I will be one of the first to tell you that my husband gets an “A” on his report card for being a partner who is willing to pitch in and contribute to the needs of our family and our household. I am thankful for his willingness to do life with me, side-by-side, as equals. However, my husband will be one of the first to tell you that he hasn’t always been thrilled by my timing or expectations surrounding household chores and HIS involvement.
I am famous for this line, “I was thinking…” Usually I’m thinking about some idea I have regarding our house, and typically I’ve been thinking about it enough to be totally committed to my idea, in hopes that he will also be totally committed and execute the plan almost immediately.
“I was thinking we should clean out the garage.” (RIGHT NOW.)
“I was thinking…wouldn’t it be great if we trimmed all the bushes in the front of the house?” (Whenever you want, but preferably soon. As in, tomorrow.)
“I was thinking we needed to dust. Like, everything. Including the ceilings.” (Yesterday. It should have happened yesterday.)
My “I was thinking” moments never go over well if I’m not thoughtful about my approach. I am better at this now than I was when we were first married. Over the course of our nine-year marriage, I have learned some techniques that help when I have one of my ideas for a “chore” that needs to be done “now.” It’s your lucky day, because I’m going to let you in on my secrets. I’ve also consulted my husband, who has contributed to these ideas, and feels everyone should be able to manipulate their partner into doing chores as well as I do. (Heh!)
Here are my tried and true techniques for household chore domination:
The “Put it on the calendar” Approach:
I love sending my husband a calendar invite prior to a desired chore time. Now, I’m not talking about sending him an invite for leaf blowing the yard at 6 p.m. when it is 5:47 p.m. on the same day and you’re mid-way through dinner. This will not work. I have to give him time to wrap his head around it. For a weekend chore, I send him an invite sometime between the Monday and Wednesday before. Anything beyond Wednesday gets risky. A few years ago we bought some mulch. It sat in our garage for a week, and then my husband received this:
I knew he wouldn’t be thrilled about spending our precious Saturday time laying mulch in our yard. Sending the invite a few days ahead of time gave him a chance to wrap his head around the idea of a Saturday that included mulching. Another perk with sending a meeting invite is that some negotiation can occur. If he doesn’t like the idea of mulching on Saturday, he can decline and suggest a new day/time that he likes better. But, let’s be honest, with a meeting invite like that one, he really had no choice but to be amused, accept it, and look forward to an epic mulch party.
The “You win, I win” Approach
Okay, I’m not going to say I bribe my husband to do chores.
But, sometimes I bribe my husband to do chores.
He loves some good social time, and he also loves board games. I have been known to utilize this strategy: “Hey babe, do you think we could spend some time today cleaning up the basement? Then I was thinking that we might have people over tonight to play some board games.” BINGO. He’s hooked. I’ve just suggested one of his FAVORITE activities, and it is attached to my request for some chore time. This approach will work for me nine times out of ten. It shows him that I have an agenda, but I also want to make sure our day includes some fun. That is something my husband can get behind!
I suggest thinking of some things that might work similarly on your partner, and try it. Maybe they love golf, so you suggest they go golfing after chores. Maybe they love hitting up Menards without the kids. If so, suggest they take some time to themselves that afternoon, AFTER they finish that task you asked them to help with.
The “Using their weaknesses to your advantage” Approach
I don’t think this is specific to just my partner. I hope it isn’t! Although doing chores isn’t his favorite thing in the world, there are moments when even HE hits his limit and he just can’t stand the kitchen looking that way anymore or that pile of papers sitting there any longer. Sometimes my husband will get a little manic about the condition of some area of our house. In these moments, I am sometimes caught off guard, and may not be in the mood to do chores myself. But listen, in these moments he is weak and he is motivated. Take advantage. Muster up the energy to join him, and you will get double the work done.
The “Let them think the idea is theirs” Approach
I’m going to admit that this approach has some risks associated with it, because I am giving him the freedom to suggest the chosen chore. Sometimes I’ll say, “Hey babe, were there any chores you wanted to get done this week?” The risk in in the fact that he may suggest some things that are FAR from what I think needs to be done around the house. However, this can be addressed by asking him to continue listing some and making more suggestions. I do this until I hear him suggest something I agree with. When he has suggested a chore or two that I feel need to be done, I pounce!
He says, “Yeah, it’d be nice to get the screened in porch picked up.”
I say, “Okay. When did you want to do that?” (I’m basically asking him to commit to it, but giving him the choice regarding the “when.”
He says, “How about we work on it while the kids are napping on Saturday afternoon?”
I say, “That sounds good. Then we can go to the farmers market in the morning and drop off the cardboard to recycling while we are out and about.” (See what I did there? I suggested a fun morning activity and threw in a small side chore that could also be done while we are out.)
He says, “Yes, that sounds good. Let’s plan on that.” Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
(and then I send him a meeting invite, for good measure!)
Not all partners are created equally. Am I right or am I right? But these tips and tricks work for me, and even if only ONE of them works for you, I’ll be a happy camper and your house will be cleaner. Good luck.