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.
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 MasonWorld.com 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 (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/). 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 TechTamersAffiliates.com 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 AffiliateTreasureChest.com 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?”.
Nicole 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.