Many women who have grappled with this issue realize that even when their spouses begin to do more of the work, they find themselves playing the role of household director ("We need milk, packing tape, orange juice, and turkey dogs. And on the way, could you stop at the dry cleaners? And could you be home in time to take Mia to ballet?"). This manager–employee dynamic isn't good for any relationship outside the office. Talk about how to parcel out specific duties, Naomi Cahn suggests, rather than addressing the problem in an abstract sense: "Just say, 'I don't want to be the one to cook dinner every night—let's figure out another way.'"

There are two basic methods for splitting things up: Each of you takes complete responsibility for certain jobs, and the other person never again has to think about, say, food shopping or the kids' homework; or you divide a task according to days of the week or months of the year. (The latter strategy comes in particularly handy if the job in question is particularly hateful.)

If he pleads the "I don't know how" defense, you'd be wise to offer some patient coaching while he learns. (Imagine how long it would take you to figure out how to do one of "his" jobs.)

And, finally, use the language of "sharing," not "helping." If he's helping you, he's only aiding you in what is, after all, your responsibility. But if you're sharing the work, you're in it together.

When thinking about this new way of managing your household, release is the crucial word to keep on the tip of your tongue. If you want him to make the kids' dinner, you simply can't control what he puts on their plates. We've been brought up to take the broccoli off the stove while it's still green, to separate the colors and the whites, to remember to call the babysitter. Most men haven't, but they can learn. Our job is to stand back and let them. And, when necessary, figure out how to put in our two cents diplomatically. (The best time probably isn't when he's right in the middle of a task.) We have to remember that our mothers and grandmothers held fast to the power they gained by doing these things—and doing them their way—because they had no other kind. Fortunately, we have many more options these days—and one of them is letting go.

Keep A Healthy Work/Life Balance


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