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Just because I’m Home Doesn’t Mean I’m H-O-M-E!

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

The topic for this week came from an email sent by my mother.

She's a bit verbose, but the gist is –

“Just because I'm at home during the day, my husband stopped doing chores.

How do you handle the chores at your home with your spouse – and how do you get it through his/her head that you're working (and therefore, not available) when you're at home?”

Here's her original question…

My dear Nicole,

I've enjoyed your last several Expert Briefs – the ones dealing with balancing family and work, and keeping a happy marriage going under the stress and rigors of building and maintaining a successful home-based business.

Since I am a WAHG (that's Gramma), I don't have the problem of shared responsibility for the kids. I'm past that stage, thank you very much. I'm sure you can get a quorum together and discuss that problem for weeks, if not months.

What I do have is a basic housekeeping problem. Okay, not that that is so terrible in this modern age, but I guess it's the attitude that I find most distressing. Here goes:

Why is it that when I quit my outside j-o-b, my Hubby quit doing housework of any kind? Now, this is a man who knows how to keep a house. He was a single Dad to his two kids, so he did all this stuff. We've been married almost 15 years and we've always shared all the cleaning. He still enjoys cooking, but the cleaning has come to a screeching halt. I didn't even notice right away. It took a few months for it to sink in. He used to run the vacuum around a bit and scrub the kitchen floor, but I see he hasn't done that at all for quite a while. He still does his own laundry, simply because he likes to. He works a lot of hours outside the house, so I'm thinking because I'm home, he thinks I'm H-O-M-E.

I think a light bulb went off over my head some time ago when I realized how often he called me during the day and said, “I'm sorry to bother you, but…” and then continued with some story about something that could definitely have waited until he got home. I started to see that he didn't really think I was “at work.” Then, I noticed he quit doing any housework. Does my dear Hubby not get that I'm at work all day and that to take time out to vacuum or scrub floors means I'm not making money? I don't expect him to do ALL the housework; I never did. We always shared it. The only thing that's changed is I'm working at home and he's quit cleaning.
Anyone else?

Thanks, Nicole and Experts for anything you can share on this topic.

Your Hard-Workin' Mom

Yep. She's a wordy one. Guess where I get it from? ;0

Let's see what our experts have to say,….

Mark Mason of says:

You know, a question like this is always more complicated than it seems. This seems like a WAHM work-life balance question, but I really see it as a fundamental relationship question. And, looking to me for relationship advice is not recommended (LOL).

But, since you asked…

My immediate response to Hard-Workin' Grandma (whom I have met and really like) would be to recommend a book for her and her hubby. It's called the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman ( It is an easy read, and perfect to get Granny and her man on the same page about a lot of topics, including housework. It even comes in “special versions” — one for men, and a Christian version too.

Check it out. Buy hubby a copy too. It will be the best thing you can do for your marriage.

Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of says:

What a wonderful question! I ran into this when I first started working from a home office. Not from my husband, but from friends and my children's parents. “Since you're home, would you mind…picking up the kids, watching my kids, receiving a package, letting the repairman in, etc.”

Here's how I solved it: I am not available for home maintenance from 10am to 7pm (my typical work hours). I can help you with that after that time, but I am working the rest of the time, even though I am physically in the house.

As for the home chores, I see two possibilities. Hire a maid or do them (very obviously) in the evening. It won't take long for him to recognize that instead of sitting down and relaxing in the evening you are doing housework that he previously did. And one mention of the “hire a maid” conversation and you will determine whether or not he believes you BOTH should get a break from housework or recognize that he's let the ball drop.

Finally, those pesky phone calls. Just don't answer the phone. When he asks why you didn't pick up, just tell him “I was working and couldn't be interrupted. I generally don't answer personal phone calls during work hours.” He'll get the message pretty quick.

Jeanette (celebrating my 18th year working from home!)

Kristen Eckstein of Finish Writing Your Book Fast: Book Writing for Procrastinators says:

Most of my peers think I'm spoiled, and they're right, I am. He was already the cook so doing the dishes came naturally for him. I handled the laundry, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

Then I went full-time with the business in 2009 and the first thing I realized was, that with the 90+ hours per week I was working getting our “baby” to some substantial growth meant something had to give, and give fast. I made a deal with Hubby. He'd keep up his end of the chores and I would hire housekeeping to come in and take over my part. After all, I told everyone when I was little the first thing I was going to do as a grownup was to “make lots of money and hire a cleaning lady!” Eventually Hubby had to take care of the laundry as well, because he ran out of..well… his “expert briefs.”

