LIST AS MEDIATOR
Real Simple magazine
By Jennifer Bingham Hull
Six years ago, when our first daughter was a baby, my husband, Bill, and I had a huge fight. Like many new mothers, I felt overwhelmed by all the tasks I was doing -- from scheduling pediatrician appointments to refilling the wipes box -- and resented Bill because I thought he was oblivious to the lopsidedness.
After we had squandered a rare evening out alone arguing about this, I decided to draw up a list of all the day-to-day household responsibilities so we could formally divide them. We call them our "his" and "hers" lists, and we've revised and updated them over the years.
The list we currently work from reflects life with our four-year-old and seven-year-old. We try to divide tasks logically and according to our strengths. For instance, Bill is an educator, so he helps with homework. Vacation planning falls to me because it usually involves dealing with my side of the family. Other duties are either shared or divided according to our schedules.
Sometimes we post the list on the refrigerator, though I've learned that it isn't necessary: the real value of the list lies in the negotiations and conversations behind it. We update it often; otherwise I've found that any unwritten task finds its way to the "hers" list. And, in keeping with the original tradition, we know a new list is overdue whenever we argue about household chores on date night.
Dividing chores has proven much more effective than complaining. I've even learned a thing or two from watching Bill make his list. Men have a keen instinct for self-preservation -- he would never waste a Saturday afternoon shopping for a birthday gift for a toddler. And now I won’t either. Sometimes what you leave off the list is as important as what you put on it.