It’s a Saturday morning. You woke up at 7:30 AM and got out of bed to start your day.
All you want to do is have breakfast and sit down at your computer to read new posts, leave your feedback, make Pinterest images, and write new content to stay ahead of your blog schedule.
Just when you start to enjoy blogging, you hear your baby crying looking for you.
You set your computer aside to perform your mommy duty: taking care of your little one.
Your baby is fussy and doesn’t want to eat breakfast, so you spend the next 20 minutes trying to get some food into his system, hoping he will gain some weight soon.
After your baby is done eating, you clean up, put a load of laundry in the washer, and start checking the fridge to see what you can make for lunch.
Then you take your baby out for a walk. By the time you’re done and get a bit more blogging done, it’s already 10:30 AM.
It’s time to help your mother-in-law cook.
All the while, your husband has been sitting in his office, doing his work, not knowing what you’ve been doing all morning.
What ensues is a two-hour struggle to feed your baby, followed by diaper changing, doing the dishes, putting your baby down for a nap, and doing another load of laundry.
You have about two to three hours in between such tasks and the time to make dinner, feed the baby, do the dishes, and give him a bath. The routine repeats itself the next day. When you realize it’s Sunday night and the weekend is over, a new work week is just about to start.
Does it story sound familiar to you? It does to me because it’s what I do every weekend. I am not complaining because it would make me sound ungrateful for all the things that I have in life: a happy family, a good husband, a beautiful son, a stable job, a house, a car, etc.
But have you ever felt like your life just revolves around housework and kids just because you’re a woman? Have you ever wished that your husband would pick up more housework around the house so that you can have some time to relax or do the things that you love? I have.
The single life
There are times when I miss those days when I was still single and could do what I wanted with my free time. Sometimes I yearn for that sense of freedom – knowing that even if I don’t want to cook, I can just have instant noodles to get through a meal.
Those days are gone. I am now married with a kid. There’s no going back, and I don’t want to go back to being single. I just get nostalgic thinking about those days when there weren’t so many responsibilities in my life.
Sometimes I think about what I wanted when I was still unmarried and whether I was happier than now. Up until I met Mr. FAF, my life was in such chaos.
Although I had time to pursue what I was passionate about, I didn’t know what it was. I was caught up in such agonizing uncertainty that I sometimes felt like my life was like a ship adrift in the sea.
Mr. FAF told me he had felt the same way about his life before we started dating. After we became a couple, at least, we knew that we had a family to build and take care of.
Mr. FAF brought stability to my life. He’s calm, and I’m irritable. He’s patient, and I’m anxious. He’s carefree, and I’m always worried. He tells me everything is going to be ok when I think we’re headed to a disaster. He complements me. In so many ways.
What I’ve been dreaming about all those years – our family reunion – has finally come true. Mr. FAF, Baby FAF, and I are now together in DC.
We can live like most families we know. The husband and the wife go to work every day. The kid goes to daycare. The whole family spends time together in the evenings and on the weekends.
But sometimes I wonder what I could accomplish if I didn’t have to spend time doing most of the housework by myself.
Growing up, I always saw my cousin, who’s my age, getting away with cooking, cleaning, and all kinds of chores without any problem. His mom, my aunt, didn’t expect him to do any housework.
My mom told me it was ok for him because he was a boy. But it wasn’t ok for me to do the same because I was a girl. He could get away with what I couldn’t.
However, my aunt had high expectations of her daughter, who she trained to take care of all the household chores. It wasn’t until my aunt started to have some health problems and couldn’t take on much cooking or cleaning that she expected her son to help out with housework.
He refused, saying that his sister could do that instead. He had such a sense of entitlement in him that shocked and deeply upset my aunt. She felt unappreciated and complained to me.
I wanted to be honest and told her that he grew up not having to do any housework because nobody expected that from him. That mindset was ingrained in him by her and other members of our family. It wasn’t totally his fault. He was told that he was entitled because of his gender.
I am not sure if it’s because I just get tired of doing housework or if I’m too cynical about the division on labor in a marriage. We all know specialization is what makes productivity thrive.