I don't think it's a coincidence that as soon as I outsourced my chores (vacuuming, picking up/organizing the house, bathrooms, etc.) my business income the following month tripled. No kidding!

It's more than the husband understanding that I work during the day. It was about finding a way everything could still get done, not overwhelm him (after all, he works for me on nights and weekends and has a full-time day job) and free me up to do what I do best – grow the business. As soon as he realized he could let go the control of having things around the house done by an outsider, he's found more things for them to do. And the laundry? Well, we're still working on getting him to give that up… For some reason he enjoys doing it. (I'll never understand why.)

And when the money rolls in and I give myself a bonus or a raise, he realizes just how valuable it is to have our housekeeping staff handling the tedious mundane tasks I dreaded doing.

Susanne Myers of says:

Great question this week and something we've struggled with quite a bit over the years as well. For the past few years, my situation has been a little unique because my husband is working at home right along with me. One of the biggest problems we face is that with both of us home, the mess seems to accumulate even faster than before.

Here's what's been working for us (most of the time).

We each have assigned tasks or chores we do on a regularly basis. For example, hubby is in charge of laundry, while I cook most of our dinners.

If one of us is working on a time-intensive project, the other picks up the slack. Whenever possible we try not to schedule anything terribly time-consuming on the same day.

Where we run into trouble most weeks is tasks that we don't feel belong to one or the other (like cleaning the bathrooms or vacuuming the living room which neither one of us wants to claim).

The solution for us is to invite someone over… it gets both of us motivated to clean house – quickly.

My best advice is to communicate with your spouse … figure out who's in charge of what or come up with some deals like “If I clean the hall bathroom, will you vacuum and dust the living room?”.

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Aye. Aye. Aye. I can get in trouble on so many levels here –with my mom, my step-dad, and my husband – all in one post. 😉

First of all, you know I recommend the book that Mark mentioned. I have it at home, mom. You can borrow it.

I agree with Jeannette and Kristen, too. Getting a maid is a great idea – even if it's just once a month or every other week, and you alternate the cost. I love my cleaning people and they've been with me for 4 years now.  There's nothing like a top to bottom cleaning of your entire house in just a few hours. When I clean it myself, I'll have clean bathrooms or kitchen or living room, but never all three at the same time. When the cleaning duo comes – they leave me with a shiny new house every week. The hardest part is prepping for them to come – picking up stuff so they can clean. But, that keeps us accountable that the house WILL be spotless at least once each week.

As for those daily chores, do you guys have in writing who does what and when? As you know, mom, I have a daily list of activities that hubby and the kids do. And, now a weekly one, too, for the weekend. Obviously you're in my home several times each week, so you know it isn't a perfect system, but at least everyone knows his/her responsibilities. Until we had it in writing – it was too wishy washy.

Every morning, my Joe takes the kids to school, starts the coffee, empties the dishwasher, and makes me breakfast.  That routine is pretty good. Every week, on the cleaning day, he preps the house for the housekeepers to come. Obviously I help if he's sick or unable to for some reason, and am happy to on an average day, assuming my schedule isn't slammed during that time. Our evenings are another thing, as you know. lol. But mornings run pretty slick.

As for interruptions… you can't ignore phone calls from him in case there's an emergency so you're just going to have to ask him not to call unless it can't wait.  Maybe buy him a little notebook or something where he can jot things down – or make sure his next phone has texting or a voice recorder. He may just be afraid he'll forget – or knowing him, he's excited to tell you something. lol. Remind him there are times you can't call him at work, too, so he doesn't think it unfair.


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • The Happypreneur

    What a good question Patti!
    I have been noticing that my hubby has been slacking off over the past several months. He usually did more around the house than I did anyway. I have always had jobs that demanded longer hours than his plus he’s an ex Navy guy – after hospital corners for 20 yrs it’s just habit. He really hasn’t quit doing his share, just some of my share, lol! Since I haven’t really had time to kick my end up a notch – if you come to our house it’s usually tidy, just don’t look in the corners or open drawers and closets and it’ll be fine.


    • The Mom

      Thanks, Celene. I like this: “He really hasn’t quit doing his share, just some of my share, lol!” Maybe THAT’S really the problem, eh?! Ha!

  • The Mom

    Ha! I’m lmao because Nicole didn’t warn me she was posting this today! I found out when I got a FB comment and had to go see what the heck was going on. Love ya Honey!

    GREAT input ya’ll.

    Yes, Mark, I will definitely read the book 5 Love Languages. Nicole has recommended it, too. And, thank you… it was so much fun meeting you, too. You’re a swell guy. Hope we can meet up again soon.

