Getting Help in Family Management

McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

How can you get your partner to help at home? In every household, one or the other partner emerges as manager of the house. The position of manager does not mean you have to do it all; it means you are the organizer of this area of family life.

If you are primary manager over house chores, your partner will not notice some things because it is not his or her territory. A big part of the manager's job is awareness training.

First of all, tell your partner outright of your efforts to get organized and ask for help and support. As organizer, set up systems that are easy to follow and explain them. Put a clothes hamper near the place your partner undresses. Label shelves and boxes so others can find supplies and put things away easily.

If you want family members to clean the tub when they finish a bath, as manager, see that a sponge and cleanser are handy. I painted arrows on the washing machine dial so they would know which way to turn it and could start a batch of laundry.

If you are the one who does the grocery shopping, others will not know what you bought for meals unless you tell them. Post a list of meals for which you have purchased ingredients. The object is to create simple programs so others can easily take over the job.

Talk to your spouse in a straightforward, specific manner. After he or she has done the task, be sure to acknowledge it in a positive way.

If you want help, you have to learn to not dictate every little motion. The longer you have been manager, the more you have refined the system and the harder it is to let go. Your spouse's ways will differ from yours. When my husband finishes with the dishes, he drapes the dish towel over the drainer. I hang the towels on a rack under the sink. My logic is the dishes don't dry with a towel on top of them. His logic is the towels will dry better stretched out. And why should I complain? You can discourage efforts or give partners reasons not to help at all if you are too fussy.

If both partners are working outside the home, both should help with chores. It is assumed that a partner who is home all the time will do more of those home chores than his or her spouse. But sometimes husbands or wives get lazy and don't carry their share of the responsibilities. You may need a mediator.

It seems that women do the majority of housework, whether they work outside the home or not. Make men aware of the total amount of time required to maintain a house. In my opinion, it takes about one hour per day per person to cook, clean and wash.

Some couples divide responsibilities by writing out an agreement or chore chart. Sometimes assignments come from logical arrangement: the last one home locks the door or the last person out of bed makes it. Most of the time, responsibilities are decided by tradition. Traditional roles are often unfair to the working woman.

If you are not happy with the arrangements, speak up. Don't talk it over with a friend or relative; discuss it with your partner. It doesn't matter so much who does what as it matters that the couple has discussed the division of responsibility and has come to mutual agreements. And it's not wrong to do things for each other, as long as you're not being used unfairly. After all, you are sharing your lives.

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