Everything I've Learnt About Sharing Housework & The Mental Workload
May marks two years since I moved in my boyfriend and it’s taken us that long to properly work out how to share the housework in a way that truly works for us. Our number one argument has always been about housework and I can imagine it’s the same for a lot of couples, but I don’t think anyone loves to admit that as let’s be real sharing a blazing row about the hoovering isn’t exactly very Instagramable. Since the rise of Mrs. Hinch on Instagram I’ve never seen so many people talk about cleaning so I thought today I would share with you how my boyfriend & I are currently sharing housework and the mental workload as I know between friends it's always a hot topic.
working from home vs working out of the house
As I’m sure most of you will be aware by now, I work from home and my boyfriend either leaves for weeks to go on tour or he’s out the house for an average of 12 hours a day 5 days a week. So, our work days couldn’t look any more different and for a long time, I felt like because I worked from home that also meant it was my responsibility to do all the housework too and I didn’t take long before it became too much. There are so many luxuries that working from home provides but there are also quite a few downsides to it as well. For me, the pressure to do my entire workday (which varies), walk the dogs, do the food shopping and then do all the housework was overwhelming. I felt a lot of guilt that even though I was working and earning a living because I wasn’t leaving the house that I should be doing it all. It’s so easy to think that all couples do things 50/50 but there isn’t a single person in my life I know who does things that way and finding the balance that works for you is key. As my boyfriend is out the house all afternoon into the night, then sleeping in the next day as he works into the early hours of the morning the way we’ve now split our chores works well for both us. Due to his time restraints, I do the day to day things and he will do things like changing the bed, dusting and steaming the floors every few weeks.
EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY
When I moved in with my boyfriend I was pretty naive to think we would magically find our rhythm and we wouldn’t argue about things like hoovering as it seems like such a daft thing to argue about, little did I know. I’m a clean person, I enjoy cleaning and I don’t see it as something to dread. Whereas my boyfriend couldn’t be any more different and living on a tour bus for months over the years certainly hasn’t helped. Bringing my (admittedly) high expectations down wasn’t easy and took me a while, I can’t deny I’d love my boyfriend to be the exact same way as me when it comes to cleaning but he isn’t and it’s unfair of me to expect that. Nor was it fair for him to expect me to instantly change as soon as we started living together so finding a compromise was difficult but I think we've finally managed it.
THE MENTAL WORKLOAD
The Guardian released this article in 2017 and it’s well worth a read if you're having a tough time with your partner about housework. Something I find myself struggling a lot with is the mental workload of life and find my mind is constantly whirring with things that have to be done meanwhile my boyfriend is scrolling through Reddit showing me videos of people power washing their drives (which is ridiculously satisfying I must admit). For the first year, I couldn’t understand how my boyfriend seemed oblivious to all the things that we needed to do and naturally, it resulted in a huge amount of arguments. And my boyfriend would always say ‘you need to just ask me’ and in the moment, that phrase always infuriated me as well as exhausted me beyond belief. I couldn’t understand why he just didn’t know the things that needed doing like I did and that’s unfair of me. I know I’m always going to be the one carrying the majority of the mental workload but now I’ve explained to my boyfriend about the things that need doing and the fact he will ask me what needs doing rather than waiting for me to tell him is huge progress from what it used to be.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Something that I’ve released I struggle a lot with is communication, I expect people to know to magically know how I’m feeling which is such an unfair expectation to have of my loved ones. Working on my communication has been a huge thing for me as talking to each other in a calm manner gets you much farther instead of snipping and snapping at each other as that never resolves anything. As well as general communication something that we both needed to look at was our language and the way we asked each other to do things. So for me using phrases like;
Are you able to help me this?
Can you do this if you’ve got the time as I’d really appreciate it.
Can you please do this on your day off?
For the first year of living together, I ended up feeling a little bit like I was my boyfriends mum which I don’t think any girlfriend enjoys but it seems to happen all too easily. After a lot of conversations now when it comes to the housework and the mental workload things my boyfriend now tries to ask me are;
Do you need help?
Is there anything you’d like me to do?
What housework have you done?
Things certainly aren’t perfect but opening up communication was a big deal for us as well as talking about the household chores we enjoy doing and the things we don’t like so could try to divide things somewhat equally and play to our strengths.