenly divided? Now, yes. Earlier, no.

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    • That’s so true, I didn’t think about how lax things were from that era, yet housewives had to be perfect! I feel like men aren’t great at details like you say, but I also think just as society has made women the bearer of childrearing responsibilities, so too did society enable men to be less great at the small details.. hahaa I checked my walls for cameras when you mentioned the peanut butter for dinner because that is what she eats on Wednesday nights when I am working late and he’s on double-parenting duty lol but hey, if you can have it for breakfast why not dinner!

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  13. It’s always been very one sided in my experience, though I make all the mess (they skipped the homemaker gene with me). So I feel obligated to take on the majority. Do I think it’s fair? Nope.
    Have I discussed it? Yep.

    The fact I check single when asked my relationship status should tell you all you need to know. Well done on finding your balance.

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    • Thank you! We sort of worked it all out while living together I think.. I also think we were lucky to play on each other’s strengths and preferences.. luckily that matched up! Women also tend to take on the majority of the childrearing so if we can get a bit of a break with the domestic housework that would be fine in my books!

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  14. I’m so glad that you survived 🤣. I love that you and your husband have a plan that works best for both your needs that definitely helps limit arguments I think. My husband is life flight so he’s gone every other 2 weeks. When he’s gone I do pretty much everything by myself. Sometimes it’s tricky when things break and I’m left floundering while calling him to vent about being overwhelmed lol. Yet when he comes home he takes over for me on parenting on some of the chores and some of the housework so I get a break. We also have a farm and he ends up with mile long to-do lists of things we have to catch up on when he’s home… but it works for us too!

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    • oh man that’s hard on you- him being away 2 weeks at a time! That honey-do list must build up that’s for sure!!! But it’s great to know how self-sufficient you are (especially running, operating and maintaining a farm) and at least you still have help, just not immediate help! Also nice that you get that little break when he returns!! Those are like my one weekend sleep-in days…. I soo look forward to those days!!

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  15. Really love how you’ve managed to divide the chores. This is something that has been an ongoing struggle in my family and extended family. So many chores automatically fall on the women of the family that me and my siblings now detest. We’ve been slowly trying to make the older generations change their ways and make men help around more at home.

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    • That’s great that you’re finding your voice and communicating how unfair it has been for generations! Hope you see some change soon!! Stuff like that takes one grain at a time!

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    • Ok that makes me feel better LOL hahaha I thought we were the only one who sub-divided that garbage task lol.. it’s annoying too bc he will take out the garbage but he refuses to replace the bag (say, for instance, if I am not home).. he will wait for me to come home to put a fresh bag in! LOL but I guess fair because I will generally avoid taking out the garbage until he’s home to do it lol

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  16. Interesting how these things are never discussed. We just fall into a groove of preferred chores, or as I’d like to call it, ‘the thing we can’t stand not doing the most’.

    I, for one, can’t stand dirty sinks. So I clean it often. That also means I do the dishes, and I clean the kitchen because I like things a certain way. My partner doesn’t cook so she doesn’t care how the kitchen looks.

    But I couldn’t be bothered with folding the laundry. And she can’t stand the mess when it comes to clothes, so she’s fallen into that chore.

    That’s how we’ve divided (or claimed) our chores naturally. Then there are the Forgotten Ones™, like dusting the lamps or wiping the glass doors. Those need to get real ratchet before either of us get to them, lol.

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    • LOL Forgotten Ones… ah yes.. the baseboards… God, I hate the baseboards lol no one likes doing those… maybe I will assign Charlotte that task since she’s physically closer (in height) to the boards lol

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