Specialization dictates that we take on certain roles in society because that’s what we’re best at and can bring about the best outcomes. That’s why we have engineers, doctors, lawyers, bakers, and drivers, not someone who can do a little bit of every role to make a living.
In a marriage, the dynamic works in a similar manner. If the husband focuses on making money while the wife devotes herself to doing housework and taking care of the kids, they will be able to get the best possible result: a stable income and a happy family. Or will they?
If you stay at home and your spouse works, you might have made the agreement that you will take care of all or most of the housework (i.e. cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of the kids) while your spouse can just focus on their work to bring home the bacon.
If your spouse helps with housework when they get home and take care of the kids on the weekends so that you can take a break, then it’s a perfect arrangement.
But what if you feel like you have a job that doesn’t end at 5 PM like your spouse? You never get to take a break just because your spouse thinks that their main duty as the breadwinner is just to make money and not worry about what happens at home.
In that case, whoever makes the income has the power to decide whether or not they want to get involved with housework. The reason is that doing housework, in some cases, is not seen as income-generating by both economists and society. And women are disadvantaged or overlooked because they are the main housekeepers in most families.
Housework seems like such a small part of our lives. What seems to matter more is our income and investment. Those are the tools that can help us build wealth and stay financially sound.
We tend to overlook the fact that without the housework being well taken care of, we cannot have a happy and healthy family to enjoy the wealth that we generate.
Our division of labor
At the FAF household, especially after Mr. FAF moved back to DC and started his new job, I have taken most household responsibilities:
— Getting Baby FAF ready for daycare in the morning and picking him up after work in the afternoon
— Feeding our son and giving him a bath
— Cleaning the second floor and the bathrooms
— Doing and folding laundry
— Doing the dishes
— Helping my mother-in-law cook in the evenings and on the weekends
— Packing lunch for Mr. FAF and myself to take to work and Baby FAF to take to daycare
— Driving our family places (to get more practice with the driving)
— Taking care of all the bills (i.e. mortgage, utilities, internet)
If my MIL weren’t in DC, Mr. FAF would be in charge of the cooking. But that’s pretty much all the housework that he does.
I am ok with doing all the chores above because I think that’s part of family life and, yes, I am a woman. I (and society) think I am more efficient at those tasks than Mr. FAF is.
And an unspoken reason that both Mr. FAF and I know is that Mr. FAF makes more than I do. I feel the need to pick up more housework to make up for the fact that I don’t contribute as much to the family’s income as Mr. FAF.
Does it mean that one day when I make more than him, Mr. FAF will need to pick up more tasks around the house? I’m not sure the answer is. But I want to ensure that no matter what work I do or how much I make, I will still fulfill my duties as a mother and a wife.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m just fulfilling society’s expectations by doing what a woman is supposed to do – housekeeping. But I also feel happy having the opportunity to do so.
Looking back on the days when I was single and heart-broken about a failed relationship, I am happy everything has worked out for our family.
Mr. FAF has been driving for more than 20 hours almost every month to visit me over the past four years. He never complained about me not doing the same for him. He just did what he thought was the right thing to do to keep our marriage strong despite all the challenges.
My in-laws left everything behind in China for a year to come to America and help us take our of Baby FAF when we were in desperate need of help. They then took Baby FAF back to China for more than a year.
My MIL then left everything behind her again – her family, friends, and neighbors – to come to a place where she knew no one and doesn’t understand the language. She brought our baby back to us.
Sometimes the division of labor is not so clear-cut as dividing a task equally among the members on a team. If we’re a family, we pick up what we can do when our family needs us.
I admit that sometimes I reminisce the days when I was single and didn’t have to worry about so many family responsibilities. But with everything good thing in life there comes sacrifice and hard work.
Doing housework is not my most favorite thing in the world to do, but it does help build something that I treasure and hold dear to my heart: my family.
What about you? How do you and your spouse divide the housework? Do you pick up more household chores because you don’t make as much income as your spouse and vice versa? And most importantly, do you think it’s fair how much housekeeping your or your spouse needs to do every day?