(English translation available after the Chinese article)
Working Parents Unequal Division of Responsibilities at Home?
Dual-career families have both parents going out to work and some choose to hire foreign domestic helpers or part-time helpers to help with the housework. Some families divide the responsibilities between the parents with each person doing their part.
It’s great if you can equally divide the responsibilities of housework at home but usually housework is something that is hard to quantify.
In addition to daily housework, such as laundry, cleaning the home, cooking, washing dishes, etc. there are also taking care of the child’s food, bathing the child, helping the child to do homework or schoolwork review. Even the task of being the school’s contact person has to fall on one of the parents. Even if the mother has to go out to work, they are usually the parent that takes on the heavier parenting load.
According to a survey in the US in 2019, housework such as washing clothes, cleaning home, cooking, etc. mostly fall on women to do. Home furnishing, purchasing daily necessities and washing dishes are also more often women’s responsibilities.
Meanwhile, more men are responsible for car and garden responsibilities (this is a rarity in Hong Kong to have a garden). The only responsibility that is more evenly divided between men and women is paying the bills.
Uneven division of labor can easily make the more responsible party feel unfair. Over time, this may cause conflicts and affect the relationship between husband and wife.
If you and your partner are facing a similar situation, is there a way to resolve it? Here are some suggestions in hopes that it gives some enlightenment.
- Check Your Expectation
First, check your expectations of your partner. What do you expect his or her role to be? What do you expect him/her to be responsible for in terms of childcare or housework?
When the other person fails to do what you expect, there is a gap in expectations and you will be disappointed. But have you ever thought about whether the other party knows what you expect of him? Or if your expectations of him are reasonable?
- Understand the Other’s Thinking
If your partner does not seem to want to take on the responsibility of housework or childcare, have you tried to understand the reasoning for that?
How does your partner feel after becoming a parent? What excites him? What worries him? Could it be these worries are making him avoid responsibility?
Is it because your requirements are too high and he feels the less he does, the less mistakes he will commit? Could it also be the teaching of his own upbringing where he believes women should be responsible for the majority of housework?
Before blaming your partner for failing to take care of things, let’s find out what he thinks first.
- Tell the Other Party Your Feelings
Communication is very important for couples to get along so you should find a time to calmly tell your partner how you feel, especially your feelings about the uneven distribution of housework. By letting your partner know how you feel about his attitude and your overall feelings, this will help everyone to resolve the problem.
But remember to stay calm, and use gentle words and don’t scold each other. This will only make the other person want to avoid the problem to the point where they even want to fight back which doesn’t help to solve the problem.
- Appreciate the Good Work of the Other Party
When we are disappointed with our partner, it might be because we can only see housework they did not do. We may not recognize the efforts on what he did for the family. For example, playing with children after work, taking the kids out on days off, repairing home appliances, water and electricity, or replacing light bulbs, etc.
These things they do are also for the family, but we ignore it and take it for granted.
We should appreciate more of what our partner has done. This can build the other person’s confidence in taking care of the family. Secondly, when one thinks about good thoughts, their mood will improve.
- Communicate and Divide the Housework
This is the last and most important point. Everyone should sit down and make a list of the tasks that everyone has defined as housework. Regardless if they are daily tasks, such as washing clothes, cooking, cleaning, or things related to children such as transporting children to school, bathing them, reading with them, etc., or if they are one off tasks such as repairing home appliances, changing light bulbs, taking children to see a doctor, etc. We should list them all.
Then, according to each person’s personality, strengths, time, and priority, we should divide these various tasks. For example, whoever tells the story more vividly should be responsible for reading to the child. Whoever is more detail oriented should take care of the finances. Those who pay more attention to their children’s studies should be responsible for instructing children to do homework and revision. Those who have to work on weekends are left with the other half to accompany their children out for fun, etc.
During this discussion, we need to put aside the traditional division of labor by gender and we no longer need to think that the housework is done by women and repairs are done by men. As long as you are willing and capable, anyone can do any housework.
Hopefully after division of responsibilities, the family’s relationship can be more harmonious.
All the contents published in this article are personal opinions and do not represent the opinions and views of Little Monkey Hong Kong.
About the Author
Scarlett is a working mom with a 4-year-old son, who knows the challenges encountered by working parents. She would like to share some thoughts on parenthood that may serve as support and encouragement for moms and dads.