Are You Working A Second Shift?

Find Some Family Balance:

25 years ago, in my introduction to sociology class, I read a fascinating book by Arlie Hochschild, called The Second Shift. In it, she talks about the division of labor within the household whereby women finish their paid job and then put in another 40 hours at home taking care of daily household chores and family arrangements. Her studies showed that even when a couple thought they were sharing equally, one person was doing daily tasks and the other was doing things that didn’t require as much time. For example one person may grocery shop and the other cooks dinner. They think they are sharing the workload since they each have one chore but one is done weekly and the other nightly.

The world is a dramatically different place since 1989 when Hochschild did her work, yet one person in the home may still take on more than their fair share of the household chores. If you tend to be tasked with more than you would like to be doing, try this fun game I played with my family this weekend.

Take a deck of index cards and write down one chore on each card. Try to think of every chore there is to be done from emptying the dishwasher to arranging playdates for the kids. Ask your family to add to the deck of cards as they may be doing some chores you have forgotten.

Sit down with your entire family and label one index card with each person’s name. Deal the cards according to who does the chore NOW. Don’t worry about changing any distribution at this point. For shared chores, put the card under the person who does it most. If truly equal, label two cards and put it under both people responsible.

If there is an unequal distribution and any one person is doing too much, there will be an obvious visual in the cards.

Now, have a discussion about what chores can be taken on by each member of the family. Ensure chores are age appropriate and ideally, determined by what things you like doing more (or less).

My husband and I used this game to determine a realistic list of chores for our sons. Pre-packaged chore charts hadn’t worked because they didn’t include the chores specific to my kids. (ie pick up your socks, put away your laundry, feed Matilda). For motivation, we are allocating a weekly allowance based upon completion of all chores.

For my husband and I, it was a great way to have a discussion about who was doing more and how we could help each other without finger pointing or resentment. Our weekly reward is that we don’t get frustrated with each other!

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