    So, Jeanette, you made me think about something. Maybe I’M the one who isn’t considering my work time at home valuable. hmmm… It finally occurred to me just the other day when there was a knock at the door and I was in the middle of something that demanded my attention. I got up to answer the door and thought “Wait. I’m at work. If I was back at my outside job, I wouldn’t be here to answer the door.” So, I didn’t answer it. That was not exactly an ‘ah ha’ moment… more like a ‘duh!’ moment. And, yeah, doing chores at night would really have Hubby pouting! Thanks for your great suggestions.

    And, Kristen… tripled your income, eh?! Yes, hiring someone to come in once in a while has been in the back of my mind. Nicole’s been after me to do that for some time, too. You make another good point. “It’s more than the husband understanding that I work during the day. It was about finding a way everything could still get done,…” I think I want Hubby to UNDERSTAND, but really, why? Just as long as the work gets done, right? Thanks for your input. It’s great to hear how people who are really busy get it done.

    Yes, Susanne, I wonder if it would be even harder if both of us were home all day?! Dividing up the tasks, in writing, is certainly something that would help; especially the tasks that neither one of us wants to claim, like you said. Thanks! I think we are both just making assumptions about how and when things get done, without talking to each other about it. Thanks for the ideas!

    … and Nicole, my dear. You could get in so much trouble, but you won’t. You speak only the truth, as usual. But, ‘verbose!’ Oh, yeah, that’s true, too. Remember my 5000 (yes, that’s Thousand!) word article? Ha! Yes, having a cleaning team come in routinely would definitely be nice. You’ve recommended that before… maybe it’s time, eh? And organizing the cleaning chores on paper would also be a good thing. Thanks. My favorite thing you said regards something we know all too well… my Hubby’s love of the phone. He could, and often does, sit on that phone for hours! When we have something we’re trying to plan (a trip, for instance), he’ll call me several times a day and say things like “When you get a minute, Google this-or-that and take a look…” I’ll say I don’t have time to do that right now and his response is, “Well, you’re sitting in front of the computer, right?” Geez… So, when you point this out, it makes so much sense; “Remind him there are times you can’t call him at work, too, so he doesn’t think it unfair.” Thanks! I think it’s more about my assertiveness than his not understanding. Again, it doesn’t really matter in the end if he UNDERSTANDS… just if I get my work done, and we get the housework done.

    Verbose? Yes. But, you asked for it! 😀 Thank you, Nicole, and Experts! I know your input shed some light on this work-at-home problem for me, and probably for many others trying to go from working in the outside world to working at home.

    Thanks again, ya’ll!

  • Tracy Roberts

    Oh Nik, the conversations we’ve had on this very subject 😀

    As I type this there are any one of a hundred things that need doing around the house but DH (who is currently looking for work) is keeping Nathan busy while mommy works

    Sometimes, I feel guilty that I’m not doing household chores while building my online business empire but honestly, after I finish working I think it’s more important to spend time with the littles while they still are. I’m thinking ya’ll might be too organized for this self-confessed messie but I do pick up red-hot nuggets along the way.

    I lurv the Five Love Languages (as you well know) and Patti, it’s a great read (but make sure he reads it, too)


    • The Mom

      Ah… Tracy, you hit on one of my favorite (?) topics – fleeting time. As our dear Nicole is so fond of saying “The days are long, but the years are short.” So, yes, when paying work is done, it’s time to play with family. The dishes can wait, and they do, don’t they. I fear I lack some of those organization skills, as well, when it comes to housework.

      I sure will be anxious to read the 5 Love Languages. I thought I knew the general premise, but now believe it must offer so much more. And, yes, I’ll get the Hubby to read it and see what happens. 😀

  • Patti Stafford

    Great topic Nicole!

    Unfortunately, this is where you ladies will start to hate me. I’m married to an OCD neat freak (although he’s not as anal as he used to be since moving in with me. LOL) and my hubby will do whatever I’ve not done. If I’m busy and don’t get the dishes or laundry done, he just does it.

    He keeps all of our closets organized, something I’ve never been good at. He even cleans his own bathroom. In fact, his is cleaner than mine most of the time. I have all that girl stuff all over the counter top, he doesn’t.

    He will even do the shopping as long as he has a detailed list.

    My biggest problem with working hours, or was until recently, is people thinking because you’re at home you’re not actually working. Luckily the main culprit took the hint and text messages has slowed down a lot. On the other hand, I am always available to my kids and hubby–within reason. My kiddos are all grown and live hours away, so if they text it makes me feel all special inside. 🙂

    My work hours are the same as Kevin’s (hubby) so when he’s home and finds stuff on the Internet that amuses him and has to share it with me—I’m there. And yes, he finds a lot of stuff that amuses him. LOL

    We’ve never made out a chore list or anything, we just do what needs to be done. It works for us.

    However, I am finally – FINALLY – going to take the plunge and build a PLR site, so I may be busier than he’s used to for awhile, at least until I get it set up better. But, he doesn’t mind doing housework, so no worries there. 🙂 Please don’t hate me. LOL

    Thanks again for sharing this great post, Nicole.

    • Nicole

      Yes, we hate you. Only because we’re jealous, though. 🙂

      We * love * you for so many other reasons, tho! lol.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Lisa Marie Mary

      Married to an OCD boy here, too! Which can often have its own whole set of problems. But in the long run, it’s a very good thing. LOL!

  • Lisa Marie Mary

    There is so much “funny” here today! Starting with…

    from Mark … Granny and her man Perhaps we should all crowdsource a song. That definitely sounds like a song, doesn’t it?

    then from Kristen … Eventually Hubby had to take care of the laundry as well, because he ran out of..well… his “expert briefs.” Hahahaha! Love it!

    and then from Nicole … I can get in trouble on so many levels here –with my mom, my step-dad, and my husband – all in one post. That totally cracked me up!

    This advice post turned into a Giant Laugh In for Lisa! 😉 😀

    And Mark, thank you! I’d heard about that book before, but, forgotten all about it – glad it’s back on my radar!

    • The Mom

      Ha! Lisa… trust you to catch that! Granny and Her Man

      If either me or Hubby were musically inclined, it could also be a band. Oh dear. The images are not pretty…

      But, yes, time for a song. Lyrics, please anyone?

      Glad we had some chuckles over this, eh? Great fun!

  • DeAnna Troupe, Small Business Training Lady

    I’m also married to an OCD man. We also happen to have three kids that are old enough to help with the housework so that helps a lot. Basically we split chores up like this, he washes and dries the clothes and I fold them. He loads the dishes, I unload them and handwash the dishes that have to be handwashed. Either he vaccuums or the kids will vaccuum. Now when I’m working from home, I cook breakfast and lunch and he handles dinner. When I have to work outside the home, I don’t cook breakfast and I make dinner on the days that I am off. So far it works pretty well. I just hate that he changes how much he does just because the location where I work changes, but I’m glad for the contributions he does make. Oh yeah and he keeps the baby occupied when she’ll let him.

  • Michele Randolph

    Oh my goodness — funny stuff!

    I feel the pain… My trucker hubby calls often with: ‘when you have a minute…’, ‘I know you are busy, but…’, ‘do you happen to be at your computer? can you google this for me?’ Sometimes I just want to scream! I know it seems natural to him as I was basically a stay at home mom for the first 18 years of our 27 year marriage.

    I read the 5 Love Languages many years ago — it is definitely time to read it again!

    We have one son left at home attending a local college. He does his own laundry, and cooks for us when asked – and his best ‘chore’: he is my bathroom cleaner 🙂 It is not done perfectly, but it is done – and since it is my most dreaded task, I am just grateful to have done!

    Thank you for the laughs and guidance this morning!

    • The Mom

      Yeah, Michele, ya gotta laugh, right?

      I read once somewhere that every distraction from work triples in time… something like that.

      I know each phone call I get from Hubby isn’t just about the 5 minutes it takes, but the 15 minutes it takes me to get back on track. I don’t like to ignore his calls completely, so even if I don’t pick up immediately, I call back eventually. So… there’s that.

      Hubby IS learning to be more selective about the things he calls me about. But, I think his “when you’ve got a minute” lead-in still indicates that he hasn’t figured out that the call could have waited if he’s telling me “when you’ve got a minute.” Like Nicole said, it may be more about him thinking he’ll forget if he doesn’t call me right away. I’m not sure, but I’m trying to be understanding AND assertive about my work time at the same time.

      No matter what, valuing work-at-home time just as much as work-outside time is an interesting topic. Sort of fun, too, eh?

  • A. David Beaman

    My wife and I both work at home. She’s a project manager for a software company that sells, installs and manages their priority software for public utilities. I am a full-time online marketer. We have a person who comes in to do the cleaning. I do the dishes and all the outside work on our somewhat large property, My wife does the laundry and most of the cooking, though I cook some too. All in all, it works out well for both of us.

    That being said, we are both senior citizens and our children are grown and out of the house, except for visits. No doubt, if that weren’t the case, it would be more difficult for us.

  • Stephanie

    This happened to me before when I first came home for good, and the way I dealt with it, well let me tell you the story:

    I had been up all night the night before, then I had worked hard all day and was trying to meet a deadline that had been interrupted by kids, graduate school, and stuff. About 6pm I asked my husband if he and his daughter (my step daughter whom I normally call “my” daughter — but the distinction is relevant here) if they minded just being on their own tonight. She was 15, and he was over 50, so I thought they can handle it! LOL

    He said “sure” — mind you he was playing a game on his computer. Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is wonderful, helpful, cleans the kitchen, and does help. In fact he cooked dinner nightly when I was a preschool director!

    About Eight PM, his daughter comes out of her room and looks at me, then looks at him, and he looks at me and says “I’m hungry” and his daughter said “me too” and I said “I told you two to get yourself something two hours ago, I’m busy trying to meet a deadline.”

    My husband, who fancies himself a liberal feminist, says, “I WORKED ALL DAY!” While making the “hulk” pose. His daughter, went to her room and slammed the door.

    Not having time or the heart to fight, I got up, fixed dinner, served his daughter, then served him. ( I could not eat and did not set the table since no one cleaned it off or bothered setting it)

    As I gave him his plate I smiled and said “Since I don’t WORK all day, or all NIGHT, I won’t be transferring any money from the business account to the personal account for bills this month.” Mind you, in cash money I earn more than my husband. He has the “insurance” job, but in terms of cash, I make more. So, this would kind of hurt.

    I proceeded to go back to work, and I worked until 3am. My husband goes to bed about 9pm and gets up at 5 for work. I went to bed and he was awake. He hugged me and said he was very sorry, he’s a jerk, and it won’t ever happen again. It mostly has not, at least not that way. I do have to make chore lists, and plan meals or it’ll all be me.

    So, the best way to deal with being H.O.M.E. but “not” home, well you gotta Show Them The Money. In addition, put your foot down, draw a line in the sand, and just don’t let them get away with it! 🙂

  • Michele Randolph

    Yes, The Mom, if I don’t laugh, I’d cry…lol

    I’d like to think hubby is forgetful to the point he needs to get it off his mind while it is still there – but sometimes I know he is just bored and needs human contact. Don’t get the idea he’s on the road all week – he is home nearly every night and on weekends! But when he asks me the night before what my plans are the next day – and then calls in the morning asking again – GEEZ!

    Stephanie, my household would have starved that night – or better yet – they would’ve left the house for dinner out and I would have been able to utilize that time more productively!

    Mr. & Mrs. Beaman’s story gives us all something to learn from and strive for — congratulations on your successes!!

  • Loretta

    I’ve worked from home for nine years now, almost 10, and it took my husband more than half that time to grasp this concept!

  • Ed Bryant

    I have been working from home for about 6 years. My wife works out of the house, when I first started working at home I told her that now that I was home I would take care of all the house chores.

    That was a mistake, I liked doing shopping and cooking and laundry when it was a novel thing to help out on a day off. When its a resposibilty hanging over my head everyday, not so much

    I have continued to do it because that was the deal. Tonight I think I will make pork chops!

  • Shannon Smith

    I’m not married so I don’t have the spouse sharing problem the rest of you do. Wait. That didn’t sound right. Ummm, I don’t have the problem of sharing chores with a spouse. There. That’s better.

    I do however have the issue of friends wanting me to watch their kids, and pick up their kids, etc. And the phone calls, usually my mom, “You’re on your computer right? Can you look this up for me?”

    Thankfully it’s not as bad as it used to be, but I think a lot of that is because I finally started saying, “Yes, I am busy. No, I don’t have time to do that for you today.”

    I like to help out so I was always inclined to say, sure I can do that for you. Sure no problem, I can work later. I just finally had to take a step back and stand up for my business so to speak.

  • James Artre

    Dear frustrated WAHM,

    I had something really profound I was going to say (I know I did) but instead, here’s all I got…

    Hire a maid!

    You both deserve it

    Happy Trails,


  • Regina

    I love this thread! I was just wondering how to tell my beau ‘that you call me too much!’ LOL! Not having anyone to tend for is a great thing but tell that to my family and friends! I get texts and calls ALL day long. They know I work at home BUT it still doesn’t matter to them – I should STILL answer the phone and texts.

    For instance, beau just said, “you know I’m going to call you today… maybe not every 10 minutes but will every 30 minutes work for you? I know you’re busy, but I’m going to call anyway.”

    Huh? 😉

  • lovely

    Agree house chores should be be shared by the entire family. The kids must have their share and should take responsibility too. What we did in our home, we raffle the house chores every week, so that everybody can have it’s own turn in doing different things. That’s learning also.

  • Lisa Marie Mary

    I got The Five Love Languages on Kindle for five bucks! Woohoo!

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